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Enjoy the sweetness of this 200-year-old tradition

Perhaps Portugal’s most famous pastries, pastéis de nata, have had a long an illustrious history that, according to local tradition, began with the resourceful nuns and monks of Belém’s Jerónimos Monastery in the early part of the 19th century.

No Yolk Left Behind

The nuns and monks lived a simple life, uniting in prayer and spiritual counsel, washing their laundry and starching it with the simple ingredient they had at the time: egg whites. Of course, their egg white usage meant that hundreds of egg yolks were being left behind. So as not to waste this precious resource, it is said that they baked them into sweet pastries and sold them at a shop next to a neighboring sugar cane factory to support the monastery. The most popular of their confections became known as the pastéis de Belém.

An “Egg-cellent” Secret

Though the monastery was shut down after the 1820 Portuguese Liberal Revolution, its secret pastry recipe was passed on, much to the delight of those who traveled by steamboat from as far as Lisbon for a taste of the flaky treat with its creamy custard-like center.

Belém’s recipe is still kept under lock and key, but our onboard pastéis de nata recipe is sure to satisfy your cravings. Best enjoyed fresh and complemented by your morning coffee, they make a wonderful addition to brunch – a recipe you’ll want to save and whip up for the next family get-together, bridal shower or baby shower.


  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ cup single cream (11-18% milkfat)
  • 5 tbsp. caster sugar (or confectioners’ sugar)
  • 1 lb. filo dough
  • ½ stick butter, softened


Separate the egg yolks from the whites and place the yolks into a large bowl. Add the caster sugar into the bowl while vigorously whisking. Pour the cream into the bowl while still mixing the ingredients. Next, place a heavy pan onto the stove on low-medium heat. Add the ingredients from the bowl into the pan stirring frequently until it starts to simmer. Continue to simmer the mixture until it becomes thick.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Place the filo dough into a greased muffin tin. Layer the filo dough while lightly covering each layer with some butter. Once the shells are made place the cooled egg mixture into each shell. Bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool and enjoy!

Taste this recipe on board during our Enticing Douro and Flavors of Portugal & Spain river journeys – or try the original Belém recipe for yourself near Jerónimos Monastery as part of our not-to-be-missed pre/post-river cruise land package in Lisbon!

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