This Flan recipe has a sweet and creamy custard center with a golden crown of caramel that pours over the cake as you slide off the pan. This is a make-ahead dessert (it requires some chilling in the refrigerator), which makes it perfect for parties and holidays like Cinco de Mayo! 

We love Mexican-inspired desserts such as Churros and Tres Leches Cake. If you are a fan of Latin desserts, this Flan recipe doesn’t disappoint. 

Flan dessert served on a cake platter with berries

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Flan

My first introduction to Flan was at a Mexican restaurant years ago and I’ll admit I didn’t love it the first time I tried it. It was more gelatinous than creamy but this recipe you’ll make over and over. It’s sort of a cross between a Cheesecake, jello, and a Creme Brûlée, but Flan is unique and special in flavor and texture, plus it’s fairly easy to make. Follow the step-by-step instructions and you will be a pro in no time! 

What is Flan?

Flan is a popular Spanish dessert and different regions make different versions. It is essentially a custard dessert made by combining eggs, milk, sugar (or condensed milk), and vanilla and it is baked in a water bath similar to the way a Cheesecake is baked. 

There are so many varieties of flan out there. Some use sweetened condensed milk, others sweeten with sugar. Some use evaporated milk or plain milk and sometimes you’ll even see cream cheese in the mix. This (bit more indulgent) version uses heavy cream and it’s irresistibly good. I learned how to make this from Epicurious and Cooks Illustrated.

Slice of flan on a plate with fork drizzled with caramel sauce

Ingredients

Since Flan is made with a short list of ingredients, it is key to make sure you have good quality ingredients and for it to set properly, you should avoid substitutions. Here is what you will need (see the full print-friendly ingredient list below)

  • Condensed milk – adds sweetness to the flan. For a more authentic dessert, we recommend using La Lechera brand.
  • Evaporated milk – adds richness to the custard.
  • Heavy whipping cream – creates a creamy and indulgent custard base.
  • Vanilla extract – use a generous amount to add layers of vanilla flavor. We used our homemade Vanilla extract. A high-quality Mexican vanilla can be substituted for a more authentic flan recipe. 
  • Eggs – allow the custard to thicken and set properly. 
  • Salt – balances the sweetness and rounds out all of the flavors. 
Ingredients with eggs, milk, cream, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla

How to Make Flan

  1. Prep – Because the caramel sets quickly, you want to have a 9″ x 2″ round cake pan out and ready for use. Also, preheat the oven to 350˚F and bring a kettle of water to boil.
  2. Make the Caramel In a saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. As soon as it starts to change color, start swirling the pan. Once it’s the color of cinnamon, take it off the heat and swirl it for another 30 seconds.
  3. Pour melted sugar into your cake pan and immediately tilt the pan to coat the bottom (be careful the pan will get hot!).
  4. Make the Custard – Combine the custard ingredients in a blender and blend on low speed for 1 minute. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth (to reduce the bubbles) and pour over your caramel layer.
  5. Cover the cake pan with foil and set the pan inside of a large roasting pan then set the roasting pan in your oven. Pour hot water into the roasting pan, about halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
  6. Bake at 350 for 70-80 minutes or until there is just a slight jiggle in the center. Remove from oven, uncover, transfer to a rack, and cool to room temperature then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  7. To Serve – Run a knife around the edges of the cake pan. Set the cake on a rimmed platter and invert the cake onto the platter. Tap the cake pan until you feel it dislodging then lift the cake pan off the cake.
step by step how to make caramel sauce for flan

Important Safety Tip: Be careful not to get any melted sugar on your skin to avoid burns, do not put your finger in it to taste it, and NEVER lick the spatula. Also watch out because the cake pan gets quite hot when you pour the caramel in.

How to bake a flan dessert in a water bath step by step photos

Variations

Flan is prepared differently in various regions. Here are some delicious flan variations and topping ideas:

  • Cinnamon – add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the cream mixture and blend it into the mixture. 
  • Mangos – top the flan with sliced mangos as we did in our Mango Cake. Mangos are a popular variation in the Philippines. 
  • Berries – since this dessert has a built-in topping (the caramel sauce), all it really needs are some berries for garnish. I love how tangy berries cut the sweetness of flan. Try raspberries, strawberries or mixed berries. 

Common Questions

What is the difference between Mexican Flan and Spanish Flan?

Mexican flan is traditionally made with eggs, milk, cream, and sugar. Spanish flan uses cream cheese instead of cream.

Can I make this in individual ramekins?

You can serve flan in individual portions, however, it can be challenging to quickly and evenly portion and swirl the hot sugar syrup into the bottom of many ramekins before they harden. If you have a helper it may be more attainable to have them swirl as soon as the syrup is in. Please be careful to avoid burns – that sugar syrup is HOT! We find it is easier to make flan in a single cake pan and cut slices. You could make this in 6, 8-oz ramekins and bake for about 40-45 minutes. 

Can I use a springform mold to make flan?

I don’t recommend a springform mold for making this flan for several reasons. You run the risk of getting water in the pan and this is a loose batter that may leak. There is real potential for creating a big mess and ruining your dessert. 

Flan dessert with slice cut away

How do I prevent my flan from cracking? 

There are several ways to prevent cracks in flan. Here are our best tips for beautiful results every time:

  • Water bath – cooking in a water bath as directed allows for even heat distribution. 
  • Don’t over-bake – Overcooked flan can turn rubbery and will be more likely to crack. Remove it from the oven when it still has a slight jiggle in the center. 
  • Cool slowly – Gently transfer to a wire rack and cool completely to room temperature before refrigerating. 
  • Chill completely – Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight for the custard to fully set. 
  • Loosen the edges – run a knife around the edges before unmolding the flan. This will reduce tension as it slides out of the pan. 

Tips for the Best Flan

  • Use a heavy saucepan for even heat distribution so your sugar doesn’t burn. 
  • Don’t walk away from your caramel sauce. Once it starts changing color, it can quickly burn. 
  • Swirl the caramel sauce and do not stir, otherwise, crystals can form on your spatula and in your sauce. 

Make-Ahead

You will love that Flan is a make-ahead dessert. It’s so convenient for gatherings and entertaining.

  • Refrigerate – cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate leftover flan for up to 4 days. 
  • Freezing – we do not recommend freezing flan as the consistency and smooth texture can change. 
Slice of flan on a plate with forkfull

I hope this Flan Recipe becomes a go-to dessert for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations or whenever the craving strikes.

More Mexican Recipes

If you love this Flan recipe, then you won’t want to miss these Mexican-inspired recipes. You are sure to find many new favorites here:

Natasha's Kitchen Cookbook

Flan Recipe

4.98 from 152 votes
Author: Natasha Kravchuk
Flan sliced on a cake platter
Flan is a creamy, caramel-topped Spanish and Latin dessert. Eggs, condensed milk, evaporated milk, cream, and vanilla form a smooth custard.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cooling Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 8 hours

Ingredients 

Servings: 12 people
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 14 oz can condensed milk, preferably la lechera
  • 12 oz can evaporated milk, preferably Carnation brand
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract, preferably Mexican Vanilla Extract
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • Berries to serve, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries, Optional for garnish

Instructions

  • Prep – Preheat the oven to 350˚F with a rack in the middle of the oven and bring a kettle of water to boil which you will need for the water bath. Take out a 9-inch by 2-inch round, non-stick cake pan so it’s ready to transfer melted sugar.
  • Make the Caramel – In a medium heavy saucepan, stir together sugar and water until dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat without stirring, about 3-5 minutes. Once you see it start to turn golden then start swirling the pan frequently over the heat until it’s the color of cinnamon, about 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat and continue swirling constantly for another 30 seconds as it turns amber-colored.
  • Immediately pour melted sugar into your round cake pan and quickly tilt your baking dish to spread the caramel over the bottom of the pan before it sets (be careful, that bottom of the pan will turn hot!). Set the pan aside and prepare the custard.
  • Make the Custard – In a blender add condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, vanilla, eggs, and salt. Blend for 1 minute on low speed (to avoid too much foam/bubbles). Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth (cheesecloth is optional but helps break up the bubbles and foam.
  • Cover the cake pan with a sheet of foil, making sure the foil isn’t touching the top of the custard (you don’t want to bake your foil into your flan).
  • Make the Water Bath – Set the cake pan inside of a large roasting pan then set the roasting pan in your oven (it’s hard to carry the roasting pan after the water is in there). Pour hot water into the roasting pan, at least halfway up the sides of the cake pan, making sure it doesn’t reach the top of your baking pan or get inside your cake pan.
  • Bake at 350 for 70-80 minutes. When it's done, jolt the pan and you should see a stiff jiggle in the center. If it seems too liquid/wobbly, bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover, transfer to a rack, and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight to fully set the custard.
  • To Serve – Run a knife around the edges of the pan (clean your knife periodically). Set a rimmed platter over the cake pan and holding the top and bottom with both hands, invert the cake onto the platter. If the cake doesn’t slide out easily, tap the cake pan until you feel it dislodging then lift the cake pan gently off the cake. Garnish with berries if desired and serve spooning extra caramel sauce over each slice.

Nutrition Per Serving

341kcal Calories35g Carbs8g Protein19g Fat12g Saturated Fat1g Polyunsaturated Fat5g Monounsaturated Fat0.01g Trans Fat127mg Cholesterol156mg Sodium270mg Potassium35g Sugar765IU Vitamin A2mg Vitamin C202mg Calcium0.5mg Iron
Nutrition Facts
Flan Recipe
Amount per Serving
Calories
341
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
19
g
29
%
Saturated Fat
 
12
g
75
%
Trans Fat
 
0.01
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
5
g
Cholesterol
 
127
mg
42
%
Sodium
 
156
mg
7
%
Potassium
 
270
mg
8
%
Carbohydrates
 
35
g
12
%
Sugar
 
35
g
39
%
Protein
 
8
g
16
%
Vitamin A
 
765
IU
15
%
Vitamin C
 
2
mg
2
%
Calcium
 
202
mg
20
%
Iron
 
0.5
mg
3
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Latin American, Mexican
Keyword: Flan, Flan recipe, How to make Flan
Skill Level: Medium
Cost to Make: $$
Calories: 341

Natasha Kravchuk

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved and tested recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

Read more posts by Natasha

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Recipe Rating




Comments

  • Lya
    April 15, 2024

    I loved this recipe! Even though it took a long time, the end result was worth it. The flan came out as creamy and delicious 😋.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      April 15, 2024

      Lovely to hear that! Thank you for sharing that with us.

      Reply

  • Maricely
    April 8, 2024

    I love this recipe! Turns out perfect every time.
    In search of a good Mexican sweet corn flan recipe.
    Have you tried this flan variation?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      April 8, 2024

      Hi Maricely! I’m glad you love the flan. I have not tested or tried anything like that.

      Reply

  • Mrs Figs
    March 30, 2024

    I’m sure it’s amazing but I had it in the oven for alot more then 80 minutes and it’s still very soft I followed the recipe to theT. Now the only thing I’m thinking is a 1 cup and 3/4 of heavy cream is alot or am I wrong?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      March 30, 2024

      Hi! The ingredients/quantities listed are correct, tested many times. Did you use a different size pan by chance? This will affect the baking time. Also- be sure to fully preheat the oven before baking. This recipe was tested in a conventional oven on regular bake. I highly recommend using an Internal oven thermometer (Amazon affiliate link) to ensure your oven is heating correctly. Every oven bakes differently but it shouldn’t be a drastic time difference. I hope that helps.

      Reply

  • Vicky
    March 28, 2024

    I’m Latina, this is an amazing recipe! The only one issue is the details for Carmel ….I had to incorporate more sugar & liquid.

    Reply

  • Tifaine
    March 23, 2024

    Thank you for the flan recipe deliciously great. Easy to understand directions. I have it baking right now soon to know how great it taste…well actaully I won’t know until tomorrow after it sets up over night or at least for 6 hours in the fridge….

    Reply

  • Diane
    March 21, 2024

    I did try this recipe. The taste was great but the texture of the flan itself was “grainy”, not smooth as silk as it should be. What happened?

    Reply

    • Natasha
      March 22, 2024

      Hi Diane, I haven’t had that happen but it could be a few things – ensure the eggs are well blended otherwise they won’t fully incorporoate into the custard and result in a grainy texture. Also, straining the custard mixture is crucial to remove egg fragments and bits. use a fine mesh sieve. Also, avoid overcooking which can cause the eggs to curdle. The flan should be baked until it has a slight jiggle in the center. Also, allow the flan to cool gradually. I hope that is helpful for next time.

      Reply

  • Linda Burch
    March 20, 2024

    All of my pans are 1 inch deep. Is that too shallow??? I’m trying this for the first time for a party so I want to get it right. I know am I crazy or what?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      March 20, 2024

      Hi Linda! Yes, it will be thin. You can still use one but you’ll have to experiment with the size to make sure you can fit all the flan custard in. You’ll also have to adjust the time, if you’re using a larger pan that’s more shallow, it will bake faster.

      Reply

  • Diana
    March 12, 2024

    I tried this recipe for the first time yesterday. I followed it exactly as written and it turned out fantastic! Thank you for the well written instructions!

    Reply

  • karenf
    February 14, 2024

    Hi Natasha, I have been gifted an 8 inch flan pan. It has a top which latches on, thus making it a little hard to see if the center jiggles or not, plus it is 8 inches. I am thinking there would be a longer baking time. Do you have any suggestions on how to revise the timing to suit the pan?

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      February 14, 2024

      Hi Karen! I’m sorry, I do not. It would require some experimenting with. I used a 9”x2” pan. I am not sure how deep your pan is, but if it’s less than 2” you may not be able to fit the the entire custards and if you are, it will take longer to bake since it will be thicker and not as spread out as in a 9”.

      Reply

      • Samira
        March 30, 2024

        I inherited my Mexican aunts pan with the top, it it’s the same it fits. She used to make it just the same but used reg. milk. Try filling it with waterto see if it will fit yours before making it. If not you can try two smaller vessels for this recipe

        Reply

  • Almu Vallejo
    February 10, 2024

    Spanish flan does not contain cream cheese. Please check your resources and don’t provide incorrect information. Spanish flan is made of Sugar, Milk and eggs

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      February 10, 2024

      Thank you so much for sharing that with me, Almu. I hope you like our spin on this traditional Spanish dish. We do mention in the recipe “Flan is a popular Spanish dessert and different regions make different versions. It is essentially a custard dessert made by combining eggs, milk, sugar (or condensed milk)”, just like you said. We like it with the addition of cream cheese with adds a delightful creamy and velvet texture to the flan. Cooking is all about expressing creativity and I hope you try and love this version soon.

      Reply

  • Julio
    January 26, 2024

    Okay, I love flan and have made it before but the last recipe I used something seemed off. I tried yours did not read you whole blog just the recipe and found it odd to add the cream cheese. After I completed everything and tried it I got to say it is not a flan but a flan cheese cake. Which is actually fabulous, it has the flavor of the flan but texture or a cheese cake. This recipe is a keeper but I would not consider it a mexican flan.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      January 26, 2024

      Hi Julio! I’m glad it still turned out great. I did not use cream cheese in this recipe but did mention some versions of Flan use cream cheese.

      Reply

  • Carin
    January 4, 2024

    I am going to try this recipe..it looks so pretty! I am wondering if you spray the pan with cooking spray to avoid difficulty getting it out of the pan or will that ruin the caramel? Thank you!

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      January 4, 2024

      Hi Carin, we didn’t need to add that step in this recipe. I hope you love it!

      Reply

  • Ann Day
    December 29, 2023

    When I read the recipe and looked at the picture, it looked like you added the water to the sugar and cooked them together…it made simple syrup. Tossed it out and cooked the sugar until it was semi melted and Caramel colored then added water…sugar hardened. I kept at it, stirring untilmit melted again. It is baking now so I can’t speak about flavor or texture. What in the world went wrong?

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      December 30, 2023

      Hi Ann, yes to make the caramel, in a saucepan, we combined water and sugar and brought to a boil then reduced the heat to a simmer. It sounds like maybe the sugar to water ratio was off? I recommend looking through all the steps again.

      Reply

    • Rebeca Curtis
      January 3, 2024

      Hi Ann! I had the same problems as well, but then I finally looked at the recipe Natasha learned it from – Epicurious. These were the instructions:

      “combine 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in another heavy medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and cook without stirring until syrup turns deep amber, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan occasionally, about 10 minutes.”

      3 things to note:

      1.) Use 1 cup of sugar instead of 3/4 sugar.

      2.) Use 1/3 cup of water instead of 1/4 cup.

      3.) Cook over LOW heat until sugar is dissolved THEN move to high heat. (7/8 on my electric burner).

      After I followed those steps, i finally made it! I hope it helps. The rest of the recipe is perfect though! My family loved it, and as a Mexican myself, I was pretty impressed.

      I hope that helps!

      Reply

      • Gene
        March 23, 2024

        Thank you Rebecca, that solved my problem. I cooked it on Ned low, and stirred the whole time. It turned back to sugar! I added a 1/4 cup of water let it come to a boil and poured in the pan.

        Reply

  • Elizabeth
    December 25, 2023

    I was a little hesitant having never tried a flan recipe with this combination of ingredients.
    Needless to say, I’ll never use another flan recipe again because it was such a hit! Creamy and sweet and literally the best flan recipe ever tasted in all my life.

    Thank you!

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      December 25, 2023

      Love it! Thanks so much for sharing that with us, Elizabeth.

      Reply

  • JACK LOGANBILL
    December 8, 2023

    I made one 9″ flan using the identical pan you mentioned…at 85 minutes it is still very jiggly. I baked another batch using 8oz ramekins, and they turned out perfect at 45 minutes. My oven temperature is correct, I have two oven thermometers inside the oven at all times.

    Reply

  • Rebecca
    December 8, 2023

    Hello Natasha, The can of condensed milk, is it a 14 ounce can in the recipe? Because the can in the picture looks like a 10 ounce can and i cannot find a 14 ounce can of condensed milk in my grocery store.

    Reply

    • Natasha
      December 8, 2023

      HI Rebecca, most sweetened condensed milk cans that I have found in US grocery stores come in 14 oz cans. If you zoom in on the photo, you can see it is a 14 oz. You may need to buy a couple and measure them out to get 14 oz

      Reply

  • Emily
    December 8, 2023

    Agree with previous comments that this does not fit in a 9×2 cake pan. This is a difficult recipe if you don’t have all the equipment – round cake pan, a blender, roasting pan.

    Reply

  • Kim
    December 5, 2023

    This is an excellent flan recipe. Amazing texture, not overly sweet. Definitely will be making again.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 5, 2023

      So glad you loved it, Kim!

      Reply

  • Typically don't like custards
    December 3, 2023

    I messed up the caramel. Like.really bad but my God this turned out so well. This is one of the best flans I have ever had! Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      December 3, 2023

      So glad it still worked out!

      Reply

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