Food You Can Eat: Flan

it's pronounced "flahn", not "flaaaaaaaaaaaaaan."

Look up "perfection" in the dictionary and you'll see this picture.

First things first:  I haven’t had flan in over 20 years—and I’d never made it before—so I decided to give it a go.  You’re welcome.

A caveat before we get started:  I’m going to state right here that it tasted differently than what I remember.  Now, that could be because my recipe was not what I was used to eating, or it could have been all of the brain cells I torched in my youth which then distorted my memory.  Flan isn’t New Mexican cuisine, per se—it’s traditionally Spanish—so it’s certainly possible that the times I had it in the past had a particular NM twist.  Either way, just keep in mind that this recipe tastes like a standard custard.

Here’s what you’ll need:

¼ Cup Granulated Sugar

2 Cups Whole Milk or Goat Milk

14-Oz. Can Sweetened Condensed Milk

3 Large Eggs, beaten

4 Large Egg Yolks, beaten

1 ½ tsp. Vanilla

6-8 Ramekins, 1 Cup capacity

Melt sugar over low heat in a small saucepan.  Do not stir unless the sugar melts unevenly—even then, a little tilting of the pan should fix it.  Avoid putting a spoon in there because it will stick like crazy.  Heat until it turns a medium brown caramel color.

Remember kids: real caramel is just melted sugar.

Immediately remove the pan from the heat and spoon roughly 1 tablespoon of syrup into each of the ramekins.  The syrup will harden immediately but don’t worry if it isn’t even across the bottom.  That will correct itself when baking.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and whisk until well blended and a little frothy.  Heat the custard over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is just warm throughout—do not allow it to come to a boil.  Pour the custard evenly across the ramekins.

Use a ladle. Don’t get cute and think you can pour it directly from the pan.

Set the ramekins in a large baking pan and fill the pan with water to about a 1-inch depth.  Bake in a 300-degree oven for somewhere between 70-90 minutes, or until the flan is barely firm.  Remove the pan from the oven and allow the flan to cool for 20 minutes while still resting in the water bath.  After the 20 minutes have passed, remove the ramekins from the pan and discard the water. 

That color is just right.

Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours.

To serve, run a knife between the edge of each flan and the ramekin.  Invert onto a dessert plate.  Some patience will be needed to allow air to flow into the gap on the sides and for gravity to get the flan to foop onto the dish.  The caramel will run down the sides of the flan.  Serve immediately.

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When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.


  1. I’ve tried to make flan a couple of times and both attempts were colossal failures. I’m still not really sure why, I’ve made custard and aioli by the gallon, and crème brulée, so I know how eggs and milk products work. I think I’m going to get back on that horse and try to make this.

    I wonder if there really is a difference between NM flan and then Mexican flan and then Spanish flan and then the French crème caramel. I wouldn’t doubt it, there must be. Even if it’s only the taste that comes from the locally available eggs and milk/cream.

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