The joy of pastel de nata

Pastel de nata in Obidos, Portugal

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to get pretty friendly with the unofficial flag-bearer of Portuguese cuisine - pastel de nata.

Pastel de nata or pastéis de nata in the local lingo, are something pretty special. Each is an egg tart according to well trusted sources. Or more scientifically: they are heaven’s bounty, each wrapped in flaky, buttery goodness and designed for only one thing — your enjoyment.

A lucky few have been wrapping their grubby mits around these little beauties for years apparently, though why I’m just hearing about them now myself makes me feel like a Kiwi childhood was very far away indeed from the deliciousness of Portugal.

Why go crazy for an egg tart?

Can’t get to a Portuguese bakery at this instant? Unconvinced that pastel de nata will rock your world? A bit scared of trying something new? Worried about the extravagance of the £2,000 ticket you just bought to Portugal after a few seconds staring at the photo above? Don’t fret. Here are some reasons you will be happy you made the choice to give them a whirl..

1. Everything Portuguese is amazing

And this isn’t my opinion, it’s just a fact. After a couple of trips to the sun-drenched, chicken peri-peri paradise that is Portugal, I’m convinced. In fact any time you mention ‘surfing’ and ‘Europe’, The Algarve is bound to come up. It’s a reality, Portugal is a magical, magical place and everything they make is awesome.

2. Support the local economy

Chances are, you won’t be buying a pastel de nata shivering on the street in ye olde London. No, you are likely to be trying to ‘act local’ in the most touristy, shiny, stand-out-like-the-proverbials Portuguese cafe you could find in Lisbon when you taste your first one. And you’ll be buying it from a smiley local who probably speaks better English than you. Buying the local treat means supporting the local baker and that is all right by me.

Leave only footprints, take only pastel de nata..

Chicken peri peri, the ideal meal to follow with a pastel de nata, Aljezur

Can’t find pastel de nata? Settle for medieval crepes in Obidos instead.

3. all other egg custards are crap

Another carefully tested and double-blind validated fact is that all other egg custards are pretty average. No, creme brulé is not an egg custard. It’s a way of life so it doesn’t count.

4. The contain real eggs

Unlike a lot of your high-street sugar-fest bakery fare, pastel de nata have real eggy goodness busting right out of them. Do try it, you might like it.

5. So small, they are guilt-free

I can vividly remember finishing my first pastel de nata and thinking to myself, ‘so small? how can that be? perhaps I should have another to round out a full snack’. And it’s true. They are so tiny, so deliciously and stickily formed in wee packages, that you will snaffle up two or three before your other half even gets the camera going on their phone. These little babies are so bite-sized that you could even conceive them part of the perfect after lunch crime..

6. Support a battler culture

You may not realise this, but little old Portugal is a fresh coastal country, nestled up under the shadow of towering España. Spain is kinda a big deal in culture, language and food so the only right thing to do is to support the underdog any chance you get. You got it, by helping the local bakers with all that excess stock each morning.

That’s enough from me, but how about you? Have you had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into one of these buttery, eggy beauties? Any fond memories perhaps?

Originally published at on September 21, 2015.