Lisbon’s famous egg custard tart has a vegan version.
Pastel de Nata origin story
Pastel de Nata is by far the most popular pastry in Portugal. Monks at Jerónimos Monastery in the Belem section of Lisbon used egg whites to starch their habits and, as a result, had lots of egg yolks left over. Starting in the 18th century, the monks used the leftover egg yolks to make a creamy, custard-like pastry, the Pastel de Nata. When the monastery closed, the monks sold the recipe to a local sugar refinery. The owners of the refinery opened a bakery, Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém, in 1837. That bakery is still churning out delicious custard tarts to this day and is run by descendants of the first owners.
While Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém is the only place that can call their pastry Pastel de Belém, thousands and thousands of other Pastelarias all over Portugal selling Pastel de Nata, which is essentially the same pastry with variations between bakers.
Vegan Pastel de Nata
Of course, if you’re vegan, the egg yolks and milk in the custard and butter in the crust will make the traditional Pastel de Nata a no-go.
However, some vegan bakeries make a version of the pastry with no animal products.
It’s easy enough to make the vegan crust by substituting vegan butter for cow’s milk butter, but the real test is getting the custard just right. While the vegan Pastelarias rightfully keep their recipes proprietary, my guess would be that they use some combination of silken tofu and nuts or milk substitute, starch, and nutritional yeast to make the custard filling.
Where to get a Vegan Pastel de Nata
Although Lisbon has become a hotbed of vegan dining in recent years, vegan Pastel de Natas are still a bit of a rarity.
Vegan Nata is an all vegan bakery with two locations in Lisbon. They make a very good Pastel de Nata.
daterra, a vegan chain with locations in Lisbon and Porto, serves excellent food buffet-style. They usually have a good vegan Pastel de Nata offered on their dessert table.
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 Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.