Friday, March 22, 2013

Papas / Portuguese Porridge

When I was a child, growing up with my Portuguese immigrant parents, my mother used to make something called papas for us (herself, my Dad, and I).  I believe the closest possible translation of papas to English is porridge.  

Although I am giving it the name porridge, please don't confuse papas for a breakfast food.  No, it was more an indulgence that could be eaten any time of the day.  It was almost dessert-like...eaten hot with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon on top; the ultimate comfort food for me.  

I remember asking my mom to make papas from time to time. She didn't always make it.  After all, it was a special treat and that is part of what made it so good - the knowing that you couldn't eat it all the time.  Papas were usually reserved for special occasions or lazy Sundays when my mom had more time to make it. 

As I grew older, my mom didn't make papas as often.  I didn't request it as much.  Other foods and rituals replaced the porridge. Many years passed.  Then one day, after I was married and had my own daughter, I remembered the papas again with fondness.   I immediately called my mom at work. I told her I wanted to make papas myself, for the first time.  I needed her recipe...please! 

Well, if you are Portuguese or happen to know a Portuguese mom, you will probably already know that Portuguese moms don't usually follow recipes, measurements or directions.  If you ask for a recipe, you are more likely to hear, "Oh, just add a bit of this and a smidgen of that.  That should do it!".   So my mom gave me a list of all the ingredients and tried to guide me somewhat with the measurements. I had to play around with it myself until it was perfected.

More years passed. The memory of those childhood papas came to me again this week.  I haven't made papas in what seems like forever.  I looked for the small, pink piece of paper I had written the ingredients on years ago, in my recipe box.  I found it, but only the measurements.  

It took me three tries before it turned out perfectly.  Only three tries before it tasted exactly  like the papas my mom used to make for us, when we lived in our apartment flat on Rosemount Street.

Portuguese Porridge / Papas   (serves 2)


1 cup milk 
2 tbsp sugar 
2 tbsp flour
pinch of salt
ground cinnamon 


In a small pot, add milk.  Whisk in sugar, flour, and salt.  Combine very well until smooth.  Place the pot  over medium heat and keep whisking until mixture begins to boil.  This will take several minutes.  As it starts to boil, continue whisking for about one minute and then remove from heat.  Mixture will continue to thicken.  Pour the papas into two dessert plates.  Sprinkle ground cinnamon over top.  Serve immediately.  

*Papas are traditionally served on a dessert plate, not in a bowl 
(at least that's how my mom used to do it)
*Papas taste best when served hot

Did you eat papas or a special homemade porridge while you were growing up?  I would love to hear about it!  


  1. oooh, how yummy!!! Is this what you were talking about the other day when I thought you had a Father's Day? Oh my goodness....

    This sounds so simple but yummy!!! It sounds a little like the custard I make for inside cream puffs, but without the cinnamon. Since I'm GF, I used organic corn starch though...

    Looks scrumptious!! I LOVE rituals and I adore memories of childhood, especially tastes and smells.

    Wonderful post sweetie!!



    1. Oh my Avo's Papas...i love them so much!

      I loved this article, really enjoyed seeing my portuguese heritage and one of the many special dishes of it shared with the world. I've had so many give me a blank face when i told them about papas, this will definitely help them understand the portuguese delight :)

      Although this article is awesome...I have one problem: (serves 2)!!!

      Now when my avo, and now my mom make me papas, it's not just made for me, nor for just 2 for that matter. When papas are made in my family, they're made for every person at the table! Excluding those who clearly don't know what they're missing ;) In a portuguese home...this recipe needs to accomodate 10+! :D

    2. Omg! You took the words right out of my mouth! This was a special treat my avo used to make me as a young child! For so long my friends have never understood, thought it was just something my family made up, but it is actually a big part of my Portuguese culture! I have never been able to replicate, but I will now try with this receipe! Thank you so much!!

  2. Hmm this is sort of like a pudding I guess. That's how pudding is made tho sometimes they use corn starch not flour. I googled it and saw one papas recipe with grits but another more like yours. I agree with Joann about it being like pastry cream. Wonder if you added some vanilla....♥

    1. I'm sure some vanilla bean or lemon zest would really add to the flavor, but then it wouldn't be papas. <3

  3. Rosinda,
    Your papas look so GOOD!!! Memories of years ago :)
    I feel like having a plate of papas right now, but no patience to make:) One of this days...
    Love you,

  4. If you add vanilla and change the flour to cornstarch, this would be pudding in America. Interesting how different cultures eat the same thing, and call it by another name.

    I LOVE cinnammon...and I think I will sprinkle cinnamon on top of my next batch of homemade pudding!!

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful dessert!!

    1. You're welcome! Thank you for your comments. :)

  5. Rosinda,

    I love to visit your blog for recipes and this "papas" recipe looks so easy and delicious and creamy.

    Loved the photos of your mom's visit. You look so cute next to your little mom!! Love your haircut!!! Wish I could do that....looks like it would be easy maintenance.

    I was scrolling through your old blog posts looking for recipes and saw photos of you in 2011 and had to look twice at those photos, because you look so much thinner now. Is it my imagination or is it the haircut or is it that you really lost weight?? You look great now!!!

    I need to lose about 25 pounds and was wondering how you lost your weight??

    1. It makes me happy to know that you enjoy vising my blog! Thank you for letting me know! I did lose some weight within the last year. I changed my diet and try to eat low-carb as much as possible. I reduced my consumption of bread, pasta, and potatoes, mainly. And although I absolutely love to bake, I try not to overdo it! Please visit often! :o)

  6. Rosinda!

    Dear friend, you’ve such a gift for writing and sharing your adventures. I feel as though I am right there! I’ve never heard of Papas and can’t wait to try it. I shall think of you and your darling family when I do.

    XOXO Georgie NJ

  7. Thank you, dear Georgie! Your comments are so appreciated! Let me know what you think when you do try it! xoxo

  8. Oh, Rosinda! What a sweet blog today! I love hearing of family traditions and particularly ones from different cultures. I think the best of cooks often cook with no recipe but by "a bit of this and a smidgen of that!" It does make recipe sharing difficult, though! :-)

    I look forward to trying this soon! (I wondered what nationality you were with your beautiful dark hair and Nuno Portuguese as well?)

    Thank you for sharing with us again! xoxo....Karen P.

    1. Thank you so much for your comments, Karen! Yes, I'm Portuguese and Nuno is too. You are too kind! xoxo

  9. Yes. I too had asked my mom for the recipe and got the same response..a little of this a pinch of that. Lol. I was just telling my 4 year old about papas and how grandma will need to make it for us. How I miss it. My mom would sometimes add Nestlé chocolate...its delicious. Thank you so much for sharing your story and the actual recipe. Cant wait to make it for my kids.

  10. Thank you for posting this recipe it certainly brought back great memories. My mother made it for my family all the time. This was a dish when my dad wasn't feeling great and mom would make him a plate of papas and it would always seem to make him smile. I now do it for my family every now and then. My mom always used corn starch instead of flour and I do the same. I have also experimented using vanilla flavouring to it as a little twist and it is also delicious. Thank you for your post.

    1. You're welcome! Thank you for sharing your memories of papas with me. I've never tried adding vanilla. Will have to try it next time! Take care...

  11. Thank you for posting this recipe; I came across it when searching for a simple filling for Pasteis de Nata. You brought back memories from 50 years ago when I was a child and my mother made them for me; then 20 years ago when I found her feeding them to my son while she was babysitting. One question I have is if you know what area in Portugal pappas was most common in because some portuguese people that are not from the north of Portugal have never heard of Pappas. Thank you again for your posting.

    1. You're welcome! Thank YOU for sharing your fond memories here on my blog. Unfortunately, I don't know where exactly in Portugal pappas originated. I can tell you that I was born in the Island of Sao Miguel, Acores and that is where my Mom learned to make them. I believe pappas was quite common back in the olden days, probably all over Portugal and the Islands. After all, it was a simple and affordable dish to make. You could make a pot full and feed the entire family! Thank you again for your comments.

    2. I know they originated some where in the islands. As stated, quite cheap and you could make a lot of it.

    3. Good morning
      I'm originally from San Jorge Acores. I am one of twelve siblings being raised in a very poor household in 1976 when we came to the US. Papas made from flour were a common and affordable food at our house. Papas made from rice, were the ones used for the really special events/celebrations. These are the ones I introduced to my children. They love them.

    4. What I remember in 1959 coming to the USA, my sister and I ate papas every day. They were simple and quick for my mom who worked 2 jobs. Yes we were super poor too. They were golden looking, so perhaps some kind of corn meal? What we did was make a little hole in the middle and blow into it to make like a dome. Kids eating games, what fun it was in those simple times for us kids! Now that I am well off, I would do anything to see mom make papas again !!!! and for our education minha carida mae

  12. When my son was a baby my Va Va would make this for him when she babysat and he loved it. When he was about 3 or 4 she no longer babysat. He would sometimes ask me if I could make it for him and I would tell him that I didn't know how. I would feel so bad because he wanted it so much. After being asked more than a few times, I felt that I had to give it a try or disappoint him once again. I remembered milk and corn starch(that's what she used), so I winged it, sprinkled some sugar on top and viola! It came out pretty good. (Had I realized how easy it was I would have tried to make it sooner).
    You had to see my son light up when I put the bowl in front of him. He took his first taste and said, "this is it mom!!!". He was so happy his eyes were smiling. He is 22 now(and can make it himself). I will never forget this memory of Papas.

  13. Hello
    This morning i thought of mom so much when she use to make me the papas
    I had some this morning and actually cried eating them,thinking of my mom
    Who past away 2 years ago.
    Thank you so much for this.
    I actually add the yellow from an egg at the end and mix a bit
    My mom used to tell me i would get stronger like that
    Roberto Cabral

  14. Yes! My family grew up with it so is my best friend's family as well. Its adorable and delicious. We came from Azores and lived in America. Now, I am over 40's and I have decide to move back to Azores or Portugal because I love my culture and food and people there. America is not for me. America is not a dream for everyone thought to be at all. Thanks for sharing! :D

  15. hello! My granma allways maked it when I was seek... and when I was well too! She usualy toasted a litle the flour (in the pot, before add other ingredients) and add a lemon zest. It's delicious, you must try it. Thanks, Mafalda (portuguese)

  16. Yeh I remember those papas but my parents used maizena. Memories.��