How to cook: Leche flan (steamed crème caramel)

There are many misconceptions about leche flan. One, that it is the Filipino version of crème brûlée. It is not, actually. Leche flan is the Filipino version of crème caramel, not crème brûlée. The difference? Crème brûlée has a hard caramel top created by sprinkling sugar on top of the cooked custard then broiling or torching the sugar to caramelize it. Crème caramel has a soft and gooey caramel topping.

A second misconception about the leche flan is that it can only be cooked in the oval-shaped aluminum llanera. I really don’t understand that insistence. I have a friend who, when she wanted to make leche flan, went out of her way to buy the llanera. The thing is, any heat-proof cookware — whether metal, plastic, glass or ceramic — can be used to make leche flan.

A third misconception is that beating the egg yolks and milk together will create a smoother and creamier custard. Wrong. Beat them and air bubbles will form. And if you beat too much, the fat content of the milk might separate and that’s disaster. Stir the yolks and milk together instead. Gently but thoroughly. That’s how you get the creamy consistency. And, of course, you need a good proportion of egg yolks to milk.

A fourth misconception is that steaming the leche flan makes it more delicious. Not true. You can cook the leche flan in the oven and it will be just as delicious. We’re just used to the steaming method because that’s how it’s been done in the Philippines for ages. A baine marie inside the oven will do as well. So, there.

There is an old leche flan recipe in the archive (of the other blog) — single serve leche flan, actually — but, in that recipe, I used molasses instead of the traditional caramelized sugar. This new leche flan recipe has the traditional caramelized sugar topping.

Recipe: Leche flan

Ingredients

  • 3/4 c. of sugar (I used white; you can use brown but the caramel will be so much darker)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 c. of sweetened condensed full cream milk (I used Milkmaid)
  • 1 c. of evaporated full cream milk (Alpine is good)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. of lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Caramelize the sugar with about 3 tbsps. of water in a pan then pour into the mold in which you intend to cook your leche flan. Click here for a step-by-step illustration on how to caramelize sugar. Once you’ve poured the caramelized sugar into the mold, don’t panic if the mixture hardens. It will harden naturally but it will turn soft again during cooking.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, salt and lemon zest. Gently but thoroughly.
  3. Add the egg yolks to the milk mixture and stir. Again, gently but thoroughly.
  4. Pour the egg-milk mixture into the prepared mold. Steam over simmering water for 35 to 40 minutes, depending on the depth of the mold you’re using.
  5. Leche flan (steamed crème caramel)
  6. Now, the hardest part. You have to wait for the leche flan to cool. If you try to invert it while hot, it will just break apart. And the caramel will be too thin and runny. So, cool the thing first. I cheat by sticking the leche flan in the freezer for 15 minutes then transferring it to the fridge for another 30 minutes.
  7. When the leche flan is cool, run a knife around it to loosen it from the mold.
  8. Leche flan (steamed crème caramel)
  9. Place the mold on one hand. Put a plate on top of the mold. With the palm of your other hand flat on the bottom of the plate, invert the leche flan. It should fall off easily with some of the caramel running down the sides.
  10. Leche flan (steamed crème caramel)
  11. You can cut the leche flan into portions before serving it. Or, if you’re like my family, you can hand each person a dessert spoon and eat the thing right off the plate.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 35 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

  • Lhet

    yummy…. my family’s fav dessert…. :D

    • Nina

      Same recipe as my mom’s, too. Except hers was for more servings using 8 eggs and more milk. Really good.

  • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

    Stir in one direction to avoid bubbles? First time i heard of that. In fact, i dont understand — stirring is discouraged especially with anything metallic as the chemical reaction causes crystallization.

    The bubbles will form no matter what once the mixture simmers. And the bubbles burst once the mixture is off the flame.

    • http://www.facebook.com/aarendal Albert ERT Rendal

      thanks for clearing up the misconceptions Connie, that’s why I love your blog.
      no nonsense tips..clear, concise & direct to the point… ?

      • http://hotmail charlotte

        hi ms connie,
        if im using the oven baine marie for how long? and at what temp?
        thanks

        • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

          325F. How long depends on the size of your mold. Several small molds will require a shorter baking time than one large mold. If you use a single mold, the time will still vary depending on its diameter and the depth of the custard.

          • http://hotmail charlotte

            got it, thanks a heap!!

  • Marlette Medic

    Hi Ms Connie,

    I just want to say that your blog is totally awesome and very helpful. I so love this dessert and this would be my first time to make this.
    If I may ask how is procedure if I am going to make this with oven and not by steaming? Also, is there any alternative milk to replace for sweetened condensed milk? And can I use fresh milk (those we can buy in cartons) to replace for Evap milk? I am in Europe right now and too bad they don’t have that here in any store.

    Appreciate your response.

    Great thanks,
    Marlette

    • natzsm

      Thank you for mentioning the use of MILKMAID and ALPINE Ms. Connie.

      I have since shifted to using these products for baking and all recipes calling for evaporated and condensed milk ever since your blog about the DULCE de LECHE. Using 100 percent ” real” milk really does make a difference especially in baked goodies not only in taste but texture.

      • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

        Thanks to reader Nina. :D

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      For the evap, you can use half-and-half (half cream, half milk). I don’t recommend substituting anything for the sweetened condensed milk.

      In an oven, it’s pretty much the same. Just place the mold in a bigger pan and half fill the pan with hot water. It’s called a water bath (baine marie). Then bake.

      • Marlette Medic

        Thank you so much Ms Connie :)

  • Jennifer

    hi! I also use alpine and milkmaid for my leche flan.alpine makes the leche flan creamy cause it’s full cream.

  • clarissa

    wow! I will definitely try this. I made some using your mini leche flan recipe some years ago (yeah, I’ve been reading your blog since 2006 or 2007), but it was not the way I like it because I beat the mixture. Will try to do it again. Thanks Ms.Connie.

    • Ellen

      i would like to ask if we can use fresh milk in pack because it is so hard to find evaporated milk here in turkey and how many cups then if i will use the fresh milk? thanks….

      • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

        Ellen, I don’t know what exactly “fresh milk in pack” over there in Turkey is so it’s really impossible for me to answer your question.

        • baby

          I’m excited to try your recipe specially after reading your detailed explanation. Just want to know if you cover the leche flan when steaming because if i remember right, mine got spoiled by the water that dripped on it because of the steam. So i always cover it with aluminum foil before steaming. Also, I’m just curious if 1 can of condensed milk is equal to 1 cup. Thanks Connie! Your blog is very informative and a big help

          • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

            Cover with foil? Then the condensation will just collect on the roof of the foil and the effect is the same. I use a bamboo steamer so no condensation falls back into the leche flan.

            “I’m just curious if 1 can of condensed milk is equal to 1 cup”

            Well, that really depends on the size of the can. :)

          • baby

            I believe Milkmaid condensed milk has only 1 size which is the regular size of the other brands as well. If I’m not mistaken a regular-sized can of evaporated milk measures 1-1/2 cup while the smaller can measures 3/4 cup. To add to my knowledge, just wanted to know if the contents of the Milkmaid or any regular-sized condensed milk measures 1 cup. Thanks Connie

          • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

            The recipe calls for ONE CUP of sweetened condensed milk and not one can. That’s exactly to do away with questions like what size of can.

      • Maricel

        1 can condensed milk = 1 1/3 cups

        • baby

          Thanks Maricel. Appreciate your answer.

        • Charo

          Hi Ms. Connie, now I learned a lot in preparing leche flan. My brother is a huge fan of this dessert. So huge fan that he once want me to make a 3-4 inches thick of flan… sabi sa yo lang yun? sagot nya oo.. hmp sige good luck sa tooth ache. But seriously I didn’t make it that thick, feeling ko kasi maauumay kagad kami nun, and we cannot miss the taste of it. I usually make this every Christmas and the family will always ask how many llanera I can make with 36 eggs and 6 condensed milk? Because they are expecting more than 6 llanera of leche flan to make. :) But with the egg yolk, since I’m so tired of making the flan, I use the egg white mix it with oat and honey for a facial mask and scrub. :P

          • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

            So the scrub really works? I’ve only tried cucumber slices to get rid of eye bags.

          • Charo

            I tried the eggwhite mask with oats and honey, leave it for 5-10 mins and scrub it after, it’s nice. My face was smooth and the dead skin were removed. Some people add sugar with oats and honey as scrub pero parang mahapdi na pag iniscrub.. :)

          • lilian

            Connie,
            What if,,,,can i use the leche flan or replace it as,, egg pie? Are they the same? Or pwede ba in a way? Parang leche flan in a pie shell.

          • chi

            I’m into blog catch-up once again and yours is always on the top of the queue. So what do I find but my most favorite Filipino dessert! YAAAAY! One look at the pics and I had to make some. I have my own foolproof recipe but it uses granulated sugar. I’ve always baked mine in a bain-marie. So I thought, I’d give your recipe and steaming a shot. Well, kinda sorta.

            I doubled the reipe but used 2 different molds because I had a plan.
            I can’t stand the taste of canned milk so I sub’d fresh whole milk.
            I didn’t have enough condensed milk so in went even more whole milk.
            I didn’t have a lemon and was too lazy to go to the store just for 1 lemon.
            I did have oranges so orange zest went into one flan.
            I also had plenty of VIA French roast so I heated up a little bit of the milk to dissolve the coffee and it went into the other flan.
            I told you I had a plan.

            YUMMIOSO!!!! Thank you once again for another runaway recipe!

  • aiReiser

    Hi Miss Connie,

    How will I know if leche flan is done if I used baine marie? Sorry for the basic question as newbie cook here. Thanks!

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      You can pierce the center to see if it is firm.

    • Nakajima-san

      When I married my Japanese husband, he insisted his favorite treat as a boy eaten out at restaurants with his Daddy, was custard served as individual steamed custards, carmelized sugar on top, whipped cream and a cherry . In my family, growing up, eating anything that tasted like eggs was ‘disgusting’. Yet, my ethnically Canadian-French mother treated us to custard pie when we were visiting her folks. So, there was no inherited distaste.

      When my boys were small (underweight on the American charts), I used to increase their protein-calories by making them frozen custards which I gave no indication of my repugnance and they enjoyed them immensely.

      Jell-O brand custard powder is similar to flan powder sold in the supermarket. I wonder if adding gelatin to the hot milk and using custard pudding mix would produce a similar flan without heat, and a variation of carmelized sugar, pralines, or flaked sweetened cocoanut. Probably not too authentic.

      • Connie

        I’m really curious about the dislike for eggs part. I can’t imagine a world without eggs and egg dishes. :D

        I’ve tried powdered “flan”, the texture is different as it lacks that creaminess (and slight stickiness) of real custard.

  • lala

    hello po ask ko lang kung yung mga gatas yung 1 can ung malalaki?o ung maliliit kasi walang grams na nakasulat thank you po…first time po magluto ng ganito if ever… kasi po ung mga manok na native namin nangitlog kaya try ko po eleche flan hehehe lovelots xoxoxoxolalaxoxoxoxo

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      Lahat ng de-lata na gatas may net weight. Kung hindi grams ang nakasulat, i-convert mo na lang.

  • Jen

    Hi! Can I also use oven for making leche plan? How many degrees? Or is it better if I use a steamer? thanks.

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      Can I also use oven for making leche plan?

      >> Yes.

      How many degrees?

      >> Depends on whether you’re measuring by Celcius or Fahrenheit, and the kind of cookware you’re using.

      Or is it better if I use a steamer?

      >> Better in what sense? What’s better for me may not be better you.

  • Alen

    hello po ms. connie, ask ko lang po kasi I have the same situation with jessica regarding the caramel gets solid after cooking. I usual do the steaming process… bakit po kaya? thank you po.

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      Alam mo, considering that I didn’t see you execute the recipe, mahirap manghula.

      • alen

        hello po Ms. Connie, thank you po pala sa pag reply. regarding po dun sa execution, sa paggawa po ng caramel, I don’t use water po, sugar lng po. after po magcaramelize, nilalagay ko na rin po sya agad sa lalagyan, gumagamit po ako ng aluminum container then ang cover po is parang carton. I use po rice cooker as steamer. sa tingin nyo po may mali po ba sa procedure ko? Thank you so much po for your time.

        • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

          Alam mo, Alen, for my recipe, there is a specific procedure for caramelizing the sugar. Naka-link nga sa post, may step-by-step illustration pa.

          Eh hindi mo naman sinunod yung procedure ko, ginawa mo yung sarili mong paraan at formula.

          So malinaw naman kung bakit ganun ang resulta ng caramelized sugar mo.

  • https://www.facebook.com/arries.david Ries David

    wala po ako masabe, ang galing nyo po magturo.first time ko plng po ginawa using your method and it turned perfect. 1 question po, 12 egg yolks, 370ml evap, 300ml condensed less than a cup of sugar and it costs me about P156. magkano ko po maibebenta leche flan ko? hehe senxa na po, wala po alam sa costing.

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      Ries, I’m a home cook, not a seller. :)

  • susan lopez

    Hi Ms. Connie,

    I live in the US po, but i differ from other, i want my flan to be more eggy, how can i achieve this.
    Please let me know.

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      Add more egg yolks. :)

  • florisa

    this is the same recipe my mom uses, found her old (and i mean old as in paper is yellowish to brownish) recipe notebook. so i could really say that tried and tested na to.

  • geri

    Except for the creme brulee part, I had all that misconceptions too (having to have a llanera to caramelize the sugar etc…) until I stumbled upon a recipe while looking for an all egg yolk leche flan recipe. While doing that leche flan I realized how much easier it is to cook leche flan compared to what I thought it would be. The texture is so much more fino too!

  • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

    Hard to shake off what we grew up with, right? :-P

  • http://sugarwithdrawal.wordpress.com Marie

    When we were kids, my sisters and I would use those old metal Selecta ice cream tins to caramelize the sugar and as molds. We would hold the tin over the stove and rotate it slowly as the sugar caramelized. Just one cup of white sugar and nothing else– It was an exercise in patience. We were also taught to stir the mixture gently in one direction to avoid bubbles.

  • http://mariamasungit.blogspot.com curiousGirl

    omg. sarap! nagccrave pa naman ako sa leche flan this weekend. tinatamad lang ako gumawa kasi sayang eggwhites

  • Tin

    I find leche flan with Milkmaid and Alpine too rich for my taste. I use Angel Evaporated Filled Milk instead.

    Your leche flan looks so good – and smooth. When I cook leche flan, puno ng maliliit butas. I shall try to minimize the holes the next time I cook leche flan :D

  • A

    I think kung may bubbles, it’s because you used a whisk, hence air was incorporated into the batter; kung hindi naman, it’s the temp of the steamer. Pag mashado malakas ang apoy, kumukulo ang batter sa loob lang ng llanera, hence forming small air bubbles.

    So low heat and spoons, not whisks, just like what Ms Connie said :-)

    As for the eggwhites, my mom makes puto na lang. Or omellete sa umaga :p

  • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

    That’s my trick too. That’s why whenever we have leche flan, we have puto too. :D

  • Jessica

    I always have a problem with my caramel staying solid in the bottom of my pan. Is there something I can do to prevent this? Or is there just something I am doing wrong. I usual bake it in the oven. I am hoping I will have more success with this recipe

  • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

    You can’t prevent caramelized sugar from hardening. And it can be as hard as rock when you pour the custard over it. When the steaming process begins, that hardened caramel will liquefy once more and it will stay liquid because it will get mixed in with the liquid in the custard.

  • Jessica

    Sorry, I ment it stays hard after the flan is cooked. When I invert the pans I always have a hard layer of sugar in the bottom of the pan and almost no caramel for my flan!:(

  • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

    Do you bake with a baine marie or without? Without a baine marie in the oven, you’re burning the caramel.

  • duchess

    Does anyone here knows how long can I keep leche flan in the fridge?

  • deb s.

    I was wondering that myself. I made 2 and we only ate one, too many other good foods and desserts. So I have not unmolded the second one yet. How long can I keep it till I should for sure serve it?