The Best Crème Brûlée Recipe

This Crème Brûlée recipe is easy to make and results in silky-smooth vanilla bean custard covered with a layer of caramelized sugar. A classic recipe perfect for special occasions!

A spoon digging into a ramekin of creme brulee.

It’s no secret that I usually have a hankering for rich and decadent desserts like flourless chocolate cakes and creamy cheesecakes, when I go out to dinner I am often drawn to crème brûlée to cap off my meal.

I’m not sure if it has a fancy mystique that only calls to me when out to a restaurant, but it’s a treat that I always thoroughly enjoy. Pushing the 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.

While it appears incredibly fancy and one of those restaurant-only desserts, making crème brûlée at home is totally doable and, dare I say, easy! You need a couple pieces of specialty equipment, but the preparation is simple and the hands-on time is minimal.

Let’s do this!

Three bowls of creme brulee.

How to Make Crème Brûlée At Home

While it might look like an intimidating recipe to try on your own, it’s really quite easy!

  • Steep vanilla bean seeds and its pod in a cream and sugar mixture. Once that is done, egg yolks and additional cream are slowly incorporated to create the custard.
  • The custard is poured into individual ramekins and baked in a water bath until the custard has set and is cooked through. They are cooled to room temperature and then chilled.
  • The surface of the custard is sprinkled with coarse sugar and caramelized using a kitchen torch, then re-chilled briefly before serving.

Done! :)

Scraping vanilla bean seeds with a paring knife.

While it’s pretty straightforward, I know you might have some questions about the technique and equipment used, so let’s discuss…

Is Crème Brûlée Supposed to be Served Hot or Cold?

You can serve crème 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 Crème Brûlée and Flan?

While they are both custard-based desserts, crème brûlée and flan result in vastly different end products.

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.

Pouring the custard into ramekin bowls for creme brulee.

Can Crème Brûlée Be Made in Advance (Or Frozen)?

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.

Creme Brulee being torched.

Can Crème Brûlée Be Made Without a Kitchen Torch? Or Ramekins?

Yes and yes!

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.

A Few Additional Notes on the Crème Brûlée Recipe

  • 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.
  • A vanilla bean gives custard the deepest flavor, but vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste can be substituted.
  • The best way to judge doneness is with a digital instant-read thermometer.
  • You can substitute regular granulated sugar for the crust, but only use 1 scant teaspoon on each ramekin.

A spoon digging into a ramekin of creme brulee.

I originally shared this recipe back in 2010 to mark the third anniversary of Brown Eyed Baker hitting the Internet.

Now, some eight years later, I’m thrilled to resurrect the recipe with gorgeous new photos (thank you, Whitney!), tons of new information and helpful tips so that you can enjoy this fancy restaurant dessert at home, too.

Two ramekin bowls of creme brulee.

To Use Up the Extra Whites, Try These Recipes:

If You Like This Crème Brûlée Recipe, Try These:

Two ramekins of creme brulee

Four years ago: Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream
Six years ago: Homemade Graham Crackers

Watch How to Make Creme Brûlée:

Crème Brûlée

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 Crème Brûlée recipe is easy to make and results in silky-smooth vanilla bean custard covered with a layer of caramelized sugar. A classic recipe perfect for special occasions!

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 Notes:

  • 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.
  • A vanilla bean gives custard the deepest flavor, but 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, whisked into the yolks in step 4, can be used instead.
  • The best way to judge doneness is with a digital instant-read thermometer.
  • You can substitute regular granulated sugar for the crust, but only use 1 scant teaspoon on each ramekin.
  • 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, 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.
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: 42.8%
Vitamin C: 0.9%
Calcium: 11.2%
Iron: 4.3%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

This recipe was originally published on February 11, 2010.

[photos by Whitney Wright]