Leche Flan is the ultimate sweet treat! This classic Filipino custard is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, rich, smooth, and creamy with a golden caramel topping.
First, let me assure you that this is the smoothest, creamiest, most melt-in-your-mouth leche flan you’ll ever have the pleasure of trying. Second, let me get off on a tangent and share with you a personal story.
My ex (husband) wooed me in my youth through llanera upon llanera of leche flan he made himself. The flan was his specialty, and he was so good at it, I was eventually won over by visions of a marriage where I would be sitting on the sofa watching TV while he slaved in the kitchen preparing MY dinner.
Well, these visions never quite turned to reality as I found out soon enough, caramel custard was how far his kitchen skills went. The way our shared life panned out, he sat on the sofa watching TV while I slaved in the kitchen, preparing HIS dinner. But for every party or gathering, he did take charge of the flan-making while I made everything else.
Fast forward decades later, the marriage already crumbled, the resident flan maker has long wandered into another’s arms, I find myself standing in the kitchen wanting to make flan and not exactly knowing how. You know how it is when you marry someone, and you assume it’s forever? I never wrote down his recipe because I thought he would always be there to make the leche flan.
In my divorce, I had to face the palpable destruction of what is familiar and endure the arduous process of reconstructing myself. With the mercy of time and tears, I am now a surprisingly happy, independent woman living life on her terms and with no need to apologize for the new four-inch stilettos she bought but will probably never wear.
I am now a woman comfortable in her skin. A woman who has come to terms with the furrows on her face which speak of age and is no longer compelled to compete with the younger flesh she was betrayed for. I did not cower when the existence I once knew laid askew, and I certainly will not now cower to the challenge of making flan. Recipe or no recipe, I’ve watched the man enough times to learn his techniques, and I can surely figure out the measurements of eggs and sugar and milk quickly on my own.
So today, I made my version. Ha! Victory for the scorned woman, I left his in the dust!
What is Leche Flan
Leche Flan is the Filipino version of creme caramel. It is a sweet dish traditionally served as dessert at parties, fiestas, and other special occasions. It’s also commonly used as topping for shaved ice such as halo-halo or in other treats such as floating island or graham de leche.
This classic dessert is made with a layer of caramelized sugar and a custard mixture of egg yolks, evaporated milk, and condensed milk. Vanilla extract and key lime or calamansi zest are usually added to brighten the flavor and cut the richness.
The flan is either baked in the oven or steamed on the stovetop in oval tin pans called llaneras. After cooking, it’s refrigerated to chill and completely set. The mold is inverted on a platter with the caramel sauce ending on top when ready to serve.
Although similar to the Spanish flan, it has a richer taste and denser consistency as it uses all egg yolks.
How to caramelize sugar
Here are three ways to turn sugar into a golden caramel. Whatever method you use, make sure it’s completely melted with no granules left. Tend to it closely to prevent it from burning which can result in a bitter taste.
- In a heavy-bottomed pan, combine one cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water.
- Cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until sugar dissolves and turns to a clear liquid.
- When the sugar dissolves and syrup is simmering, continue to cook without stirring for about 5 to 6 minutes or until color changes to honey gold. Use the handle of the pan to gently tilt the pan off the heat and allow even browning.
- Pour immediately in molds and allow to harden.
- Place 3 tablespoons of sugar in each llanera.
- Set the llanera on the stovetop over low heat and using tongs, move llanera repeatedly over flames until sugar is melted and turns to honey gold. Continuously tilt and swirl the llanera to ensure even melting and to distribute the liquid on the bottom of the mold.
- Remove from heat and allow caramel to cool and harden.
In the microwave-easiest method!
- In a clear, microwave-safe bowl, combine water and sugar. Stir well under sugar is completely dissolved.
- Microwave on high for about 6 to 7 minutes or until color changes to honey gold.
- Pour immediately in molds and allow to harden.
Making the custard
- Use cold eggs as the whites and yolks hold their shape better and separate more easily.
- Prepare the custard mixture as soon as the eggs are separated as the yolks will form an outside skin when exposed to the air for too long. If unable to use the yolks right away, store in a bowl of water and refrigerate. Drain when ready to use.
- To make mixing easier, break the yolks and whisk in the condensed milk. Gently add the evaporated milk.
Tips for a smooth consistency
- Stir in one direction to keep from introducing too much air in the mixture as it will cause holes on the flan when cooked.
- Tap the llanera on the counter a few times and let stand for a few minutes to release the trapped air pockets.
- If the mixture appears foamy, let stand for a few minutes for the bubbles to subside.
- To ensure a silky smooth consistency, strain the mixture using a cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve to remove any stray egg whites or froth.
- Do not steam or bake at too high temperature. Use a water bath or bain marie to ensure the temperature rises slowly and the custard thickens gradually.
- Do not overcook. The flan is done when a insert a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
Oven vs Stovetop
- I find baking the flan in the oven using a water bath yields a velvety smooth texture as it provides a gentle and even cooking temperature.
- If steaming on the stovetop, make sure to cook low and slow to prevent from overheating or overcooking the custard which may result in a coarse consistency.
- Leche flan is traditionally cooked in llaneras. If unavailable, you can use a round cake or bundt pan. Small ramekins or muffin tins will also work for individual servings.
How to serve and store
- Leche flan is traditionally enjoyed chilled. Serve as an after-meal dessert, a midday snack, or as topping for iced desserts such as halo-halo or mais con hielo.
- It should keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. Keep in the llanera covered in foil to extend freshness.
- To freeze, transfer in airtight container and keep in the freezer for up to 1 month. To serve, thaw overnight.
- 9 tablespoons sugar
- 12 egg yolks, from large eggs
- 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
- Place 3 tablespoons of sugar in each of the three llaneras.
- Set llanera on the stove over low heat and using tongs, move repeatedly over flames until sugar is melted and turns into a golden liquid.
- Continuously tilt and swirl the llanera to ensure even melting and to distribute the liquid on the bottom of the mold. Remo
- Remove from heat and allow caramel to cool and harden. Repeat the process with the remaining llanera.
- In a bowl, combine egg yolks and condensed milk. Whisk to combine.
- Add evaporated milk, gently stirring in a circular motion until blended.
- Using a cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve, strain egg-milk mixture to remove stray egg whites.
- Pour mixture into prepared llaneras and cover tighly with foil Arrange in a a wide, oven-safe dish with about 1-inch of water (bain marie or water bath)..
- Bake in a 375 F oven for about 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of custard comes out clean.
- Remove from oven, allow to cool, and refrigerate to chill and completely set. To serve, turn flan over on a serving plate, ending with caramel on top.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”