8 Sweet Treats You Must Eat in Portugal

October 26, 2016

You can hardly walk a block in Lisbon without passing a pastry shop. To say the Portuguese like their sweets is a bit of understatement, which means we fit right in. 🙂 We made it our mission to try almost every pastry and dessert in the pastelaria glass display case, narrowing down our favorites.

Since consuming a pastel de nata is probably already #1 on your list, as it should be, here’s 8 more sweet treats you don’t want to miss while in Portugal.

Pastelaria in Lisbon, Portugal | The Best Sweet Treats to Eat in Portugal

Pao de Deus or God's Bread | The Best Sweet Treats to Eat in Portugal

1 Pão de Deus

I had this heavenly brioche bun with a sweet coconut topping on my last day of my first visit to Portugal. I brought a bun back to Cambridge for Aaron, and it may be part of the reason we found ourselves back here for the summer.

The good thing about Pão de Deus, or God’s Bread, is that you can find one of the best versions at a popular chain here in Lisbon, A Padaria Portuguesa. If you’re in town, you’d be hard-pressed not to pass at least one as they’re becoming a sort of Starbucks equivalent with the number that have popped up within the last few years. They do Pão de Deus right, with a large, moist brioche bun and sweet coconut topping, only lightly toasted on top.

Pao do Lo | The Best Sweet Treats to Eat in Portugal

2 Pão de Ló

Pão de Ló is a delicate Portuguese sponge cake that comes in plain egg or chocolate flavors.

There must be an ongoing battle between cake makers, because António Oliveira named his sponge cake O Melhor Pão de Ló do Universo, or the best sponge cake in the universe, which sounds like a one up to Carlos Lopes Bras’ O Melhor Bolo de Chocolate do Mundo, or the best chocolate cake in the world. We haven’t had Oliveira’s version of Pão de Ló, but if it’s anything like the version at Mercearia Criativa across from Jardim da Alameda Dom Afonso Henriques, it’s the clear winner. The Pão de Ló here had such a tender crumb, it almost oozed in the middle.

3 Malasada

If you’ve been to Oahu, chances are you’ve stuffed your face at Leonard’s Bakery with big balls of fried dough, sprinkled with sugar. Or even better, you’ve found the smaller, more delicate version at the Sugar Beach Bake Shop in Kihei, Maui (and please tell me you got them with Li Hing Mui powder!) We’d always heard malasadas were Portuguese donuts, and therefore expected to pick up a dozen every morning for breakfast in Lisbon. But, this is only partially correct. They are Portuguese, but specifically from the island of São Miguel, part of the Azores, which is over 1,500 km offshore from mainland Portugal.

We kept an eagle eye out for these bits of fluffy fried perfection, and finally, on a standard stop at our local bakery, I spotted what could potentially be malasadas. They were amazing and wonderful, and of course when I went back the next day, they were nowhere to be found. They were like the unicorn of baked goods during our time in Lisbon. If you find them, eat them like there’s no tomorrow.

Mini Cronuts | The Best Sweet Treats to Eat in Portugal

4 The Portuguese Cronut

I know the invention of the cronut by the Dominique Ansel Bakery caused quite the commotion in New York, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the they’ve been sitting, unassumingly, on pasteleria shelves in Portugal for years. I should’ve asked for the actual Portuguese name of these little donut-croissant combos, but I tended to just point and ask for 5 (okay, maybe 10).

Almond Tarts | The Best Sweet Treats to Eat in Portugal

5 Torta de Amêndoa

This almond tart is covered with a generous layer of slivered, caramelized almonds, sitting on a bed of chewy shortbread crust. It’s buttery and nutty and delicious.

6 Bola de Berlim

Portuguese sweets are heavy on egg and sugar, and Bola de Berlim is a classic. These doughnut-like pastries are similar to Berliners from Germany. They’re filled with an egg-yolk creme and generously covered in granulated sugar.

Pastéis de Feijão | The Best Sweet Treats to Eat in Portugal

7 Pastéis de Feijão

This may look like a pastel de nata, but wait, it’s not! Instead of nata (cream), the filling is made from feijão (beans). These tarts are particular to central Portugal. We had them on a trip to Canas de Senhorim, the hometown of one of Aaron’s colleagues. He claimed that they were even better than pastéis de nata. They were definitely delicious! Try one so you can be the judge!

Chocolate Sorbet | The Best Sweet Treats to Eat in Portugal

 8 Chocolate Sorbet

This may not be traditionally Portuguese, but the chocolate sorbet from the Bettina & Niccolò Corallo chocolate shop is too good to pass up. The sorbet is only water, sugar, and chocolate. It’s the chocolate that makes all the difference; it’s single origin chocolate from a family plantation on the São Tomé and Príncipe islands, a former Portuguese colony in Africa.

Chocolate Sorbet | The Best Sweet Treats to Eat in Portugal

Have you had any Portuguese treats? What is your favorite?

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  • Reply Birthe (from Wandering the World) October 27, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Thanks for this awesome list of must try sweets! We’re heading to Lisbon in a few weeks and will definitely try some of these delicious looking treats. 🙂

    • Reply nomanbefore October 28, 2016 at 2:28 am

      Thanks for reading, Birthe! With all the walking you’ll be doing, you’ll need something to keep you going. 😉 Hope you have a wonderful time on your trip!

  • Reply PlanetGravy November 9, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Hi guys. Thanks for promoting the Portuguese sweets! We do have a lot of cakes and sweets with some great history behind them: lots of them were created in monasteries by nuns back in the day. In Portugal every city or region has it owns cakes so when you visit Portugal, remember to ask for the local sweet.
    We live in the city of Aveiro, if you come by try the ‘Ovos Moles’. They’re damn good!


    • Reply nomanbefore November 9, 2016 at 10:02 pm

      Hey Nuno and Mario! Those nuns were amazing bakers and must’ve had a serious sweet tooth. 🙂 I read that so many sweets (like pasteis de nata) use egg yolks because they had so many left over after using the egg whites to starch their habits. We didn’t go to Aveiro, but we had Ovos Moles at Casa dos Ovos Moles right by the Jardim da Estrela in Lisbon. They were so tasty, and I’m sure the originals from your hometown are even better. 🙂

  • Reply Lisbon vs Porto December 28, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    […] to my chest. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. Also, good excuse to pick up some pastel de nata on the way for […]

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