Last Updated on February 23, 2021
**Warning: This post contains an outrageously high amount of calories and the meals talked about in this post should in no way considered as a healthy diet.**
I shot out of bed each and every morning in Lisbon, not because of the clear blue skies or gorgeous summer weather – it was all about the pastries! Like a match made in heaven, I’ve got a super sweet tooth and Portugal is famous for its delicious pastries. It was amazing to us just how many bakeries, or ‘pastelerias’ there are in Lisbon. In fact, just within 2 minutes walking from our guest house there were no less than SIX different bakeries, all filled with dozens of chocolate eclairs, Portuguese-style doughnuts, cakes, cookies, and last but not least pasteis de nata, the signature pastry of Portugal. Breakfast in Portugal meant indulging in mouthwatering sweets!
Pastelerias are perfect for grabbing a quick espresso and a piece of cake when the tummy starts rumbling mid-afternoon, but they are the most packed first thing in the morning: Office workers, street cleaners, housewives, grandmothers, mothers with children – in short, the entire bustle of the city streets burst out of the bakeries while everyone in Portugal seems to have breakfast here before work or school.
And in Portugal, breakfast means sweets. Pastries!
I couldn’t believe my luck – a country where it is practically mandatory to eat sweets for breakfast! What could be better than starting each day with sugary or chocolatey or creamy doughnuts? Over the years I’ve gotten Jess to like all kinds of sweets, which didn’t interest her in the least before she met me, but sweets for breakfast are still not really her thing, unless it’s granola or yogurt with fruit.
So we set off to find a bakery that also offered yogurt for breakfast, and after seven or eight bakeries, we were finally lucky – this is what we found:
I’ll admit that her Greek yogurt with berries was delicious, but I was happy with my giant sugar-topped custard pastry, and we both had a Portuguese cappuccino called ‘meia de leite’.
Healthy options are few and far between, however, and the next morning both of us ordered something sweet. So, instead we ordered a small sampling of a variety of pastries to get an overview of Portuguese baked goods:
Sugar overload! My favorite pastry was the one on the top right, which was similar to a the national pastry – pastel de nata. The pasteis de nata are small round flaky pastries filled with vanilla custard and topped with a mix of cinnamon and sugar. The flavor is unique, distinct and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. This is what they look like:
Only one single bakery in Portugal, in Lisbon’s Belem neighborhood, still uses the original recipe, appropriately called Pastéis de Belém. Now juggling its reputation as both a tourist attraction and a legitimate local’s spot, there is usually a long line of people outside the bakery at all times of the day. However, all the other bakeries also make excellent pasteis de nata and some modify them a little bit and fill them with apple or almond sauce instead of custard or use powdered sugar:
Doesn’t this flaky dough crust look delicious?! My favorite pasteis de nata are still the original ones though. If you visit Portugal, you have to try them!
After a few days, we grew tired of the same ol’ sweet breakfasts and just wanted some granola or a hearty breakfast. Not to be found though. Instead we’re another sweet start into our day…
This was actually a very good breakfast and the pastry with the sugar icing and chocolate sauce on top was one of my favorites of all the ones I ate my way through, and Jess also thought that her strudel was delicious.
The next morning, we got breakfast served along with 30 Seconds to Mars sugar… sweet 🙂 !
You may be seeing a pattern develop here. Morning after morning, pastry after pastry, with every day we spent in Lisbon, our pants got tighter and tighter, despite our daily hour-long eight-mile exploration walks through Lisbon… Of course we did not eat pastries for the entire three weeks in Portugal – even I got a bit tired of the sweet breakfasts, and at some point we switched them for fresh fruit in the morning.
Please find an array of delicious Portuguese breakfast pastries below:
A sugar doughnut filled with custard, and a chocolate-covered vanilla custard dream… The Portuguese really love their custard!
Another custard-filled doughnut, a custard-filled eclair with sugar frosting, and a selection of cookies – glorious!
I couldn’t leave Portugal without one last sweet breakfast, so on our last day, I went to the bakery and got the mini versions of my favorite pastries. Heaven on a plate! Of course I finished them all and I can’t wait to go back to Portugal for more…
What about you – are you a fan of sweet breakfasts? Where in the world have you had the best breakfast? Share in the comments…
Thursday 4th of September 2014
I'm don't usually eat a lot of sweets, but you can't leave Lisbon without sampling. The Pasteis De Nata were a favorite! You can also learn to make them by going to a class with Cooking Lisbon - fantastic time! Happy Travels.
Thursday 4th of September 2014
Hi Jennifer, I agree - you can't leave Lisbon without having some Pasteis de Nata! I'd love to learn how to make them next time I visit Portugal, thanks for the recommendation.
Sunday 30th of March 2014
I hope to visit Lisbon again, pastries are simply delicious there. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. My favorites are American, English and French breakfasts.
Wednesday 2nd of April 2014
Love and miss English breakfasts!! American breakfasts are great, too. Can't get enough of them :)
Zara @ Backpack ME
Friday 10th of May 2013
Portuguese girl here! Our breakfasts are crazy sweet, I know! ;) Actually people tend to have breakfast at home more often than not (we're always on a budget!..) and we wouldn't normally eat so many sweet things at home then: more like bread and butter, bread with cheese & ham, coffee, milk, toast.. But yeah, outside, we're all about the pastries! And even if we don't have these for breakfast, we'll end up having them for "lanche" which is this made-up meal we have in the middle of the afternoon, with coffee and... of course... pastries! What can I say? We're very sweet people! ;)
Saturday 11th of May 2013
Hi Zara, I think that's the case in most country - British people don't have a full English breakfast every day either, or Americans don't eat pancakes and eggs every morning :D I don't mind having pastries every day, and especially the Portuguese ones were sooooo good! That just makes me want to go back to Portugal!! I miss the pasteis de nata :D
Tuesday 4th of September 2012
[...] food that a vegetarian can indulge in is the vast array of pastries served in pastelarias. Some people love them but they weren’t to our taste so we didn’t expect to enjoy the pasteis de Belem that everyone [...]
Saturday 3rd of December 2011
Wow, what a high calorie web page :)