While living in Portugal I’ve quickly discovered how much the Portuguese and myself love indulging in desserts!
And if you find yourself craving something sweet while here, you are certainly not alone.
A meal here just wouldn’t be considered finished unless it ended with a good Portuguese dessert, of which there are many!
Dessert menus in Portugal often have a large list of items to choose from and will vary between restaurants.
Portuguese desserts are largely egg-based, with lots of custard flavours, but chocolate and fruity desserts are certainly not left out!
Today I’ve come up with a list of 20 famous Portuguese desserts, and some of my personal favourites.
These desserts can be found in most, if not all, pastry shops (pastelarias) and bakeries (padarias) in Portugal, and there’s definitely something for everyone!
1. Portuguese Custard Tarts
Let’s start with perhaps the most famous pastry in Portugal – the ‘pastéis de nata’ also known as ‘pastéis de Belém’ (but with slightly different recipes). It is an egg tart pastry filled with custard cream and finished off with cinnamon and/or icing sugar.
The deliciously addictive sweet can be found at any bakery in the country, most famously in Belém for just €1.
They are best served warm, so ask to dine in for the freshest tarts. And if you want to try baking these at home, follow this recipe to see how.
These are my absolute favourite, and you CANNOT visit Portugal without trying a “pastel de nata”! Recipe here.
2. Queijadas de Sintra
A traditional sweet found in the majestic town of Sintra, Queijada de Sintra’s are a cheese, egg and cinnamon tart with a crunchy outer layer. Best tried at Piriquita or Queijada da Sapa, which have been preparing the local delicacy for over 200 years! You can also try making them at home with this Queijada de Sintra recipe.
We’ve been to Sintra and made a list of all the things we can’t miss out when you’re there. Click here for more.
3. Bola de Berlim
If you are a doughnut fan, wait until you try the Bola de Berlim. These Portuguese doughnuts are made with sweet dough, filled with lots of egg yolk cream and dusted off with icing sugar. Expect to have some sticky fingers after stuffing your face with this Portuguese dessert!
Check out the recipe for the Portuguese doughnut here.
4. Bolo Rei
Traditionally eaten at Christmas time, the Bolo Rei or ‘King Cake’ is a staple dessert in any Portuguese home during the holidays. The cake is made from sweet bread, nuts, and crystallized fruit. While it doesn’t exactly look appealing, it’s tradition, so a must-try! (Check out the recipe for the Bolo Rei here)
5. Caramel Flan
A crème caramel or ‘flan’ is as you guessed it, a custard dessert, with a layer of caramel topping. You could say this is the Portuguese version of a crème Brulée but without the crusty top layer. You’ll find this dessert on most restaurant dessert menus or home-made at family events. The Food Network has the flan pudding recipe.
6. Pão de Deus
With a name that translates to “God’s bread,’ it is easy to see why this is one of my favourite desserts in Portugal. The Pão de Deus is a sweet golden bread filled with coconut, a sure recipe sent from the heavens. Find them in a bakery or make them at home.
7. Arroz Doce
Now a popular dessert around the world, the Arroz Doce is a rice pudding made with rice, sugar, egg, milk and salt. It is best served with a crusty exterior and custard-like soft interior. (Find the recipe here)
8. Tarte de Alfarroba
A carob tart traditional of the Algarve region, it is made using locally grown carobs (figs) and almonds. It is not actually chocolate, but its flavour is rich and tastes very similar. Easy Portuguese Recipes has posted a great recipe for this tart.
Like many Portuguese desserts, the Molotov is made using egg whites. It is a light and airy dessert that just about melts in your mouth. If you want to try and make it at home, here’s the recipe.
10. Bolo de Bolacha
A traditional biscuit cake that does not require any baking! It is prepared using Maria biscuits, a classic Portuguese biscuit that every Portuguese family stock in their pantry.
The cake consists of different layers of the biscuits soaked in coffee and buttercream. You can follow this simple recipe to make it at home.
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11. Lampreia de ovos (Lampreia de Natal)
Shaped like a lamprey fish, this Portuguese dessert is made from 50 egg yolks and lots of sugar, decorated with candy to give a face to the sea creature. Often enjoyed over Christmas time, this dessert can be a fun sweet to make with kids. You can find the lampreia de ovos recipe here.
12. Salame de chocolate
This Portuguese dessert may look like salami, but trust me, it tastes nothing like it. It is named so because of its tube-like shape but is the perfect blend of chocolate and cookie in one. It’s simple and oh, so nice. You can find the Portuguese Chocolate Salami here.
13. Toucinho do céu
As an almond-lover, the toucinho do céu is one of my favourite Portuguese desserts. The cake was first introduced in the northern and oldest region of the country, and at one point even used pork lard instead of butter. Today, most recipes will use butter instead. If you’d like to try the Portuguese almond cake at home, Easy Portuguese Recipes has made a list of what you’ll need.
14. Chocolate Mousse
Everybody loves chocolate mousse, including the Portuguese. This dessert will likely be found on many dining menus around the country when eating out. You can find the recipe here.
15. Bolo Brigadeiro
With so many Brazilians in Portugal, it makes sense that they brought over a taste of their own cuisine. The Brigadeiro is a bite-size chocolate sweet rich in flavour and calories, and very easy to become addicted to. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! There are lots of different Brigadeiro recipes online but this is my favourite.
Farófias are meringues poached in custard, which helps keep them soft, and are finished off with sprinkles of cinnamon. This is one of the most egg-heavy Portuguese desserts you can get. You can learn how to do it here.
17. Torta de Laranja
For a Portuguese dessert that tastes like summer, the Torta de Laranja, orange roll, is my go-to. The cake is basically an orange-flavoured swiss roll with a sticky texture and sweet taste. You can find these on many a dessert menu and bakeries too. Here’s how to cook it.
This Portuguese dessert literally translates as “dreams” and is the country’s traditional version of a doughnut. It is usually eaten around Christmas time or over the holidays, but you can find them in stores throughout the year. Recipe here.
19. Sonhos de Abóbora
Pumpkin is a popular ingredient in Portuguese dishes around Christmas and holidays, with many locals indulging in Sonhos de abóbora, which translates roughly as “pumpkin dreams”. And yes, the fried pumpkin dough sprinkled with sugar certainly tastes like a dream. I usually do this one at home.
20. Pêras bêbedas
It wouldn’t be a food list in Portugal without mention of wine. This Portuguese dessert translates as “drunken pears” and is quite simply that – pears poached in a lot of wine. It can be made quite easily at home with red wine, cinnamon, sugar, lemon, and pears. It’s also unsurprisingly very delicious! Click here to find the recipe.
If you are visiting Portugal or simply looking for a new dessert to try, these 20 Portuguese desserts should have you covered… For a little while at least! Go ahead and fill those hungry bellies!
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I'm a freelance copywriter and free-spirited traveller from Australia. I fell in love with Portugal when I arrived here and hope to share with you all the reasons why.