The origin of Pastel de Nata dates back to before the 18th century, where they were created by monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in the parish of Santa Maria de Belém in Lisbon. At that time, convents and monasteries used large quantities of egg-whites for starching clothes. It was quite common for monasteries and convents to use the leftover, egg yolks, to make cakes and pastries, resulting in the proliferation of sweet pastry recipes throughout the country.
In the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution of 1820, following the dissolution of religious orders and in the face of the impending closure of many convents and monasteries, the monks started selling pastéis de nata at a nearby sugar refinery to bring in revenue. In 1834, the monastery was closed and the recipe sold to the sugar refinery.
Today the monastery is a major tourist hotspot and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Portugal is famed the world over for the Pastel de Nata – crisp, flaky layers of pastry with a delicious, creamy egg-custard filling and a dusting of cinnamon.
In 2009 The Guardian listed Pastéis de Nata as one of the 50 “best things to eat” in the world.
In April 2019 Bloomberg publish an article about Pastel de Nata: “The Unlikely Rise of the Pastel de Nata” where it predicts that Pastel de Nata is on its way to becoming as ubiquitous as the croissant.