Classic Crème Brûlée Recipe
Homemade Crème Brûlée has never been easier! A silky-smooth vanilla custard base is topped with a caramelized sugar topping in a classic dessert you can whip up at home (and up to 4 days in advance!). Made with 6 pantry-staple ingredients, this easy Crème Brûlée recipe is sure to impress everyone!
Why You’ll Love This Easy Recipe
This classic French dish consists of a creamy custard base with a burnt sugar topping that cracks beautifully when broken into. When translated literally, the name Crème Brûlée means burnt cream, referencing the two main parts of the dish.
Pushing a spoon through the thin layer of caramelized sugar and watching it shatter like a piece of glass is a splendid moment. Something about that crisp sheet of sugar paired with the cool, smooth custard makes my taste buds dance like bumbling bees on a blooming flower.
What I love about this indulgent dessert is that it is shockingly simple to make at home. It’s also a wonderful make-ahead dessert that will truly steal the show!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Heavy Cream: This creates the base of our custard; you can use heavy cream, heavy whipping cream, or double cream.
- Sugar and salt: The perfect balance!
- Vanilla Bean: The seeds provide wonderful flavor and amazing visual impact; you can also substitute 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.
- Egg Yolks: Thicken the custard (see below for tips on separating and using up those egg whites).
- Turbinado Sugar: This coarse sugar is used for topping and torching at the end; this is also known as raw cane sugar or demerara sugar. You can substitute regular granulated sugar but only use 1 scant teaspoon on each ramekin.
Tips for Separating Eggs
Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks after the cream has finished steeping; if let to sit, the surface of the yolks will dry and form a film.
Here are a few different techniques to separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
- Use the eggshell: Crack the egg in half over a medium bowl. Allow the egg white to spill out of the cracked egg and pass the yolk back and forth in the cracked egg halves until all of the egg white is in the bowl. Place the egg yolk in a separate bowl and set it aside. Repeat with remaining eggs.
- Use your hands: Crack the egg over a medium bowl. Pour the whole egg into your hand, palm facing up. Allow the egg white to slip through your fingers while carefully keeping your egg yolks intact. Transfer the egg yolks to a separate bowl and set them aside. Repeat with remaining eggs.
- With an egg separator: Crack the egg over a medium bowl and pour the egg through an egg separator. This device allows the egg white to pass through and carefully holds the egg yolk in the separator. Transfer the egg yolk to a separate bowl and repeat with the remaining eggs.
To Use Up the Extra Whites, Try These Recipes:
Don’t throw away those egg whites! You can use them to whip up a breakfast omelet, or use them for one of the recipes below:
- Pavlova Layer Cake with Whipped Cream and Berries
- Chocolate Pavlova with Mascarpone and Raspberries
- Traditional Pavlova
- Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies
- Homemade Marshmallow Creme
How to Make It
While it might look like an intimidating recipe to try on your own, it’s really quite easy!
Step #1: Flavor the Custard
- Prepare the oven: Adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300°F.
- Add the vanilla: Combine cream, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. With a paring knife, scrape seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan and submerge the pod in cream.
- Boil the cream: Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that the sugar dissolves. Take the pan off the heat and let steep for 15 minutes to infuse the flavors.
- Prepare the ramekins: Meanwhile, place a kitchen towel in the bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan and arrange eight 4- to 5-ounce ramekins (or shallow fluted dishes) on a towel.
- Boil water: Bring a kettle or large saucepan of water to boil over high heat.
Step #2: Make the Custard
- Add remaining cream: After the cream has steeped, stir in remaining 2 cups of cream to cool down the mixture.
- Break up egg yolks: Whisk yolks in a large bowl until broken up and combined.
- Temper the eggs: Whisk about 1 cup cream mixture into the yolks until loosened and combined; repeat with another 1 cup cream. Add remaining cream and whisk until evenly colored and thoroughly combined.
- Strain through fine-mesh strainer into 2-quart measuring cup or pitcher (or a clean medium bowl); discard solids in the strainer.
- Pour or ladle the mixture into ramekins, dividing it evenly among them.
Step #3: Bake the Custard
- Add water to the baking pan: Carefully place the baking dish with ramekins on the oven rack; pour boiling water into the baking dish, taking care not to splash water into the ramekins, until the water reached two-thirds height of the ramekins.
- Bake until centers of custard are just barely set and no longer sloshy, about 30 to 35 minutes (25 to 30 minutes for shallow fluted dishes.
- Check temperature: Begin checking the temperature about 5 minutes before recommended baking time. Using an instant-read thermometer, check that the center temperature reaches 170°F to 175°F.
- Cool to room temperature: Transfer ramekins to wire racks and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
- Refrigerate to set: Set ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 4 days.
Step #4: Brûlée the Top
- Soak up moisture: Uncover ramekins, if condensation has collected on custards place a paper towel on the surface to soak up moisture.
- Top with sugar: Sprinkle each with about 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar (1-1/2 teaspoons for shallow fluted dishes); tilt and tap ramekin for even coverage.
- Light it up: Ignite the kitchen torch and caramelize the sugar.
- Chill to set: Refrigerate ramekins, uncovered, to re-chill, 30 to 45 minutes (but no longer), then serve!
Different Flavor Ideas
While vanilla bean is the gold standard for Crème Brûlée, there are a number of different flavors you can make for an unforgettable treat!
- Lemon: Use 1½ teaspoons lemon zest in place of the vanilla bean and add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to bring out the flavor.
- Cinnamon: Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the vanilla custard base and after torching the top, dust with a pinch more cinnamon.
You can serve creme brûlée hot OR cold. This recipe calls for re-chilling it after the sugar has been caramelized, so it is served cold, however, it can also be served immediately after torching the sugar. Your choice!
While they are both custard-based desserts, the similarities end there.
Crème brûlée is a baked custard made with cream, sugar, and egg yolks with a thin layer of sugar on top that is caramelized with a kitchen torch to create a hard caramel crust.
Flan is also a custard made with cream, milk, sugar, and egg yolks, but it is baked in a caramel-lined ramekin until soft and still jiggly. It is served inverted out of the ramekin, so the caramel sauce covers the top and runs down the sides.
If you do not have a kitchen torch, you can use your oven’s broiler to caramelize the sugar. Be sure that your custard is thoroughly chilled (overnight is best here), then place the ramekins on a baking sheet on a rack directly below the broiler. Keep a very close eye on it so it doesn’t burn, as it will only take a minute or so to caramelize.
Ramekins are truly ideal for this recipe, as it’s meant to be an individual dessert (and wide, shallow ramekins are much better than deeper ones so that the custard cooks through and you maximize the caramelized sugar surface area). However, you can substitute a large, wide pan (ceramic is best), just be sure it can still fit in a water bath inside a larger pan, and, depending on the size, you may need to adjust the baking time.
Storage and Freezing Instructions
This crème brûlée recipe can be made up to 4 days in advance. Prepare it through chilling the custard, then proceed with the sugar topping just prior to serving.
You can also freeze crème brûlée. Simply make the recipe as directed, preparing and baking the custard-filled ramekins. Once cooled to room temperature and chilled, cover tightly and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then proceed with sprinkling with sugar and torching.
Watch How to Make Creme Brulee:
If You Like This Crème Brûlée Recipe, Try These:
- Mashed Sweet Potato Brulee
- Caramel Topped Flan
- Vanilla Cream-Filled Doughnuts
- How to Make Pastry Cream
- Fresh Fruit Tart with Pastry Cream
Wow your friends and family with this easy, homemade Crème Brûlée recipe! Made with just 6-ingredients this silky-smooth Crème Brûlée can be made and baked up to 4 days in advance! It’s perfect for date-night in, dinner parties, and more!
If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️
Crème Brûlée Recipe
- 4 cups (952 ml) heavy cream, chilled
- ⅔ cup (133.33 g) granulated sugar
- Pinch of table salt
- 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
- 12 egg yolks
- 8-12 teaspoons (8 teaspoons) turbinado or Demerara sugar
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees F.
- Combine 2 cups of the cream, the sugar, and salt in medium saucepan; with a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into pan, submerge pod in cream, and bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to ensure that sugar dissolves. Take pan off heat and let steep 15 minutes to infuse flavors.
- Meanwhile, place kitchen towel in bottom of large baking dish or roasting pan and arrange eight 4- to 5-ounce ramekins (or shallow fluted dishes) on towel. Bring kettle or large saucepan of water to boil over high heat.
- After cream has steeped, stir in remaining 2 cups cream to cool down mixture. Whisk yolks in large bowl until broken up and combined. Whisk about 1 cup cream mixture into yolks until loosened and combined; repeat with another 1 cup cream. Add remaining cream and whisk until evenly colored and thoroughly combined. Strain through fine-mesh strainer into 2-quart measuring cup or pitcher (or clean medium bowl); discard solids in strainer. Pour or ladle mixture into ramekins, dividing it evenly among them.
- Carefully place baking dish with ramekins on oven rack; pour boiling water into dish, taking care not to splash water into ramekins, until water reaches two-thirds height of ramekins. Bake until centers of custards are just barely set and are no longer sloshy and digital instant-read thermometer inserted in centers registers 170 to 175 degrees, 30 to 35 minutes (25 to 30 minutes for shallow fluted dishes). Begin checking temperature about 5 minutes before recommended time.
- Transfer ramekins to wire rack; cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Set ramekins on rimmed baking sheet, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 4 days.
- Uncover ramekins; if condensation has collected on custards, place paper towel on surface to soak up moisture. Sprinkle each with about 1 teaspoon turbinado sugar (1½ teaspoons for shallow fluted dishes); tilt and tap ramekin for even coverage. Ignite kitchen torch and caramelize sugar. Refrigerate ramekins, uncovered, to re-chill, 30 to 45 minutes (but no longer); serve.
- Equipment: Ramekins / Kitchen torch / Instant-read thermometer
- Vanilla Bean: You can also substitute 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, whisked into the yolks in step 4.
- Egg Yolks: Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks after the cream has finished steeping; if let to sit, the surface of the yolks will dry and form a film.
- Turbinado Sugar: Also known as raw cane sugar or demerara sugar. You can substitute regular granulated sugar but only use 1 scant teaspoon on each ramekin.
- Kitchen Torch Alternative: If you do not have a kitchen torch, you can use your oven’s broiler to caramelize the sugar. Be sure that your custard is thoroughly chilled (overnight is best here), then place the ramekins on a baking sheet on a rack directly below the broiler. Keep a very close eye on it so it doesn’t burn, as it will only take a minute or so to caramelize.
- Ramekin Alternative: Ramekins are truly ideal for this recipe, however, you can substitute a large, wide pan (ceramic is best), just be sure it can still fit in a water bath inside a larger pan and, depending on the size, you may need to adjust the baking time.
- Make-Ahead: This crème brûlée recipe can be made up to 4 days in advance. Prepare it through chilling the custard, then proceed with the sugar topping just prior to serving.
- Freezing Instructions: Make the recipe as directed, preparing and baking the custard-filled ramekins. Once cooled to room temperature and chilled, cover tightly and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then proceed with sprinkling with sugar and torching.
- Storage: This is best eaten shortly after torching the top, but leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
Photography by Whitney Wright
I think you have a sweet potato pudding recipe with the same type of caramelized sugar top. I’ve been searching your website for ages for it! Do you know which recipe I mean?
Hi Sara! Is it this one? https://www.browneyedbaker.com/mashed-sweet-potato-brulee/
That looks delicious! The inside looks nice and custardy and the sugar topping looks perfectly crisp.
Tried this the other day and i must say everyone that had it loved it. I am not a fan of creme brulee myself, but this recipe has made me one… LOVE IT !!!!!!!! a Must try
Best creme brulee ever ! I have made many brulee but this is definately the best. My wife usually will not eat it but she killed this one. She says its soooooo creamy. I have to agree. This is my permanent brulee recipe. Thank you !
I LOVE Creme Brulee, and that is why I don’t want to make it. If I know how, I will make it too much. I don’t want to save this recipe but… I think I must.
Thank you for mentioning the need to cover the egg yolks to prevent them from drying out, such a good tip. I made the mistake of trying to freeze egg yolks once. They were the consistency of jello even after thawing.
My husband thanks you! :)
A Crème brûlée, such a delicate flavour but one of the best puddings ever. I too often finish off with one when out for a meal in a restaurant.
One suggestion, once you have used the vanilla bean, rinse well then leave to dry. Pop into a jar full of sugar, seal and leave for a few weeks. Et voila, vanilla flavoured sugar that can be used in any number of puddings.
The longer you leave it the better. The more beans you put in there the better. I have the one jar and just keep adding in any “used” beans.
Awesome tip for making vanilla sugar, thank you for sharing!
I love creme brulee! Looks so delicious!
I have made this twice with much success! I first made it a few years ago, as written, using the vanilla extract instead of bean. Just made it again, as an orange version, which was delicious. I added the zest of one orange when it was time to steep & cut back to 1 tsp of vanilla. We were very happy with the flavor!
I’m french and I love your blog. All your recipes seem to be so delicious :)
I’m glad to see that you better know the crème brûlée recipe than french people! Sometimes it’s really weird because they include the whole eggs (that’s a “crème aux oeufs”), or butter (aaww…).
For me the perfect one should be cold with only the caramelized crust which is hot. I don’t make crème brûlée because I don’t have the good welding torch to burn it. Actually the good one is only for professionals and is really big.
Keep it up!
These look so good!!
Made this for my mom on mother`s day and it was a HUGE hit!! Plus the tips were super helpful! So yummy – thx!
I’m making a cake this week for Sweet Melissa Sundays (SMS) and it calls for 15 egg whites. I thought about using the egg yolks in a Creme Brulee. This recipe calls for almost the amount of yolks I will have on hand. So, I’ll give this a whirl!
happy anniversary…i love ur recipes…i heart creme brulee…and urs look to die for!! :)
Love your creme brulee photos. I make a lot of creme brulee for my blog in every flavor imaginable, but your photos take the cake. Nice job.
I love your blog! I can’t wait to try this. Creme Brule is on my to make list!! Thanks!
congrats on 3 years! I came to your website through annies website and love it since then. Have made a lot of your recipes, the upside down pineapple cake and chocolate pistachio biscotti being my favorite!
Mmmm, I’ve never ever had creme brulee but I’ve never had a yearning to try it either…until now. lol
Congratulations – keep up the stellar work!!!
Happy Blogiversary!!! And congrats on 3 years!!
3 years?? AWESOME! I can’t think of a better way to celebrate. Creme brule? YUM!
Congrats on the anniversary!
We LOVE your blog and have been fans for about a year!
Good luck in the future.
Congrats on 3 years, girl! :)
I looove creme brulee, and like you, was first introduced via restaurant dining. My favorite creme brulee is always chocolate. Yummy!
This looks like the perfect excuse to go buy a kitchen torch! I can’t remember what first brought me to your site, but I’ve been a loyal follower for a while now. Congrats on 3 years!
HAppy 3 years to you! Creme Brulee isn’t something I make often but I love it.
congrats on your anniversary! i’m so glad to have found your blog with all of your amazing recipes and photos!! looking forward to following you a long time to come! :)
Congratulations! I can’t remember how I found you, but I’m so glad that I did!
Congrats!! You have come the distance for sure!! Your blog is fantastic and an inspiration. :) How DID I come across it?? It’s been so long, I just can’t remember!
Thanks for all the fantastic posts!
Congrats on three years! I’m extra excited about this post because I’ve been looking for a good creme brulee recipe for a while now. I stumbled across your site a few months ago and was surprised to see you’re in the Burgh. I’m originally from the area and went to college there, so I’ll always be a Pittsburgh girl at heart. Keep up the good work! P.S. I love the Steelers cookies. :)
Yum! I’ve been wanting to make a chocolate creme brulee for awhile now, but this looks yummy too! Congrats on three years of blogging! Your site inspires me!
Happy Blogaversary! Keep up the great stuff. Like this! Mmmm….
Congratulations on 3 years!! What an accomplishment. Sadly, I’ve never had creme brulee – I really need to rectify that soon :)
Happy blogaversary! Keep up the awesome work! :)
Congratulations on 3 years! I don’t comment very often, but your spaghetti and meatballs are legendary in my house!! Everyone I’ve ever served them too has said those meatballs are the absolute best they’ve ever had!!
Oh yummy! I’m such a sucker for creme brulee. I just HAVE to order it every time I see it.
Congrats on 3 years!! That is quite an accomplishment! I love creme brulee! I don’t think I can remember exactly how I found your site, but I have been a regular reader ever since. I have made so many of your recipes so to narrow it down is hard. One that pops out is the Double chocolate biscotti where you added the white chocolate chips instead of nuts. I’m allergic to nuts so I was so happy to see that substitution and it was a delicious one! Those were the favorite thing I made for my holiday gift packages this year. I also love the pizza crust recipe and chicken parmesan. Here’s to many more years of Brown Eyed Baker! :) :) :)
I think this is my new favorite. Whenever I see creme brulee it tugs at my heart because it’s my husband’s favorite dessert. I love your beautiful crispy edges. Happy blogoversary. I look forward to another year of wonderful blog posts.
I LOVE creme brulee! I don’t remember how I came across the Brown Eyed Baker; I just know I’m glad I did. :) I think my favorite (and the most dangerous) recipe I’ve tried thus far is the coffee/cappuccino cheesecake!
I’ve never tasted creme brûlée, now excuses. Happy Blogiversary to youuuu!
Wow, thanks for posting! I think I might just make this for my hubby for his upcoming birthday!
Wonderful blog, and many congratulations on your third blog birthday! I’ve enjoyed reading and look forward to another year of tasty food.
I haven’t ever had creme brulee before, I feel like I’m missing something because of the fact. Sounds like a great recipe!
I can hear the crackle as the spoon enters the brulee. Congrats to three years of great blogging.
creme brulee is amazing…the combination of textures is so cool and so good! love this recipe…hopefully i can make it for a crowd on Valentine’s Day!?!