Leche Flan Recipe (Classic Filipino Style Crème Caramel)

Ultra rich and creamy custard baked in a steamy bath topped with a sweet caramel sauce–leche flan is a Filipino party favorite. This is a Filipino version of flan that is popular to serve during parties. 

Growing up, one of my favorite aunts was known for her homemade leche flan. We always waited for her to arrive at a party because we knew it would be baked to creamy perfection. This recipe is an ode to my Tita Belen for her rich and delicious leche flan.

Filipino leche flan

What is leche flan?

Leche flan was introduced to the Philippines during Spanish colonization and came by way of what’s known as creme caramel–a custard dessert with a clear caramel topping.

The name leche flan is translated into “milk custard,” and is often much richer than Spanish flan because it includes more egg yolks, condensed milk, and is steamed. Since there is an addition of milk, it’s texture is much more jiggly and pudding-like than French flan. 

It’s commonly eaten during parties and celebratory events in Filipino culture. These days you can find leche flan in many different flavors like coconut, ube, and even added with other desserts like chiffon cake, cheesecake or on top of halo halo

Leche flan molds–the llanera

Traditionally, leche flan made in the shape of an oval and is made in aluminum molds called llanera. I was lucky to find these molds at my local Seafood City. They’re lightweight and often recycled from old aluminum containers. 

If you can’t find a llanera, you can also use other types of pans or molds, for instance, a cake mold or mini tart molds. Note that the size of the mold will affect the baking time frame for each leche flan. Since we cook the leche flan in a water bath inside a larger pan, I would stick with a smaller sized mold so that it fits inside the water bath pan.

How to caramelize sugar for leche flan

pouring sugar into the leche flan molds

1. To make the caramel topping, first you add the sugar directly into the mold.

heating sugar over a flame

2. Slowly heat the mold over the stove over about medium heat until it turns into a golden syrup.

sugar starting to melt

3. The sugar will start to melt. Keep moving the mold around the heat, on a low enough heat setting so you can melt the sugar completely and brown it, but without burning it. concentrate the heat under areas where the sugar hasn’t melted, or where the sugar hasn’t darkened enough.

browned caramel in leche flan molds

4. Here’s how dark the caramel should look when finished. After cooling on the counter, this will act as a nice base for the leche flan and give it an extra sweet topping when cooked. 

Egg yolks, condensed and evaporated milk

egg yolks, milk, and condensed milk

Many recipes for leche flan, like this one, uses only egg yolks omitting the egg whites, which gives the custard a very rich texture. The condensed milk and evaporated milk combo gives the leche flan a fattier and sweet flavor compared to regular cow’s milk. 

To get an even smoother finish, I like to strain the mixture using a metal seive before pouring them into molds to remove lumps from the egg yolks.

The water bath / bain marie

pouring boiling water in for the water bath

Baking the leche flan in a water bath, or “bain marie” in French, is necessary to get a creamy texture. It’s basically a heated bath to cook your dish, but historically it comes from an early alchemist named Mary from the 1st century, who made an early heated bath invention. 

It’s also similar baking method to cheesecake or other custards that have ingredients with egg yolks or other forms of custard. Having water around the custard molds or ramekins allows for uniform and even cooking through the baking process. 

To make a water bath, wrap the llanera with foil to prevent water from coming into the molds and place the llanera into the larger pan, then fill it with hot water. The hot water inside the oven keeps a more stable level of moisture in the air and heat for the custard. This prevents the leche flan from becoming rubbery in texture and overcooking too fast. 

Cooking tips

  1. If you don’t want to make the caramel in the llaneras (or you are using a different mold), you can heat up the sugar in a saucepan over the stove and pour them into your containers to cool. 
  2. Strain the leche flan batter before pouring into the molds to get a smooth custard. 
  3. The size of the llanera I used was a medium sized (as described by Seafood City) and measures 5 ¾ inches by 3 ¾ inches. I filled the molds about 70% of the way up on each mold. If you use larger or smaller sized molds or adjust the amount of batter inside each mold, these changes will affect the timing for baking the leche flan. 
  4. Bake the leche flan in a water bath in the oven. Baking in a water bath allows more moisture inside the oven while it’s cooking and gives you a creamier custard without the edges drying out and overcooking. 
  5. Allow the leche flan to set before serving. Cool the leche flan on the counter, then fridge for at least an hour. Removing the leche flan from the mold before it finishes setting could give you a crumbly dessert. It’s best to let it set in the fridge and get firm before serving. 

Serving

sweet leche flan on a black plate

To serve the leche flan, remove it from the mold from the fridge and use a sharp knife to trace alongside the edge of the llanera to release the custard. Take your serving plate and turn it upside down and on top of the mold. Quickly turn the plate and mold upside down and carefully tap the mold to release the leche flan. 

Serve the leche flan immediately. I like it best with a cup of hot milk tea or Vietnamese coconut coffee

What is leche flan in English?

Leche flan translates to “milk custard” in English. 

What will happen if leche flan is overcooked?

If leche flan is overcooked, the texture turns very rubbery and it begins to harden. To prevent overcooking, bake the leche flan in a water bath to add moisture into the oven and slow down the baking process. 

What is the difference between Mexican flan and Filipino flan?

Mexican flan is sometimes known as flan Napolitino that often includes cream cheese as an ingredient, whereas leche flan adds egg yolks, condensed milk, and evaporated milk.

Filipino leche flan pinterest image
Filipino leche flan

Classic Filipino Leche Flan (Smooth & rich custard w/ caramel topping)

5 from 1 vote
Rich and creamy custard baked to smooth perfect and topped with a sweet caramel sauce–this leche flan recipe is great for your next celebratory party or a special dessert for dinner.
BY: MG Sanchez
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Cooling: 1 hr 30 mins
Total: 2 hrs 5 mins
SERVINGS: 2 medium flan

Ingredients

  • 50 g (4 tbsp) granulated white sugar
  • 100 g (6 ) egg yolks
  • 126.6 g (6 tbsp) sweetened condensed milk
  • 176 g (¾ c) evaporated milk
  • 4 g (1 tsp) vanilla extract
  • water for water bath

Equipment Used

Instructions 

Caramelizing the sugar

  • Distribute the sugar evenly between two medium sized llanera molds.
    pouring sugar into the leche flan molds
  • Use tongs to hold the llanera molds over the stove on medium-low heat and melt the sugar.
    heating sugar over a flame
  • Move the llanera around and swirl the caramel as the sugar melts to prevent it from burning. DO NOT place the mold directly on top of the stove because it will burn very quickly.
    sugar starting to melt
  • The finished caramel should look golden brown and the sugar should be completely dissolved. Put the mold on the counter to cool for 5 minutes. Repeat with the other mold.
    browned caramel in leche flan molds

Making the leche flan

  • Preheat the oven to 375 °F, measure out the remaining ingredients.
    egg yolks, milk, and condensed milk
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, condensed milk, evaporated milk, and vanilla with a whisk.
    whisking leche flan ingredients
  • Pour the liquid over a fine mesh strainer into another bowl to remove lumps.
    straining mixture in metal sieve
  • Wrap the bottom of each of the leche flan molds with foil to prevent any accidental water seepage from the water bath into the molds.
    flan molds wrapped in aluminum foil
  • Pour the mixture into the two llanera molds and distribute evenly.
    pouring flan ingredients into molds
  • Place the llanera molds into a larger sheet pan with high sides. Fill the sheet pan with water and leave about 20% of space from the top of the llanera mold. Be careful not to splash water into the llanera molds.
    pouring boiling water in for the water bath
  • Carefully place the pan into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
    putting the leche flan and water bath into the oven
  • Check the firmness of the leche flan, if it’s firm and not jiggly you can remove it from the oven. If it’s slightly still jiggly when you touch the top, continue to bake for 2-5 more minutes. Finished leche flan should have a golden yellow color on the top.
  • Place the leche flan to cool on the counter for 30 minutes, then move it to the fridge to continue to set for one hour.
  • Use a sharp knife to run along the sides of the llanera mold, add a serving plate on top, and carefully and swiftly turn the llanera mold and plate upside down. Tap the bottom to release the leche flan from the mold. Serve either warm, or cold after refrigerating.
    Filipino leche flan

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 292.75kcal | Carbohydrates: 35.16g | Protein: 9.46g | Fat: 12.71g | Saturated Fat: 6.14g | Cholesterol: 294.77mg | Sodium: 99.05mg | Potassium: 277.99mg | Sugar: 34.38g | Vitamin A: 550.16IU | Vitamin C: 1.66mg | Calcium: 236.98mg | Iron: 0.82mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Filipino
Keyword: creme caramel, custard pie, flan
Did you cook this recipe?Tag @HungryHuy or #hungryhuy–I’d love to see it!

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