The Best Portuguese Custard Tarts in Toronto
The best custard tarts in Toronto are an exercise in indulgence and trickery. Small in stature but packing an absolutely wicked sugar/egg yolk/cream/pastry punch they are on par with most illicit drugs for mind altering abilities and overall addictiveness (add an espresso and that becomes an exponential comparison).
According to my sources, which do not include Wikipedia, they were invented by nuns back in the 14/15th century who were using egg whites to keep the clothes they were ironing nice and firm - akin to the starch your local drycleaner uses - but coming from a paradigm in which nothing can be wasted, they ended up having a lot of egg yolks left over. This was a no-no, so they decided to do something about it and soon enough, people forgot about the laundry and a business was born.
In fact, the Jeronimos Monastery of Belem has the legal right, similar to the regions of France (like Champagne), to proprietary use of the term a "Belem" tart. Of course, just like California and wine, this hasn't stopped imitators the world over and while ubiquitous across all of Portugal, the particular recipe of these adorable little indulgences are also currently taking the world by storm in lands as far away as Macau and Hong Kong.
Luckily we don't need to go near that far as just these 12 bakeries produce more than 15,000 tarts for our consumption per day. No wonder Toronto is considered hyper.
Here are the 13 best custard tarts in Toronto as voted by the readers of this site.
While not seeming to take a shot at Nova Era, it’s probably at the top of the list because of sheer number of locations (same with numero 2). The custard tarts are excellent, sweet and a little burnt, and with free WiFi, Nova Era stands out amongst the rest for those campers among us. More »
In business since 1968 and with 9 locations, this group of bakeries serves up several thousand of custard tarts a DAY!! Each location has a decidedly local following, but according to the store owners the gorgeousness that is their custard tart cuts across all socio-political, ethnic and religious lines – in other words, everyone eats and loves them. More »
Part of custard central and on the edge of Little Portugal, this unassuming and extremely local place is a fantastic reminder of what Ossington once was before the entertainment district moved in. It’s smaller than the rest, but is refreshing all the same. Your tart will be made with love guaranteed. More »
I initially wonder how often this bakery gets robbed as it has the height strip on the outside door ala every 7/11 I’ve ever been to. Rest assured however, if it's for the tarts – I completely understand. They make so many of them that the question of how many is many gets answered with a “Woooooooooooo, a lot!” If it’s too many to count, something good’s a happenin’! More »
With a bright, modern interior, this Dundas West cafe is typical of all of these Portuguese bakeries in that there is an espresso counter that seems to be especially made to accompany the tarts. Unique to Brazil however is the extra dusting of sugar on your tart (that’s optional) just in case you thought caffeine, cream, eggs, and sugar weren’t enough. No wonder there’s a diabetes epidemic in Brazil! More »
With the slightest attention paid to design, Courense definitely wins for nicest storefront out of these bakeries. Around for 25 years and with men playing chess inside, the locals are clearly comfortable and eating lots of tarts. Making over 4,000 a week by hand (by hand!!!), Courense supplies many bakeries and cafes around town (possibly some on this list) – you’ll have to figure out which. More »
In the same location for the last 17 years, Golden Wheat produces a tart that is not as sweet as others but has a depth of flavour that others lack as well. The puff pastry is flaky and chewy - a nice combo and making over 1500/day ensures a consistent product that will never disappoint. More »
The super cheerful exterior of Jack’s is a welcome sight along this rather dull stretch of Oakwood and the 24 hour sign must also be a beacon to many returning after a late night of frolicking or work. Good thing it’s all backed up by an excellent tart. Light, rich, flaky, chewy, sweet - it hits all the right notes. More »
35 years and still going strong this College Ave. stalwart only makes their tarts on weekends and by special request. Using a puff-like pastry they suggest that you sprinkle a little cinnamon on the warm tart and, of course, sip an espresso for that total Portuguese experience. More »
Hard to find as it’s not actually on Rogers Rd. but in a strip mall about 300m behind a massive Value Village, it isn’t the most picturesque of locales, but many times that’s beside the point. A relative youngin having only been around for 4 years, they’ve already expanded to a second location on Keele. The tart has a slightly, shall I say, burnt flavour – which I quite liked. It’s definitely worth a try. More »
Wickedly out of the way unless you’re outfitting your new condo and looking for tiles, draperies, lighting and furniture, this massive complex in the Castlefield Design District is industrial strength. The tarts are hard to find in the front grocery/deli/hot food counter store at the front of the bakery but ask and hopefully some will be found. Took me 3 tries. More »
21 years and still going strong, owner Eugene knows everything there is to know about Portuguese custard tarts and if you can keep up with his unbelievably fast rate of speech – there’s a lot to be learned. Luckily for us his exuberance also translates directly into his tarts (and his new and delectable rice pudding!) which I’d personally put at the very top of this list. Perfection! More »