Lemongrass custard tarts

These delicately spiced puff pastry custard tarts are very much in the Portuguese custard tarts area. They might not be traditional flavour-wise but they certainly don’t hang around long!

These particular tarts have a crisp, buttery and slightly caramelised pastry, filled with a rich and lightly spiced custard. Having tried several recipes over the years for custard tarts I have taken elements from many recipes to give a recipe I now stick to.

The lemongrass is the star flavour of these tarts, but I have also added a little galangal for a gentle kick. Related to ginger, galangal does not, however, have the same flavour, but it is a lovely spice in its own right.

For more traditional Portuguese custard tarts, omit the lemongrass and galangal and instead add the grated zest of a lemon, a broken up cinnamon stick and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the milk. You should also bake them at 210°C (fan) – this higher temperature gives the dark blistering on top that is characteristic for classic tarts.

The pastry

The puff pastry gets rolled out thinly and then rolled back up fairly tightly like a Swiss Roll. You then slice the pastry thinly and roll out to give circles to line the muffin holes: this gives crisp tarts that do not rise up and push out the filling, which they would if you rolled out the pastry normally and cut out circles.

I used the quicker rough-puff pastry here, the recipe for which can be found here. For me it is one of the most therapeutic and rewarding things to make – especially when you get those wonderfully light flakes. It is also not that difficult and it tastes excellent.

However, if buying puff pastry, please try to get the all-butter variety: it has so much more flavour than the cheaper puff pastry made with oils.


Lemongrass works very well here for infusing the custard. Fresh lemongrass is ideal but you can use dried (in which case use about 1 tablespoon).

I like to add galangal powder for a touch of spiced heat, but ginger is a great alternative. This is particularly excellent used to make a galangal and lime cake (recipe here): a different, but tasty cake that has lovely sharp-spicy-sweet flavours.

Recipe: lemongrass custard tarts – makes 12

  • 250g rough-puff or all-butter puff pastry
  • 5 free-range egg yolks (you can freeze the whites for meringues or macarons at a later stage)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 40g plain flour
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, chopped fairly finely
  • 1 teaspoon galangal powder, optional
  • 200ml whole milk
  • butter, for greasing the muffin tins

You also need a 12-hole muffin tin, well buttered and then the holes sprinkled with a little caster sugar so the sugar gives a light coating to the butter

Make the custard:

NB: the custard can be made a couple of days ahead if preferred, and just left covered in the fridge.

(1) Put the flour into a medium bowl and whisk in 50ml of the milk to give a smooth mixture.

(2) Put the remaining 150ml milk, the lemongrass and the galangal into a small pan. With the heat on medium, bring it gently to the boil then immediately turn off the heat.

(3) Cover and leave to cool for about 10 minutes: this will allow the flavours to infuse. While this is infusing, make the sugar syrup:

(4) In a small pan, add 120ml water and all the sugar and heat gently, tilting the pan from time to time to dissolve the sugar: don’t stir as the sugar could crystallise. Turn the heat to medium and let it come to the boil. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes or until it becomes a light syrup: if using a thermometer, let it reach 104°C. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for a couple of minutes.

(5) Pour the hot syrup over the flour mixture and whisk in to give a runny batter.

(6) Whisk the infused milk into the flour and sugar syrup mixture, along with all the pieces of lemongrass.

(7) Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time to incorporate fully and then pass everything through a sieve into a bowl, discarding the lemongrass pieces. You will have a smooth, runny custard, which can be covered with clingfilm and chilled until you want to use it.

Assemble the tarts:

(8) Roll out the pastry thinly to a rectangle about 30cm long and 20cm wide. Roll up tightly from the short edge like a Swiss roll.

(9) Cut into 12 pieces and roll each one out gently to a circle that is large enough to put in the muffin tin holes.

(10) Place each disc, sugar-side down, into the muffin hole. Push gently to raise the pastry up towards to the rim. You can neaten the edges or leave it rustic. Place the muffin tray in the fridge while you preheat the oven to 190°C(fan).

NB: for classic Portuguese tarts, set the oven to 210°C(fan). This higher temperature gives that characteristic dark blistering on the surface.

(11) Pour the custard into the pastry cases, coming to almost a centimetre below the rim. Bake for 18-20 minutes: the filling will have souffléd up somewhat (it flattens as the tarts cool), be a light golden-brown.

NB: if cooking at 210°c (fan) for classic Portuguese custard tarts, you will get lovely black bits on top.

(12) Leave the tarts in the muffin tins for 5 minutes and then gently ease them out and transfer to a wire rack to cool.


Author: Philip

Finalist on Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC Television 2018). Published recipe writer with a love of growing fruit & veg, cooking, teaching and eating good food.

5 thoughts on “Lemongrass custard tarts”

I love to hear your comments:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: