Top 7 Regional Pastries in Portugal
From north to south, Portugal offers a wide variety of traditional regional pastries, some made from recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation throughout several centuries!
Regardless of having just finished a delicious meal or simply enjoying a mid-afternoon snack, saving a bit of your appetite for a special sweet is part of the Portuguese lifestyle!
With plenty of options for all tastes, discover some of Portugal's most famous regional pastries and where to find them:
1. Brisas do Lis
Brisas do Lis is one of Portugal's most famous pastries! These round, small desserts include egg yolks, sugar, and ground almonds, and are traditionally served in paper cups.
The name of this dessert comes from the Lis river that crosses the city of Leiria, hence the name "Brisas do Lis", meaning "breezes from the river Lis".
You can find this amazing regional sweet in almost all pastry shops in Leiria.
2. Ovos Moles de Aveiro
An interesting fact about most regional pastries in Portugal is they are made with a lot of eggs. This is particularly true when it comes to Ovos Moles!
Originally from Aveiro, Ovos Moles are rice paper wafers filled with a thick orange cream made of eggs and sugar that melts in your mouth. These delicious sweets are usually shaped as clams, whelks, shells, and barrels... symbols of Portugal's nautical heritage.
If you visit the beautiful city of Aveiro, considered "the Venice of Portugal" and only 45 minutes south of Porto, enjoying Ovos Moles in one of the many traditional shops available along the river is an absolute must! We also suggest learning how to make this regional treat in one of the many pastry workshops available!
3. Pastéis de Tentúgal
The small village of Tentúgal, near Coimbra, is home to another exceptional pastry: Pastéis de Tentúgal, famous for their thin and crispy puff pastry and distinctive egg filling.
Made with eggs and sugar and wrapped in paper-thin dough, Pastéis de Tentúgal are not only one of Portugal's most famous pastries, but they also have a very interesting history.
The original Pastéis de Tentúgal were created by the Carmelite nuns of the Carmel of Tentúgal. In the 16th century, the nuns used egg whites to clarify wine and iron the linen of their robes. With the remaining egg yolks, they began to make what would become known as "doces conventuais" (convent-made sweets).
After the Napoleonic Invasions in Portugal, which destroyed the convent, and later because of the Portuguese liberal war, which led religious orders to be expropriated, the nuns that still remained in Tentúgal became deprived of the sources of income their order had received in the past. Forced to provide for themselves, they began producing and selling Tentúgal pastries on a large scale.
According to age-old legends, the nuns who stretched the dough for the "pastéis de Tentúgal" would have to make it thin enough that they should be able to read the Bible over it!
Pastéis de Tentúgal eventually became so popular that their production evolved into an economically sustainable way for the monastery to not only govern itself, but also to hire local women to help to make them. The convent would eventually close in 1898, but the recipe for the "pastéis" was passed on from generation to generation in the families of those women.
Today, the production of these famous pastries is recognized by the "Indicação Geográfica Protegida" (Protected Geographical Indication) certification.
4. Pão de Ló de Alfeizerão
Pão de Ló de Alfeizerão is an incredibly popular sponge cake made in the village of Alfeizerão, near Alcobaça. Unlike other sponge cakes that you may have already tasted, the Pão de Ló de Alfeizerão has a moist and creamy centre and distinctive cinnamony aroma.
Although traditional sponge cake in Portugal is known as "pão de ló", only "Pão de Ló de Alfeizerão" has a creamy centre!
According to one version of the story, the Portuguese King D. Carlos was visiting a dear friend who lived in Alfeizerão. Wanting to impress the King, he decided to serve a traditional recipe of Pão de Ló for dessert. However, his cook was nervous about the King's visit and ended up removing the cake from the oven too soon, serving it slightly undercooked in the middle. D. Carlos enjoyed the result so much, from then on they purposely started baking it as we know it today!
You can find Pão de Ló de Alfeizerão for sale in many regions of Portugal, but the original recipe, made with a few adaptations in different pastry shops, is only available in Alfeizerão.
This sponge cake is so famous that many Portuguese families detour road trips on the A8 highway to purposely visit pastry shops in Alfeizerão to buy local Pão de Ló!
5. Pastéis de Belém
Another must-try pastry for anyone visiting Portugal is the very popular Pastel de Belém.
Although these delicious custard tarts are similar to the traditional Portuguese "pastel de nata", the ones made in the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém, next to the beautiful Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, have a distinctive taste and extra crispy puff pastry that make them unforgettable!
Enjoyed simple or sprinkled with cinnamon, Pastéis de Belém are perfect for accompanying an espresso or "galão" coffee!
The history of the Pastel de Nata starts with the first “pastéis de Belém”...
Like many other traditional pastries in Portugal, the history of the Pastel de Nata dates back centuries, its origin directly related to the "Pastéis de Belém" which are still made to this day in Lisbon...
Considered one of the most authentic Portuguese desserts, Travesseiros are original from Sintra, a stunning village near Lisbon.
This pastry is also filled with a delicious cream made with eggs, sugar, and almonds, involved in puff pastry and sprinkled with sugar.
While you can buy Travesseiros in many pastry shops in Sintra, the most famous are found at Casa Piriquita, founded in 1862.
7. Doces Finos do Algarve
While you probably already know about the Algarve's amazing beaches and warm weather, did you know that the south of Portugal also has fabulous desserts made with local ingredients such as figs or almonds?
Among these, the hand-made marzipan treats known as Doces Finos do Algarve are definitely the most famous. Made with almonds, these traditional Algarve sweets are available in several colours and shapes, such as animals, vegetables, and even fruits.
You can find them practically in practically every pastry shop in Algarve, and you can also take a box home, as they are also easily found in local supermarkets and regional gift shops!
As you can see, Portugal offers a wide range of mouthwatering regional pastries. These are only a glimpse of all the sweet possibilities that await you here...