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Easily learn how to make flan – a creamy, decadent Latin-inspired custard dessert topped with an irresistible caramel coating. It’s also surprisingly easy to make!

Similar to the texture of French custard Crème Brûlée, this Latin dish is a bit denser with a creamy caramel topping instead of a brittle crust. Learn how to make flan, and for additional tasty Mexican desserts, try Mexican Wedding Cookies, Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars, or Horchata.

A slice of flan being cut with a serving utensil.

What is Flan?

Flan is a creamy custard dessert topped with Caramel Sauce. It’s popular in Mexico, Spain, and all over Latin America. It’s even eaten in the Philippines, but there it is called crème caramel. 

The caramel part comes from the delicious caramel topping that actually starts at the base of the dessert until it is inverted. It is a sweet topping to this creamy custard.

As you can imagine there are many versions, but this recipe uses sweetened condensed and evaporated milk, cream cheese, eggs, and vanilla to create the creamiest flan. Of course, it’s topped with caramelized sugar.

My husband normally doesn’t like flan, but he loved this version. It was pretty simple to make and really delicious!

Caramel Notes 

For the perfect caramel crust on your flan, use these extra tips!

  • Cooking the caramel can take several minutes, but it can quickly go from perfectly cooked to burnt in just a minute or so. Be sure to watch it very carefully. 
  • The texture should be similar to maple syrup. If it is thick like honey, then you have overcooked it.
  • It will also harden fairly quickly, so don’t delay pouring it into the baking dish. 
  • In the unlikely event that the caramel hardens before it has a chance to cover the bottom of the dish, simply place the dish over a warm burner only long enough to allow the caramel to melt into all the areas it needs to cover. 

How to Make Flan

This flan recipe is surprisingly simple and this dessert is a show-stopper!

PREP. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

MELT. Add the sugar and water to a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook the sugar mixture over medium heat until golden, brushing the sides of the pan with water to dissolve sugar crystals if needed. Watch carefully so the sugar does not burn.

CRUST. Immediately pour the sugar mixture into a deep dish pie pan or 2-quart round baking dish, tilting to coat the bottom of the dish with the sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes.

CREAM. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Pour the cream cheese custard mixture over the sugar mixture into the baking dish.

WATER BATH. Place the baking dish in a larger baking pan, and pour boiling water into the pan until the water comes up one inch on the sides of the baking dish.

BAKE. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the center of the flan is set and only jiggles slightly when shaken gently.

COOL. Cool on a wire rack for one hour, then cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight. To serve, run a knife gently around the sides of the baking dish, then invert the flan onto a rimmed serving platter slightly larger than the flan.

Leftovers. You can easily cover the serving dish that the flan is in or move it to an airtight container. You can store it in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.

Making Mini Versions

Use this easy flan recipe to make individual serving sizes using ramekins or custard dishes. You’ll need 5-6 individual dishes depending on the size of the dishes and how thick you want to make each flan.

  • Divide the caramelized sugar, from step one, evenly into the ramekins tilting to coat the bottom. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  • Make the filling and divide evenly into the ramekins.
  • Place the ramekins into a tall-sided baking pan
  • Add 2 inches of boiling water to the pan.
  • Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes. 
  • Insert a knife into the center. They’re done when the knife comes out clean.  
  • Refrigerate overnight. Invert each flan onto its own serving plate.
Mexican flan in a dessert dish.

Instant Pot Directions

Cut the cooking time by a third by using your instant pot to make this Mexican flan recipe. Simply prepare the flan as directed in steps 2-4.

  • Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. 
  • Place 2 cups of water into the instant pot.
  • Using a long handle wire rack lower the baking dish into the instant pot. 
  • Seal the lid and set the cooking time for 15 minutes. (see your pots user guide for more specific settings)
  • Quick release and open. Use oven mitts when lifting out the flan.
  • The flan will be jiggly but a knife inserted into the center should come out clean. 
  • Allow to cool and refrigerate overnight. 
Close up of a how to make flan. A slice served on a white plate.

Recipe FAQ

Why do I add water around the baking dish when making flan?

This method of cooking is called bain-marie or hot water bath. The purpose is for the hot water to envelop the dish sides causing a gentle uniform cook. It also moistens the air allowing the tops to cook without drying out.

Why is my flan spongy?

The cooking method is very important when making homemade flan. You must use a water bath so that it cooks evenly and takes on a creamy texture. Cooking the flan too quickly or overbaking it can also affect the texture.

Why is the caramel on my flan gritty?

When making the sugar syrup tiny sugar granules can creep up the sides of the saucepan and crystalize. From there you may unknowingly stir them back into the caramel. Stir the syrup gently and avoid scraping the sides of the pan. You can use a moist pastry brush to brush the sides of the pan. The water on the brush will help dissolve the crystalized sugar and it can be smoothly stirred back into the syrup.

For More Mexican Desserts, Try:

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4.94 from 16 votes

How to Make Flan Recipe

By: Lil’ Luna
Easily learn how to make flan – a creamy, decadent Latin-inspired custard dessert topped with an irresistible caramel coating. It's also surprisingly easy to make!
Servings: 8
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients 

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Save This Recipe!
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Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Add the sugar and water to a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook the sugar mixture over medium heat until golden, brushing the sides of the pan with water to dissolve sugar crystals if needed. Watch carefully so the sugar does not burn.
  • Immediately pour the sugar mixture into a deep dish pie pan or 2 quart round baking dish, tilting to coat the bottom of the dish with the sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla, and mix until smooth. Pour the cream cheese mixture over the sugar mixture in the baking dish.
  • Place the baking dish in a larger baking pan, and pour boiling water into the pan until the water comes up one inch on the sides of the baking dish. Bake 50-60 minutes, until the center of the flan is set and only jiggles slightly when shaken gently.
  • Cool on a wire rack for one hour, then cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, run a knife gently around the sides of the baking dish, then invert the flan onto a rimmed serving dish.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 212kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 134mg, Sodium: 131mg, Potassium: 77mg, Sugar: 20g, Vitamin A: 529IU, Calcium: 43mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
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About Kristyn

My name is Kristyn and I’m the mom of SIX stinkin’ cute kids and the wife to my smokin’ hot hubby, Lo. My mom’s maiden name is Luna, and I’m one of the many crafty “Lil’ Lunas” in the fam. On this site I like to share all things creative - from recipes to home decor to gifts and home decor ideas. Welcome!

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Recipe Rating




15 Comments

  1. Sharina says:

    5 stars
    This has been on our on repeat dessert recipe list! This flan is indeed so rich and creamy! The caramel coating is such a winner!

    1. Lil'Luna Team says:

      Thank you! So glad to hear you loved the flan!

  2. Andie says:

    5 stars
    It was so fun to learn how to make a family favorite at home! My kids loved it so much so I will definitely be making it again.

    1. Lil'Luna Team says:

      Yay! So happy to hear that!