Flan

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This creamy, decadent flan is a latin inspired custard dessert topped with an irresistible caramel coating. It’s also surprisingly easy to make!

Similar to the french custard crème brûlée, this latin inspired dish is a bit denser with a creamy caramel topping instead of a brittle crust. It may look fancy, but it’s actually quite simple. 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. It’s popular in Mexico, Spain and all over Latin America. It’s even eaten in the Philippines, but there it is called creme 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.

Step by step pictures of how to make flan

How to Make Flan

PREP. Preheat the oven to 350.

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 mixture over the sugar mixture in 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 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 refrigerate overnight. To serve, run a knife gently around the sides of the baking dish, then invert the flan onto a rimmed serving dish.

Why do I add water around the baking pan? This method of cooking is called bain-marie or hot water bath. The purpose is for the hot water to envelope the slides of the dish causing a gentle uniform cook. It also moistens the air allowing the tops to cook without drying out. 

Caramel Notes

  • The caramel can quickly go from perfectly cooked to burnt in just a minute or so. Be sure to watch it very carefully. 
  • 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. 

Flan dessert before and after being baked in the oven

Making Mini Versions

You can use the recipe to make individual flans 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 + Storing

Use your Instant Pot: You can cut the cook time in third by using your instant pot oto make this flan. 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 cook 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. 

Leftovers: Cover and store leftover flan in the fridge for up to a week

Close up of a flan recipe

For more Mexican Desserts, try:

Flan Recipe

5 from 5 votes

This creamy, decadent flan is a latin inspired custard dessert topped with an irresistible caramel coating. It's also surprisingly easy to make!

Course Dessert
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 212 kcal

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

Author

Alicia Skousen

Hi! I’m Alicia and I blog at The Baker Upstairs. I am in love with all things food! I love to bake bread, cupcakes, cookies… you name it! When I’m not baking, I am running after my two adorable little girls, working as an RN, knitting, reading, and trying to squeeze in time with my husband every day.

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