Vanilla Flan with Traditional Caramel Sauce


Enjoy this vanilla custard, caramel-topped dish with a freshly brewed cup of coffee or tea to complete a memorable dinner with friends.

Crème caramel (flan) and crème brûlée are classic oven-baked custards. We’ve both loved flan from the first taste. The soft, custardy texture is very satisfying and the way the caramel sauce  drizzles down the side of this dessert when you invert it is just plain fun. When I was in my twenties, I made flan the instant way – squeeze the packet of caramel on the bottom of a dish and pour in the custard. Jack discovered flan in Japan, where it is commonly sold in convenience stores as a complete, packaged snack and less frequently in coffee shops.

After learning to make flan authentically – preparing stovetop caramel from scratch and baking the dessert in a water bath – there is no turning back. The vanilla flavor in this recipe is intense, thanks to the addition of vanilla paste, and the caramel was sweet with just a hint of bitterness just as my Culinary Institute of America teacher said it should. Many flavors could be substituted for the vanilla; try orange, chocolate, cinnamon, or chai for an equally excellent dessert.

Vanilla Flan with Caramel Sauce


  • 1 cup and 1/3 cup granulated sugar, separated
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla paste, or 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 3 eggs


  1. Place 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup water in a pot. Gently stir to blend.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil without stirring, putting a lid on pan so that moisture from boiling syrup will wash down sides.
  3. Let mixture continue to boil until it starts to turn a light brown color.
  4. Take pan off heat and allow mixture to cool until it has a honey-like consistency.
  5. Pour caramel into 4 small ramekins. Swirl caramel around so it covers the bottoms of the ramekins. Set aside.
  6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  7. Warm milk, 1/3 cup sugar and vanilla on stovetop.
  8. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl. Pour warm milk mixture into eggs, whisking continuously. Add cream and continue to whisk until thoroughly mixed.
  9. Pour milk mixture into prepared ramekins.
  10. Place ramekins in a larger pan, for example a roasting pan, and fill the roasting pan until water reaches halfway up the ramekins.
  11. Bake custards in oven for 30 – 40 minutes.
  12. Custards will be done when there is a small wiggle in the custard. Allow ramekins to cool off and wipe them dry. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, or overnight.
  13. To present the dessert, run a small knife around the edges of the ramekins. Place a serving plate on top of the ramekin. Flip the dish and give it a quick jerk in order to remove the flan from the ramekin. The caramel should now be on top and will drizzle over sides to plate.

13 thoughts on “Vanilla Flan with Traditional Caramel Sauce

  1. Flan is one of those wonderful desserts i recall from my childhood. The aroma was heavenly, the bonus was when my mom would flip the flan over on a plate exposing a warm caramel covering the custard! Great post, great dessert!

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