Pastéis sem Nata (Portuguese custard tarts)


 vegan pasteis de nata    

While we visited Lisbon last year, P. developed a serious addiction. From the second day of our vacation, we had to stop at a bakery once or twice a day and get “um pastel de nata, faz favor“. Pastéis de nata (pastries with cream) are little egg and cream custard tarts sold at every bakery in Lisbon. It is said that they were invented by nuns in the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Belem, close to Lisbon. Therefor they are also called pastéis de Belem.(The bakery claims to sell the original version. After waiting in line for a long time to finally taste one of their pastries, P. claimed he liked the ones in Lisbon much better.)

These pastries are very small with a crust made from puff pastry and a filling that consists of mostly eggs and cream. Usually Portuguese pastries rely on huge amounts of eggs or egg yolks. The reason for this might be that  them monks used the egg whites to filter the beer they were brewing. At least I was told so.

Pastéis de nata are always sold very fresh, sometimes they are still warm. Their tops are usually slightly burnt, because they are baked at a very high temperature. I read something about 400° Celsius (no, this is not a typo, it’s 750°F).

Obviously I never tasted a pastel de nata. Thinking about all those eggs which are used every day to make huge amounts of tarts is not a good idea. You all know how horribly chickens are treated. When we left Portugal I forgot about the pastries until a couple of months ago when I was experimenting with making a cheesecake from coconut milk and soy yoghurt. It came out of the oven with a burnt top. It looked exactly like a huge pastel de nata. A vegan pastel de nata. I was exited and saved the recipe. I didn’t know if I’d ever blog about it because I thought that no one might know about these pastries.

When a couple of days ago someone asked about a vegan recipe for pastéis de nata, I thought I could dig out the recipe again and tweak it a bit. I call these pastries pastéis sem nata, pastries without cream. My taste tester P. said the pastry itself was like the original (which is not too difficult, I used prepared puff pastry). The filling is different from the omni-version. Competing with all those eggs is not an easy task. But I think I came up with a wonderful substitute. No, these cream tarts are a wonderful and special treat on their own and not a substitute. They may not look like much but they are perfect.

They have a wonderful creamy vanilla coconut flavour and the pastel has an absolutely amazing soft and creamy texture. These little gems are addictive. If they were made in a bakery here in Dresden, I’d get one every day. I’d develop a serious addiction! Fortunately I made only 12 pastries. They take a little bit of work but of course they are worth it.

Pastéis sem nata (makes 12)
To make the custard:
200 g coconut milk (half a 14 oz can)
140 g plain soy yoghurt (1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon)
120 ml plain soy milk (1/2 cup)
100 g sugar (1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspoon ground vanilla
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
30 g cornstarch (1/4 cup)
1/8 teaspoon kala namak (black salt, optional, use regular salt instead)

To make the crust:
3 10 x 17 cm (4 x 6 3/4 inch) sheets puff pastry.

In a small saucepan combine all ingredients except for black salt. Bring to a boil and cook for one minute or until the mixture (stir constantly) turns into a thick custard.
Stir in black salt. Let cool completely, stirring from time to time. This will prevent a skin to form on top of the mixture. If your mixture gets lumpy, use an immersion blender or a strainer to get rid of the lumps. To make the crust: While the filling is cooling, preheat the oven to 250°C (480°F) and have a 12 cup muffin tin ready. For the crust, I used store-bought puff pastry, you can also make your own, if you don’t have access to vegan puff pastry. The puff pastry I use comes in individual sheets, each is 10 x 17 cm (4 x 6 3/4 inch). Roll out each sheet until it is 15 x 25 cm (6 x 10 inch) in size. Carefully roll into a log, starting with the short side. Don’t roll it up too tightly.Cut each log into four equal pieces.

vegan pasteis de nata

Pinch the edges, bring them together and carefully form them into balls:

vegan pasteis de nata

vegan pasteis de nata

Flatten the dough balls into disks and shape them into cups. Don’t stretch the dough too  much and use a splash of cold water to prevent sticking rather than flour.

vegan pasteis de nata

Transfer them to an ungreased muffin tin. You don’t have to cover the whole tin with dough, 3/4 is enough. Fill each tin with 2-3 tablespoons of custard. Only fill 2/3 of the pastry shells. If you use too much custard, it will overflow when baked.

Transfer to the oven and place on upper rack, close to the grill. Bake for 5 minutes, reduce heat to 230°C (450°F) and bake for 11 more minutes. Always keep an eye on your pastries and make sure they don’t burn too much. Some dark spots on top are okay and part of the fun.

Remove from heat and let cool for five minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely. The custard will sink and set. Serve when cooled completely.

vegan pasteis de nata


  • Nadine
    1 year ago

    Can they be frozen once baked and for how long

  • Nina
    3 years ago

    Genius! I have to try it.
    I am Portuguese and when I read the post title I thought someone had told you about the unknown secret of “pastéis de nata”: thet don’t include cream. The filling is really only custard: egg yolks, sugar, milk and flour (or corn starch). The “nata” thing apparently comes from a mistranslation from the french “crème”, like in “crème brûllée” or the Spanish “crema catalana”, which is the same: custard.
    In Spanish (crema) and Portuguese (creme), the word means just a soft thick liquid, and then we have a specific word for the milk fat: “nata”.
    One of the versions of history, lost in time, says that the “pastéis de nata” are just a version of a French dessert that was really only about the custard, and served on a puff pastry bowl that would not get eaten.
    The story about the monastery is apparently also true. They were monks, not nuns, and started selling the little tarts in 1837 to the people visiting the busy area of Belém.

  • Romeu
    4 years ago

    Hello =)

    I’m Portuguese and I’m vegan, a friend told me last week and I’m going to try out today!
    I used to love Pastéis de Belém! So I’m thrilled to taste them!
    I let you know!! PS: you are making Portuguese vegans very very happy!! This is huge!
    THANK YOU!!! ^^

  • 5 years ago

    This looks so cool, and I am keen to try making them! My wife and I are going to Lisbon in May, and I was a little bummed when I discovered that their most popular sweet snack is loaded with dairy and therefore off-limits to me. I am certainly not surprised, since that always happens, but I am thrilled to see that you have developed a vegan version.

    I am going to try it now before we go. If possible, I may even make some while I am there (we are staying in an apartment with a total working kitchen). I will let you know how it goes!

    • Mihl
      5 years ago

      I hope you’ll like them!

      • 5 years ago

        They are cooling on my counter right now, Mihl! I put a little more cinnamon than you called for, which made them a little darker – but otherwise I adhered to your recipe to the best of my ability. I am very new to using puff pastry – I usually make my own pastry dough, but I decided to save myself some work this time – and the one I bought (Pepperidge Farm) is a larger sheet I believe than what you were working with. Did you get enough pastry for 12 pasteis from 1 sheet of puff pastry, or did you use 2? I needed two sheets that were each about 10 x 12 inches without rolling them out (although I had some leftover).

        • Mihl
          5 years ago

          I am glad you liked them, Karl. I always get exited when someone tries this reicpe. I like your idea about the cinnamon.
          About that puff pastry: I honestly don’t remember how much I used! I am in Germany. Maybe the puff pastry here is different.

  • kirsten
    6 years ago

    OMG! I use to live next to a Portuguese bakery..and loved these things! I can’t believe you veganized them :) SO COOL

  • Plutt
    6 years ago

    Thank you for this delicious recipe! I took Monin vanilla syrup (it’s vegan) instead of real vanilla and it did well. The pastéis can easily be frozen after preparation (before baking them in the oven) and stored in the freezer until you’re craving for them again. =) If you want to make them, the frozen pastéis need only five more minutes in the oven to be cooked properly. I think this is very convenient, so you needn’t make all 12 ones at once. Btw my omni boyfriend told me that they do not quite taste like the original ones, but he loves them regardless of that (“They are sweeeeeeet – like everything you bake!”).

    • Mihl
      6 years ago

      Thank you for trying them. Good to know they freeze well.

  • 6 years ago

    Hmmmm… Coconut pastéis de nata… Lovely idea!

    For what I’ve heard, the reason why there were so many egg yolks in the nuns convents was becasuse they used to iron not only the religious, but also the rich people clothings with egg whites to keep them stiff.

    Just wanted to share a vegan portuguese sweet recipe. Areias de Cascais. Keep in mind that Cowboy (Vaqueiro in portuguese) is a well know vegetable margarine brand around here.

    Thanks for this recipe once again!

  • 8 years ago

    So pleased to discover this recipe and to find your blog, thanks to Sandrine of Végébon.

    It was the Belém pasteis I loved the most and used to take the tram out there every day to buy them when I was in Lisbon. Before I was vegan, of course…
    I will have to try these !

  • YAY! I wanted to do a Portugal E.A.T World post and a couple of months ago (before I became a lazy blogger) I saw the Pastéis de nata listed on the wikipedia page for Portugal’s traditional cuisine. I was wondering how to make these, so thank you for the recipe! :)

  • 8 years ago

    I made these last night and they were fantastic! I altered the recipe a bit by using light coconut milk and vanilla extract, but they turned out great. My boyfriend, who likes a lot of vegan food, but usually not “veganized” food, loved them. Thanks again for the recipe!

    • 8 years ago

      Thank you for your feed-back! Glad to hear the bf enjoyed them as well.

  • 8 years ago

    Oh, I had made a clafoutis a long time ago and was recently wondering how I could veganize that classic recipe. You’ve just provided me with a terrific starting point! Thank you, Mihl!

  • […] June 29, 2010 Pastéis sem Nata (Portuguese custard tarts) « seitan is my motor […]

  • 8 years ago

    Wow these look delicious. I used to love tiny little eggy custards and pies, those look so pretty!

  • 8 years ago

    Vielen Dank, jetzt habe ich endlich ein veganes Yorkshire Pudding Rezept. Die sind auch sehr ei- u. milchlastig (ohne Custard). An Blätterteig habe ich ja noch nie gedacht! Damit wäre es sooo einfach.

    lg Netty *freu*

  • 8 years ago

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I’m vegetarian but try to cook primarily vegan at home. I wanted to make Pastéis de Nata after I went to Lisbon, but had been putting it off because it wasn’t vegan. I’m really looking forward to giving these a try!

  • sue
    8 years ago

    the only things i really miss as a vegan are the traditional portuguese foods of my childhood, like this pastel.
    i have dreamed and schemed about making vegan pasteis de nata and it looks like you’ve done it!
    thankyou so much for the recipe!!

  • 8 years ago

    Thank you so much for this. The only desserts I’ve ever really liked are the creamy, custardy variety and I still get cravings for them. I’ve put off trying to make an eclair and I’m glad, because these look much closer to the kind of dessert I like–no chocolate, almost all creamy center!

  • 8 years ago

    Mihl, these are simply gorgeous. I would love one for breakfast, with my coffee!

  • 8 years ago

    This is the kind of rich and caramelly dessert that I JUST LOVE! I think I can manage to find all of the ingredients (hopefully!) because I am desperate to make these. What a great idea, thank you so much for sharing the recipe!

  • 8 years ago

    I agree with you: this doesn’t have to be a substitute of anything. It’s like when some people expect the chicken tofu to taste like the real stuff. It doesn’t….it tastes better ;) I agree with @Erica: apart from sounding delicious, the step-by-step photos are very useful :D

    I definitively need to find a vegan puff pastry brand or learn to make it myself :( All the puff pastries I’ve seen not only are not vegan…they’re not vegetarian either because they’re made with lard >.<

    I haven't tasted coconut milk in a long :) I'll add it to my shopping list for the next time I go to Barcelona and visit the Asian grocery store.

  • Erica
    8 years ago

    This is pure genius. The pastries look sublime and the instructional presentation is exquisite. I’m (nearly) speechless.
    Thank you!

  • 8 years ago

    I have never attempted to make a vegan custard. Definitely trying this one!

  • 8 years ago

    These definitely look very tempting.

  • 8 years ago

    I used to love custard tarts (in the bad ol’ pre-vegan days) and these look a very delicious, up-market version of them. Once the excess weight is off I’ll be trying them. Thanks for the lovely clear instructions!

  • 8 years ago

    these are getting made (when it’s a bit cooler and I can stand the oven being on)
    Thanks for posting this recipe.

  • 8 years ago

    WOW!!! Those look and sound amazing!!!

  • 8 years ago

    Hello Mihl, here I am back to your blog one more time :) Several months ago I left some comments on your posts about your trip to Lisbon, my home town, because it does feel so good when you hear someone that is visiting Portugal saying such good things about our home country, we are a kind of melancholic people and there is a deep-seated tendency to always focus on the negative or sad side of the story, so when we hear such nice things we appreciate the bright vision of it ;).
    A friend of mine, who’s not vegan, emailed me asking for a recipe for vegan Pasteis de Nata, because they are preparing a kind of Portuguese barbecue (in Seattle) but some of the Portuguese people attending it are vegan/vegetarian, so she wants to bake something resembling our traditional pastry. My eyes never crossed any vegan recipes for this particular dessert, until today when I saw yours!
    It looks delicious and not difficult to make at all!
    The pics left my mouth watering and I’ll email her your recipe.
    I will definitely give it a try!
    The name you picked “Pasteis sem nata” was genious, I loved it :)

    I like the new “look” of your blog/website, very easy to navigate and organized, thank you!

    (in Lisbon)

  • LiterateVegan
    8 years ago

    Wow – these look amazing! I LOVE these things, can’t wait to try out a vegan recipe. I’ve really missed my breakfast pastries since becoming vegan so it’s really exciting to think I might have the chance to enjoy them again.

  • 8 years ago

    Hmm never heard of these before but they sound delish. As usual great photos :)

  • 8 years ago

    This looks wonderful! I am going to have to try this soon!

  • 8 years ago

    NIce! I love the step by sstep instructions and pictures!

  • 8 years ago

    How funny, I recently re-watched a travel program that mentioned pastéis de Belem and it reminded me of that longtime curiosity I’ve had about them. I’ve neither been to Portugal nor attempted to make the tarts, even before becoming vegan, so I sort of dismissed the idea of being able to produce a successful eggless version…until just now. :) So how awesome is the timing with this post?! Thanks for sharing!