This is your ultimate guide to making Leche flan. Perfectly smooth, ultra-creamy, melt-in-your-mouth Filipino flan made of egg yolks, evaporated milk, and condensed milk. Cook in the oven or in a steamer. Step-by-step photos, a recipe video, and lots of tips are all here!
About this Flan Recipe
Leche flan is the most ultra-luxurious Filipino dessert of all time! Known to many as creme caramel, flan, and caramel custard. Back home in the Philippines, we call it “leche flan”, derived from Spanish flan de leche which simply means “milk flan”.
What differentiates leche flan from all other flan recipes?
- Made of egg yolks. No egg whites. Yes! Just egg yolks. Lots of it! Didn’t I say ultra-luxurious?
- It’s traditionally oval shape in form due to the use of a tin mold called llanera (lyanera).
- Ultra-creamy, smooth and silky! There’s no other flan like it. You really have to try it to believe it.
Leche Flan Ingredients
Traditional Filipino flan is made of 3 main ingredients but my recipe includes simple additions to balance the richness and enhance the overall flavor (in short, hindi nakakaumay).
What you need for the Flan
My recipe yields a rich and smooth custard that’s less sweet compared to other recipes. It uses 12 egg yolks and equal amounts of milk. It’s just the perfect mix!
Here’s what you need to make the custard:
- Egg yolks – use large ones. Don’t worry about the egg whites. I have the perfect recipe you can use it for.
- Evaporated milk – for its unique “caramel milk” flavor. It can be substituted with full-fat fresh milk but the flavor really is not the same.
- Condensed milk – the main and only sweetener of leche flan. No extra sugar is needed.
- Vanilla – optional but highly recommended to enhance the flavor of the flan.
- Salt – to balance the sweetness of the custard and improve the eggy aftertaste. You can also use calamansi juice/key lime (dayap) or lemon juice. Just a hint. Don’t put too much.
What you need for the Caramel Sauce
You will need:
- White sugar – caster or superfine sugar works best as it dissolves more easily. However, granulated sugar/ordinary sugar will work too.
- Water – while other recipes don’t call for water in their caramel, I personally add just a bit to help quickly melt the sugar.
- Calamansi juice/key lime or lemon juice – just a hint, to balance the sweetness.
12 egg yolks vs 10 egg yolks
Now let’s talk about the number of egg yolks. If you’re wondering why other recipes call for 12 egg yolks while others call for 10. Read on!
When making leche flan, the goal is to use up whole cans of milk so you don’t have to think about what to do with the leftovers.
In the Philippines, canned milk is sold in smaller sizes/amounts. While in most countries like here in Singapore, they are commonly sold in large cans.
Thus, the varying number of egg yolks appears to be based on the size of the canned milk available to the cook, specifically the condensed milk.
Here’s a rough guideline to help you decide how many egg yolks to use based on the sizes of canned milk I’ve seen online.
|Number of eggs
|10 egg yolks
|10 oz to 12.5 oz/ 370ml
|12 egg yolks
|13 oz/ 390ml to 14 oz/414ml
|13 oz/ 390ml to 14 oz/414ml
Ultimately, the control lies more with the condensed milk–the more you put, the sweeter the flan will be. Some recipes even use 2 cans of condensed milk!
Traditionally, leche flan is cooked in oval baking pans called llaneras (lyaneras). These are thinner than a regular pan and are made in the Philippines. Some Filipino stores abroad carry this but quite seldom.
As an alternative, you can use two 7-inch round cake pans or two 8-inches oval cheesecake pans. Ramekins can also be used which requires a shorter cooking time.
So here’s a rundown on how I make leche flan a.k.a my workflow. I’ve talked about each process in detail below:
- Caramelize the Sugar
- Make the flan (custard)
- Cook the flan – use a steamer or in an oven
- Cool then chill overnight in the fridge
- How to Serve
Caramelizing the Sugar
This is the very first step I do when making leche flan. It’s super easy and there are two ways you can make it–the stovetop and oven method.
Visit my whole eggs leche flan recipe for the oven method. Here’s the stovetop method.
You can make the caramel per llanera or in one big batch using a pot then just pour the syrup into each tin mold while still hot.
Tips to prevent the caramel from burning
- Swirl the pot or llanera as soon as the mixture starts to change in color. Use a cooking thong to protect your hands. This is a fool-proof way of preventing the sugar from burning and having a bitter taste. Keep on swirling until the color turns golden.
- Immediately remove from heat when the color turns golden. Note that residual heat will continue cooking the caramel.
- While the caramel is still hot, quickly swirl to coat the bottom and sides of the pan evenly. Coating the sides of the pan will help loosen the flan later on.
As it cools down, it will slowly set and solidify. This is entirely normal.
Making the Flan (custard)
It’s really as simple as combining all the ingredients in a bowl. For a smooth and silky flan, strain the mixture through a sieve or muslin cloth to remove any bits of egg and air bubbles (step 4).
Separating the egg yolks from the egg whites
- Separate egg yolks from the egg white – I have 3 simple ways to do this (click here). Choose the method you’re comfortable with. It’s not as complicated as you think. I promise.
- Use cold eggs – chill them in the fridge overnight. Cold eggs are the easiest to separate as the yolk is firmer and less likely to break.
- If you’re using the egg whites for another recipe, I recommend using the 3-bowl method–the first bowl to crack the eggs, the second bowl for the egg yolks, and the third bowl for the egg white. This will prevent ruining the egg whites and contaminating them with broken egg yolks.
Filipino Leche flan can be cooked in two ways:
- Steamer – the flan is steamed in an electric food steamer on or on a stove top.
- In an oven – use the water bath method which is simply a pan of hot water placed in the oven.
Option 1: Using a Food Steamer (stovetop)
The steaming method is a much quicker way of cooking the flan as the cooking vessel is more compact. However, the chance of overcooking is quite high especially if you forget to adjust the heat to low.
Here are a few things to remember when cooking Leche flan in a steamer:
- Do not overfill the pan/llanera. Fill it 3/4 full so the custard will not come in contact with the foil (see next point).
- Cover pan/llanera with foil to prevent the water from dripping into the custard.
- Cook the flan on low heat (gentle simmer) – THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Using high heat (rapid boiling) will not only overcook the flan but also cause uneven texture and bubbles all around.
- Steaming time for a regular-size llanera is about 25-30 minutes until the toothpick inserted comes out clean. But I recommend checking at 25 minutes to be sure. Note that, the deeper the pan and thicken the custard the longer the cooking time. So for a large-size (deep) llanera, the cooking time will be around 35 to 40 minutes. Check at 35 minutes to be sure.
Option 2: Using the Oven
Cooking the flan in the oven using the water bath method is somewhat similar to steaming. By placing a pan of water in the oven, moisture is added providing a gentle heat source. Basically, this method helps cook the custard evenly under dry heat.
Here are a few things to remember when cooking Leche flan in an oven:
- Place a damp folded kitchen towel on the bottom of a large roasting pan. The dishtowel will protect the bottom of the llanera and will help gently cook the custard.
- Fill the larger pan with hot water just about an inch up the side. Don’t put too much as it will displace the smaller pan.
- Cooking time will be around 35 to 40 mins at 325F/170c for a regular-size flan or ramekin. For a large-size (deep) llanera, cooking time will be around 45 mins to 1 hour. Check at 45 minutes to be sure by using the toothpick method.
- The flan is cooked when the center is set but will still be a bit jiggly. Do not overbake, as it will cause uneven texture and bubbles.
- Remove the flan from the oven and let it sit in the hot water for 10 minutes to continue cooking. Remove from the water bath and let it cool completely.
The secret to making a smooth and silky flan
Whichever method you choose to use, remember that the secret to making a smooth and silky flan without any curdle or bubbles are COOKING IT IN GENTLE HEAT and NOT OVERCOOKING. That’s it!
Cool and Chill Overnight
After the flan has cooled, chill it in the fridge OVERNIGHT. This will completely set and firm up the custard and will allow the caramel to liquefy. If you unmold it too soon, it may still be hard and not blend with the custard.
When and How to Serve Leche Flan
Truly one of the most beloved Filipino desserts, serve on every special occasion, fiesta, Christmas, and New Year. Eating it is always a treat and always puts me in a mood to celebrate.
But of course, you don’t have to wait for any occasion. Make it whenever the craving strikes! Enjoy it on its own with tea or coffee or use it as a topping for halo-halo, saging con yelo (minatamis na saging), and even mais con yelo (crushed ice layered with corn kernels and sweetened milk).
When ready to serve, run a spatula around the edges and invert onto a rimmed serving platter.
Storage and Shelf-life
Leche flan should last in the fridge for 3 to 5 days but I highly recommend consuming it within 3 days for the best flavor and texture.
What to do with the leftover egg whites?
The egg whites can be used to make Filipino steamed cake. This recipe specifically calls for 8 egg whites!
You can store the leftover egg whites in the fridge until ready to use. It should last in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Frequently asked questions
Evaporated milk can be substituted with fresh milk but the flavor will slightly be different as the former has an added “caramel milk” flavor.
The secret to making a smooth and silky flan without any curdle or bubbles is COOKING IT IN LOW HEAT and NOT OVERCOOKING.
Large llanera/baking pan will need 35 to 40 mins in a steamer; 45 to 50 mins in the oven; ramekins will need about 18 to 20 minutes in a steamer and 25 to 30 mins in the oven.
The flan is cooked when the custard is set around the edges and the center is set but will still be a bit jiggly. It will continue to cook as it cools and the center is completely firm. Do not overcook, as it will cause uneven texture and bubbles.
After the flan has cooled, chill it in the fridge OVERNIGHT. This will completely set and firm up the custard and will allow the caramel to liquefy. If you unmold it too soon, it will still be hard and not blend with the custard.
More Filipino recipes you might like…
Watch how to make it
You might like these too…
- Custard Cake (Vanilla Flan Cake)
Coconut Mochi Donut Balls (Carioca/Cascaron)
- Kutsinta (no lye water)
- Bibingka (Filipino Coconut Rice Cake)
- Maja Blanca (with Latik or Cheese)
- No Bake Biko with Latik Sauce
Filipino Leche Flan Recipe (Oven or Steamer)
- 12 tbsp white sugar (divided)
- 1 ½ tsp calamansi juice/lemon juice (divided)
- 3 tbsps water (divided)
- 12 large egg yolks
- 1 ½ cup /13 oz can condensed milk (see note 1)
- 1 ⅔ cup / 13 oz can evaporated milk
- ⅛ tsp salt (or 1/2 tsp lemon juice)
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Caramelize the sugar
- Pour 4 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp of water, and 1/2 tsp lemon juice into each llanera. You'll need about 3 llanera. If using a pot, combine all the ingredients then stir.
- Place the llanera/pot directly onto a stove over medium heat. When the color starts to change, swirl. Use a kitchen tong as needed. Keep on swirling until color changes into golden or honey color. Remove immediately from the heat. Repeat for each llanera. For the pot: divide into baking pans/ ramekins, about 2 to 3 tbsp of caramel per container.
- While the caramel is still hot, quickly swirl to coat the bottom and sides of the llanera/pan. Set aside and let it set.
- Combine all ingredients of the flan in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Strain the mixture through a sieve with muslin cloth directly into another bowl or large cup. Divide the flan mixture into each llanera/ baking pan/ ramekins.
To bake in the oven
- Pre-heat oven to 170c/325f for 15-20 minutes. Use the normal mode (upper and lower heat), no fan.
- Place the llanera in a larger baking pan with a kitchen towel. Pour hot water (not boiling), about halfway up the side of the llanera/pan.
- Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Do not overcook. You can start checking the doneness at about 35 mins.
- Cover llanera/ baking pan/ ramekins with a foil. Make sure the batter is not touching the foil.
- Bring steamer to a boil. Set the heat to LOW once it starts boiling. Place the leche flan in the steamer and cook for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Note: do not use high heat as will cause the flan to have an uneven texture and bubbles.
Cool and Serve
- After the flan has cooled, chill in the fridge OVERNIGHT. This will completely set and firm up the custard and will allow the caramel to liquify.
- Loosen the sides of the flan using a spatula then invert onto a serving plate. Serve and enjoy!
Recipe Notes & Tips:
- Milk – use up to 14 oz condensed milk then adjust evaporated milk to 14 oz (1 3/4 cup) to balance the sweetness. Note that the size of canned milk varies in different countries.
- To check the doneness of the flan – The center should be almost set, but will still be a little bit jiggly.
- Llanera – can be found in most Filipino stores. The size I used is 6×4 inches, I used 3 pans. You can also use two 7-inch round pans, two 8-inches oval cheesecake pans (link above), or 4 to 5 individual ramekins.
- Cooking time – large llanera/baking pan will need 35 to 40 mins in a steamer; 45 to 50 mins in the oven; ramekins will need about 18 to 20 minutes in a steamer and 25 to 30 mins in the oven.
- Caramelize Sugar in the Oven: Place pan in the middle of the oven and set the temperature to 170c/325f. Bake using BROIL MODE (fan on) for 20 to 25 minutes until sugar is caramelized and golden in color. Start checking at 18 mins to make sure it doesn’t burn. Note: The same oven temperature will be used for the flan.
- Shelf-life and storage: Keep refrigerated covered with a plastic wrap until ready to serve. It should last in the fridge for 3 to 5 days but I highly recommend consuming it within 3 days for the best texture.
- Nutrition: approx 3-4 tbsp per serving. This is an estimate only. It is impossible for me to determine exactly how much flan is consumed.
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