Spanish Flan or Caramel Flan is a rich, creamy and sweet baked custard dessert covered with the most amazing and flavorful golden caramel sauce. This impressive but easy flan recipe is made with only five ingredients.
The Best Spanish Flan Recipe
My grandma used to make homemade flan all the time. I used to call it “jiggly flan cake” because instead of using a regular baking dish, a flan dish or individual ramekins as molds, she used an intricate vintage cake pan that was given to her by her grandma.
As a child, I was always impressed with grandma’s baking skills. She always made everything look so effortless. Every time she made classic flan, I was mostly impressed when she would invert the flan and the golden color caramel topping would drip down and collect at the bottom of the serving plate. I thought it was magic! Perfect flan every time!
Later in life, I realized that just like creme brûlée or any other custard recipe, the process is simple. Just like me, many people don’t realize how easy it is to make flan at home. Oh and so much cheaper than eating it at a fancy restaurant.
What Is Flan?
Flan, also called crème caramel, caramel pudding or caramel custard is a rich, delicate and sweet custard dessert made with eggs, milk (or condensed milk) and sugar. This dessert is gently baked in a pan filled with caramel sauce.
When served, the silky, smooth custard is inverted onto a dish and the caramel that was at the bottom of the pan, drips down on the sides and top of the flan.
Flan is similar to the popular French dessert Creme Brûlée, except Spanish flan is made with loose caramel, while the French dessert has a thin layer of crisp caramelized sugar on top.
Flan is a very popular dessert in Latin America, especially in Mexico, Cuba and Spain. Commonly flavored with vanilla, other variations of this easy dessert are popular in many countries. In Puerto Rico, Flan de Queso incorporates cream cheese into the custard mixture and chocoflan is a Mexican flan recipe that combines decadent chocolate cake with the flan mixture.
You only need a handful of simple ingredients to make this caramel flan recipe. For exact amounts, take a look at the printable recipe card below.
- Milk: I use whole milk as it makes the richest custard. Evaporated milk is sometimes used as well.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk: Although I am not promoting any particular brand (nor getting paid to mention it), I usually purchase Eagle brand. Make sure you get regular sweetened condensed milk and not the “light” type.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar.
- Eggs: I use large eggs at room temperature. Some recipes call for more egg yolks than egg whites which produces a denser flan. I prefer using 4 whole eggs for a lighter texture. If you want, you can substitute a whole egg with 2 egg yolks.
- Vanilla Extract: For flavoring! Use good quality vanilla extract or vanilla paste.
How To Make Flan
For specific instructions and timing, check the printable recipe card below. Although this is an easy recipe to make, before you start you must plan ahead and make sure you have the right tools.
- Plan Ahead: First, it’s important to know that flan should be made a day before you are planning on serving it. The delicate custard needs some time to chill and set. Plan for about 5 hours of cooling/setting time. In my opinion, this is the hardest part of making flan! Waiting to eat it.
- The Right Equipment: Make sure you have a 7-inch round baking dish, a 2-quart soufflé dish or you can use a special flan pan or flan mold with lid called “flanera“. I don’t have one of those so I use a regular baking pan and aluminum foil to cover it. You will also need a pan that can hold the flan pan comfortably. I use a large roasting pan.
Step by Step Instructions
Now let’s talk about how to make Spanish flan!
- Get Ready: Preheat the oven
- Make the Caramel: In a small saucepan over medium heat combine 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. As the mixture heats up, the sugar dissolves the mixture becomes a light golden brown, just like the color of honey. Swirl the pan occasionally to heat sugar evenly. It’s important to keep an eye on the mixture as sugar can burn very fast. It can go from beautiful golden brown to dark caramel and burnt caramel pretty quickly. Remove it from the heat as soon as it’s golden in color.
- Pour the Caramel Into The Baking Pan: Carefully, as the mixture will be hot, pour the caramel into the baking pan swirling the pan to coat the bottom evenly. Work fast as this mixture hardens quickly. If it does, just warm it up over low heat. Set aside. The caramel will harden, that is expected.
- Make the Custard: In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sweetened condensed milk, whole milk and vanilla extract. Don’t whisk too vigorously to prevent too many air bubbles from forming.
- Bake In A Bain Marie: Pour custard into the caramel coated pan and cover it (I use aluminum foil) then place this pan into a larger pan and fill it halfway up with warm water. Bake.
- Chill: Remove the baking pan from the oven and using a kitchen towel or oven mitt carefully lift the flan pan. Remove the cover (lid or aluminum foil) and allow it to cool for about an hour.When the flan is cooled, cover the pan and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
- Unmold: Slide a paring knife around the edges of the pan to loosen up the flan. Invert a serving platter on top of flan pan and turn the pan and platter over. When flan is released, carefully lift off the flan pan. The caramel should be at the bottom of the serving platter.
What’s A Bain Marie?
A Bain Marie, pronounced “bane mah-Ree” is a fancy culinary term that means hot water bath. The purpose of this method, is to create a moist and humid environment to cook delicate foods with gentle and uniform heat.
To make a bain marie, all you need is hot water, a large pan that will hold inside ramekins or a smaller pan snugly but comfortably.
How Much Water to Add to a Bain Marie?
The water in a hot water bath or bain marie should only come halfway the sides of the smaller dish. Not all the way up! The water should be warm.
What Does Flan Taste Like?
Flan tastes like a delicate, sweet and light vanilla custard topped with a somewhat clear – but golden, deeply flavored, toasted sugar caramel. Not too eggy, flan is very similar in flavor to French creme brûlée.
What’s Spanish Flan Made Of?
This sweet custard dessert is made with eggs, milk or sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract (vanilla paste or vanilla bean). The sweet golden caramel is made with granulated sugar and water.
Can You Overcook Caramel Flan?
Yes, you can overcook Spanish flan. Overcooked custard gets rubbery and overly firm. When removing the flan from the oven, it should still be jiggly. Don’t worry, the custard will set a bit more as it cools.
How To Store Homemade Flan?
Leftover flan, can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Keep the sweet custard dessert tightly wrapped with plastic wrap or inside an airtight container.
Easy Flan Recipe Tips
- Don’t stir the caramel while it cooks. Simply swirl the pan as needed.
- When making caramel, remove the saucepan from the stove as soon as the caramel turns a golden – honey color. caramel overcooks quickly. Overcooked caramel tastes like burnt sugar.
- When mixing the custard ingredients, don’t ovemix to prevent too many bubbles from forming.
- Always use the bain marie method (hot water bath) when baking flan. Flan custard needs to be baked with gentle heat so it turns out creamy, silky and smooth.
- Make sure to cool the flan before unmolding.
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Easy Spanish Caramel Flan Dessert
Important – Before You Start:
- It’s best to make this recipe one day before you are planning on serving it as the flan needs time to cool and set (about 5 hours minimum).
- Make sure you have a 7-inch round pan ready or a flan mold with lid aka flanera.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make the Caramel:
- In a small heavy saucepan stir together the sugar and 1/4 cup water. The sugar will look moist. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, without stirring, until the mixture begins to turn golden.1 cup granulated sugar
- Gently swirling the pan and continue to cook until sugar is a golden brown like the color of honey. Don’t allow it to get too dark as sugar can quickly burn. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the desired color is achieved.
- Carefully pour the caramel into the round pan (or flan pan) and gently swirl the pan so the caramel coats the bottom evenly. This should be done quickly as the caramel can harden pretty fast. If the caramel hardens before you have the chance to coat the bottom of the pan, warm up the pan over low heat.
- Set aside and allow the caramel to cool and harden.
Make the Custard:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sweetened condensed milk, whole milk and vanilla extract. Don’t whisk too vigorously to prevent too many air bubbles from forming4 large eggs, 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, 1 1/4 cup whole milk, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Create a Bain Marie (hot water bath):
- Pour the custard into the caramel coated pan and cover it tightly with aluminum foil or with the lid if using a flan pan. Place the custard/caramel pan into a larger baking pan ( i use a large roasting pan) and pour enough warm water to reach about halfway up the pan. This creates a bain-Marie or water bath that will help cook the custard gently.
- Carefully place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Remove the baking pan from the oven and using a kitchen towel or oven mitt carefully lift the flan pan. Remove the aluminum foil or lid and allow to cool at room temperature. At this point the flan will be a bit jiggly but will continue to set with the remaining heat.
- After the flan is cool, cover the pan and refrigerate for 4 hour or overnight.
- To unmold, slide a paring knife around the edges of the pan to loosen up the flan. Invert a serving platter on top of flan pan and turn the pan and platter over. When flan is released, carefully lift off the flan pan. The caramel should be at the bottom of the platter.
- When making caramel, remove the saucepan from the stove as soon as the caramel turns a golden – honey color. Caramel overcooks quickly. Overcooked caramel tastes like burnt sugar.
- When mixing the custard ingredients, don’t ovemix to prevent too many bubbles from forming.
- Always use the bain marie (water bath) method when baking flan. Flan custard needs to be baked with gentle heat so it turns out creamy, silky and smooth.
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