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. These were not only fantastic, but also incredibly quick and easy to make. I made a raspberry coulis as well and it was the perfect touch. Highly recommended!

  2. Made this recipe today and it couldn’t get any easier! Instructions are clear as day and super easy to follow. I also made a raspberry coulis to see what the fuss (David) is all about…my eyes (and mouth) are open! Ms. Sparks knew what she was talking about.

    Taste test: Here is another one of David’s recipes where I found myself at a loss for words…until three tarts later when my mouth no longer contained all that fresh goodness. These little guys are so delicate, light, and the coconut took them over the top. Such a simple dessert yet it ranks right up there. I dare anyone making these to stop eating at just one…go ahead, I dare you!

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear a little tart whispering at me from across the room…

    1. John, that is such a delight to hear! Thank you. And while Lois Sparks is no longer with us, I’m sure she’s thrilled you like her addition. (She and I were always in competition!)

    1. Hi, Elise. No, I’ve never made these in mini-form. I would watch for a few things: 1.) Not to fill the forms too much, 2.) Check them at 12 to 15 minutes to gauge how much longer you’ll need to bake them. (I’m guess about 18 minutes total), and 3.) keep them covered when cooled, as they might dry out quicker because they’re almost half the size of the original.

  3. Hi David,

    These tarts are great. They’re delicious and so easy to make. With regards to your note to stir the mixture frequently to keep the coconut well distributed, I found it difficult to do and so I tried a different approach. I did not mix the coconut in the liquid mixture and simply divided it equally into the paper cups. Then I ladled the liquid mixture into the cups with the coconut. I found this easier to do and it seemed to do the trick. Thanks again for sharing this recipe!


    1. Hello, John, thanks for the kind words. And thanks of the ingenious method of adding the coconut. My only caveat is that the coconut shouldn’t be wadded up in the middle. Does it float and even distribute when you add the egg mixture?

      1. Hi David, I think either way the coconut will sink and there’s probably nothing we can do about it. I just find it easier to divide the coconut more evenly without than with the liquid ingredients :-).

    1. Hi Ana. Yes, you can make them without the paper. I do it all the time because I tried with the paper but they kept getting stuck and it was a mess. I use silicone muffin trays which I spray with nonstick vegetable spray before I fill them in I place it on a baking sheet which is about 3 inches high and fill it with water and bake for about 25 minutes at 300 degrees. When it is cooled off I place a plate over the tray and flip them over and give a little tap on each and they come right off then I put then in muffin paper and vola they are ready to eat.

      I hope this helps and enjoy I know my whole family loves them.

      Tanya Cabral

    2. Ana, the tarts can be very sticky, which is why my aunts use the papers. If you want to try, I’d suggest starting with very good nonstick tins that are well coated with butter and see if that helps.

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