A Guide to Portugal's Favorite Desserts

Salame de chocolate | © jppaguilar / Wikimedia Commons
Salame de chocolate | © jppaguilar / Wikimedia Commons
Portugal is a country that loves its sweets, and the numerous pastry shops (pastelarias) and bakeries (padarias) are proof. There is something for practically every palate, and while some sweets only make appearances during the holidays, others are available year-round. There are also a couple of recipes that are originally from other countries, but that have become just as popular as some of the national favorites. Although it’s impossible to name every single cake, pudding, and pie, here is an abridged list of Portugal’s favorite desserts.

Arroz doce (rice pudding)

At its core, this dessert consists of all things comforting: rice, milk, sugar, and cinnamon. Some people add vanilla and lemon for flavor while others thicken the dish by tempering an egg and each Portuguese region has its own twist and preferences. No matter how it’s made, however, arroz doce is a sweet that can be expected at most gatherings, holidays, and restaurants.

Arroz Doce © PortoBay Events / Flickr

Pudim flan

There are many ways to prepare this caramel-topped pudding, depending on where you are around the world, and the Portuguese love a thick, creamy and smooth finish to theirs. Flan is another dessert offered on most restaurant menus and served at family events.

Flan Pudding © Pixabay

Leite creme (milk cream)

This is pretty much the opposite of flan, and served inside a small bowl instead of on top a plate. Eggs, milk or cream, and sugar will do the trick to create this sweet that’s creamy inside with a crunchy sugary layer on top.

Chocolate mousse

Who doesn’t love chocolate mousse? Certainly not the Portuguese. Like arroz doce and flan, chocolate mousse is likely to be offered on the menu when dining out.

Chocolate Mousse © Pixabay

Sonhos de abóbora (pumpkin dreams)

Pumpkin is a popular ingredient in Portugal around Christmas, and many locals dream of sinking their teeth into these bites of fried pumpkin dough that literally translate into “pumpkin dreams.” They look like single-flavored oversized donut holes, and some people sprinkle them with a sugar cover while others go without.

Bolo de bolacha (cookie cake)

Maria biscuits are a simple yet popular snack in Portugal, and they are the base for cookie cake, or bolo de bolacha. Some cooks prefer their bolo more cake-like while others create more of a pudding, but, either way, the basic biscuits are mixed with condensed milk to create a dessert that pairs well with coffee and tea.

Salame de chocolate (chocolate salami)

It’s called salame (or salami) because of its tube-like shape that slightly resembles a sausage, but this is purely a chocolate and cookie treat with an almost cake-like texture.

Salame de chocolate © jppaguilar / Wikimedia Commons


The Brazilian chocolate sweet made its way to Portugal, and it’s here to stay. These bite-sized calorie bombs are made with chocolate, butter, and condensed milk (among other ingredients). The Portuguese love them so much that they have built upon this recipe to create others, like the brigadeiro cake.

Pasteis de Nata (custard tarts)

Visiting Portugal and not trying these egg custard tarts is practically a sin. The recipe for pasteis de nata originated near Lisbon, at the Jerónimos Monastery, and they were first sold next door to the monastery at the Pasteis de Belém, which is still a major tourist attraction today.

Pasteis de Nata | Pixabay

Bola de Berlim (Berliner)

While sitting on Portugal’s beaches, you may notice men walking around selling sweets, including these cream-filled pillows that are a little like Boston cream donuts (just substitute the chocolate topping with sugar). The egg cream filling is stereotypical in Portuguese desserts.

Bolo Rei (king cake)

Bolo Rei is another dessert seen only at Christmas time and may be recognizable from other European cultures. This seems to be a dessert that people love or don’t care for, but either way, it’s nearly always present at holiday parties and a table would seem naked without it. Some families hide toys inside their cakes and the person who finds the toy in their slice wins a special treat.

Toucinho do céu (roughly translated: fat of heaven)

Almond-lovers should try this cake that originated in the northern, and oldest, part of the country. Unfortunately, this may not be a dessert for vegetarians as recipes usually include pig fat (hence the name “fat” of heaven).

Toucinho do Ceu © PortoBay Events / Flickr

Pão de Deus (God’s bread)

You may find yourself wondering if this is a bread or a pastry, but you won’t question the fact that this moist roll of dough and coconut is delicious. Sure, it may be a touch too heavy after dinner, but there is really no bad time to eat a Pão de Deus, whether at breakfast, as a snack, or splitting a piece after dinner.


This egg pudding recipe (which is pronounced sé-ree-kai-yah) is from the Alentejo region. The cinnamon on top adds a nice flavor to the overall recipe.