Smooth and creamy, this leche flan is the perfect dessert if you feel like being fancy without the extra effort. One of the most popular desserts in the Philippines, the leche flan only really needs a few ingredients. For a slight boost of flavor, I added a bit of lemon zest. If you’re too intimidated to make a custard-based traditional flan, this Filipino version is a great alternative!
Leche flan is a Filipino dessert very much similar to crème caramel. The main difference between the Filipino version of flan and a traditional crème caramel is the eggs. Crème caramel usually uses whole eggs, while leche flan primarily uses egg yolks–and lots of it. In addition to the eggs, there’s also usually a difference in the type of dairy used. And in terms of the method of cooking, most are usually steamed, but some are baked.
As I mentioned, Filipino leche flan is usually made with lots of egg yolks–about 10-12 egg yolks for the same servings in this recipe. I’ve honestly made this multiple times because I was very bullish about making a leche flan recipe that doesn’t use so much egg yolks, but still have that same indulgence that I’m used to tasting with the leche flan I grew up eating. I finally got the recipe nailed down with only 6 egg yolks but also adding in one whole egg. By mixing egg yolks with a bit of whole egg, you still get that richness, but somehow light at the same time.
For the dairy used, leche flan is usually made with both evaporated milk and condensed milk. This eliminates the need for extra sugar aside from the caramel top. This combination of milk provides that extra oomph of flavor in comparison to using regular milk or heavy cream. Most of the water content are removed in both condensed and evaporated milk, so there’s a nutty, caramel-like undertone in their flavors that work really well in flan.
The flavor enhancers
Using vanilla extract always enhances all flavors in desserts. While regular vanilla extract works just fine, you can use vanilla bean paste instead if you want to be a little extra. You can also slightly flavor your leche flan with other things. For this recipe, I opted for a bit of lemon zest. I didn’t necessarily want it to taste like lemon, but I added just enough zest to make the flavor really interesting. Feeling tropical? Try adding 1-2tbsp of passionfruit concentrate! You might just need to adjust your bake time by another minute or two.
Tools you’ll need
- 6 egg yolks + 1 whole egg
- 14 oz evaporated milk (usually 1 can)
- 12 oz condensed milk (usually 1 can)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp water
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- In a small saucepan, make your caramel by heating up the sugar with 2 tbsp of water. Just let it heat up and get to golden brown color without stirring it. You have a very small window between when it's golden enough and when it cools down enough to solidify. As soon as you have your golden brown color, pour the caramel quickly, but carefully, into your baking dish*. Swirl it around so that it fully covers the bottom of the dish.
- Boil about 3-4 cups of water in a small pot. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and whole egg without lifting the whisk from the bottom of the bowl. You're not introducing air, just breaking up the eggs and making it homogenous.
- Next, whisk in your condensed milk. Since condensed milk is a little thicker, make sure it's fully incorporated with the eggs. Then, add the evaporated milk and vanilla extract and mix altogether.
- Using a fine mesh sieve, pour the flan mixture into another bowl. This is to filter out any leftover egg whites, and to minimize the air bubbles that may come from the whisking. Pour the mixture through the sieve two more times.
- Then, add the lemon zest and stir it in the mixture. Carefully pour the flan mixture into your baking dish.
- Making a bain-marie or water bath, pour the boiled water into a larger oven-safe baking sheet or baking dish (big enough for your flan dish to fit inside). If you have cooling rack to put in there for your flan dish to sit on, even better, but this is optional. Then place your leche flan dish in the center of the water bath.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes. The flan should still have a bit of a jiggle, but not too much.
- After it bakes, take the flan dish off of the bain-marie. Let it cool on the counter for an hour before chilling. Then, let it chill for at least 3 hours in the fridge. Overnight would be preferable, but if you're impatient, 3 hours of chilling should suffice.
- Before serving, run a knife around the flan to loosen it from the sides of the baking dish. Put your serving plate on top of the baking dish. Then, carefully flip the baking dish into your serving plate. Once you're confident that the flan has successfully been removed from the baking dish onto your plate, lift up your baking dish. The caramel should cover the top of the flan and pour on the sides as well. Enjoy!!!
*I used a 6 x 8 x 2 Pyrex baking dish, but you can also use a dish with different dimensions as long as you see about 1.5 inches height of flan once poured in. If you have less than that, you may have to bake for less time. In the same vein, if you have more than that, then you may have to bake it for longer.