With such a deep-rooted confectionary tradition, it is no wonder that, in Portugal, traditional Christmas sweets have a special place reserved at the table. The dried and crystallized fruits, the pumpkin, the egg threads, the honey, and the cinnamon are a treat for the senses, setting the tone for a Holy Night in the company of your closest family.
These recipes, culinary gems that have passed from generation to generation, are a colourful presence on Christmas Eves. The classics are always a safe (and delicious) bet and will leave you mouth-watering. Follow All About Portugal's suggestions and recipes, and venture into the kitchen this Christmas! To learn how to cook these traditional delicacies, just click on the respective image.
One of the indispensable Christmas sweets, the bolo-rei (king cake) is made in the shape of a crown and filled with dried and crystallized fruits. The cake originated in Lisbon, at the Confeitaria Nacional (the Portuguese monarchy's official bakery opened in 1869), but its consumption has become so widespread that it is currently sold throughout the country. Alternatively, there are variants such as bolo-rainha (queen cake) or filled with black-seed squash or chocolate.
Savoured mainly at Christmas time, the original recipe for these Christmas sweets comes from the northern region of Alentejo. These delicacies are fried and then served sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon or glazed in syrup or honey.
The filhós are a Portuguese sweet fried in vegetable or olive oil, much appreciated at Christmas time all over the country. The recipe, however, varies in consistency and format according to the region. In the Algarve, for example, they are made only with flour, while in other parts of the country pumpkin is the chosen ingredient.
Lampreia de Ovos
A flashy and tasty classic, the Lampreia de Ovos (egg lamprey) is an egg and almond candy, with a rich covering of soft eggs and egg threads, in the shape of a lamprey, as the name implies. This Christmas candy is widely served during festive seasons and is especially enjoyed in the Central Portugal region.
Mexidos do Natal
This traditional Minho candy is specially made at Christmas time. It is filled with a wide variety of nuts and has a lighter or darker colour depending on the ingredients added. Rich in spices, it is also sweetened with Port Wine.
The traditional rabanadas are a must-have on any table at Christmas time. Usually prepared with slices of bread dipped in milk, the recipe often varies from region to region. In Viana do Castelo, for example, they are glazed in honey, while in other areas they are only sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon.