An easy flan recipe made with only 5 simple ingredients! This creamy custard dessert is topped with rich caramel and is very popular in Mexico, Spain and Latin America. It’s a showstopper dessert that is sure to impress friends and family. Perfect for any occasion!
I need to shout it from the rooftops – I’m officially in love with flan! I must admit that I didn’t eat much flan growing up. Instead, my family was big on tres leches cake, conchas, and marranitos. Pretty much all the bread-y desserts found in Mexican bakeries. But flan wasn’t really on my radar until recently when my nephew kept mentioning how much he loved flan (a subtle hint he kept throwing my way). That’s when I knew I had to make it.
So I got to work, tested, tested, and finally created the richest, smoothest, and creamiest flan recipe ever! Best of all, it’s so easy to make and officially made me a flan lover!
What is flan?
Flan, or crème caramel, is a creamy custard dessert topped with caramel that’s popular in Mexico, Spain, and many Latin American countries.
It’s known for its smooth and creamy consistency that’s achieved by cooking the custard in a water bath, or a bain-marie or baño-maría. Doing so creates steam in the oven that gently and evenly cooks the flan, keeping it moist and ensuring that the eggs aren’t overcooked, curdled, or scrambled.
The flan is cooked with the caramel on the bottom of the pan and the custard mixture on top. After it’s cooked and sufficiently cooled, the flan is then inverted onto a plate to reveal a rich and golden caramel sauce that perfectly covers the top of the flan!
It truly is a magical dessert!
Ingredients in Flan
This flan is made with only 5 simple ingredients which is why I love it so much! Here’s what you need:
- sweetened condensed milk
- whole milk
- vanilla extract
You’ll also need a small 7-inch cake pan or a special pan called a flanera. I got my flanera here. It’s inexpensive and perfect! It has an easy-locking lid, so I don’t need to use foil to cover the top while baking.
How to make flan
Step 1: Make the caramel by pouring the sugar into a warm skillet over medium heat. Keep stirring the sugar while it heats up and begins to brown and clump together. Continue stirring until the sugar completely dissolves and melts into a beautiful golden-brown caramel!
Step 2: Carefully pour the caramel into the bottom of the flanera or cake pan as evenly as possible. Try to work quickly because the caramel will start to harden in a matter of seconds after it’s hit the bottom of the pan. Also, be sure to use a towel or oven mitts as the bottom of the pan will be very hot. Try to distribute the caramel evenly into the pan. If it hardens too quickly and you aren’t to do so, you can carefully heat the pan up by placing it directly on the stove or on the skillet. That will loosen up the hardened caramel a bit so it can flow into the areas you need it to go.
Step 3: Set the caramel aside and let it cool so it hardens a bit. While it’s cooling, whisk together the eggs, sweetened condensed milk, whole milk, and vanilla extract. Whisk until everything is evenly incorporated but try not to over-whisk so you don’t get too many air bubbles in the mixture.
Step 4: Pour the custard mixture into the hardened caramel-lined pan.
Step 5: Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, or secure it with a lid if you’re using a flanera like I do in the photo below.
Step 6: Place the pan in a large baking dish and fill the baking dish with water until it reaches halfway up the flan pan. Bake the flan for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 7: Carefully remove the flan pan from the water bath, remove the lid, and let it cool to room temperature. Then place it in the refrigerator and chill for 4 hours or overnight.
Step 8: When you’re ready to eat it, remove the lid or aluminum foil from the pan and gently slide a knife along the edges of the pan to loosen it up a bit.
Step 9: Place a large plate or platter over the pan and quickly and carefully flip over the pan and the plate so that the flan is upside down. Pull up the flan pan – if the flan doesn’t slide out immediately, place the pan down and let it sit for a bit. It will slide out so don’t freak out! Give the sides of the pan a tap or some squeezes and see if that helps.
All that’s left to do is grab a slice and enjoy! I like serving it on its own with lots of caramel sauce, but you could also serve it alongside some fresh fruit.
- For a citrusy twist, add 1 teaspoon of orange zest to the custard mixture.
- For a coffee twist, add 2 teaspoons of instant espresso powder to the custard mixture.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Pour the sugar into a skillet over medium heat. Stir the sugar continually until it begins to brown and clump together. Keep stirring until the sugar completely melts and dissolves into a golden-brown syrup. Remove the syrup from the heat as soon as it has dissolves as it can burn.
- Working quickly, carefully pour the caramel into a 7-inch round pan or a special flan pan (flanera) as shown in the photos in the blog post. Pour the caramel evenly into the bottom of the pan so the entire bottom is coated. If you need to, use an oven mitt or potholders to move the pan from side to side to get the caramel evenly distributed. If the caramel hardens too quickly, you can carefully reheat the pan by placing it directly on the stove or on the skillet for a few seconds.
- Set the caramel-coated pan aside to cool and harden.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs, sweetened condensed milk, whole milk and vanilla extract. Whisk together until everything is fully combined, but try not to overwhisk so that there aren't too many air bubbles in the mixture.
- Pour the custard mixture into the caramel-coated pan. Cover the top of the pan with the lid (if using a flanera) or tightly with aluminum foil.
- Place the flan pan in a large baking dish and pour enough water in the dish until it reaches about halfway up the pan. Carefully place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Carefully remove the dish from the oven, and then lift the flan pan out of the water bath. Remove the lid or aluminum foil and let it cool to room temperature. The flan may still be a little jiggly, but that's okay – it will continue to cook with the residual heat.
- Once it's cooled, cover with the lid or aluminum foil and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
- To serve, remove the lid or aluminum foil and slide a knife along the edges of the pan to loosen it up. Place a plate or platter on top of the flan, grab a hold of both the plate and the pan and quickly and securely flip it over so that the flan is now upside down. Carefully lift off the flan pan. Your flan should be sitting in the caramel on the plate, ready to enjoy!
- Carefully lift the flan pan up. The flan should be on the plate – if it's not, place the pan back down and let it sit for a few minutes. Don't freak out! It will loosen up and slide out. You could try tapping the sides of the pan a bit or even giving the sides a squeeze.
- Slice the flan and serve with the rich caramel sauce!