Portuguese Coconut Custard Tarts

These Portuguese coconut custard tarts are little pastries that look like cupcakes. They’re a classic in which the best parts of creamy milk custard and eggy macaroon come together in very Portuguese fashion.

Nine Portuguese coconut custard tarts on a wire rack.

[Português] My Aunt Exaltina has made these Portuguese coconut custard tarts for as long as I can remember. But I’ve always wondered, are these delicacies creamy custards or eggy macaroons or a bit of both? For 35 years, no one’s been able to decide. Grab a spoon and judge for yourself. My late friend Lois Sparks, who adored these pastéis de coco desserts, was fond of spooning some raspberry coulis into the crater on top of the pastéis. She felt it gave them a tart counterpoint to the sweet coconut. I always balked at the idea until she made them for me one night. It’s a dream team combination.–David Leite

Do Portuguese custard tarts need to be refrigerated?

If you don’t make all these little coconut custard tarts disappear the day you bake them, yes, you should cover and refrigerate them. We vastly prefer the taste of them when warm, so slip them in a toaster oven or a low oven for about 10 minutes to bring them back to their original taste and texture. The dessert tarts are best consumed within a day or two…which shouldn’t be a problem.

Portuguese Coconut Custard Tarts

  • Quick Glance
  • (19)
  • 15 M
  • 45 M
  • Makes 10 pastries
4.8/5 - 19 reviews
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Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with 11 paper cupcake liners and, if desired, coat the liners with the nonstick vegetable spray oil.

Tester tip: To avoid the tarts sticking to paper liners, you can do what reader Olga DeMedeiros does and rely on foil cupcake liners sprayed with nonstick vegetable spray to ensure your tarts slip out easy peasy.

In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup milk.

In a food processor, shred the coconut flakes for 30 seconds.

In a large bowl, stir the eggs and sugar together with a wooden spoon. One by one, add the cornstarch mixture, the remaining milk, the coconut, melted butter, and lemon extract, stirring well after each addition.

Ladle the custard into the paper cups, filling each 1/4 inch from the top. Make sure to stir the custard frequently to keep the coconut evenly distributed. You’ll be able to fill 10 to 11 liners.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the coconut is nicely toasted. Cool completely in the muffin tin before serving. Originally published March 10, 1999.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

These Portuguese coconut custard tarts really brought back some memories as my grandmother used to make something very similar to these. I didn’t even realize it until I ate the first one and found myself thinking of her. This recipe is so very easy and sweet and yummy and rich.

Now that I’m older, I like my desserts less sweet, so I would use unsweetened coconut next time or a combination of sweetened and unsweetened.

I got 11 tarts out of this (perhaps my old muffin tin has smaller than standard cups). Also, the tarts stuck in my cupcake liners, so perhaps I would use the foil liners next time and spray them. I adjusted quickly, though, and ate them with a spoon! I baked them for 25 minutes and when I checked them they were still pretty soft, so I rotated the pan and gave them another 5 to 7 minutes and took them out. The tops were golden brown and the insides were still fairly soft. I would add another few minutes next time for a total of 35 minutes, maybe rotating the pan halfway through.

These would be great to bring to a potluck dinner or just to have in the fridge for a wonderful, quick snack or dessert.

These tasty little tarts are similar to the ubiquitous Pasteis de Nata seen all over Portugal, but without the time commitment of making puff pastry. The ingredients are readily available and they come together in a snap. The coconut adds a welcome complexity to the custard and also helps create a beautiful golden brown topping. The end product is a humble but delicious little pastry which would be perfect as an accompaniment to afternoon tea.

Because they were baked in paper muffin liners, we attempted to eat them by hand. The bottoms stuck to the paper a bit and were greasy where the butter leaked out, leading to a somewhat messy eating experience. Next time I might try them in ramekins and serve them with a spoon. I believe the recipe could also be improved by cutting back a bit on the sugar. One cup of sugar plus the sweetened coconut made for a very sweet tart.

One per person was plenty.



  1. Oh my gosh, they are perfect! My husband has been in intensive care at the hospital for 8 days. I was in need of some comfort food when I saw this recipe. I had all the ingredients in the house. I made a batch and ate two immediately. They were delicious!

  2. Hey David, the Portuguese NATA aka queijadas are totally different then this coconut custard cup. I am of Portuguese decent, not that it matters, but so u know we have grown up on both pastries in our household, the queijadas have a thin puff pastry type dough on the bottom and the custard u fill it with you cook stove top before adding it into the dough, then baked in the oven. Those if you find a amazing recipe or the best Portuguese bakery be ready for a whole other taste , they have no coconut in them at all. I highly suggest u go to New Bedford or Fall River and stumble across all the sweets. now if you choose New Bedford you need to stumble into Sunrise bakery or Lydia’s bakery, that’s Portuguese at its best. Enjoy I hope you will really try.

    1. Hi christina. I, too, am of Portuguese descent–from the Azores. My family is from the island of São Miguel, from the towns of Maia and Ponta Delgada. I also grew up in Fall River and spent a lot of time in New Bedford as a kid, so I know of the treats you’re speaking.

      This recipe, which I don’t call queijadas, is from my aunts. Pastéis de coco is what they called it. They prefer not to use the thin crust, opting for the paper cups when the came to America.

      What I learned when I wrote my book and spent the better part of a decade traveling all over Portugal, Madeira, and the Azores is that there are a million different names for the same dish. Take torresmos. Im my family, they’re big chunks of pork, covered in a pepper paste and roasted. Others call pork preserved in fat torresmos. And still others, around the Bairrada region on the mainland, call pork cracklings torresmos.

      I try to be very careful when qualifying Portuguese recipes as coming from my family or a particular cook, as I try to honor what that family or cook calls their food. As you can see, for example, from Karen’s comment, her mother-in-law made queijadas with a crust and with coconut. Also, if you research, you’ll see cooks who call a treat “queijada” and there’s no crust. And to make things more confusing, almost all of these have no cheese in them, but, according to lore, the original ones, supposedly from Sintra, so contain cheese (requeijão), hence the “queij” part of “queijada.”

      The term “queijada” is used very indiscriminately these days to mean just about any treat, crust or no crust, coconut or not, made in a “forma.” Of course, that is with the exception of pastéis de nata, pastéis de feijão, pastéis de limon, etc.

  3. Thank you for posting this. As a child in the military we lived in the Azores for about 4 years. Our wonderful neighbor taught us how to make these wonderful tasty treats. We had the recipe for years and had converted it from metric to standard ourselves which I can say is a chore. Of course our recipe was triple this recipe calling for a dozen eggs! But sadly due to many moves over the years and just loss of memory I lost the recipe and was saddened to not have made these at Christmas time. So thank you again, now I can have my sweet treats this year! One thing I would like to note tho is that when our neighbor baked them for us and even in her recipe she used phillo dough and not cupcake papers. This makes a huge difference as you get a nice crisp on the outside as well. Although a warning the bottom will get sticky after a day.

    1. Anne, I’m so glad you found the recipe. Yes, some cooks use phyllo dough for the recipe. Barring that, a sheet of very thinly rolled dough works well, too. I don’t know why my aunts don’t do that. Perhaps they enjoyed the convenience of the paper cups when then emigrated!

  4. Hi, I’m just curious if these are the same as my mother-in-law makes. I’m not sure how to spell the name we call them in English , but kashadas would be close phonetically. Nata is just a milk or cream tart and then some have coconut, my favorite. However hers, and every other I’ve had, have a very thin crust. So thin you wonder is there a crust? But Ive watched her make them before and sure enough there is. In our community making these well is like a gift from god and has always been off putting. Thank you for what seems to be an easier way. I can’t wait to try!! So I’ve seen some discussion as far as what the best baking pan is, what’s your preference? Thx.

    1. Karen, I think the word you’re looking for is queijadas, pronounced kay-jah-dizhs. And, yes, I’m pretty sure they’re the same. Some do have a very, very thin crust, but my family makes the in paper muffin cups. Because of the cups, the pan isn’t terribly important. A simply muffin tin works perfectly!

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