Have you ever tasted Instant Pot Flan, also known as pressure-cooked crème caramel? You must have already fallen in love with its silky smooth texture and its superb creamy egg and sweet caramel taste. It’s a real melt in your mouth, joy. How about making it?
Have you ever tried? After you’ve read this article, you will know how-to, and you’ll amaze your guests with a dessert that seems like it’s made in heaven.
The vanilla flan recipe I talk about below makes for a beautifully smooth, rich, creamy flan. It includes the right amount of eggs to bind the ingredients together, but not so much as to give it an eggy flavor.
It’s a bit like Crème Brulee, only firmer. It is very quick to make and cooks to perfection in an Instant Pot.
What is a Flan
Flan, also referred to as crème caramel, is very popular in countries like America, the Caribbean, Europe, Vietnamese (Bahn flan), and the Philippines (known as Filipino flan).
Mostly, it is baked custard, with eggs, milk, and sugar making up the ingredients. While the custard cooks, the egg’s proteins create a network that retains liquid, turning it into a gel.
There are dozens of recipes for this globally popular dessert. Many variations exist whereby cooks substitute some ingredients for others, where proportions get changed, and different flavors get thrown into the mix.
Try this: sweet, scented caramel; sublime, creamy egg flavor; velvety texture, melt in the mouth smoothness – sheer paradise.
The great thing about this dessert is that it is uncomplicated and easy to create. What’s more, if you use an Instant Pot, you can slash the cooking time by half.
It means that if you are entertaining a few people, you can make it in one big batch well ahead of time.
Watch the video
However, you refer to it; caramel custard, caramel pudding, or crème caramel – It is a dish that any good cook should know how to make.
From experience, I knew that this type of flan cooks perfectly in an oven. But when I acquired an Instant Pot, what, I wondered, would happen if I used that instead of an oven?
There was only one way to find out, so I experimented with and created recipes for cooking flan using high and low-pressure techniques.
I must have tried ten different methods in one week. I ate them all with gusto.
Oven vs. Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
In comparison to flan cooked in an oven, flan cooked in an Instant Pot is as smooth as velvet, time after time. I couldn’t believe it.
The fact that an Instant Pot works with a moist cooking environment is ideal for making flan. Besides, it reduces cooking time by 50%. From here on in, this is the way I will be making all my Leche Flan or Instant pot custard.
High Pressure or Low Pressure?
Of the two cooking Instant Pot flan methods, I found that low-pressure cooked flans yield super-smooth texture and be eaten nicely. So, I recommend using a low-pressure setting (this is based on my experience cooking this recipe a dozen times).
I love it when the caramel is ever so slightly burnt because I think it delivers a more robust flavor. That vague, acrid edge blends perfectly with the smooth taste of vanilla.
It also adds to the presentation as it gives the flan a better color. But this is personal, so cook to suit your preference.
Why do I need to strain the milk/egg mixture?
The reason you ought to strain the mixture is that it sifts out the chalazae. These are the ropes of egg white that keep the yolk in the center of the egg.
Doing away with them produces a smoother textured flan.
Why do I need a water bath?
Using a bain-marie (a water bath) creates an even and more moderate temperature. If you allow your flan to cook too quickly, it will end up looking like a sponge.
It is because of a process known as “syneresis,” whereby the proteins harden and force out the liquid.
As a rule, eggs fare better when cooked on a gentle heat setting. Too high a temperature and they tend to become chewy and rubbery.
You can check this out on this science of cooking report.
How to caramelize sugar (stovetop)
- Step 1: Get your ramekins out and lay them out, ready to take the flan mixture. Pour the sugar into a quart-size pan and add the right amount of water to moisten the sugar throughout.
- Step 2: Place over the heat and stir gently until the sugar has completely dissolved. Bring to the boil rapidly. Continue to boil, but do not stir. Swirl the mixture from time to time until it turns a lovely golden brown.
Why not stir? If you do, the sugar will crystalize and give your flan a grainy texture.
- Step 3: Immediately pour the caramel mixture into the ramekins. If using a souffle dish rather than individual ramekins, tilt it a little to help spread the caramel evenly.
How to caramelize sugar (microwave)
- Step 1: Take a flat-bottom, heat-safe bowl to cook the sugar.
- Step 2: Pour the sugar into the bowl and cook for three minutes, precisely. This is the right time for a 1050 watt microwave.
- Step 3: After three minutes, the mixture will turn to a beautiful gold-brown color—the lighter the color, the sweeter the caramel. Quickly add 2 tbsp of water to the caramelized sugar. A darker color produces a slightly more bitter taste – cook to your liking.
- If you are using ramekins, pour quickly in molds, and allow to harden.
- Before you start the cooking, be aware that the bowl and the caramel will get very, very hot, so take great care when handling.
- If after 3 minutes the sugar doesn’t caramelize, microwave the sugar for periods of five seconds, with one-minute intervals between, until the mixture is your preferred color and taste.
- Be careful as the caramel will continue to cook after you’ve finished microwaving. Sugar burns quickly, so keep an eye on it.
For a nice citrusy hint, add one teaspoon of lemon juice into the sugar before caramelizing. Lemon also helps to stop crystals from forming.
I prefer to use whole milk as it makes the custard thick and creamy. You can always use low or non-fat milk, but the lesser fatty milk will produce a softer set.
Notes 1 and 2 apply to both cooking methods – stovetop and microwave.
Flan vs. Creme Caramel
I have mentioned flan and crème caramel in the same sentence earlier, but what is the difference? In my book, very little indeed.
Others may disagree, but all I can say is that in my time spent in professional kitchens and my travels to various foreign countries worldwide, I have always seen both names heralding the same dessert.
Flan, or crème caramel, always appears as velvety smooth custard pudding, topped with a layer of caramel. It is always served chilled and may have a slight variation of ingredients such as additions of coffee, coconut, chocolate, pumpkin, vanilla, etc.
But it is always either described as flan or crème caramel.
A brief history of flan (creme caramel)
People often think of “flan” as being a Mexican or Spanish dessert. They also consider “crème caramel” as being a French pudding. Historically, flan or crème caramel is neither.
Caramel custard has its roots in the Roman Empire, but rather than being sweet, it was savory.
As the Roman Empire declined and the Medieval Era got underway, flan traveled across Europe, ending up in Spain. The Spaniards took it to the next stage of its development by modifying it into a sweet caramel pudding.
In its journey across Europe, the French christened it “crème caramel,” the translation meaning caramel cream. When Europeans then discovered America, they cooked the dessert in their new surroundings.
As they say, the rest is history, and flan, crème caramel is a global favorite.
Note: The perfect flan should be smooth and creamy and have a soft velvety texture. The sauce shouldn’t taste at all burnt. It should be rich and golden.
Once you have sampled the perfectly cooked flan, you’ll find that there is no equal.
Using an oven instead of an instant pot
With trial and error, I figured out the secrets.
1 The fewer air bubbles you have in your custard batter, the fewer bubbles and bits you will get in the flan once it is cooked. But, there is no need to go berserk with the mixture.
Simply stir or whisk in one direction to keep from introducing too much air in the custard, also make sure that you pass it through a sieve to catch any lumps.
2 It is vital to heat flan gently. Modify the temperature. Going down the low, slow route is much better than fast and furious. Flan is better undercooked rather than over.
Remember that the cooking process with continue even after you have removed it from the oven.
3 Making sure the flan mixture cooks evenly is key. If the sides cook at a different rate to the center, the texture will suffer. I like to line the bottom of the tray with a decent thickness of kitchen towel and use hot rather than boiling water.
4 Be extra careful not to overcook the caramel topping. It can change from being perfect to becoming burnt in under 15-seconds, so keep a watchful eye on it.
You don’t want the mixture to crystalize, and it will if you don’t follow these instructions to the letter. Remember – do not stir it.
Get these ingredients
For caramel syrup
⅓ cup sugar (or 5 tbsp)
2 tbsp water (+ 2 tbsp after caramelization)
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbsp sugar (or ⅓ cup)
1 ⅔ cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream (+ 2 tbsp)
Step by step instructions
Making the Caramel
Mix sugar and water in a heat-proof bowl, and nuke in the microwave for 3 minutes (depends on the power of your microwave) or until the sugar turned in golden color.
It took me 3 ½ minutes to get that amber color, by then, you quickly add 2 tbsp of water into the sugar syrup and give it a quick stir. Set aside and allow to cool.
Making the custard
Combine 3 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks in a separate bowl. Gently whisk in one direction to keep from introducing too much air in the egg mixture while trying not to get the eggs to become foamy.
Meanwhile, put milk, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan, keep stirring the mixture to help dissolve the sugar completely.
We’re trying to warm the milk, a bit warmer than the water we use when taking a bath or a shower (about 80°C or 176°F). Remember, don’t make it too hot, and never bring the milk to a boil.
Ladle the warm milk into the egg mixture gradually while keep whisking it constantly.
Tempering the eggs help to reduce the eggy smell in the pudding but it shouldn’t be too hot or the milk can cook the eggs and make them curdled.
Strain the custard in a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of lumps. Straining the egg mixture yields a silky smooth flan or creme caramel.
I double strained this recipe by letting the mixture pass in a strainer while adding it to the caramel-filled dish.
Cover the bowl with aluminum foil sealing it well. Optionally secure with a cooking band.
Fill 1 ½ cup of boiling water and pour it into the Instant Pot. Place the bowl on top of a steam rack or trivet and transfer it into the pot.
Cover with the lid and set the steam release handle to “Sealing.”
Set it to “Steam” mode using Low Pressure and the cooking time to 12 minutes. Allow for a natural pressure release (NPR) of 19 minutes once the cooking time is completed.
Take the dish off from the Instant Pot and remove the foil. To check the doneness, tap the edge of the ramekin, and when custard feels firm yet the center looks a little jiggly; these are the signs that you’re done.
Then, let it cool down for an hour before chilling in the fridge.
Transfer the flan into the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours or for best result, overnight.
To serve, run a knife around the flan to loosen it from the bowl. Flip the bowl onto a quiche dish to remove the flan.
Serve the delicious Instant Pot Flan with the favorite seasonal fruits.
How do you know when flan is done?
Your flan is perfectly cooked when it is firm to the touch (not solid) on the sides but jiggly on the center and has a light coloring.
As to double-check, position a toothpick at the center of the pudding and insert it halfway into the flan.
When you remove it, it should come out completely clean. If all is well, take the bain-marie out of the oven and gently remove the dish with the flan in it from the water.
Why is my flan still liquid?
If your flan hasn’t appropriately set, the proportion of egg to milk isn’t right. You’ve probably put too much milk into the mixture.
- There are two ways to remedy this.
You can either increase the baking time by around 10 to 15 minutes.
- Turn the temperature of the oven up by 10°C.
Can you overcook flan?
Yes, you can. If you do overcook your flan, it will end up with bubbles on the side, and the mixture will curdle.
To avoid this, preheat your oven, then gently put the bain-marie in and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. You’ll know that the texture is perfect when it still wobbles a little when you jiggle it.
Is flan served warm or cold?
You can serve flan either cold or at room temperature. Don’t invert and remove it from the baking trays or ramekins until you are serving.
Does flan need a water bath?
Yes, a bain-marie or water bath is essential. This keeps the temperature regular and ensures that the heat is evenly distributed around the flan. It prevents the eggs from curdling.
How long is flan good for in the fridge?
Ordinarily, you can keep flan in the fridge for between three to five days. Beyond that, it won’t taste as nice, and it will have lost much of its vitamin content.
Can you leave flan out overnight?
The recommendation with any cooked food is that it should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours.
It is the same with any cooked food, whether or not it contains egg. You can leave it to cool, but once it has cooled, I suggest serving it or putting it in the fridge.
Because flan is made of custard, you should refrigerate it as soon as it is cool enough to do so. A custard that is either sugary or acidic can resist bacteria for one or two days.
However, if a recipe has not been explicitly designed to keep a dish at room temperature; personally, I wouldn’t risk it.
What is the difference between crème brûlée and flan?
People sometimes confuse flan or crème caramel with crème brûlée. They are, however, different.
Whereas flan can be free-standing and has a wobblier consistency – crème brûlée is a little creamier and is more pudding-like. It also has a burnt, crunchy layer of sugar on the top.
Why does my flan taste eggy?
When flan is freshly cooked, it sometimes has a strong eggy taste. I thought it might have been down to when I have accidentally left out the vanilla extract.
But even then, when the proportion of egg was right, there wasn’t any eggy aftertaste. It was fine.
Do you flip flan hot or cold?
The problem with chilling flan to keep it from falling apart when you take it out of the ramekin or tray is that it hardens the caramel sauce topping, preventing it from flowing freely.
You need to find the right combination of chilling, heating, and unmolding to present it with the correct consistency and liquidity in the caramel topping to spill down the sides as it is plated.
Why does flan need a water bath?
Using a water-bath (bain-marie) for cooking flan is to regulate the heat so that the mixture cooks evenly, becoming smooth and creamy throughout.
Cooked cheesecake is made in the same way. You need to gently bake the flan for 20 to 25 minutes to the point where the edges are set, but it is still wobbly, like jelly, in the middle.
If you are not sure whether the flan has set correctly, you can cook it for a little longer, making sure not to burn the caramel.
Can I put warm flan in the fridge?
Once you are satisfied that the flan has adequately cooked, remove it from the water bath and cool it. When it has cooled enough, refrigerate it in its dish for a minimum of two hours.
Why is flan not smooth?
If you bake the flan at too high a temperature or for too long, the milk will begin to boil, and bubbles could form throughout the mixture and around its edges.
How long can you keep flan in the fridge?
Some recipes for Leche flan (the Filipino version of crème caramel) call for 12 eggs. To escape food poisoning, egg-based custards like this must be cooked at a minimum temperature of 160°F.
Once cooked, Leche flan ought to be consumed within three to four days. It tastes best when eaten within 48 hours.
Why does my Leche Flan have bubbles?
For precisely the same reasons as when flan is not smooth (see above).
What can I use for a flan mold?
If you make one large flan, use a circular baking dish, and place it in a water bath or bain-marie of a suitable size. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.
How do you flip a flan without breaking it?
Take the ramekin or baking dish with a plate firmly covering the top, invert it holding the plate tightly in position covering the bowl’s opening.
Flip the whole thing down quickly, the seal between the flan and the dish breaking.
Set the plate down with the inverted dish on it, and gently lift it up and away from the plate, allowing the flan to slide out and the caramel sauce to drizzle over the flan.
How do you make flan smooth?
Make a water bath or bain-marie pouring hot water (not boiling) into a tray. You need enough to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins or baking dish, holding the flan mixture.
Using a water bath helps to make sure that the temperature of the custard rises gently. It thickens the custard little by little, making the texture beautifully creamy and smooth.
How do you get bubbles out of flan?
Gently whisk the custard mixture until it combines nicely. The fewer bubbles you make, the smoother the flan will be.
It is the bubbles that produce an unpleasant texture. A good tip is to whisk gently in a stirring motion rather than a whipping one.
How do you get bubbles out of Leche flan?
Avoid whisking the custard mixture over vigorously as this adds too much air. Air creates bubbles, and these will turn into holes as the custard cooks.
Gently tap the llanera on the work surface to release any trapped air bubbles.
What pan do I use for flan?
If you don’t possess a llanera, you can alternatively use a nine-inch circular cake pan. If you are making small individual flans, use ramekins—one piece of advice.
Do not use a springform-type pan. They make things messy.
How long does it take to caramelize sugar?
The melting point for sugar is 320°F. At this temperature, the sugar transforms into a transparent liquid. Once the liquid has formed, simmer gently for 5 to 6 minutes.
Do not stir. Tilt the pan off the heat to spread the color evenly as the caramel forms.
Should you Stir sugar when making caramel?
No, As stated above, do not stir the caramel during cooking. If you do, any splashes on the pan’s side will immediately evaporate, and the sugar might re-form as crystals.
At what temperature does sugar caramelize?
Sugar starts to melt at 320°F, and it begins to caramelize at 340°F. Higher temperatures create brown caramelization – a delicious addition to many desserts.
Related dessert recipes
Instant Pot Flan Recipe
- Instant pot
- heat-proof dish or ramekins
- steamer rack
For Caramel Syrup:
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 tbsp water (+ 2 tbsp added after sugar caramelized)
- 3 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1⅔ cup whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream (+ 2 tbsp)
- 5 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Make the Caramel Syrup (microwave):
- Mix sugar and water in a heat-proof bowl, and nuke in the microwave for 3 minutes (depends on the power of your microwave) or until the sugar turned in golden color.
- It took me 3 ½ minutes to get that amber color, by then, you quickly add 2 tbsp of water into the sugar syrup and give it a quick stir. Set aside and allow to cool.
Making the Custard:
- Combine 3 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks in a separate bowl. Gently whisk together until well incorporated trying not to get the eggs to become foamy.
- Meanwhile, put milk, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan, keep stirring the mixture to help dissolve the sugar completely. We're trying to warm the milk, like a bit warmer than the water we use when taking a bath or a shower (about 80°C or 176°F). Remember, don't make it too hot and never bring the milk to a boil.
- Ladle the warm milk into the egg mixture gradually while keep whisking it constantly. Tempering the eggs help to reduce the eggy smell in the pudding but it shouldn't be too hot or the milk can cook the eggs and make them curdled.
- Sieve the custard in a fine-mesh strainer to get rid of lumps. Straining the egg mixture yields a silky smooth flan or creme caramel. I double strain this recipe by letting the mixture pass in a strainer while adding it to the caramel-filled dish.
- Cover the bowl with aluminum foil sealing it well. Optionally secure with a cooking band.
- Fill 1 ½ cup of boiling water and pour it into the Instant Pot. Place the bowl on top of a steam rack or trivet and transfer it into the pot. Cover with the lid and set the steam release handle to "Sealing."
- Set it to "Steam" mode using Low Pressure and the cooking time to 12 minutes. Allow for a natural pressure release (NPR) of 19 minutes once the cooking time is completed.
- Take the dish off from the Instant Pot and remove the foil. To check the doneness, tap the edge of the ramekin, and when custard feels firm yet the center looks a little jiggly; these are the signs that you’re done. Then, let it cool down for an hour before chilling in the fridge.
- Transfer the flan into the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours or for best result, overnight.
- To serve, run a knife around the flan to loosen it from the bowl. Flip the bowl onto a quiche dish to remove the flan. Serve the delicious Instant Pot Flan with the favorite seasonal fruits.
Watch the Video:
- For a nice citrussy hint, add one teaspoon of lemon juice into the sugar before caramelizing. Lemon also helps to stop crystals from forming.
- I prefer to use whole milk as it makes the custard thick and creamy. You can always use low or non-fat milk, but the lesser fatty milk will produce a softer set.
Please note that all nutrition information are just estimates. Values will vary among brands, so we encourage you to calculate these on your own for most accurate results.