Bolo Rei Portuguese Christmas Traditions

bolor rei portuguese recipe I love this time of year.  The thing that makes this time so special to me is the Christmas Traditions and memories that are made Around the Family Table.  In our home, it the time of year, when we fuss a little more on recipes that we wouldn’t traditionally make throughout the year.  Year after year, memories are made around Portuguese Christmas Traditions and it just wouldn’t be Christmas without us getting together with Vo-Vo and Vo and baking a Bolo Rei.

We have so much fun in Vovo’s Cozinha baking Bolo Rei and listening to Vo-Vo and Vo tell us about Portuguese Christmas Traditions from when they were kids growing up in Portugal.  This is what is like spending a day baking Bolo Rei with Vovo and Vo.  It is a day filled with love and memories that will last a lifetime.


Bolo Rei Family Foodie

Makes 1 loaf:

1/2 cup candied citrus fruit
3 tbsp. raisins
1/2 cup each pine nuts and walnuts
1/3 cup + 2 tsp. port wine
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/3 cup + 2 tsp. milk
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup + 2 tsp. sugar
Grated zests of 2 oranges
3 eggs, beaten
1 dried fava bean or small trinket

Bolo Rei Topping:

1 egg yolk, beaten with
1 tsp. water
10 candied cherries
1 pkg. (12 oz.) medjool dates
Powdered sugar, for garnish

Soak candied fruit, raisins and pine nuts in port wine
overnight or until plump.
In a separate bowl, sprinkle yeast into milk and let stand
5 minutes. Stir to dissolve and set aside.
mix flour and salt in large bowl. make well in center and
pour in dissolved yeast. use wooden spoon to draw
enough flour into dissolved yeast to form a soft paste.
Cover bowl with a dish towel and let stand until “sponge”
is frothy and slightly risen, about 20 minutes.
In a separate bowl, beat butter with sugar and orange
zests until light and fluffy. add eggs, one at a time,
beating well after each addition. add liquid to flour
mixture and mix until dough is soft.
turn dough onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until
soft, smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Knead in
dried fruit and pine nuts until evenly distributed.
Place dough into clean bowl and cover with dish towel.
Let rise until doubled in size (at least two hours or
overnight). Punch down, then let rest 10 minutes.
Shape dough into ring and place on buttered baking
sheet. wrap dried fava bean or trinket separately in wax
paper. Insert the tiny package into bottom of shaped
dough. Cover with dish towel and set aside until doubled
in size, about 1 hour.
To prepare topping, brush dough with egg glaze and
decorate with candied fruit and powdered sugar. bake at
350°f for 45 minutes, or until golden. Cool on wire rack.
Store in an airtight container. refrigerate any leftovers.[/print_this]

bolo rei portuguese recipe When Caitlin from Cooking with Caitlin contacted me and said she was teaming up with Kroger for their iPad Holiday Around the World issue of their MyMagazine ExtrasI was thrilled to contribute a Portuguese Recipe that has so much tradition in our home.  It wouldn’t be Christmas in Portugal without baking a Bolo Rei.  Not only is it delicious, but part of the fun is seeing who is going to find the fava bean or the coin in their slice of Bolo Rei.  The tradition is made clear that whoever ends up with the bean is expected to make the Bolo Rei for the following year.  Whoever wins the coin is said to be blessed with good luck.  For some reason, I recall many years of finding the fava bean.

I was honored to be featured in this issue with these amazingly talented bloggers, Irving from Eat the Love,  Kris from Young Married Chic, Maggy from Three Many Cooks, Aran of Cannelle Vanille, and Coryanne from Kitchen Living with Coryanne.  I loved learning about recipes from Around the World that were part of their Holiday Traditions.   You can download the iPad App and check out their beautiful recipes.

Does your family share special Christmas Traditions?




  1. says

    What great tradition you have with this cake. We have several things we have to make each year. Some are candy and other are savory dishes. The great part is the memories that belong to each one and how new ones are added to it each year.

  2. says

    What a wonderful tradition, Isabel. Hmmm…strange coincidence that you got stuck with the fava bean for so many years but I’m sure it’s made you a pro at making this beautiful recipe. I love your feature in the magazine – it looks great!

Leave a Reply