If you don’t know about flan, you are seriously missing out on a luscious dessert that will make your end-of-the-meal experience that much better.
Flan is sweet and soft. It’s jiggly and tender. Plus, it’s a really impressive recipe to bust out for any occasion, whether it’s a weeknight or a dinner party.
With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner, it’s time to board the flan train.
I do have to admit that this recipe takes a little bit of babysitting when you make it. While it’s not difficult to make, this isn’t a dessert that you can simply leave on the stove to come together on its own before baking it.
My biggest point of advice is to simply be patient, and take your time with it. Let yourself get caught up in the process of cooking, and you’ll end up with an impressive and delicious dessert.
Just so you can go into this recipe feeling as confident as can be, I have some tips that will help you make it perfectly every single time:
- Be sure to keep an eye on the caramel so that it doesn’t get too brown. It should be nice and golden brown, but not too dark. Also, make sure that you work quickly with the caramel so that it coats the bottoms of the ramekins before it cools.
- Before you start working on this recipe, measure out all of the ingredients and have them set out in the order listed. Though the recipe takes a little time to pull together, it goes quickly, so you don’t want to be measuring ingredients as you go along.
- Take your time to temper the eggs. The step of adding the warm coconut milk to the beaten eggs in small amounts helps to avoid cooking them prematurely. Scrambled egg in your dessert is not what we are going for here.
- Use that strainer when you are finishing the custard. This final step before baking the flan is really helpful to make sure that you don’t get any unwanted chunks that will change the texture.
Flan is essentially a baked custard, and with this variation, your main milk component comes from coconuts. The coconut milk gives you a silky smooth texture, and it also adds a sultry flavor.
The water bath is essential so that the dessert bakes slowly and gently. This helps with the overall texture.
When the custard is done, you flip it out, and voila! It’s a jiggly masterpiece that melts in your mouth like magic, topped with sweet caramel sauce.
I love to serve this flan with a cup of coffee on the side because the sweet coconut flavor matches up so well with the bitter notes of the hot beverage.
You can serve this flan to just about anyone who comes over, because there’s no dairy in it. The coconut milk makes it dairy-free, while also adding a ton of flavor.
It’s the best way to celebrate the upcoming holiday, or to cool off with a sweet treat at the end of any spring or summer meal.Print
For a sweet treat at the end of your festive Cinco de Mayo meal, make this flavorful and rich coconut milk Mexican flan.
- 1 1/2 cups coconut sugar or granulated sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 13.5-ounce cans full-fat coconut milk
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tsp lemon zest
- 6 eggs, room temperature
- Heat oven to 325˚F.
- Bring 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Use a wet pastry brush to wipe off any sugar that sticks to the side of the pan.
- Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup turns golden brown, about 10 minutes. Evenly divide the caramel between 6 4-inch ramekins. Set aside to cool.
- In a medium pot over low heat, warm the coconut milk until it reaches a low simmer. Stir in remaining sugar, cinnamon, salt, vanilla and lemon zest. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and reduces by 1/3. This will take about 20-30 minutes.
- While the milk mixture cooks, whisk eggs together until lightly beaten in a medium bowl.
- Slowly add 1/4 cup of the milk mixture to the beaten eggs, whisking constantly to combine. Add another 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture, and whisk again to combine. Repeat this adding process another two times.
- Add egg mixture back to the warm milk mixture in the saucepan, pouring slowly while whisking constantly until combined. Cook over medium heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Divide the custard evenly between the ramekins and place them in a large baking dish. Fill the dish with hot water so it comes 2/3 of the way up the sides of the ramekins.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, until set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The centers might still be a little jiggly.
- Remove ramekins from the baking dish, cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or over night.
- To serve, run a knife around the edge and invert onto a plate.
Inspired by a recipe from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Jan Aaron and Georgine Sachs Salom.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Category: Flan
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Dessert
Keywords: flan, coconut, coconut milk, dairy-free, Mexican, coconut flan
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Zest Lemon and Measure Remaining Ingredients
Zest one large lemon to get 2 teaspoons of lemon zest.
Measure out all remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.
Preheat oven to 325˚F.
Step 2 – Make Syrup
Combine 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly, and continue to stir just until the sugar dissolves.
Use a wet pastry brush to wipe off any sugar that sticks to the side of the pan as the syrup comes together.
Once sugar is dissolved, stop stirring. Continue to cook at same temperature until syrup turns golden brown, about 10 minutes. Divide between the ramekins and set aside to cool.
Step 3 – Make Custard Base
Bring the coconut milk to a simmer In a medium pot over low heat, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the rest of the sugar along with the cinnamon, salt, vanilla extract, and lemon zest.
Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture reduces by a third. This will take about 20-30 minutes.
Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Looking for the best whisk to do the job right? Check out our review!
Ladle 1/4 cup of the hot coconut milk mixture slowly into the eggs while whisking constantly, to temper the mixture and avoid making lumpy scrambled eggs. Whisk constantly until combined.
Add another 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly again until combined. Repeat this process two more times.
Add the egg mixture back to the hot coconut milk mixture in the saucepan. Pour it in slowly while whisking and continue to stir until combined.
Cook the mixture over medium heat until it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and strain to remove any pieces that may have formed through a fine mesh strainer.
Step 4 – Bake
Divide the custard between 6 4-inch ramekins and place them side by side in a large baking dish. Fill the dish with hot tap water so the water is about 2/3 of the way up the sides of the ramekins. I used about 3 1/2 cups.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. If the custards are still a little jiggly in the center at this point, that’s totally fine!
Step 5 – Chill
Carefully remove the ramekins from the baking dish and allow them to cool to room temperature on a wire cooling rack. Transfer to a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
When you’re ready to serve, run a knife around the edge of each one and invert it onto a plate.
Dessert’s Covered, But What’s for Dinner?
When it comes to Cinco de Mayo, the options are endless. That is why this particular flan recipe is ideal. It is the best cool and creamy end to any meal you can think of, at any time of year really.
Personally, I love bringing it out at the end of a decadent meal at a dinner party. Some great ideas for main dishes to serve before the dairy-free finale are Carne Asada, Slow Cooker Pollo Verde Chili, Slow-Cooked Black Beans and Poblano Pepper Baked Taquitos, or Mexican Lasagna.
Everyone will be so wowed by your meal!
Do you need more inspiration for custard-based pudding-style desserts like flan? You’ll love every single one of these recipes:
- The Creamiest Creme Brulee
- Kabocha Squash Custard
- Chocolate Panna Cotta with Oranges and Pistachios
- Brown Butter Custard Cranberry Hazelnut Tart
- Vanilla Panna Cotta with Figs and Honey
What will you serve to lead up to this this flan as your main course? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it!
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on December 11, 2012. Last updated: June 15, 2022 at 12:37 pm.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Meghan Yager
Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.