This Easy Flan Recipe is so simple yet impressive! A sweet caramel sauce coats a delicate, creamy custard made with just 5 ingredients. It’s a great recipe for those looking to make a show-stopping dessert, without spending all day in the kitchen.
Easy Mexican Flan Recipe
This Mexican flan recipe is perfect for impressing guests without spending the entire day in the kitchen. In fact, it requires just 25 minutes or so of prep and an hour in the oven. The rest of the time is just cooling and chilling. (And yes, you can make it a day in advance!)
This is a traditional flan with no canned ingredients, so it has a very delicate flavor with hints of vanilla. The texture is also very delicate and silky, so use care and a light touch when serving.
What Is Flan?
Flan is a dessert made with a caramel topping and custard filling, similar to creme brulee. It’s made in several different countries around the world, each one a little different. Today’s recipe is for Mexican flan.
Mexican Flan vs Cuban or Spanish Flan
Mexican flan is made with simple ingredients like sugar, cream of tartar, eggs, whole milk, and vanilla. Other versions of flan are similar but often add or remove an ingredient. For example, Spanish flan is usually made with just egg yolks instead of whole eggs while Cuban flan is made with evaporated and/or condensed milk instead of whole milk.
Mexican flan is also made with vanilla, which other types of flan do typically not include.
This easy flan recipe is made with six ingredients.
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Granulated sugar – Sugar is one of the most important flan ingredients as it’s the main ingredient in caramel.
- Cream of tartar – If you don’t have cream of tartar, you can use a tablespoon of corn syrup instead.
- Eggs – Provides structure and holds the flan together.
- Whole milk – I do not recommend substituting skim milk as it will thin the mixture out too much.
- Salt – Helps to enhance the other flavors and balance out the rich and sweet ingredients.
- Vanilla – You can either split and scrape a vanilla bean (recommended) or use a bit of real vanilla extract to add flavor to this dessert.
How to Make Flan
Homemade flan requires a bit of patience and attention to detail but only about 25 minutes of prep. If you can make homemade caramel sauce, you can easily make flan. Here’s a summary:
(Don’t miss the easy printable recipe card below with all the details.)
- Prepare for the recipe. Preheat the oven to 350F, find a large roasting pan that will fit the pie dish, fill a small bowl with water and set it next to the stovetop with a pastry brush, and boil a small pot of water. Be sure to keep it hot while you work through other parts of the recipe.
- Make the caramel. Combine a cup of sugar and 1/4 water over low heat, stirring until completely dissolved. Add the cream of tartar, increase the heat to medium to begin boiling the mixture. Dip the pastry brush in the water and quickly brush the crystalized sugar off the sides of the pan. Boil the mixture until thickened and it begins to brown and caramelize.
- Transfer the caramel. Once the caramel reaches a golden honey, pour it into the bottom of the pie dish, swirling so the entire pan has an even coating of caramel. Set inside the roasting pan.
- Make the custard mixture. Combine the remaining sugar, eggs, whole milk, salt, and vanilla. Strain over the caramel.
- Make the water bath. Tightly cover the pie dish with foil. Pour the hot water into the roasting pan, halfway up the sides of the pie plate. Very gently push into the oven on the bottom rack of the oven.
- Bake. Bake covered for 55 minutes. Cool to room temperature then wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight (or for at least 5 hours.)
Do I Have To Use A Water Bath?
Yes, cooking flan in a water bath is an essential step. The hot water allows the flan to gently and evenly cook, resulting in a soft and silky texture. If you do not bake it in a water bath, the texture will be unpleasant.
Tips for Success
Here are a few very important things to keep in mind when preparing homemade flan.
- Avoid stirring the caramel. Do not stir the caramel as it cooks, as that can cause it to recrystallize. Instead, very gently swirl the pan if necessary.
- Don’t overcook the caramel. The darker your caramel gets, the more complex and bitter it will become, you can experiment with different shades of caramel. I don’t recommend taking it any further than a dark amber color, as you will risk burning it.
- What if the caramel cools before it’s spread in the pie plate? If the caramel cools too quickly when you are pouring it into the pie plate, you can stick the pie plate into the warm oven for a few minutes to get it to become more liquid again.
- How do you know when flan is done baking? The custard should still be very jiggly when the flan is finished baking, as it will set as it cools, but a knife inserted in the middle should come out clean.
Can I Use A Different Dish For Baking Flan?
This recipe was tested using both a standard depth pie dish, and deep dish. Either will work, but the recipe will fill the standard depth dish to the very top, making it more difficult to transfer into the oven.
6 individual ramekins, a 9” cake pan, or a standard rectangular loaf pan can also be used. Check ramekins after about 40 minutes.
Keep the Mexican flan refrigerated until serving, then run a thin knife around the edge of the flan, plate a serving platter on top, and quickly flip it. It should slide right out, with some of the caramel on the bottom running over the top.
If the flan sticks to the pan, give it a few taps or run a kitchen towel under hot water then place it on the bottom of the pie dish before trying to lift the pan again.
Flan is traditionally served with just the caramel sauce drizzled over the top.
How To Store Homemade Flan
This flan recipe should be served within 24 hours, as it will begin to liquefy after 18 hours in the fridge. While you should prepare it the day before to give it plenty of time to rest, I don’t recommend preparing it much farther in advance or you won’t be able to save leftovers. Keep any leftovers tightly covered in the pie dish in the fridge.
More Mexican Dessert Recipes:
- 9” pie dish (deep dish is best)
- Pastry brush
- Large shallow roasting pan
- 1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar , divided
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (or 1 tablespoon of corn syrup)
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 vanilla bean , split and seeds scraped (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare a large roasting pan that will fit your pie dish or flanera pan. Fill a small bowl with water, set next to stove top with a pastry brush. Boil a tea kettle or small pot of water, keep hot.
- In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Gently heat on low, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add in cream of tartar (or corn syrup) and turn the heat up to medium to start boiling the sugar syrup. Once boiling, dip pastry brush in water and quickly brush the crystalized sugar off the sides of your pan, washing it down into the syrup. Boil until the mixture becomes thickened and starts to brown and caramelize. DO NOT stir the caramel as it cooks, as this could cause it to recrystallize. Instead, very gently swirl the pan. Remove the caramel from the heat when it reaches a golden honey color. Pour this into the bottom of the pie dish, quickly swirling to get an even coating of caramel. Set this dish inside of the roasting pan.
- In a medium size bowl, add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, eggs, whole milk, salt, and vanilla bean seeds. Combine well. Strain this mixture through a strainer into the pie dish, on top of the caramel. Tightly wrap the pie dish with foil.
- Pull out the bottom rack of your oven just enough to place the roasting pan on the oven rack safely. Pour the hot water into the roasting pan until it comes up to about halfway up the sides of the pie plate, and gently push the oven rack and roasting pan into the oven, being extremely careful not to splash water onto the pie dish with the custard.
- Bake, covered with the foil, for 55 minutes. Check the flan for doneness. You should be able to insert a knife into the middle and it comes out clean, but the custard should still be jiggly. The custard will set up as it cools. Remove the pie dish from the oven and cool to room temperature. Wrap in plastic wrap, then chill in the fridge ideally overnight (or for at least 5 hours.)
- To serve: Run a thin dull knife around the edge of the flan, then place an inverted large plate or serving platter on top of the flan and holding tightly together, quickly flip the flan onto the plate. It should slide right out and the caramel that was on the bottom will run over the top. Some hardened caramel will remain in the pan. If the flan sticks give it a few taps or get a kitchen towel and run it under HOT water, ring out and put the hot towel on top of the bottom of the pie dish, then try to lift the pan again. It should slide right out. NOTE: Don't miss all the helpful tips for success, FAQs, and storage information included in the full article above.