This simple milk tart (melktert in Afrikaans) is a classic South African dessert. The creamy milk-based custard is cooked on the stovetop, poured into a cookie crust, and then dusted with cinnamon.
This traditional sweet pie with simple ingredients is easy to make, and you don't have to turn the oven on!
Milk tart is a South African dessert consisting of a sweet pastry crust and a creamy, custard-like filling made of milk, eggs, sugar, and flour.
It's believed that milk tarts such as this one may have originated amongst settlers at the Dutch Cape Colony in the 17th Century.
All recipes vary, but the common denominator is a rich, creamy filling cooked either inside or outside the crust, baked or cooked on the stove.
It's like eating pudding in a cookie crust, so what's not to love? It's effectively the South African version of Greek milk pie and sugar cream pie, both the Hoosier and my homeland's favorite one - krempita.
For more no-bake sweet treats, be sure to check out my 6 Ingredient No Bake Sand Cake and No-Bake Tiramisu Cheesecake.
Why you'll love this Milk Tart:
- No-bake: This melktert comes together easily and quickly and frees up your oven.
- Make ahead: This is a great option for a make-ahead dessert and is perfect if you are entertaining. It can be made days ahead of time.
- Easy to make gluten-free: Although this recipe has gluten in the base, it is easy to adapt to make it gluten-free, perfect if you or someone in your family has an intolerance.
- When you dust a little cinnamon or cinnamon sugar over a stencil or paper doily on top, it gives it a slightly bolder, more Instagram-worthy aesthetic!
- You can turn it into a boozy liquid dessert with this easy milk tart cocktail recipe!
🛒 Ingredients and Notes
- Bakers Tennis Biscuits: Much-loved in South Africa, buttery coconut biscuits might be hard to find locally. You can use digestive biscuits, graham cracker crumbs, or ready crust.
- Full-fat milk: Using full-fat dairy here is important because the consistency may change otherwise. Lower fat milk will also be less flavourful and creamy, so the tart may taste a little bland and watery.
- Cinnamon: Some versions cook the milk with cinnamon sticks to infuse it, but ground cinnamon will suffice.
None of the ingredients are rare - in fact, most of them are relatively essential baking ingredients!
The only thing you might struggle to find is the tennis biscuits, but you can use one of the substitutions that I recommended below!
For the crust:
- Blend the tennis or digestive biscuits with cinnamon and melted butter until well-combined.
- Transfer to a tart pan. Place the pan in the fridge so that the crust can set while you make the filling.
For the filling:
- Mix flour, cornstarch, ½ cup milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well blended.
- In a large saucepan, bring the rest of the milk and butter to a boil.
- Slowly add the flour mixture to the hot milk, constantly whisking until thickened and thoroughly cooked.
- Pour into the prepared crust and sprinkle with cinnamon.
And there you have it - a whole tart in 6 instructions - start-to-finish! I promise this one is s keeper, and once you've made it, you'll never stop loving it!
Milk Tart Variations:
This rich and delicious Afrikaner outydse (old-fashioned) dessert has many varieties.
Some versions use condensed milk and are baked in the oven with or without the crust. Others only require the crust to be baked.
The crusts also vary from easy press-on shortcrust pastry to flaky pie crusts (like homemade puff pastry) to tennis biscuit or cookie base.
You can also use a store-bought pie pastry or leave the crust completely out and bake the filling in a greased pan!
- You can pack the biscuits in a single layer on the bottom of the tart pan instead of crushing them into crumbs.
- Make the crust ahead of time; leave it in the fridge in the tart pan.
- Adding a cinnamon stick to the saucepan with milk will infuse the filling with a hint of cinnamon. Remove the stick before pouring filling over the crust.
- Stovetop custard is ready when it's thick enough to coat a whisk or a spoon well or if you're able to run a spoon through it and the line holds its shape.
- Decorate your tart by dusting ground cinnamon over a stencil, paper cut-out, or doily gently placed on top of the pie. Lift carefully.
- You can mix up the flavor a bit by using nutmeg and cinnamon instead of just cinnamon.
❓ Frequently Asked Questions
Tennis biscuits are square, crispy tea biscuits made with a little maple syrup and coconut.
If you can't find tennis biscuits, you can use Digestive Biscuits, Graham Crackers, or Marie biscuits; however, it'll alter the recipe's authenticity and flavor. It will still be delicious, though!
Once your milk tart has set, cover it with plastic wrap or foil and keep it refrigerated. It will keep well for up to 4 days if it lasts that long, ha!
Absolutely! Use gluten-free graham cracker crumbs or skip the crust entirely by pouring the custard into a greased tart or cake pan before dusting with cinnamon and chilling.
A staple at church festivals, backyard celebrations, and commonplace in South African supermarkets, melktert can be served chilled or at room temperature or slightly warmed.
Everyone loves a creamy, vanilla custard-like filling paired with a gorgeous cinnamon flavor inside a perfect biscuit crust!
Especially with the texture contrast of the smooth, velvety center compared to the light, crisp crust - it's just incredible!
Liked this recipe? Leave a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section. Your feedback is always appreciated! Stay in touch through Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook! Don't forget to sign up for my email list below too!
South African Milk Tart – Melktert
- Food processor
- 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom
- Electric Mixer
For the crust
- 1 package tennis or digestive biscuits (7-9 oz.)
- 1 stick melted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
For the filling
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- A pinch of salt
- 4 ½ cups full-fat milk, divided
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoons butter
- Ground cinnamon for dusting
For the crust:
- In a food processor blend the tennis or digestive biscuits with cinnamon and melted butter until combined and crumbled.
- Transfer to an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and spread over the bottom and up the sides, firmly pressing down. Place the pan in the fridge to harden while you make the filling.
For the filling:
- With an electric mixer or a food processor, mix together the flour, cornstarch, salt, ½ cup milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well blended.
- In a large saucepan, add 4 cups of milk and butter and bring to a boil over medium heat. Be careful not to burn the milk.
- Lower the heat to low and slowly, in a thin stream, add the flour mixture to the hot milk, whisking constantly. Keep whisking until thickened and completely cooked, about 15 minutes, or when the filling pulls away from the sides of the saucepan.
- Pour in the prepared tart pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and let cool. When cool, refrigerate until firm enough to slice, at least 1 hour before serving.
- You can pack the biscuits in a single layer on the bottom of the tart pan, instead of crushing them into crumbs.
- Make the crust ahead of time; just simply leave it in the fridge in the tart pan.
- Adding a cinnamon stick to the saucepan with milk will infuse the filling with a hint of cinnamon. Remove the stick before pouring the filling over the crust.
- Stove-top custard is ready when it's thick enough to coat a whisk or a spoon well, or if you're able to run a spoon through it and the line holds its shape.
- Decorate your tart by dusting ground cinnamon over a stencil, paper cut-out, or doily gently placed on top of the tart. Lift carefully.
- You can mix up the flavor a bit by using nutmeg and cinnamon instead of just cinnamon.
- See post details for biscuits substitutions and a gluten-free version.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on products used.
Update Notes: This recipe was originally published in January 2019 and updated in January 2021 with new photos and recipe tips.
Hi! Thanks for the recipe. You mentioned that some people use condensed milk in the custard. How would you make the custard that way? Thanks!
Hi, Kristina! Replace 1 cup of milk with condensed milk and omit the sugar.
Hello! This looks like a really easy recipe and I want to try making this. A question though: how long does the tart last in room temp? I'm planning to make some and send it for my relatives but as it will travel with the courier for about 5-8 hours, I'm worried it will arrive in bad shape thank you in advance!
I haven't tested it myself, but I think it should be fine at room temperature for a day unless you live in a hot climate zone. I would include a few reusable ice packs in your package to be safe.
Hi, I always struggle to figure out which flour is best to use in South Africa when a recipe recommends all purpose flour as we don't get it in our small towns? Cake flour, wheat flour, self raising flour? Please help as I'd love to try this recipe (love the no bake option).
It is regular, white wheat flour. All-purpose just means that you can use it for anything: cakes, bread, pancakes, muffins, etc. Hope this helps. 🙂
I always use cake flour as my all-purpose flour
Something you may already know, but all-purpose flour has a higher protein count than cake flour. All-purpose gives a stronger structure, and cake flour a more tender structure. When you substitute cake flour for all-purpose you need to add two additional tablespoons of cake flour to equal 1 cup of all-purpose. Substituting the other way, all-purpose for cake flour you use 2 tablespoons less of all-purpose to equal 1 cup of cake flour. Happy baking!
Peggy Wolf says
I have a question rather than a comment. I don't have a tart pan. Will a spring-form pan that's used for cheesecake work in this recipe?
Hi Peggy, I haven't tried using a springform pan, but I think it should work. Just make sure to press the cookie crust up the sides as instructed and that your filling doesn't overflow the crust. Good luck! 🙂
This was my first attempt at a Milk tart, and I am so proud to say that it was perfect! It held so well.
I made 1 adjustment in that I used 1 pkt Marie Biscuits for the base. And 1 would probably make 1 adjustment for future: a tad less sugar (down 50ml).
Thank you 🙂
I'm so happy you liked it, Karen! Thanks for stopping in! 🙂
Lovely, easy milktart recipe but I had some problems. I used a pyrex glass pie dish which I greased well and used spray and cook. My biscuit base stuck to the glass dish and I couldn't get the slices out. Also, when i added the flour mixture to the milk, the whole thing went lumpy and I had to strain it twice to get the lumps out. What a mess!!
I also had a lot of custard over, with no biscuits to use. I followed the recipe to the T, but it went wrong for me. I've rated the recipe 4 stars as I'm sure it should be awesome. And I'm South African, so I've eaten a lot of milktart in my life.
Terry, so sorry this didn't turn out for you. As you can see from the comments, it worked great for other readers. I highly recommend using a tart pan with removable bottom for ease of serving. Also, you said you followed the recipe to the T. Is your Pyrex pie dish 11-inch? Anything smaller than that will leave you with excess filling. I hope you'll give it another go. 🙂
Erin Wilken says
Hi there is it possible to make this in mini forms for finger platters
Hi Erin, I don't see why not. You could use mini tart pans with removable bottoms. 🙂
We used the filling recipe and put it into mini tarts 1 batch yields enough for 50 mini tarts
That is great! Thanks for sharing, Jan!
This recipe was perfect! And so easy. My family loves it and I’m so happy to share some of my South African childhood with my kids.
I'm so happy to read this, Carmen! Glad you liked it. Thanks for stopping in! 🙂
Looks lovely Jas, but alas not on my new diet. But, I can still enjoy the treat vicariously via your lovely images...
It's not on my diet either, Ron! I share a small slice with my husband, then we donate the rest to the local homeless shelter. Hope you're recovering nicely! 🙂
I'm getting better, but still have ways to go...
Glad to hear. Take it easy! 🙂
I made the milk tart for my birthday, absolutely perfect and a simple recipe too! Definitely going to recommend it to my people
Awe, I'm so glad you liked it! Thanks for your kind feedback!
This! This is the REAL DEAL!
As a South African, now living in Canada, I've been looking for that perfect melktert recipe for YEARS. The one I remember from my childhood. The one that sets firmly, as opposed to being runny, and that's a no-bake solution (the baked ones make a crust on top which is just not right! ) And the one that is flavourful without being sickeningly sweet.
This is it, people.
I cheated and used 2 store-bought graham cracker crusts, and it was just fine (made 2 well-filled tarts), but will try to find some Tennis biscuits at the SA store next time.
Dropping a stick of cinnamon in the milk/custard mixture is a step I don't think you should leave out.
Thanks so much!
Yay! You made my day, Rochelle! I'm so happy you like it and am thankful for your kind review. Two tarts are always better than one, lol. Enjoy!
Kea Smith says
This was my first time ever making milk-tart, and my husband has high standards! The only thing I swapped out was vanilla essence for almond essence. This recipe is PERFECT and going into my home recipe book! Thank you for your clear and easy instructions (I’m not a natural). Thank you thank you!
Hi Kea, I'm so happy you tried our recipe and liked it! Thanks so much for stopping in and leaving a kind review! Hugs 😀
My beautiful friend. You've done it again. I'm so glad you tried the recipe and enjoyed it. Melktert is always such a special treat
Thank you and your MIL for the recipe, my friend! It was favored by my family. The 27 of February is your National Milktart day - I may make it again then 😉
I have never seen or heard of this before but it's so pretty I have to try to make it!
I hope you will, Jasmine! It's easy enough and pretty delicious. 🙂
What a beautiful dessert. I love the designs on top and it sounds divine. I adore learning about food I'm not familiar with, and I really enjoyed your post. Thank you for bringing your unique and delicious tart to the party. Happy Fiesta Friday, Jas!
I'm so glad to hear that, Antonia! Warms my heart. Thank you for your kind words. xx
Wow, Jas! Your tart is a thing of beauty! I can just imagine that cool, creamy custard right now. I wouldn't need any particular occasion in my house for it to be eaten! It would just disappear in a heartbeat! Thank-you so much for linking your post to Fiesta Friday this week.
Thanks for the giggle, Julianna! Same here, no occasion necessary, but February 27 is a National Milk Tart Day so I think I'll have to make it then too. 😀
passion fruit, paws and peonies says
I would love the creaminess of this - especially with the pastry! I also appreciate it not being too sweet.Thanks xx Maria
Thanks, Maria! It really isn't too sweet but you could use even less sugar without ruining it. 🙂
My grandpa makes the best milk tart ever, so I attempted to make my own. I love, love, love the recipe. It’s so creamy and delicious. The base was a bit crumbly, but that’s not a problem. It was so custardy and it looks very beautiful too. Thanks for the recipe!
Awe, thank you Bella for your kind feedback. Food triggers the fondest memories! So happy you enjoyed it! 😀
Ushmana Palmo Rai says
I have never had milk tarts before but would love to try an afternoon dessert for the weekend. I had never heard of tennis biscuits as markets around here don't sell it. I'll try mine with coconut biscuits to give it the same taste! Any dessert that is gluten free is my safe haven!
It would be so good with coconut biscuits or crustless if you prefer. Thanks for stopping in!
Lee MacArthur says
This looks so good. Thank you for sharing.
You're welcome, Lee!
This looks perfect for our afternoon fika (Sweden's answer to afternoon tea). I love tarts like this, not overpoweringly sweet and nice and creamy. Digestives will be my go to here as I've never seen tennis biscuits. I'll have to have a look next time I'm at our English shop here.
Digestive will work just fine, Ron! This was the first time I tried tennis biscuits and I like the hint of coconut.