For a city with a population of about 50,000, Évora punches far above it’s weight class when it comes to food culture. There are a couple Michelin recognized restaurants, numerous fantastic places that offer traditional Portuguese cuisine, and local pastries that go far beyond the usual riffs on Pastel de Nata.
Most of these pastries fall into the category of convent sweets, little tarts and cakes that were invented in the local Convento de Santa Helena do Monte Calvário (Convent of St. Helena of the Mount Calvary) and Convento de Santa Clara. Both of these convents are still standing, although the main part of the Convento de Santa Helena is now offices for the diocese (a couple other buildings have been converted to hotels) and the Convento de Santa Clara is only occasionally open for art exhibitions.
Queijada de Évora
Little tarts made with an egg yolk and sheep milk cheese custard, Queijada de Évora might sound strange, but it is quite delicious. The sheep milk cheese is rather mild, not salty and overpowering like an aged pecorino. Instead, the rich egg yolks offset the cheese nicely, although you do get a little hint of the sheep’s milk. Pastelaria Violeta makes an amazing version.
Queijinho de Ceu
One of my favorite tarts in Évora, Queijinho de Ceu (little cheese from heaven), was named by the nuns who invented this delicious treat. Queijinho de Ceu is a sweet almond dough surrounding a soft and creamy egg custard. When I first heard about the Queijinho de Ceu, it was described as marzipan surrounding the egg custard. That didn’t sound too appetizing, but I gave it a go anyway. Turns out the almond dough is more cake-like and not nearly as sweet as marzipan. It’s a can’t miss when visiting Évora. The Queijinho de Ceu at Pastelaria Conventual Pão de Rala was life changing.
Pão de Rala
The Pão de Rala originated at the Convento de Santa Helena do Calvário and it’s another treat that’s made with an almond dough. This time, the filling is sweet squash jam. Don’t be put off by squash in your cake, after all, pumpkin pie is made with squash and Pão de Rala is way better, IMHO. Some versions add lemon or orange zest while another spin on Pão de Rala is filled with chocolate.
When you name your bakery after a specific dish, your version better be good. Luckily, Pastelaria Conventual Pão de Rala delivers.
Sometimes spelled Cerica, Serica is an egg pudding with a soufflé-like texture. It is believed that the nuns at the Convento de Santa Clara in Évora invented it. The pudding itself isn’t very sweet, but never fear, a syrup is often poured over the Serica and it’s then topped with a sweet plum (or sometimes a fig) poached in syrup. Pastelaria Conventual Pão de Rala’s Cerica (they spell it with a “C”) is the best I’ve ever had.
Legend has it that Encharcada was also originated at the Convento de Santa Clara and is one of the more unusual treats on this list. To make it, you heat water and sugar to form a simple syrup. A cinnamon stick or lemon peel may be added to infuse additional flavor. Then, egg yolks are pressed through a sieve into the simple syrup, forming strands of cooked eggs. This mixture then placed in a pie plate and a culinary blowtorch is used to caramelize the top of the Encharcada.
The taste is quite sweet and eggy, though the cinnamon or citrus can balance that a bit. If you’re the kind of person who puts maple syrup on their scrambled eggs, you’ll love Encharcada.
How to get to Évora
If you’re coming from Lisbon, the train (leaving from Entrecampos or Sete Rios) takes about 90 minutes. There’s also a bus that takes a bit longer. From the train station, it’s about a 20 minute walk to the historic city center of Évora.
Your walk into Évora can take you right by the GNR (National Republican Guard) facility where the police’s horses are stabled. If you’re lucky you might see them being exercised in the paddock.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, Porto, Sintra, Monsaraz, and Batalha . Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.