8 Desserts You Must Eat in Portugal

October 26, 2016

You can hardly walk a block in Lisbon without passing a bakery or 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 to find the best Portuguese desserts you must try!

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

Pastelaria in the Campo de Ourique neighborhood of Lisbon, Portugal | The Best Portuguese Desserts

Pao de Deus or God's Bread | The Best Portuguese Desserts | These are the 8 desserts you must 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 this Portuguese dessert may be part of the reason we found ourselves back in Lisbon 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.

Try Pao do Lo, one of the best desserts in Portugal | The Best Portuguese Desserts

2 Pão de Ló

Pão de Ló is a delicate Portuguese sponge cake that comes in plain egg or chocolate flavors and quickly earned a spot on my list of the best Portuguese desserts.

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, Hawaii, 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, because they are one of the best desserts in Portugal.

Try these Mini Cronuts, one of the best Portuguese Deserts! | The Best Desserts 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).

Try Almond Tarts, one of the best Portuguese Desserts | The Best Desserts 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 desserts 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. I saw them in almost every bakery and market around Portugal, so you’ll have plenty of chances to indulge in this extra-sweet Portuguese dessert.

Try Pastéis de Feijão, one of the best Portuguese Desserts | The Best Desserts in Portugal

7 Pastéis de Feijão

The picture above 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, so we definitely had to give them a try. They were delicious! Try one so you can be the judge.

This Chocolate Sorbet is so delicious! | The Best Desserts in Portugal

 8 Chocolate Sorbet

This may not be a traditional Portuguese dessert, but the chocolate sorbet from the Bettina & Niccolò Corallo chocolate shop is too good to pass up. The sorbet is so simple, it’s 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 desserts? What’s your vote for the best Portuguese desserts?


8 Sweet Treats you must eat in Portugal | The best desserts in Portugal and where to find them

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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 Sara June 23, 2017 at 10:27 am

      I get goosebumps when I read this. I am really interested in training courses in Portuguese pastries, are you familiar with a school that provide such education?

      • Reply Kelly Barcus June 23, 2017 at 9:33 pm

        Hey Sara! I’d love to learn to make them too! I’m not sure if there are any specific training courses, but I know there are a few cooking schools in Lisbon that offer classes to visitors, like Cooking Lisbon or Taste of Lisboa. We love taking cooking classes; it’s such a great way to bring a bit of the culture back with you.

  • 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 […]

  • Reply Anna June 20, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    thanks for this 🙂 !!! it was really helpful to show to my friends some of the sweets we have in Portugal!! ♥♥♥

    really thank you , great article! ♥

    • Reply Kelly Barcus June 23, 2017 at 9:34 pm

      Hey Anna! Thanks for sharing the article!

  • Reply 10 Tips for Visiting Lisbon with Kids  | No Man Before June 28, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    […] Or in my case, too many to count. Our son was too young to ask for treats, but Lisbon is a child’s paradise with a pastelaria on almost every street and so many amazing gelaterias around town. If you’re hunting for the best pastéis de nata, check out our post here on where to find them in Lisbon. And if you want a guide to everything else in the display case, see a list of our favorite Portuguese sweets here. […]

  • Reply Marta July 18, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    It must be great for foreigners to taste Portuguese sweets just once. For natives, they are addictive and make people fat! Feel free to try: pastel de nata, arroz doce, farófias, bola de Berlim, mil-folhas, bolo de bolacha (com manteiga e pinhões), salame de chocolate, filhós, rabanadas, pastel de feijão, laranjinhas da China, sericaia, ovos moles, pastel de Tentúgal, sonhos, queijada de Sintra, bolinhos de coco, tarte de amêndoa, pão de ló…

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