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

Nine Portuguese coconut custard tarts on a wire rack.
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.

Prep 15 mins
Cook 30 mins
Total 45 mins
10 pastries
181 kcal
4.82 / 22 votes
Print RecipeBuy the  cookbook

Want it? Click it.


  • Nonstick vegetable spray oil (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract


  • 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.
Print RecipeBuy the  cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 181kcal (9%)Carbohydrates: 27g (9%)Protein: 3g (6%)Fat: 7g (11%)Saturated Fat: 5g (31%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 63mg (21%)Sodium: 55mg (2%)Potassium: 90mg (3%)Fiber: 0.4g (2%)Sugar: 25g (28%)Vitamin A: 201IU (4%)Vitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 40mg (4%)Iron: 0.5mg (3%)

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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.

This Portuguese coconut custard tarts recipe is really good. My daughter refused to share them with the extended family. Moreover, we waited for these to cool ever so slightly on day one and then just ate them plain. That afternoon we tried some with jam. The last couple days, my daughter has been eating them both with and without jam. Jam or no jam, these are delicious. The verdict is that this recipe is easy and fantastic.

Serving these tarts a little bit warm is better than completely cold.

These pastries are a perfectly lovely springtime dessert. As they bake, the batter puffs up and separates into a crispy toasted coconut topping with a sweet smooth custard underneath. As they cool, the center collapses slightly creating a nest. It would be fun to fill the hollow with some small jelly beans or chocolate eggs for the Easter holiday.

As far as flavor, I think the recipe could benefit from some added salt. It does include some lemon extract, but I don’t detect any lemon flavor. Maybe adding some lemon zest would help, as well. Peeling off the paper muffin cups there is some sticking and I wonder if these would be better made and served in small ramekins and eaten with a spoon.

I was tempted to remove the tarts at 23 minutes because coconut was getting brown on tarts at back of oven. I opted to turn the pan and leave them in for the full 25 minutes and it was fine. I would probably recommend turning the muffin tin, half way through baking time, to promote even browning.

With no more effort than making some coconut haystacks, these coconut tarts come together easily and deliver a beautiful little tart that tempts you to eat more than one. They have a much more special flavor and texture than my back pocket cupcake recipe, and if you have the coconut on hand, you’re ready to go.

Almost as soon as you remove these from the oven, the golden brown top begins to sink in front of you (and suggests a berry or two, or maybe a dab of lemon curd would be welcome). The slight bit of lemon extract works well without standing out.

Once upon a time, it seemed like all the coconut on grocers shelves was sweetened. Now it takes a search and you might easily come home with unsweetened accidentally as it’s much more common now. Now, at least if you shop places like Whole Foods or other “healthy-ish” places, all you will see is unsweetened versions, all organic, PBS-watching and polite! Today, to find sweetened you end up with store-brand versions in more traditional stores, like Raley’s or Nob Hill or Safeway, and certainly not organic. It is the kind most kids my age grew up with if they made coconut haystacks macaroons or German Chocolate cake, when sugar was not considered evil! Do not worry—you can use unsweetened (although you may need to process it more like a minute instead of the 30 seconds for the sweetened, which the recipe was written for).

So partly to address the fact that more than once, we have thought we were buying sweetened coconut only to realize we misread the package, I thought it was worth trying the recipe both ways (no need to “sweeten” the unsweetened version, though, since the recipe ran a bit too sweet for us). I made them both ways, and we liked the slightly less sweet result a bit more. In a third batch, I also reduced the sugar about 20% and we preferred that level of sweetness without sacrificing any texture. I think the unsweetened coconut browns a bit sooner, as there is more fat in the coconut.


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. 5 stars
    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.

  2. 5 stars
    I love the flavor! And yes, I also couldn’t decide if its a custard, pudding or a really soft macaroon. One question though, why does it seem to deflate once taken out of the oven? Is there something I can do to prevent this?

    1. So glad you liked them! The indentation in the middle is traditional; it’s how I’ve always seem them. A friend does a very clear thing and puts a dollop of raspberry coulis in them. Lovely.

      1. Traditional in the Islands – Main landers, like myself, no jam is included! Usually those ‘twists’ are from the Islands (Azores, etc.)

  3. 5 stars
    i made this recipe and it was go good, thank you so much for doing this recipe in English. I will be making this recipe for the holidays for my family from Boston, MA.

    Thank you again,

    Chris Casko

      1. David, the ones I see at the Portuguese bakeries have a piecrust type shell and no paper, and the coconut shell is different than the custard shell.

        1. Bob, yes, there are so many different types of Portuguese tarts: bean, orange, cream, coconut, etc. This is my aunt’s version. I’m not sure if there’s no crust because she’s not adept at pastry!

      2. 5 stars
        I just wanted to get back to you and say that the tarts were sooooo good the following day. On second thought, the indentation doesn’t bother me anymore. I will try it with some contrasting fruit the next time I make another batch. Raspberries are not available here so I will try it with some fresh mangoes, which are in season this time of the year. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe!

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish