I’ve had a lot of Portuguese desserts in my time, and I’ve never been disappointed. They’re sweet, simple, and typically pretty unique.
If you’re looking for something different for your next movie night, why not try a batch of traditional brigadeiros? Or how about some pastéis de nata?
One thing to keep in mind with these desserts is that they might be sweet, but they’re not overloaded with whipped toppings and frosting.
Instead, they use natural flavors to let the dish shine.
From honey cake and rice pudding to ‘bread of the gods’ and mini-fried donuts, I have some fantastic recipes for you to try.
Let’s dive in! Saúde!
1. Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts)
Probably one of the most well-known Portuguese desserts, these custard tarts are petite, sweet, and super creamy.
Unlike British custard tarts that use a shortcut pastry, these are made with puff pastry, making the finish flaky and lightly crisp.
The custard is made using warm milk and flour as a thickener. You’ll need to temper the yolks and mix until you get the right consistency.
2. Serradura Dessert (Sawdust Pudding)
Don’t let the name fool you; this simple little dish is definitely worth a try.
It gets its name from the use of crushed cookies, which resemble sawdust when layered in the dish.
Maria cookies are light, thin, crisp, and mildly flavored with vanilla. If you can’t find them, try a shortbread cookie or even graham crackers, if that’s all you have.
3. Pao De Lo (Portuguese Sponge Cake)
Pao de lo is almost like an angel cake in that it is lightened up using whipped eggs.
Needing just six ingredients – eggs, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest – this no-fuss cake is great for any occasion.
Typically served with a dusting of powdered sugar, you can easily add fruit or whipped cream to spruce it up a bit.
4. Chocolate Salami
Don’t worry; there’s no meat in this. It gets the name from how it looks – like a slice of salami!
These no-bake cookies are so easy to throw together and are super simple to modify.
I like to use digestive biscuits and hazelnuts, but I’ve also made the recipe with shortbread and pistachios.
Just remember that it needs a good few hours to set in the fridge if you want to get those slices.
I like to include these in my Christmas boxes because I can make them without taking up valuable oven space!
5. Azorean Biscoitos (Portuguese Biscuits Recipe)
These lightly zested cookies are a staple in most Portuguese homes. They’re light and tender and almost like a shortbread.
Their distinctive ring makes them easy to spot, and though they’re not usually served with a glaze, you could easily drizzle something sweet over the top.
6. Portuguese Carrot Cake Recipe
I’ve heard some people complain about carrot cake being too busy with all the nuts and carrots and raisins.
I don’t get it, but I can see how some people may prefer something more straightforward.
This cake is for those few! Again, it needs just six ingredients and will give you such a light sponge.
Where this recipe is different is in the mixing.
You’ll need to put the carrots in a food processor with the eggs, oil, and sugar for at least 2 minutes before mixing in the dry.
7. Bolo Nega Maluca (Brazilian Chocolate Cake)
If you make this cake using the ingredients listed, you’ll notice it’s much sweeter than your average chocolate cake. That’s down to the cocoa used.
In most chocolate cakes, you’ll need to use baking cocoa, which is typically unsweetened and very rich.
However, here, you’ll need something like Nequick (drinking cocoa), which is much sweeter.
Feel free to stick to your ordinary cocoa. It will be delicious either way!
8. Arroz Doce (Portuguese Rice Pudding)
I’ve eaten rice pudding for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It can be warm, cold, with coconut milk, cinnamon, fruit, or even chocolate. I’m obsessed!
This recipe includes lemon peel with the milk, leaving you with a light citrus note in every bite.
You could also use orange peel, which would work especially well if you’re adding some chocolate chips.
Technically, you can use any kind of rice you want, but short grain is the best option.
9. Honey Cake
One big thing I noticed when I was traveling is that many European countries make and use honey in a lot of their baking.
I’m talking about natural, homegrown honey – not the processed stuff you find in the store.
The flavor is so different, and it makes a cake something special.
This recipe also uses olive oil, but you can use standard neutral oil if you want. It will make the honey more pronounced.
To make this really authentic, use honey bought directly from a farm.
10. Bolo Rei (Portuguese Kings Cake)
In many European countries, the biggest holiday celebration is King’s Day, January 6th.
Though they will celebrate Christmas Eve, you’ll find all kinds of festivals popping up in the first week of January.
This cake is one of the most traditional. More of a sweet bread, it is yeast-based and contains lots of candied fruits, nuts, wine, and lemon zest.
Have a slice, and you might find a fava bean or a small toy inside.
11. Portuguese Strawberry Cheesecake Recipe
You’ll notice that this cheesecake recipe is quite similar to others. It has a lovely biscuit base, a creamy no-bake filling, and a sweet strawberry topping.
In Portugal, they use Maria biscuits in the base, which have a much lighter taste than our graham crackers.
They also add some gelatin into the strawberry topping so that you can get clean slices.
12. Orange Roll
I’d never heard of this recipe before now! I’ve made rolls similar, but never this moist.
The orange flavor is so unique, and we don’t use it enough in cakes if you ask me.
This cake is so tender that you won’t even need a frosting filling.
Of course, you can never go wrong with frosting. Since the cake is already flavored, simple vanilla would do the trick.
13. Eggless Chocolate Mousse
I’d never given a second thought to eggs in my chocolate mousse until I tried to serve one to a pregnant friend. Oops.
I noted my error and vowed to find an eggless mousse for our next dinner.
This recipe is rich, intensely chocolatey, and super fast. The most you’ll have to do is melt chocolate and whip cream.
Just don’t forget to omit the booze if you’re serving a mama-to-be.
14. Caramelized Apple Cake
Caramelized upside-down cakes are always a hit.
Not only do they look fantastic when you invert them, but the fruity caramel seeps into the cake, making it insanely moist and flavorful.
If you can’t find any liquid caramel in the store, just use a layer of brown sugar on the bottom or even a layer of caramel.
Though it doesn’t need it, a bit of whipped cream really makes the fruit flavors pop.
15. Classic Caramel Flan
It’s funny, but flan isn’t hugely popular in the states. I’ve had it in the UK, Spain, Italy, Hong Kong, Thailand… but rarely see it in many local restaurants.
Let’s change that!
Flan is silky smooth, sweet, and bursting with caramel flavor. If you love crème brûlée, this recipe is a no-brainer.
Top tip: watch your caramel! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned a batch because I got impatient.
16. Xadrez Cake (Checkerboard Cake)
You might’ve guessed it: xadrez means chess. This fun cake might look complicated, but it’s not when you get the hang of it.
I like the look of the chocolate and vanilla cakes here, but you could always use something else, like a strawberry cake, for a lovely contrast.
The trick is to freeze your cakes to make cutting them more manageable. And if you can find a cutter big enough, it will be even easier.
17. Bolo de Amêndoa (Portuguese Almond Torte)
If you’re looking for something gluten-free, you’ll have to try this almond and lemon cake.
This cake is super moist but quite dense. I love the texture, but don’t make it if you’re hoping for something light and airy.
You’ll get some lightness from the whipped egg whites, and the almonds give such a nice texture. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh fruit.
18. Receita De Gelado Com Morangos (Portuguese Strawberry Ice Cream)
Making ice cream at home doesn’t have to mean cooking eggs and a fancy ice cream maker.
All you’ll need to do with this recipe is whip up some cream and condensed milk, and leave it to freeze.
This cheesecake-like ice cream has a layer of delicious crushed biscuits inside, and then you’ll top it all off with a simple strawberry and sugar puree.
19. Queijadas (Portuguese Cheesecake Tarts)
Queijada is a single-serve cheesecake with a heavenly caramelized top. It might look like pastéis de nata, but there are some key differences.
First of all, the pastry is much more like a typical tart shell. It has a simple shortcrust that doesn’t need to be sweetened.
As for the filling, rather than an egg custard, you’ll make tangy ricotta and goat cheese mix, sweetened with sugar and cinnamon.
20. Walnut and Apple Cake
Six seems to be the magic number in Portugal – this cake needs six ingredients and less than half an hour of your time.
Coffee and walnut cake has long been a favorite of mine, so when I saw this fruity cake, I knew I had to give it a try.
The walnuts act much like ground almonds in a cake but provide a deeper, more buttery flavor.
When cutting the apple, be sure to keep the slices thin and light. This will prevent them from sinking too far into the cake as it bakes.
21. Pão de Deus (Portuguese Bread)
Pão de deus means ‘bread of the gods,’ so you know it’ll be good!
What makes it so heavenly? Well, there’s lemon zest, vanilla, and a splash of rum right in the dough.
Not only that, but it also has a coconut crust that turns golden and toasted in the oven.
Though sweet, these make an excellent side to your dinner, especially if you’re eating something sweet and salty.
22. Bolos De Arroz (Gluten Free Portuguese Rice Cake)
Now, if that gluten-free cake above was too dense for you, I highly recommend this rice cake.
Made using rice flour, it is light, sweet, and super buttery. I love the crunch you get from the extra sugar sprinkled on top!
These are typically made in single servings, and you can easily use your regular muffin tin to recreate them at home.
23. Sonhos (Portuguese Doughnuts)
I’ve always said that donuts are dreamy: colorful, light, sweet, versatile, and just the cutest dessert out there.
Well, the Portuguese must agree with me because these little donuts are known as sonhos… dreams.
When you look through the recipe, you’ll probably notice that it look familiar. And it is!
These are actually little balls of choux pastry (cream puff) that get fried and covered in sugar.
They’re quick, need no yeast, and are best served warm.
24. Traditional Brigadeiros (Brazilian Fudge Balls)
You might not know it, but these are probably one of the most popular Portuguese desserts out there.
I’ve seen so many amazing variations of the brigadeiros, and each is as tasty as the last.
But if it’s your first time, you’ll have to start at the beginning with these chocolate fudge balls.
Made with sweet condensed milk, chocolate powder, and butter (sometimes with egg, too), the mix needs to be cooked until thick and then rolled into balls when cool enough to handle.
25. Portuguese Lemonade Recipe
With summer fast approaching, you might be on the lookout for a fun summer drink to serve at the next BBQ.
Lemonade is always going to be a hit, and making it yourself is a great way to keep out any nasty additives.
This version uses lemon and lime for the ultimate citrus flavor. And if you want to make it for the adults, try adding some vodka or white rum.
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