This Pastel de Nata or Portuguese Egg Tart is simply dreamy. Taste just like the ones from Macao, light and smooth egg custard with crisp flaky puff pastry.
Yaaaayyyy!!! I cannot believe that I was able to make these Pastéis de Nata or Portuguese Egg Tart. They are so amazingly good, just like how I remembered them...light and smooth egg custard with crisp flaky puff pastry.
The first time I had these was on my very first out-of-the-country trip to Macau-Hong Kong back in 2007 with two good friends, Romina and Leony. It was quite an adventure and so much fun and it was also at this time that I mastered using chopsticks out of necessity (and hunger) because it was the only utensils they would give us in Macau back then.
What is Pastel de Nata?
Pastel (Pastéis for plural) de Nata, also known as Portuguese Egg Tart is one of the famous local specialties in Macau that should never be missed. Macau has been a Portuguese colony until late 1999 so that explains how this delicious pastry found its way to this tiny island in Asia all the way from Portugal.
It is a small milky, creamy egg custard tart that has a flaky, crispy pastry as a base.
From that very first taste of this buttery pastry, I got hooked! I cannot get it out of my mind for months after getting back to the Philippines so I tried recreating it using a different recipe (from the internet) but every single attempt ended up as a failure. Not only was it difficult to make puff pastry in a really warm and humid kitchen but I also cannot get the custard to be as smooth or the top as shiny with those burnt spots which is a signature of Pastel de Nata (aside from the time I burned a batch of course). So after so many failed attempts, I gave up :-(.
The secret to perfect Portuguese Egg Tarts
Fast forward to 2016 and with a change of location (Germany), I decided to give it another shot. I felt a bit more optimistic since ready-made puff pastry sheets are easily available there, so half of the work is done.
Next step was to look for the right custard recipe. I found some and tried them but still no spots and I get curdled custard instead. They also tasted good too but not quite the Portuguese egg tarts that I know...then finally I found this recipe from Kitchen Tigress and she explained so well why I, and Rasa Malaysia in this case, were failing at making Pastel de Nata.
She says... to get those burnt marks on top, there should be enough milk to have the protein needed to create a skin while they bake in the oven at 250°C.
Now to stop the custard from curdling, it should be stabilized by adding cornstarch to the egg-milk mixture.
It should then be cooked first on medium-low heat until the correct thickness is achieved. The correct thickness is when you dip a spoon and it gets a thin coat from the mixture. You should stop there and remove it from the heat a.s.a.p. and put the pot in a water bath to stop it from cooking further.
Kitchen Tigress used ready-made puff pastry shells (good for her), unfortunately, they are not available here in Germany. But I am already happy having the ready-made puff pastry sheets. What I did was, I cut circles about the same size or a bit bigger than the top circumference of my forms (good thing I have a drinking glass with a wide rim with the same size, you just have to be resourceful). Then I placed the center of the pastry dough at the middle of the butter-greased form and pressed it to the sides making it thinner and expanding it to reach the top. When I don't do this, the crust gets too thick when baked and does not look so good. After forming the puff pastry shells, you have to freeze it for a few minutes again so they become firmer and will keep their shapes while baking as they tend to shrink in the heat.
She also bakes her Egg tarts at 250°C for 30-35 minutes which I found impossible for me to do or the crusts get too burnt. Maybe it is the difference in our ovens, I am not sure, so I adjusted my baking procedure a bit.
How to make Macau Egg Tarts?
Form the dough into pastry shells and freeze for several minutes.
In a small pot or saucepan, whisk together the cream, sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch and milk until well combined and all lumps age gone.
Cook egg mixture over medium-low heat while stirring continuously until it reaches the correct consistency, think crepe batter. Remove from heat and place pot in a cold water bath to stop it from cooking further. Add the vanilla extract and stir until well mixed. Let it cool down to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 250°C. Take the puff pastry shells from the fridge and fill them with the egg mixture leaving about 5-7mm of the top uncovered.
Baked them at 250°C for 5 minutes or until the pastry starts to puff. Lower the temperature to 200°C and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the top of the custard gets the burnt spots and the bubbling starts to subside.
Pastel de Nata or Portuguese Egg Tarts
- 70 grams heavy cream (at least 30% fat)
- 70 grams sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 200 ml fresh full-fat milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 sheet puff pastry
- butter - for greasing the forms
- Form the dough into pastry shells as I mentioned in my post above. Freeze them for some minutes while preparing the custard.
- In a bowl, whisk together the cream, sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch and milk until well combined and all lumps age gone.
- Using a double boiler, cook the egg mixture over medium-low heat while stirring continuously until it reaches the correct thickness, like that of a crepe batter. Remove from heat and place pot in a cold water bath to stop it from cooking further.
- Add the vanilla extract and stir until well mixed. Let it cool down to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 250°C.
- Take the puff pastry shells from the fridge and fill them with the egg mixture leaving about 5-7mm of the top uncovered.
- Baked them at 250°C for 5 minutes or until the pastry starts to puff. Lower the temperature to 200°C and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the top of the custard gets the burnt spots and the bubbling starts to subside. Rotate your tray several times throughout baking time to get the crust brown evenly.
- Remove from oven and place on the cooling rack. Portuguese Egg tarts are best eaten while still warm.
This recipe was originally published in April 2016. Updated to include more tips and new photos. Recipe remains the same.
For those asking about the mold I used for making these egg tarts, I found these at Amazon:
Hi,I am in the Philippines. Will Nestle All Purpose Cream work? It doesn't say if it's high or low fat.on the box.
I haven't tried using all-purpose cream so I cannot say if it will work at all. There are some other brands like Arla, Anchor, and Emborg and they also have it in small pack.
hi i just want ro ask how can make a dough what are the recipe to make tte dough for the portuguese tart
Hi Cel, I am afraid it is not all that simple to make puff pastry and needs a separate article to explain everything. I will do it soon..
How do I make Puff Pastry?
Or do you have a recipe for Puff Pastry?
Thanks a lot!
Not yet, as it requires a lot of work and time to do so I usually just buy one as it is not that expensive. But I will make one soon, just for those who wants to try to make it themselves or are unable to buy them.
I love the recipe and the detailed explanation. Thank you very much. I will keep going on your nice website.
Easiest and the best recipe so far!
Thank you Glace, and I am happy that you like it.
Hi, the egg tarts look just like the ones from the bakery I love that sells them! I don't have the tins for egg tarts, though, so can I use a muffin tin?
Sure you can, Em.
I tried this using my own puff pastry recipe. It tastes like Lord Stow's! I'm impressed!. However, to get that burnt top I had to bake this at 190-200C for 30mins
What kind of oven did you use?
Hi! What is your oven setting? Is it up and down or down only?
I used top and bottom heat. Also worked with gas oven.
Hello! What is the oven settings? Is it up and down or down only?
up and down heat.
Tried the recipe with reduced sugar of 50g, and baked for 30 mins instead of 15-20mins at 200°C to achieve nice browning of the tarts. Will definitely make them again!
Thanks for sharing your tip, Queenie.
Noemi Vito says
I tried this recipe. I was so excited when I saw the burnt top but as it continued to cook, the custard rose up and it started to crack. Tasted pretty good but it didn’t have the smooth shiny top.
I think it could be that the custard was overcooked.
Honey Joy says
Hi! I would certainly try this recipe but is it really necessary to use full-fat milk? Or can I use non-full-fat milk? Thanks.
If you want that perfect burnt top and creamy custard, full-fat milk is the only way.
Hii, i tried it today and it taste amazing , but the top of the custard didnt get burnt like the one you made. Any suggestion? Thanks 😁
Actually, the tip for the browned top was already mentioned in the post. Did you use full-fat milk and high fat cream?
Thank you for doing the "trial and error" for us! I tried this today and it is sooo good! I made my puff pastry from scratch, ended up with a slightly smaller cup though. I will definitely save the recipe! I love all your recipes by the way 😉😘 thank you!
I envy you for doing your own puff pastry I will have to do it soon too! Thanks for your nice comment, Yong.
I would love to try your recipes but do you happen to have a recipe for Ube Pandesal?
Yes, we do, Zinnia. Just use the search box to look for recipes.
Great post! A fun fact is that the Macau egg tart is not Portuguese at all. It was invented by Andrew Stow, an Englishman, who made something that sort of looked like pastel de nata but tastes completely different. He still called it the Portuguese egg tart though. Maybe next time you can try making the pastry from scratch!
Hi Eddie, thanks for the info. But I wouldn't say that Lord Stow's and the real Portuguese egg tarts, pastéis de Nata, taste completely different. The later was, after all, what he had in mind when he made his variation after visiting Belem, Portugal, where pastel de nata was born. So 'invented' was probably not the correct word but he definitely was the one who introduced it to Macau.
I guess we can debate what we mean by different. I just know that the filling for pasteis de nata has cinnamon in it and is thickened with flour or cornstarch where as the macau version is a basic english custard. I've never had the real thing in Belem but I hear they're also sweeter. There are also interviews on Youtube where Stow's sister (Eileen Stow) says Portuguese people in Macau told him those things were not pasteis de nata because they were so different. It's a very interesting story.
Hi again Eddie, you are correct, the main difference is that classic pastéis is dusted with cinnamon powder and of course they do not use reasy-made puff pastry like I did😊. I guess we have to go to Belem to know for sure and solve this problem once and for all 😉. But, I appreciate all your informative comments. Stay safe...
Hi! What can I substitute for heavy cream? Thanks
Hi Marj, you need the (heavy or whipping) cream with at least 30% fat to create that smooth top with brown splotches on top, the signature of an authentic Portuguese egg tart.
It's spelled Pasteis de Nata. Not pastel.
Hi Andrew...you are almost correct, it is pastéis which is the plural form of pastel in Portuguese. So 1=Pastel de Nata and 2 or more=Pastéis de Nata 😉
Hi. Can i use cooking cream instead of the whipping cream?
You can as long as it has the same or higher fat content.
Hi again. I just finished baking this. But the problem i encountered was the puff pastry bubbled and the custard spilled over. Should i pierce the bottom with fork?
Hi Emil, this happens for two reasons, one is if the puff pastry is too thick so you have to roll it more thinly. The other one is when the custard is too shallow.
I tried it last night and it was just amazing. These are the ones I always order whenever I have craving for Dim Sum. Tastes the way I like it. Thank you so much
So happy to hear that, Claire! Took me some trials to get it right but I am really happy (and proud) with this recipe. Thanks for the 5 stars...
Hi, the recipe looks perfect! But I just want to ask how thick should I roll out the pastry dough? I made a pastry dough already so I will be using that for making the Portuguese egg tarts. Thanks in advance!
Hi Kaye, puff pastry tend to expand a lot while baking so I roll it really thin about half centimeter...
Thanks Ate Bebs! I tried your recipe yesterday and it was perfect! I will make these again for my Portuguese friend. I'm sure she'll love it as I do. Thank you for sharing your recipe! ?
THELMA E. CERENO says
Hi,thanks for sharing your recipes..
You're welcome, Thelma!
Hello, I have made this twice and it really is yummy! However, it always curdles and not the creamy smooth texture. What could be the problem?
The cornstarch should have solved it actually. Did you add some?