This slightly streamlined recipe for the world-famous pasteis de nata, or Portuguese custard tarts, uses just few basic ingredients but requires numerous steps and a certain amount of finesse. The results are so worth it, though, you'll want to make a double batch. The extra moisture inside the sticky dough, activated by a very hot oven, creates the signature flaky, buttery, crispy crust, which encases a custard subtly scented with lemon, cinnamon, and vanilla.

Recipe Summary

prep:
1 hr
cook:
25 mins
additional:
2 hrs 35 mins
total:
4 hrs
Servings:
12
Yield:
12 tarts
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Ingredients

12
Original recipe yields 12 servings
The ingredient list now reflects the servings specified
For the Dough:
For the Sugar Syrup:
For the Custard Base:

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Combine flour, salt, and cold water in a bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough just comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Dough should be sticky; adjust with more flour or water to achieve what's shown in the video.

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  • Transfer dough onto a well floured surface. Dust a little more flour over the top. Knead for a minute or two to form a round. Cover and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

  • Roll dough into a square about 1/8 inch thick, dusting with flour as necessary; dough should still be sticky.

  • Spread 1/3 of the butter over 2/3 of the square using a silicone spatula, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Flip the unbuttered side over the middle of the square and fold the opposite end over it like a letter. Straighten the edges as needed.

  • Turn dough with a bench scraper to unstick it from the counter; dust with flour. Flip and sprinkle more flour on top. Roll dough into a 1/8-inch-thick rectangle, carefully stretching edges as needed. Spread another 1/3 of the butter over 2/3 of the dough. Fold into thirds. Transfer onto a lined baking sheet and freeze until butter is slightly chilled, about 10 minutes.

  • Sprinkle dough with flour and roll into a square a little over 1/8 inch thick. Spread remaining butter over the dough, leaving a 1- to 1 1/2-inch border on the top edge. Dip your finger in water and lightly moisten the unbuttered edge. Roll dough into a log starting from the bottom edge. Dust with more flour and polish the ends as needed. Seal with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

  • Combine sugar, 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, cinnamon, and lemon zest in a pot. Boil over medium heat, without stirring, until syrup reaches 210 to 215 degrees F (100 degrees C). Remove from heat.

  • Preheat oven 550 degrees F (288 degrees C). Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

  • Whisk flour, salt, and cold milk together very thoroughly in a cold pot. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until milk thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

  • Whisk egg yolks into the cooled milk. Add the sugar syrup and vanilla extract. Mix until combined. Strain custard into a glass measuring cup.

  • Unwrap the dough and trim any uneven bits on the ends. Score log into 12 even pieces using a knife; cut through.

  • Place a piece of dough in each muffin cup. Dip your thumb lightly in some cold water. Press thumb into the center of the swirl; push dough against the bottom and up the sides of the cup until it reaches least 1/8 inch past the top. Fill each cup 3/4 of the way with custard.

  • Bake in the preheated oven until the pastry is browned and bubbly, and the tops start to blister and caramelize, about 12 minutes. Cool tarts briefly and serve warm.

Chef's Notes:

You'll have to decide whether you're going to include lemon, cinnamon, and vanilla, which are apparently considered optional ingredients in Portugal, but I really enjoy the flavor, and wouldn't change a thing.

You can substitute the cinnamon stick with 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Nutrition Facts

210 calories; protein 3.9g 8% DV; carbohydrates 25.2g 8% DV; fat 10.6g 16% DV; cholesterol 125.2mg 42% DV; sodium 98.3mg 4% DV. Full Nutrition

Reviews (72)

Read More Reviews

Most helpful positive review

Rating: 5 stars
11/25/2018
I made this in our motor home, and except for it taking longer because the oven only goes up to 425, the dessert came out delicious. I got rave reviews from everyone. I can't wait to make this again for my friend from the Azores. I wouldn't change a thing. Read More
(7)

Most helpful critical review

Rating: 3 stars
11/27/2019
Made mine with apple filling instead. I turned the heat down to 500f for the same time, my house filled with smoke from the butter deep frying the tart. The tart itself, was amazing! This recipe is better for an out door wood oven. Read More
(2)
88 Ratings
  • 5 star values: 81
  • 4 star values: 3
  • 3 star values: 3
  • 2 star values: 1
  • 1 star values: 0
Rating: 5 stars
11/25/2018
I made this in our motor home, and except for it taking longer because the oven only goes up to 425, the dessert came out delicious. I got rave reviews from everyone. I can't wait to make this again for my friend from the Azores. I wouldn't change a thing. Read More
(7)
Rating: 5 stars
12/18/2018
The crust was really the hardest part of the recipe next time I will be a pro but this was a very simple and delicious recipe Read More
(3)
Rating: 5 stars
09/10/2019
I saw these on a tv program and went to all receipes..... immediately and found that chief John made them....tried the recipe and I think I ate at least 6 myself...I got yelled at because the was only 2 left...had to make another batch and everything was ok....followed recipe exactly .....we're great... Read More
(3)
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Rating: 5 stars
03/03/2019
Loved these when my niece bright them back from Portugal. Also, reminds me so much of the Chinese egg tart but I love the modified laminated dough for the crunch factor, seriously the crunch can be heard from the next room. I followed the recipe minus the optional ingredients in the sugar water. The family gave it 2 thumbs up and not overly sweet. Read More
(3)
Rating: 3 stars
11/26/2019
Made mine with apple filling instead. I turned the heat down to 500f for the same time, my house filled with smoke from the butter deep frying the tart. The tart itself, was amazing! This recipe is better for an out door wood oven. Read More
(2)
Rating: 5 stars
01/05/2019
Having just returned from a trip to Portugal, I had to learn to make these tartlets. I found many recipes but my trust in John's expertise won out. I was right. This recipe is the best. John's video was the key to success. I followed the instructions and tips carefully and my Natas came out amazing. A bit time consuming, but the dough and the filling can be made days ahead so the tarts can be filled and popped in the oven minutes before serving. This will be a favorite recipe when I need something impressive to serve. Thanks, again, John! Read More
(2)
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Rating: 5 stars
01/05/2019
Took me a while to get the hang of it but I finally made a dozen of those delicious tarts and there all gone! Instead of the water I just put about half a cup of cinnamon whiskey! I'll be making more of these in the future thanks again for the recipe! Read More
(1)
Rating: 5 stars
01/07/2019
so much delicious portuguese custard tarts i have made Read More
(1)
Rating: 5 stars
04/23/2019
It was a hit with all the family over for Easter dinner. Everyone loved it. Read More
(1)