South African Milk Tart Recipe

Milk tart with creamy filling and a homemade crust is a South African classic. Perfect as dessert or served for tea time.

South African milk tart

What is milk tart?

Milk tart (or Melk Tert) is a South African dessert pie. A sweet pastry crust is filled with a custard filling and topped with a generous dusting of cinnamon. Some milk tart recipes call for the custard to be baked but my favorite version is unbaked custard gently flavored with almond extract, vanilla and nutmeg set in a flaky pie crust. If you love custard-based pies, you will LOVE milk tart.

Ingredients Needed

  • Flour. 
  • Icing/Powdered sugar. 
  • Cold butter. I used salted butter but unsalted butter can be substituted.
  • Ice water. 
  • Milk. It’s important to use whole milk or full fat milk in this recipe.
  • Cream. Heavy/Whipping cream.
  • Egg yolks. 
  • Cornstarch. 
  • Flour. Cake or all purpose flour.
  • Sugar. 
  • Almond extract. 
  • Vanilla extract. 
  • Nutmeg.
  • Cinnamon.
South African milk tart

How to make milk tart

  1. The crust: The crust recipe I use is one that doesn’t require any rolling out. You simply press the dough into the pie plate before freezing and then blind baking until golden brown and crisp. You can substitute with a cookie crust or use any pie dough recipe you like.
  2. The filling: As with all custards, milk tart filling starts with milk (use whole/full fat milk), cream and flavorings being heated together. To thicken and set the filling, I like using a combination of egg yolks, cornstarch and flour. Whisk the flours and egg yolks with the sugar then ladle in some of the hot milk mixture and whisk to temper the eggs. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook whilst whisking until the custard is thick, smooth and cooked through. I like to pass the custard through a fine mesh sieve to make sure there are no lumps or bits of coagulated egg. Beat room temperature butter into the custard (this adds extra silky richness to the finished tart) and pour the custard into the baked crust.
  3. Setting: Smooth the top of the tart out by spraying a piece of parchment paper with cooking spray and pressing it onto the surface of the custard. This allows you to smooth the top but also prevents a skin from forming. Place the tart in the fridge and allow to set for at least 4 hours but overnight is even better.
  4. Serving: Once you are ready to serve, dust the top of the tart with a generous amount of cinnamon then slice and serve.

Making ahead and freezing

  1. Make ahead: Milk tart can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept covered in the fridge. Leftover will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  2. Freezing: Freezing is not recommended as the custard might change texture once thawed.
Milk tart

South African recipes

  1. Malva pudding with frozen custard
  2. Pampoen koekies (pumpkin fritters)
  3. Rooibos tea peach punch
  4. Cheese and corn samoosas
Milk tart with homemade crust.


Why does my tart have a soggy bottom?

If you don’t blind-bake the crust (which is necessary for this recipe anyway as the filling doesn’t get baked), the filling will prevent it from crisping up.

Pie recipes

  1. Chocolate cream pie
  2. Cinnamon brown sugar pecan pie
  3. Banana cream pie
  4. Lemon Meringue Pie

South African Milk Tart

Milk tart with creamy filling and a homemade crust is a South African classic. Perfect as dessert or served for tea time.
4.63 from 72 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: South African
Keyword: Milk tart, Milk tart recipe, South African milk tart
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Chilling time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours
Calories: 278kcal
Author: Alida Ryder
Servings: 8


For the filling

  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup heavy / whipping cream
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • tbsp cornstarch / cornflour
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp salted butter (alternatively use unsalted butter and 1/2 tsp salt)
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tsp cinnamon


  • Make the pastry according to recipe instructions then blind bake until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • To make the filling, heat the milk, cream, vanilla, almond extract and nutmeg in a saucepan over medium heat.
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, sugar, flours and salt.
  • Once the milk is hot, whisk two ladles full of the milk into the egg mixture to temper the eggs.
  • Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook until thickened, whisking continuously. Cook the custard for 2-3 minutes until thick and smooth.
  • Pass the custard through a fine-mesh sieve. Beat in the butter.
  • Pour the custard into the prepared crust. Spray a piece of parchment paper with cooking spray then press onto the surface of the custard to avoid a skin from forming.
  • Place the milk tart in the fridge and allow to set for at least 4 hours but ideally overnight.
  • Before serving, dust the cinnamon over the milk tart. Slice and serve.


Calories: 278kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 151mg | Sodium: 63mg | Potassium: 119mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 593IU | Calcium: 104mg | Iron: 1mg

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

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


  1. Hi, if I needed to omit the flour (coeliac guest coming to visit) could I replace with additional cornstarch? Or would you not recommend I do that?

    1. Egg whites freeze very well or keep them in the fridge for 1-2 days and use in scrambled eggs, omelettes or frittatas. Alternatively use in a dessert like pavlova.

  2. I ended up with a crust and a custard. The custard never set. Not sure what went wrong. So frustrating, no desert for braai.

  3. This recipe is great. I didn’t have almond essence and just doubled the vanilla. I also reduced the sugar by 1/4 cups and added a little extra corn flour (about 1 teaspoon). It came out perfect.

    Thank you.

  4. Despite my questions about the recipe, it came out amazing! I used almond milk instead of cow, but the custard set perfect. I didn’t strain it either, as it was already silky smooth when I put it in the pastry. The flavour was phenomenal! I would make this as a custard without the pie as well.

  5. A few mistakes in this recipe! It says on the instructions to add salt to flour, eggs etc but the list doesn’t call for salt. Only salted butter. Then says pour custard into prepared custard. I assume that you mean prepared crust? I am in the middle of making this and hoping it turns out.