Here’s an authentic leche flan recipe (or Filipino-style crème caramel) that will give you rich, silky, creamy leche flan every time.
In the Philippines, there are two types of leche flans (or crème caramels) – one that’s light and airy, the other smooth, dense and creamy. This leche flan recipe is the latter – made of only egg yolks and baked in a water bath, the flan is rich, silky, an absolute dream.
Leche flan – beloved Filipino dessert
Leche flan or crème caramel is a custard dessert with a layer of clear caramel sauce on top. Leche flan can be steamed or baked; this is the baked version.
I think all Filipino families have their own version of leche flan. My maternal grandma always made the airy kind while my paternal grandma made the rich kind. Both are great, it’s all a matter of preference.
And I just happen to prefer the rich kind (sorry, Lola Naning). The kind that’s so creamy you can slurp it. The kind that doesn’t have any air bubbles in it. The kind that jiggles just right but maintains its shape. That kind.
Filipinos associate leche flan with 1) Christmas and 2) any special occasion. It’s really not the kind of dessert you make out of the blue because you feel like it. Using 10 egg yolks and milk, it’s borderline impractical to make on a whim.
How do you make leche flan smooth, creamy and bubble-free?
So how do you achieve that rich, luxurious leche flan texture? Here are some tips for creamy leche flan success:
- Do not vigorously whisk or stir your ingredients. Gentle does it. You don’t want to form any extra air bubbles.
- Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth as you gently and carefully transfer the mixture into your baking dish. Some air bubbles will float up to the top. Gently scoop them out with a spoon.
- Bake your leche flan in a water bath. Put your baking pan in a roasting pan filled with hot water that comes up to your baking pan halfway.
How do you know when leche flan is done baking?
Now that you’ve done that, how do you know when it’s done baking?
Every oven is different (an oven thermometer is an awesome, inexpensive thing to have) so check your flan a few minutes before it’s supposed to be done baking.
You’ll know it’s done when the top has turned a light amber, the sides are starting to firm up but the middle still looks jiggly (but not soupy). It’s quite similar to how you check for cheesecake doneness.
If you think your leche flan is getting too brown but still needs to bake a little, loosely cover the top with aluminum foil and continue baking.
How do you caramelize sugar for leche flan?
Caramelizing sugar is the one single step I always have a problem with. It’s not hard to burn the sugar!
So what I’ve learned is to watch it but leave it alone. This means don’t walk away but also resist the urge to stir. In fact, don’t.
What you want to do is gently swirl your pan once the sugar dissolves so it doesn’t burn. And when it turns a beautiful golden colour, you’re done.
I’ve also had more success caramelizing sugar directly on my baking pan instead of a sauce pan. I know baking pans are not built for stovetops but I make an exception in this case.
- Place sugar in baking pan
- Shake so sugar is evenly distributed
- Place baking pan on stove
- Watch then swirl (remember to use a pot holder!)
The best leche flan recipe
Having made this leche flan many times over the years, I can honestly say it’s the best leche flan recipe for the richest, creamiest, leche flan your guests will go crazy for.
A little mixing, less than an hour in the oven, a few hours in the fridge and you’ll be rewarded with leche flan that’s so good it will make you feel like Christmas any time of the year. Hope you try it!
More Filipino Christmas recipes
If you’re planning a Filipino-style Christmas party, you’d want these in your menu:
The rest of the Filipino desserts are here.
Creamy Leche Flan Recipe (Filipino-Style Crème Caramel)
For the Caramel Sauce:
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Make the caramel first by dissolving 1/2 cup granulated sugar over low/medium heat. Leave alone, swirling occasionally to ensure the sugar does not harden and/or burn (see post for tips). Once it turns a light golden colour, remove from heat and spread evenly on your baking pan (see notes). Set aside and work on the flan.
- Whisk the 10 egg yolks before adding the can of condensed milk. Stir until thoroughly combined. Add 1 cup evaporated milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice and mix well. Add a pinch of salt and give the mixture a final stir.
- Transfer your mixture into your baking pan (on top of the caramel) by straining it through a fine mesh sieve or a cheese cloth. Gently and carefully pour it so as not to create any air bubbles.
- Place your baking dish in a roasting pan and put the roasting pan in your preheated oven. Then fill the roasting pan with hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of your baking pan. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the flan is set (firm but still jiggly; see post). If you see that the top is getting too brown, loosely cover with aluminum foil and continue baking.
- Take the flan out of the oven and cool slightly before refrigerating for at least 3 hours.
- Run a sharp knife around the edges of your pan to loosen the flan before inverting into a platter to serve (see notes).
- Leche flan is traditionally made with dayap, a local key lime variety. If you can get hold of that, use it. Otherwise, lime juice works just fine.
- It is also traditionally baked in a llanera which is an aluminum mold/baking pan but thinner. I use an 8x8 baking pan. If you want thicker leche flan, use a smaller pan but make sure to adjust the baking time.
- I sometimes have issues getting the flan out of the baking pan. So if I’m not serving it to company I don’t bother inverting it into a serving platter; we just scoop it out and eat it rustic style. It tastes just as great. But if you do have company and your edges are all uneven as a result of your attempts to take it out of the dish don’t worry – just slice the edges off or slice them into bite-size pieces. Nobody will ever know. The serving size of 24 is based on cutting the 8x8 inch flan into bite-sized squares. This dessert is very rich so a little goes a long way.
Nutritional information are estimates only.
What do you think of this leche flan recipe? Tell me about it in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.
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(This post was updated on 10 January 2019.)