Flan Recipe

This Flan recipe has a sweet and creamy custard center with a golden crown of caramel that pours over the cake as you slide off the mold. This is a make-ahead dessert (it requires some chilling in the refrigerator), which makes it perfect for parties and holidays like Cinco de Mayo! 

We love Mexican-inspired desserts such as Churros and Tres Leches Cake. If you are a fan of Latin desserts, this Flan recipe doesn’t disappoint. 

Flan dessert served on a cake platter with berries

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My first introduction to Flan was at a Mexican restaurant years ago and I’ll admit I didn’t love it the first time I tried it. It was more gelatinous than creamy but this recipe you’ll make over and over. It’s sort of a cross between a Cheesecake, jello, and a Creme Brûlée, but Flan is unique and special in flavor and texture, plus it’s fairly easy to make. Follow the step-by-step instructions and you will be a pro in no time! 

What is Flan?

Flan is a popular Spanish dessert and different regions make different versions. It is essentially a custard dessert made by combining eggs, milk, sugar (or condensed milk), and vanilla and it is baked in a water bath similar to the way a Cheesecake is baked. 

There are so many varieties of flan out there. Some use sweetened condensed milk, others sweeten with sugar. Some use evaporated milk or plain milk and sometimes you’ll even see cream cheese in the mix. This (bit more indulgent) version uses heavy cream in the mix and it’s irresistibly good. I learned how to make this from Epicurious and Cooks Illustrated.

Slice of flan on a plate with fork drizzled with caramel sauce


Since Flan is made with a short list of ingredients, it is key to make sure you have good quality ingredients and for it to set properly, avoid substitutions. Here is what you will need (see the full print-friendly ingredient list below)

  • Condensed milk – adds sweetness to the flan. For a more authentic dessert, we recommend using La Lechera brand.
  • Evaporated milk – adds richness to the custard.
  • Heavy whipping cream – creates a creamy and indulgent custard base.
  • Vanilla extract – use a generous amount to add layers of vanilla flavor. We used our homemade Vanilla extract. Use a high-quality Mexican vanilla for a more authentic flan recipe. 
  • Eggs – allow the custard to thicken and set properly. 
  • Salt – balances the sweetness and rounds out all of the flavors. 
Ingredients with eggs, milk, cream, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla

How to Make Flan

  1. Prep – Because the caramel sets quickly, you want to have a 9″ x 2″ round cake pan out and ready for use. Also, preheat the oven to 350˚F and bring a kettle of water to boil.
  2. Make the Caramel In a saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. As soon as it starts to change color, start swirling the pan. Once it’s cinnamon in color, take it off the heat and swirl it for another 30 seconds.
  3. Pour melted sugar into your cake pan and immediately tilt the pan to coat the bottom.
  4. Make the Custard – Combine the custard ingredients in a blender and blend on low speed for 1 minute. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth (to reduce the bubble) and pour over your caramel layer.
  5. Cover the cake pan with foil and set the pan inside of a large roasting pan then set the roasting pan in your oven. Pour hot water into the roasting pan, about halfway up the sides of the cake pan.
  6. Bake at 350 for 70-80 minutes or until there is just a slight jiggle in the center. Remove from oven, transfer to a rack, and cool to room temperature then cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  7. To Serve – Run a knife around the edges of the cake pan. Set the cake on a rimmed platter and invert the cake onto the platter. Tap the cake pan until you feel it dislodging then lift the cake pan off the cake.
step by step how to make caramel sauce for flan

Important Safety Tip: Be careful not to get any melted sugar on your skin to avoid burns, do not put your finger in it to taste it, and NEVER lick the spatula.

How to bake a flan dessert in a water bath step by step photos


Flan is prepared differently in various regions. Here are some delicious flan variations and topping ideas:

  • Cinnamon – add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the cream mixture and blend it into the mixture. 
  • Mangos – top the flan with sliced mangos as we did in our Mango Cake. Mangos are a popular variation in the Philippines. 
  • Berries – since this dessert a built-in topping (the caramel sauce), all it really needs are some berries for garnish. I love how tangy berries cut the sweetness of flan. Try raspberries, strawberries or mixed berries. 

Common Questions

What is the difference between Mexican Flan and Spanish Flan?

Mexican flan is traditionally made with eggs, milk, cream, and sugar. Spanish flan uses cream cheese instead of cream.

Can I make this in individual ramekins?

You can serve flan in individual portions, however, it can be challenging to quickly and evenly portion and swirl the hot sugar syrup into the bottom of many ramekins before they harden. If you have a helper it may be more attainable to have them swirl as soon as the syrup is in. Please be careful to avoid burns – that sugar syrup is HOT! Because of the sugar syrup, we find it is easier to make flan in a single cake pan and cut slices. You could make this in 6, 8-oz ramekins and bake for about 40-45 minutes. 

Can I use a springform mold to make flan?

I don’t recommend a springform mold for making this flan for several reasons. You run the risk of getting water in the pan and this is a loose batter that may leak. There is real potential for creating a big mess and ruining your dessert. 

Flan dessert with slice cut away

How do I prevent my flan from cracking? 

There are several ways to prevent cracks in flan. Here are our best tips for beautiful results every time:

  • Water bath – cooking in a water bath as directed allows for even heat distribution. 
  • Don’t over-bake – Overcooked flan can turn rubbery and will be more likely to crack. Remove it from the oven when it still has a slight jiggle in the center. 
  • Cool slowly – Gently transfer to a wire rack and cool completely to room temperature before refrigerating. 
  • Chill completely – Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight for the custard to fully set. 
  • Loosen the edges – run a knife around the edges before unmolding the flan. This will reduce tension as it slides out of the pan. 

Tips for the Best Flan

  • Use a heavy saucepan for even heat distribution so your sugar doesn’t burn. 
  • Don’t walk away from your caramel sauce. Once it starts changing color, it can quickly burn. 
  • Swirl the caramel sauce and do not stir, otherwise, crystals can form on your spatula and in your sauce. 


You will love that Flan is a make-ahead dessert. It’s so convenient for gatherings and entertaining.

  • Refrigerate leftover flan for up to 4 days. 
  • Freezing – we do not recommend freezing flan as the consistency and smooth texture can change. 
Slice of flan on a plate with forkfull

I hope this Flan Recipe becomes a go-to dessert for your Cinco de Mayo celebrations or whenever the craving strikes.

More Mexican Recipes

If you love this Flan recipe, then you won’t want to miss these Mexican-inspired recipes. You are sure to find many new favorites here:

Flan Recipe

0 from 0 votes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Cooling Time: 6 hours

Total Time: 8 hours

Flan sliced on a cake platter

Flan is a creamy, caramel-topped Spanish and Latin dessert. Eggs, condensed milk, evaporated milk, cream, and vanilla form a smooth custard.

Author: Natasha Kravchuk

Course: Dessert

Cuisine: Latin American, Mexican

Keyword: Flan, Flan recipe, How to make Flan

Skill Level: Medium

Cost to Make: $10-$12

Calories: 341

Servings: 12 people

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 14 oz can condensed milk, preferably la lechera
  • 12 oz can evaporated milk, preferably Carnation brand
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract, preferably Mexican Vanilla Extract
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • Berries to serve, strawberries, raspberries or blueberries, Optional for garnish

  1. Prep – Preheat the oven to 350˚F with a rack in the middle of the oven and bring a kettle of water to boil which you will need for the water bath. Take out a 9-inch by 2-inch round, non-stick cake pan so it’s ready to transfer melted sugar.

  2. Make the Caramel – In a medium heavy saucepan, stir together sugar and water until dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer without stirring, about 3-5 minutes. Once you see it start to turn golden then start swirling the pan frequently over the heat until it’s the color of cinnamon, about 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat and continue swirling constantly for another 30 seconds as it turns amber-colored.

  3. Pour melted sugar it into your round cake pan. Immediately tilt your baking dish to spread the caramel over the bottom of the pan before it sets (be careful, that bottom of the pan will turn hot!). Set the pan aside and prepare the custard.

  4. Make the Custard – In a blender, add condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, vanilla, and eggs. Blend for 1 minute on low speed (to avoid too much foam/bubbles). Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth (cheesecloth is optional but helps break up the bubbles and foam.

  5. Cover the cake pan with a sheet of foil, making sure the foil isn’t touching the top of the custard (you don’t want to bake your foil into your flan).

  6. Make the Water Bath – Set the cake pan inside of a large roasting pan then set the roasting pan in your oven (it’s hard to carry the roasting pan after the water is in there). Pour hot water into the roasting pan, at least halfway up the sides of the cake pan, making sure it doesn’t reach the top of your baking pan or get inside your cake pan.

  7. Bake at 350 for 70-80 minutes. When you jolt the pan, you should see a stiff jiggle in the center. If it seems too liquid/wobbly, bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven then cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight to fully set the custard.

  8. To Serve – Run a knife around the edges of the pan (clean your knife periodically). Set a rimmed platter over the cake pan and holding the top and bottom with both hands, invert the cake onto the platter. If the cake doesn’t slide out easily, tap the cake pan until you feel it dislodging then lift the cake pan gently off the cake. Garnish with berries if desired and serve spooning extra caramel sauce over each slice.

Nutrition Facts

Flan Recipe

Amount Per Serving

Calories 341 Calories from Fat 171

% Daily Value*

Fat 19g29%

Saturated Fat 12g75%

Trans Fat 0.01g

Polyunsaturated Fat 1g

Monounsaturated Fat 5g

Cholesterol 127mg42%

Sodium 156mg7%

Potassium 270mg8%

Carbohydrates 35g12%

Sugar 35g39%

Protein 8g16%

Vitamin A 765IU15%

Vitamin C 2mg2%

Calcium 202mg20%

Iron 0.5mg3%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.