Flan vs Creme Brulee–the Similarities and the Differences

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Kimberly Ripley

Kimberly Ripley is a freelance writer and published author from New Hampshire. She loves her time with her husband, five children and two grandchildren, but lives for her escape each winter to sunny Fort Myers, Florida where she searches for seashells--and writes.

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Flan and creme brulee are both rich, decadent desserts served in some of the finer restaurants around the country. If you’ve eaten both you may or may not have a preference between the two. If you’ve only tried one or the other, you may be curious about how the desserts differ in addition to those things that make them very similar, too. These tidbits of information will make sure you’re well informed about both desserts. Be aware, however, that after reading about them, you’ll no doubt be craving at least one of them–maybe both.

Flan vs Creme Brulee--the Similarities and the Differences

The word “flan” is what the Spanish use to describe an egg custard flavored with vanilla. One of the more popular desserts served in all of Spain–as well as in other Spanish speaking countries like Mexico–it is topped with a rich, sweet caramel sauce.

The words “creme brulee” translate in French to “burnt cream,” and while it’s not the cream part of the dessert they “burn” it’s easy to understand why they named it as such. Created with basically the same “egg custard flavored with vanilla” as the flan, many chefs make the custard with cream rather than milk, adding to the creaminess and richness of the dessert. Instead of a caramel sauce on top of the custard, creme brulee is covered with crisp, browned sugar, made by sprinkling sugar over the top of the completed custard and heating the sugar with a blow torch until it is browned.

Flan vs Creme Brulee--the Similarities and the Differences

Both dishes are created using a water bath. This is when the individual ramekins or small bowls of either flan or creme brulee are placed inside of a shallow pan filled with water and baked in the oven. The water must never be deep enough to touch the contents of the ramekins and actually helps to steam the custards–much in the same way one would steam a pudding.

Now you fully comprehend the similarities of and differences between these desserts. And should you choose to create one or the other, you’ll be ready to create a water bath and decide whether to buy or borrow a blow torch–or omit that option completely. Most of all, you’ll certainly impress your culinary friends when you rattle off these fun facts you’ve learned about both flan and creme brulee. And that can be almost as much fun as indulging!