Easy Vietnamese Creme Caramel Flan

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Vietnamese crème caramel flan, or bahn flan, was one of my favorite desserts as a kid and still is to this day. It’s beautiful in its simplicity – creamy milk custard with a bitter-sweet caramel sauce. A perfect treat for sweet tooths of all ages!

Bahn flan is a Vietnamese take on crème caramel flan that was introduced by the French during the colonial period. Flan is typically made with a combination of eggs, sugar, and milk, with a delectable caramel sauce on top. 

But what makes Vietnamese crème caramel flan different from other types of flan?

Vietnamese crème caramel flan uses condensed milk along with regular milk, and the flan is steamed instead of baked. Additionally, the caramel is browned past the typical caramelization point. This gives the flan a darker and more bitter burnt caramel that pairs fantastically with the sweet custard.

Why You’ll Love This Bahn Flan Recipe

Vietnamese creme caramel flan is a decadent and delicious dessert that is perfect for any occasion. The combination of the silky and creamy texture with the rich caramel sauce makes this dessert irresistible. 

This bahn flan recipe is also easy to make and requires only a few ingredients, making it a great option for a quick and impressive dessert. Just make sure you follow the steps closely as flans can easily go awry.

I love the classic flan with a touch of vanilla. But you can customize this recipe to make variations like coconut bahn flan or coconut coffee bahn flan. I’ll show you how in the Variations and Substitutions section.

What Do I Need For This Crème Caramel Flan Recipe?

This bahn flan recipe requires just a few ingredients that you probably have in your pantry already.

For the caramel:

  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

For the flan:

  • 3 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 6 oz. condensed milk
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

How To Make Crème Caramel Flan

Step 1: Prepare the molds with caramel

  • Butter the edges (not the bottoms) of six 4-ounce ramekins. In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar and water over medium heat. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved.

Step 2: Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.

  • Let it boil, without stirring, for 10-12 minutes, until the mixture turns a dark amber color. 

Step 3: Now, add the lemon juice, and tilt the pan to combine.

  • Then, remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully pour the caramel into the prepared molds, swirling it around to coat the bottom of the ramekins. Set aside to cool.

Step 4: Make the custard

  • In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, sugar, and condensed milk on low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and make sure it’s not too hot. Lukewarm temperature is good.

Step 5: In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks together.

  • Add the milk mixture and vanilla extract to the eggs and whisk until well combined.
  • Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the prepared ramekins.

Step 6: Poke any bubbles with a toothpick or spoon.

  • Cover the ramekins or pan with aluminum foil and poke holes in the top to allow steam to evaporate.

Step 7: Set up the pot with a kitchen towel for heat adjustment

  • Prepare a large pot. Put a kitchen towel on the bottom of the pot (helps adjust the heat). Place the ramekins in the pot and add enough hot water to the pot to come at least halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Step 8: Steam the Custard and Test for Doneness

  • Put the lid on the pot and steam on low heat for 25-30 minutes, until the custard is set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly moist but not wet and there’s no liquid running out from the hole. 
  • Remove the pot from the heat, remove the aluminum foil, and let them cool in the water for 10-15 minutes. Then, take them out of the water and let them cool to room temperature.

Step 9: Cover Ramekins with Plastic Wrap

  • Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or ideally overnight before serving. To serve, prepare a medium bowl with hot water.

Step 10: Place the flan in the bowl for 10-15 seconds, then run a knife around the edge of the ramekin to loosen the custard. 

  • Invert the ramekin onto a serving plate and tap the bottom to release the custard. The caramel sauce will gorgeously run down the sides of the flan. 

Step 11: Enjoy as is or with a cup of coffee and whipped cream!

Notes & Tips

  • Be careful when making the caramel, as it can burn very quickly. Don’t take your eyes off it and you’ll do great.
  • Adding lemon juice to the caramel helps avoid crystallization so that the caramel unsticks from the molds and turns into a luscious sauce when you flip the flan. 
  • Straining the custard mixture will help ensure a smooth and creamy texture. You can do this in a clean bowl or directly into the ramekins to save cleanup.
  • Buttering the edges of the ramekins helps the flan slide onto the serving plate later on. Don’t butter the bottom of the molds since this can affect the texture of the caramel sauce. 
  • When steaming the flans, set the heat on low, otherwise, the texture of the flan won’t be silky smooth. The water temperature should be just below its boiling point, NOT boiling.
  • To prevent condensation from the lid dripping on the custards, cover the ramekins tightly with foil while steaming.
  • Steaming time will vary depending on the size of your molds and the heat. Just be careful to not steam the flan too long. If you overcook the flan, it’ll become firmer and lose its smooth and delicate texture.
  • The flan is done when a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out slightly moist but not wet and there’s no liquid running out from the hole. The flan should also jiggle in the center when you gently shake the pot.
  • You can use an 8-inch cake pan instead of individual ramekins to make one large bahn flan. Adjust the steaming time accordingly (it should take approximately 1 hour).
  • Let the custard chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight. This will help it set and achieve a smooth texture. 

Variations & Substitutions

Instead of vanilla extract, try other flavorings, such as almond extract, lemon zest, or cinnamon. 

You can also replace some of the milk with coffee or canned coconut milk. Or do a mix of both and make coconut milk coffee bahn flan!

For a richer flavor, you can use heavy cream instead of whole milk. Or coconut cream, of course. 

Add pieces of fruit or dried fruit to the custard mixture. Some raisins soaked in rum are a pleasant surprise. Canned pineapple or peaches are also a nice touch.

Get inspired by all the different flan variations from around the world. In Puerto Rico, they make flan with sesame milk, and in Mexico, there’s a version with goat’s milk!

Serve the creme caramel flan in a shallow bowl with a cup of black coffee poured over it for an extra kick. Or simply have coffee on the side.

Can I Make Flan In The Oven?

Yes, you can make flan in the oven. Using a bain-marie and an oven is how flan is made in the Western world. 

To make bahn flan in the oven, follow the same recipe up until you’ve got the uncooked custards in ramekins, covered in aluminum foil with poked holes. But first, preheat your oven to 350°F.

Then, prepare a deep baking tray with a clean towel, and place the ramekins in the baking tray. Pour warm water into the tray halfway up the molds. 

Bake for 30-40 minutes. Then follow the same procedure to cool and chill the flans. 

Why Does My Flan Have Bubbles?

Steaming or baking the flan over high heat can cause the custard to boil and form pesky bubbles on the sides (which are okay if you’re making Venezuelan flan quesillo). Make sure the water is not boiling and steam the flans on low heat.

If you have an induction stove and the water starts boiling, you may need to remove the flan from the heat for a bit. Allow the stove’s temperature to decrease and then put your flans back on low heat.

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