Foolproof Vanilla Flan

This Easy Flan Recipe will be a favorite.

Vanilla flan can be one of those desserts that seem very complicated to make. That is because it requires a few baking steps that can seem daunting to the inexperienced cook. However, once its simplified, I swear it is actually one of the easiest to make. The hardest part about it, is to wait for it to cool down before you eat it! That is a promise!

This vanilla flan recipe starts with a caramel base made out of nothing but sugar. Timing it is key here. Let’s not get crazy about temperatures, and instead stick to just getting the feel for it. This recipe and my guidance will have you doing it perfectly in no time.

When it comes to timing it well, your sense of smell is what’s going to guide you best. Your eyes second. This caramel cooks quickly and it will make you regret turning your back on it, so stay on point, don’t leave it’s side, and it will thank you. 

The custard in this flan is like silk. It’s smooth and thick, but it’s not “eggy”. It is crazy creamy. The sweetness in this dessert is not for the faint of heart. It is definitely rich and sinful but you will find yourself wanting more and more. It’s truly to die for. 

full size vanilla flan

This dessert is cooked in a water bath. This helps it cook evenly and slowly. Cooking something in a water bath sounds intimidating or complicated to some, but trust me, it’s not. The only thing to keep in mind is to be careful handling the hot hot water and hot hot caramel! Other than that it’s easy as pie! I mean easy as flan! Ha! 

Instructions for this Flan Recipe in detail:

Before starting to cook the caramel, first pick the size of the cake pan to use.

The size of your cake pan will determine the thickness of the flan, the thickness will determine the cooking time.

For a thicker flan, choose an 8′ cake pan and bake for 1:15 minutes. For a larger pan cook for less time, but no less than 1 hour.

ingredients needed for the foolproof vanilla flan

Here is how to make the caramel:

Start by melting one cup of sugar in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Do not use high heat because this caramel goes from perfect to burnt in 2 seconds.

sugar pour close up

The sugar will slowly melt on the bottom the pan. Lift the pot from the heat and help the sugar that has already melted to coat the sugar that is still not melted. If needed, use a spatula or a wooden spoon to help incorporate the sugar into the melted sugar.

sugar starting to melt

Tip! Use a swirling motion to help incorporate the sugar so it melts evenly. Swirling the pan will also help the temperature stay leveled instead of rising rapidly.

As the sugar is almost all melted, you will start smelling the caramel. Recognize the smell of this melted sugar as it is an indication of how dark you want your caramel to get. As the caramel darkens, the smell changes.

sugar halfway melted

At this point, every second counts. As you remove the pan from the heat and swirl it, notice the smell and notice the color of the caramel. Place back on the heat, give it a few seconds to keep on cooking, then remove again and swirl. Repeat this as much as you need to until you reach the color of the caramel you want.

sugar melted almost completely

I like my caramel a bronze amber color, some prefer it darker. As the caramel darkens it starts getting a bit acidic and bitter in taste and smell. There is such a thin line between a dark dark caramel and a burnt caramel, I always err on the side of a lighter caramel. By doing this, it allows me to always have the ability to cook it a bit longer.

caramel color

If you burn your caramel do not feel badly! You will know what burnt sugar smells like and you won’t want to make that mistake again. Besides, it was only one cup of sugar. Redo it and learn from what you did in the previous one. There is no score keeping here!

If you would rather use a candy thermometer and do it a bit more technically, melt the sugar evenly until it reaches 320°. Use a candy thermometer to help you reach the desired temperature. Once it reaches 320° remove from the heat.

Pour your caramel into a cake pan, that you have placed in a larger roasting pan.

Swirl the cake pan so the caramel coats the bottom evenly. You can also use individual ramekins instead of a cake pan for adorable individual flans.

caramel in cake pan
caramel pouring in ramekins

Set your cake pan with the caramel aside, and let’s move onto the Custard.

For the Custard:

In a blender, mix the sugar, condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, vanilla bean paste, two whole eggs plus two yolks.

condensed milk getting poured into blender
evaporated milk getting poured into blender
whole milk getting poured into blender
eggs getting poured into blender
sugar being poured into blender
vanilla paste getting poured into blender

Blend until well combined. (measurements are in the recipe box below)

After the mixture is well blended, pour it over the caramel.

milk mixture getting poured over ramekins with caramel

Fill the roasting pan with boiling water until it reaches the sides of the cake pan or ramekins halfway. It will take about 8 cups of water, depending on the size of your roasting pan, I used an 18/10 pan.

water bath for the ramekins
flan in waterbacth

Bake the flan in a 350° oven for 1 hour. Make sure your oven is preheated. Before you remove it from the oven, give the flan a little jiggle. It should be moving, but not so much that it’s not set. The top will be nice and golden.

golden flan close up in ramekins
whole flan golden baked

Let the flan cool slowly before putting it in the refrigerator to cool completely. Overnight is ideal. If not, at least 4-6 hours in the refrigerator will help it set properly.

When it comes to unmolding it. Run a knife under warm water and separate the flan from the mold around the edges. Jiggle the flan a bit to confirm that it is entirely loose and separated from the sides.

Pick a serving platter that has the ability to hold liquid as the caramel will be runny.

Tip! The warm water will help it detach smoothly.

Place your serving platter on top of the flan mold and in one swift motion flip the pan so that it is now on the top of the serving platter.

Lift the pan and allow the flan to come out slowly.

whole flan with liquid caramel in platter.


close up of flan slice with a spoon shoeing the texture

Fool Proof Vanilla Flan

This dessert will WOW you and anyone who has the pleaseure of eating it. The custard is rich and heavenly-sweet, and when the caramel base cooks itself onto the custard, it is simply devine.
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
CuisineFrench, Mexican, spanish
Keywordcaramel, caramel flan, flan, vanilla
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 15 minutes


  • 8 inch round cake pan


  • 4 eggs 3 whole eggs 1 yolk
  • 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
  • 1 14 oz can condensed milk
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 kettle full boiling water about 8 cups


  • Preheat the oven to 350º
  • Pick the size of the pan that will be used. A smaller cake pan will make a thicker flan, thicker flan needs a longer cooking time.
  • In a small saucepan melt one cup of sugar over medium heat.
  • Carefully, lift the pan from the heat and swirl the pan to allow the bottom melting sugar incorporate the rest of the sugar.
  • If there are clumps of sugar that are not yet melted, use a spatula to get it incorporated. Do not mix it, just help it get into the melted sugar.
  • Keep lifting the pan away from the heat when you swirl it. This allows the temperature to not elevate rapidly.
  • Once the caramel turns to an bronze amber color, the caramel is done. Remove from heat!
  • Pour the caramel into the bottom of a 8 inch round cake pan.
  • Swirl it around so that the caramel coats the entire bottom of the cake pan.
  • Place the cake pan in the middle of a deep roasting pan.
  • In a blender, mix the eggs, egg yolks, three milks, remaining 1/2 of sugar and vanilla paste. Blend until well combined.
  • Pour the mixture over the caramel.
  • Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches the middle of the sides of the cake pan.
  • Bake in a 350 °oven for one hour and fifteen minutes.
  • Once the flan is cooked, remove from he water bath and allow to cool.
  • Run a knife around the edges of the flan and the pan to separate them.
  • Place the flan in the refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours before serving it. Overnight is best.
  • Unmold the flan into a platter that can hold liquid as the caramel will be runny.
  • Enjoy!

Recipe Video Instructions


Be very careful handling the pan with the caramel as it is very very hot and liquid. 
Be very careful placing the roasting pan with the water into the oven. You can also bring the roasting pan and cake pan into the oven, and then pour the water once it’s inside of the oven to be extra safe.

2 Replies to “Foolproof Vanilla Flan”

    1. No spray. On the bottom of the pan you’ll have the caramel. The caramel will harden as soon as you pour it in the pan. You then pour the milk mixture over it. When it cooks in the water bath, the caramel will infuse the custard and once it’s cooled in the fridge (for at least 4 hours!) it’ll unmold easily. Make sure you separate the sides of the flan from the pan and give it a little jiggle, that’ll tell you if the flan is sticking or not. Hope this helps.

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