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Pastel de Chaves: Unveiling the Pastry That Captured Hearts Across Portugal & Beyond

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Last updated on February 29, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Originating from the small Portuguese town of Chaves, near the northern border with Spain, this Portuguese delicacy has a rich history that dates back to 1862.

According to the account from Revista Unibanco, a seller who’s name is unknown, carrying a basket of these distinctively shaped pastries, found herself in Chaves in 1862. However, she was unable to meet the high demand from the locals intrigued by her offerings.

This caught the attention of Teresa Feliz Barreira, a name that would become synonymous with Pastel de Chaves. Recognising the potential of these pastries and driven by a desire to satisfy the local appetite for them, Teresa proposed to buy the recipe for one pound. This pivotal exchange marked the beginning of Pastel de Chaves as a staple of local cuisine, rooted in the entrepreneurial spirit and culinary acumen of Teresa Feliz Barreira, the founder of Casa do Antigo Pasteleiro.

Visiting Porto?

Try the pastel de Chaves and other regional delicacies on this food and wine tour.

The original recipe was closely guarded for 75 years until the 1940s when other bakeries in Chaves began producing the pastries, leading to its recognition as an authentic product of the city. This safeguarding of the recipe and the pastry’s production underscores the community’s commitment to preserving its culinary heritage.

The ability to mail order these pastries since 1949, reaching customers nationwide, further indicates the widespread appeal and demand for Pastel de Chaves.

The municipal records indicating the production of over 25,000 pastries daily highlight the pastry’s enduring popularity and significance to Chaves.

The pastel de Chaves’ journey to obtaining Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status at the national level in 2012 and subsequently, the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status from the European Union in 2015, is a testament to its cultural and historical importance. These designations not only protect the authenticity of the product but also promote local craftsmanship and tradition.

At A Loja dos Pastéis de Chaves in Porto, you’ll find a few different variations on the pastry including one with chicken, one with bacalhau (salted cod), and a sweet version with chocolate. They also have a vegetarian option. However, it’s noteworthy that only the original version is permitted to carry the name “pastel de Chaves,” preserving the integrity of the traditional recipe.

You can sometimes find the pastel de Chaves in locations around the world, particularly former Portuguese colonies like Macau. For example, this bakery (called Pastéis de Chaves Macau) in Macau specialising in the pastry, offering both the traditional version as well as other variations, such as vegetarian-friendly versions.

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.