Flan

September 9, 2020

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My favorite Flan recipe! You get a rich and creamy custard style dessert covered with a deeply flavorful caramel sauce. And this version also includes luscious cream cheese to really take it over the top!

Image showing server spatula removing slice from whole flan.

What is Flan?

Flan is a European and Latin dessert made up of a caramel topping and custard base that’s made with milk, eggs and sweetener (which may already be included in the milk). It is usually baked in a water bath for the best texture, and after baking it is chilled then later inverted onto a platter.

This version is Flan de Queso – Cream Cheese Flan. It is easily my favorite! Traditional Spanish flan is so tasty but then when you add some rich and tangy cream cheese it becomes just that much better.

Here I’ve included step by step photos. This is especially helpful with the caramel step, be careful that you don’t burn it. And that you work carefully and quickly.

Other than that this homemade flan is a breeze to make! And who doesn’t love a recipe that only requires 6 ingredients?

What does it taste like?

Flan has a rich, toasted sugar caramel flavor from the topping and the base tastes very milky, perfectly sweet and lightly eggy. It is similar to creme brulee or panna cotta in taste, but texturally the three are quite different.

Image of two slices of flan on white scalloped plates with flowers around the sides.

Image of ingredients used to make flan. Shows evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, eggs and cream cheese.

Flan Ingredients

  • Sweetened condensed milk: A rich, sweetened milk that is truly a key ingredient in this recipe.
  • Evaporated milk: Another concentrated milk that’s used for rich flavor, this however isn’t sweetened.
  • Granulated sugar: This is used to make the caramel topping, and then you’ll only need a little in the flan custard since there’s already plenty added to the sweetened condensed milk.
  • Cream cheese: Not found in the most traditional flan but this ingredient really makes the best flan in my opinon.
  • Eggs: These give the dessert that classic custard flavor and texture. They hold everything together.
  • Vanilla: An ingredient used to add extra flavor. A vanilla bean would be a great substitute.

Collage of six images showing steps to making flan caramel in a saucepan, pouring to cake pan, and beginning to make flan filling in a glass bowl. Collage of six images showing continued steps of making flan filling, pouring it into pan over caramel layer, and placing in water bath. Then flan is shown after baking and inverted.

How to Make Flan

  1. Boil water, preheat oven: Bring water to a boil to use as a water bath. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and have a 9-inch cake pan ready.
  2. Cook sugar to make caramel sauce: In a saucepan whisk 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Cook over medium, stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved and mixture begins to boil.
  3. Let cook to an amber color:  Once boiling stop stirring and let cook until it’s nearing just amber. Remove from heat, let rest 5 seconds then add remaining 1 Tbsp warm water (it will steam and sputter slightly so stand back!), whisk to blend.
  4. Pour into cake pan and coat bottom: Immediately pour caramelized sugar into cake pan or 2-quart baking dish and carefully tilt in a circular motion to coat the entire surface of bottom of the pan (careful pan will be hot!). Set aside.
  5. Make flan custard, mix cream cheese and sugar: In a mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer blend together cream cheese and 2 Tbsp sugar just until smooth.
  6. Blend in eggs then milks: Mix in eggs one at a time. Then mix in sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla extract.
  7. Pour custard over caramel: Pour milk mixture over caramel layer in pan. Set pan in a roasting pan large enough to fit with extra space surrounding. Pour in enough boiling water to reach about halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
  8. Bake in water bath: Bake until nearly set (it should still wiggle just slightly when jiggled), about 50 – 70 minutes.
  9. Cool: Remove from water bath (roasting pan with water) and set on wire rack to cool for 1 hour. Transfer to fridge and let chill 4 hours.
  10. Invert onto platter: Run a sharp knife around the flan right up next to the pan, then place a large rimmed serving plate over the pan. While holding the plate in place, flip the flan to the opposite side and let if fall onto the plate.
  11. Slice and serve.

Image of one slice of flan.

How to Store

Because of all the dairy it should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. It should keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Can it be frozen?

Generally speaking flan can be frozen, but keep in mind the texture won’t be quite as good so I personally don’t recommend freezing.

Tips for the Best Caramel Flan

  • Take it easy on the eggs. In my opinion some recipes use far too many eggs and their taste starts to overwhelm the dessert. Here I found that four is plenty. With other recipes using more eggs I may consider swapping a whole egg for 2 egg yolks because the whites have that pronounced egg flavor.
  • Soften cream cheese well. I just do this in the microwave so it’s extra soft. It blends better this way, no lumps.
  • Be sure to mix ingredients long enough to fully incorporate.
  • Don’t grease the pan. It’s not necessary for flan.
  • Use a water bath for best texture.
  • Careful not to over-bake or it can become rubbery from over-cooked eggs.
  • Don’t skip chill time! It is critical to the flan holding up to inverting, and the texture is best when chilled through.
  • Run a knife as close to the edge of pan as possible before inverting for best appearance.

Close up image of flan cut into with a fork.

Variations

  • This same recipe can be made without the cream cheese. If doing so omit the 2 Tbsp sugar from the filling, it will be plenty sweet without.
  • Add extra flavor: Try with some cinnamon, coconut extract, citrus zest or a tablespoon of bourbon.
  • Make pumpkin flan: Add 1 cup canned pumpkin and 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (add along with milks). Bake time may take a little longer.
  • Also try Chocolate Flan.

More Delicious Latin Desserts to Try

Image of flan with a slice cut.
5 from 4 votes

Flan

My favorite Flan recipe! You get a rich and creamy custard style dessert covered with a deeply flavorful caramel sauce. And this version also includes luscious cream cheese to really take it over the top!
Servings: 8
Prep20 minutes
Cook1 hour
Ready in: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

Caramel topping

  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp warm water

Flan custard mixture

  • 1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese, well softened (see notes)
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Bring plenty of water to a boil in a pot or kettle to use as a water bath (the flan will be baked in a dish set in a roasting pan surrounded by the boiling water). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • For the caramel topping: have an ungreased 9-inch by 2-inch cake pan ready or a 2-quart round baking dish or souffle pan.
  • In a medium saucepan whisk together 3/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water. Set over medium heat, cook stirring constantly until sugar has dissolved and mixture begins to boil.
  • Once boiling stop stirring and let cook until it's nearing just an amber color. Remove from heat, let rest 5 seconds then add remaining 1 Tbsp warm water (it will steam and sputter slightly so stand back!), whisk to blend.
  • Immediately pour caramelized sugar into cake pan or 2-quart baking dish and carefully tilt in a circular motion to coat the entire surface of bottom of the pan (careful pan will be hot!). Set aside.
  • For the flan custard mixture: in a large mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer blend together cream cheese and 2 Tbsp sugar just until smooth.
  • Mix in eggs one at a time, mixing until just combined after each addition. Then mix in sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla extract.
  • Pour milk mixture over caramel layer in cake pan. Set pan in a roasting pan large enough to fit with extra space surrounding. Pour in enough boiling water to reach about halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
  • Bake until nearly set (it should still wiggle just slightly when jiggled), about 50 - 60 minutes.**
  • Carefully remove from water bath (roasting pan with water) and set on wire rack to cool for 1 hour. Transfer to fridge and let chill 4 hours.
  • Run a sharp knife around the flan right up next to the pan, then place a large rimmed serving plate over the pan. While holding the plate in place, flip the flan to the opposite side and let it fall onto the plate.
  • Slice and serve. Store in refrigerator.

Notes

*If you are looking to make a more traditional flan you can omit cream cheese, then also omit the additional 2 Tbsp sugar. 
**Note that if you had the oven door open for a while in the beginning when adding flan and lots of heat escaped then it could take up to 15 minutes longer. I found this once in testing when I added the roasting pan to the oven the poured the boiling water into the roasting pan from there.
Nutrition Facts
Flan
Amount Per Serving
Calories 437 Calories from Fat 180
% Daily Value*
Fat 20g31%
Saturated Fat 11g69%
Cholesterol 153mg51%
Sodium 235mg10%
Potassium 387mg11%
Carbohydrates 54g18%
Sugar 54g60%
Protein 12g24%
Vitamin A 750IU15%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 294mg29%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.