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This vegan Portuguese honey, almond and orange cake is zesty, delicious and bursting with flavour. The recipe is based on a Portuguese classic that has been popular for generations and with good reason. Using no refined sugars this cake instead uses agave nectar and fresh oranges for sweetness giving it a sharp, authentic taste. The result is a truly sublime vegan twist on an amazingly traditional Portuguese cake.
Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake
Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake

In a land of avid fish and meat eaters, Portugal can seem a bit daunting to the ethical eater. Fed up of missing out on regional specialities and traditional dishes? Yup, us too, that’s why Portugal is our Cultural Corner of the Month and we will be giving you an insight into the cuisine and culture along with some delicious vegan recipes of the national favourites.


In it’s colonial times Portugal had links to Goa, Macau, Angola, Mozambique, Cabo, Brazil and Malacca (Malaysia). This meant Portugal had access to spices from all over the globe and this can be found in their varied cuisine. Black pepper, saffron, vanilla, cinnamon and chillies (found in the famous piri piri seasoning) are all spices which ordinarily wouldn’t have been in Europe at the time. Traditionally the Portuguese also use a lot of garlic and olive oil in their cooking so combined with the exotic spices means that Portuguese food never lacks in flavour.

Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake
One of the happiest fruit and veg sellers we’ve ever met – Lisbon, Portugal

Food shortages during the Second World War still affected Portugal despite them not being involved. Combined with the poverty that impacted the country under the rule of President Salazar meant that the Portuguese had to be resourceful in the kitchen. When using expensive ingredients such as meat and fish the Portuguese got creative and were sure not to let anything go to waste. Dishes would be heavily vegetable-based but always contained some form of meat as people would want to use everything that was edible. Feijoada trasmontana, a bean stew, has a variety of meats added for good measure such as pig hocks, knuckles and even ears! In the olden days and still in rural areas families raise their own livestock and are sure to use every gram of meat. This means that even dishes characterized mainly by veggies will have some form of meat or stock lurking somewhere in the ingredients.

Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake

Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake

Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake

Portuguese cooking is distinctly meat and egg based and when it comes to sweet treats it’s a similar story. Both the Romans and the Moors, who both ruled Portugal, had a love for eggs in their cooking. Later, as Catholicism spread across the country, many monks and nuns were paid by the poor with chicken and eggs. This has caused a long lasting passion for eggy cuisine!

To be blunt, Portuguese food is not “vegan friendly”, nor has it ever been. Therefore, unfortunately for us loving vegans, eating traditional foods in Portugal can prove problematic and it’s no surprise to find a bit of sausage floating in your soup. With a country that’s so rich in culture and proud of their culinary heritage, it would be a huge shame to miss out. So, here’s our take on some Portuguese classics with a Veggie Vagabond tweak! Cruelty free, super scrummy and staying authentic!

Looking for a vegan guide to Lisbon?

Vegan Orange, Honey and Almond Cake

During the 15th century monks and nuns paved the way for confectionary throughout Portugal. To starch their laundry nuns and monks would use egg whites which meant a lot of leftover egg yolks. With a bit of creativity and a lot of time on their hands they conjured up an array of recipes that have been enjoyed for centuries. Rita João and Pedro Ferreira, authors of the Portuguese pastry encyclopedia Fabrico Próprio: The Design of Portuguese Semi-Industrial Confectionery, described “These places of faith and seclusion were often true laboratories of creation, where the religious dedicated themselves to rescuing old recipes, or to testing new ingredients from all over the world.” With so many convents in Portugal, the variety of sweet treats was abundant and enjoyed across the country. In the Évora district alone there were 11 convents in the 16th century, with the monks and nuns enjoying a sense of humour naming pastries “angel’s double chin” and “bacon from heaven”.

Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake
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The main ingredients used would be egg yolks and sugar with flour, nuts, cinnamon, vanilla, coconut and other spices. Today more than 200 delicacies are still prepared to the original religious recipes. Traditional European oranges were very bitter and were only ever used for marmalade but that all changed when the Portuguese brought over sweet oranges from India and China. Sweet Oranges became popular in Europe but were very expensive and could only be enjoyed by royalty and the wealthy. As time went on and sweet oranges became more widely available, lay people were able to afford them and it wasn’t long before the orange cake was a favourite across the country.

Want to try a vegan version of the famous Portuguese caldo verde? Click here!

Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake Recipe

As with most Portuguese cakes this recipe isn’t traditionally vegan friendly as it contains eggs. Never ones to miss out on a tasty treat here at Veggie Vagabonds HQ we’ve devised a super scrummy vegan version that is zesty, gooey and scrumptious. This cake uses no refined sugar and instead uses agave nectar and orange for sweetness. I think it’s that much better using naturally sweet ingredients rather than processed sugar. This is also my first recipe cooking with that vegan favourite that is flax meal. I’ve always been put off by the price tag but decided to try something new as it’s also very good for you. The end result was a success – I am a convert and look forward to many more recipes with flax eggs. So give this spin on a much-loved classic a go and let us know what you think in the comments and #veggievagabonds on social media.

250g plain flour

100g ground almonds
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoons of flax meal
10 tablespoons of water
1 cup agave nectar
rind and juice of 3 oranges
icing sugar to dust

1. Grease a baking tin, roughly 20cm, and preheat the oven to 160 degrees.
2. Make the flax eggs by mixing the flax meal with the water and leave to set for about 10 minutes.
3. Blend the four, ground almonds, baking powder and salt until evenly combined.
4. Once the flax eggs have set whisk with the agave nectar, then add the orange zest and juice.
5. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture until fully combined.
6. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake for one hour or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean. 

Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake
Whisk all the dry ingredients until they’re fully combined
Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake
Whisk the flax meal with water and leave to set for 10 minutes. Once combined whisk with the agave nectar.
Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake
Add the orange zest and juice to the flax eggs and agave and combine. Then add the wet mixture to the dry mixture.
Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake
Fold the wet mixture into the dry until fully combined
Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake
Pour the mixture into a greased tin and bake
Portuguese Vegan Honey, Almond and Orange Cake
Bake until golden and dust with icing suagr to serve

Let us know what you think of this recipe in the comments below and #veggievagabonds on social media so we can see your your creations!

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23 Responses

  • This post made me hungry! Loved learning about the roots and flavors of Portuguese cooking. I’m not a great cook myself, but really like the simplicity of this recipe. May have to try it!

    • Thanks Kristy 🙂 It’s a step by step guide to help guide you through and with all our recipes we try not to make them too intricate and complicated. If you do give it a go let us know what you think.

    • It’s always interesting to learn where our food comes from and the history behind cultural dishes! This recipe is perfect if you fancy something sweet and moist!

  • Wow! This looks so good! I love baking and have never tried a recipe like this so I definitely want to give it a try. I need to find some ground almonds.

    • Ground almonds can be found in most supermarkets down the baking isle! This was a new one for me too but turned out perfectly – zesty, sweet and so moist !

    • Hi Jennifer, thanks for your feedback! Let us know how you get on with a gluten free version! tag us on social media with the #veggievagabonds

  • I love orange almond cake so I’m sure I’d enjoy this alternative cake. Plus, I like that it uses natural sugars as I’m trying to cut out sugar from my diet. I’ll have to try this recipe!

  • Rather worryingly, I have all the ingredients in the house, so that could actually be appearing for dinner tonight! I’m sure I can substitute a gluten free flour blend, and it will be delicious. I’m really loving flax eggs in recipes at the moment; they seem to give everything a rather good nuttiness.

    • That’s great Bernie, keep us updated on how your gluten-free creation turns out! Yes I agree that flax eggs add a nutty flavour and good texture to a dish!

  • Yum! I love orange-flavored cakes. Honey and almonds are also wonderful additions. I didn’t know Portuguese cuisine was eggy but, since I love eggs, I suppose I’ll fall in love with it.

    • This recipe combines orange, honey and almond beautifully! Omitting the eggs makes this cake vegan for guilt free indulgence.

  • I still never quite understand how cakes turn out without eggs? ARe they light or do they become quite a dense cake? Interesting about the history of the food in this area. Having spent time in Portugal I completely understand how much they live on meat and seafood.

    • This recipe uses ground flax meal as an alternative to egg, and baking powder to help with the rise. This cake is really moist and the addition of orange gives it another dimension of juicy-ness! Try whipping up this recipe & see for yourself how an egg-less cake turns out – I think you’ll enjoy the results!

  • Although this recipe was tasty, there are a few improvements I’d suggest! There was a bit too much baking powder (I could taste it in the cake!)- I think one or two teaspoons would have done just as well. I think an extra fat source would also have been good. The texture was really light and fluffy though and it was nice to have the almonds in the cake! Thanks for the recipe.

    • Hey Lily, thanks for the feedback! I used that much in order to help with the rise, otherwise I have found the cake too dense. Shame that you were able to taste the baking powder though. Did you use heaped or level teaspoons?

      I wanted to achieve quite a light & fluffy texture with this cake which is why i opted to leave out another fat source, but what would you suggest? I would love to give a spin on this a recipe a whirl so I welcome any suggestions. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂 If you do love a dense indulgent cake check out this recipe;

      • It could have been heaped, good point! I think coconut oil would work well, I’d like to give this recipe another go for sure and will report back. Thanks for the link, it looks fantastic 🙂

        • Hmm coconut oil might be good and it would add an undertone of flavour! I might give it a spin in the not too distant future. Please do report back 🙂 It’s so great to connect & swap ideas! Happy baking! xx

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