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:

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

Scraping vanilla bean seeds with a paring knife.
  • 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

Pouring the custard into ramekin bowls for creme brulee.
  • 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

Creme Brulee being torched.
  • 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.
Two ramekin bowls of creme brulee.

Recipe FAQ

Is creme brûlée supposed to be served hot or cold?

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!

What is the difference between creme brûlée and flan?

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.

Can you make creme brûlée without a kitchen torch?

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.

What can I use in place of ramekins?

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.

If You Like This Crème Brûlée Recipe, Try These:

Two ramekins of creme brulee

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

Servings 8 servings
Prep 45 minutes
Cook 35 minutes
Resting time 6 hours 55 minutes
Total 8 hours 55 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Author: Michelle

This easy to make Crème Brûlée recipe comes together with 6 pantry-staple ingredients for a decadent dessert that everyone is sure to enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 4
    cups
    heavy cream, chilled
  • cup
    granulated sugar
  • Pinch
    of table salt
  • 1
    vanilla bean
    (halved lengthwise)
  • 12
    egg yolks
  • 8-12
    teaspoons
    turbinado or Demerara sugar

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes:

  • 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.
Nutritional values are based on one serving

Nutrition:

Calories: 579kcal
Fat: 51g
Saturated fat: 29g
Cholesterol: 455mg
Sodium: 62mg
Potassium: 118mg
Carbohydrates: 25g
Sugar: 20g
Protein: 6g
Vitamin A: 2140%
Vitamin C: 0.7%
Calcium: 112%
Iron: 0.8%

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