Easy Vegan Crème Caramel (Flan)
For all the flan lovers out there or those who are about to become one, I proudly present to you – the perfect vegan crème caramel recipe. No eggs, no milk, not even refined sugar, but still so darn tasty and custardy… just mind-blowing!
This delicious and creamy vegan caramel flan dessert is an excellent choice for impressing your guests. Its smooth texture and delicate custard-like flavour make it a real luxurious treat. Plus, you will only need five ingredients and less than an hour to make it.
Different versions of flan, or crème caramel, are popular all around the world. Originally, all desserts of this type are made with eggs, milk and sugar as main ingredients. In Croatia, we have a traditional flan dessert called rožata, originating from the city of Dubrovnik.
Even though I don’t mind the taste of traditional rožata, I have to say that this plant-based version of flan tastes so much better than the original! This vegan crème caramel is a creamy, tender and delicious treat that you simply need to try.
To keep it as simple and healthy as possible, I decided to use as little as five ingredients and make it without any refined sugar or added oil. It is also naturally gluten-free and nut-free.
Ingredients for the vegan flan (crème caramel)
- Full-fat coconut milk – my favourite plant milk for making plant-based flan. Its naturally high fat content makes the dessert extra creamy. I recommend using the one with 60% or more coconut content (usually sold in cans or cartons for cooking; not the “coconut drink” for coffee and cereal).
- Coconut blossom sugar – with its natural caramel flavour, coconut sugar is the perfect sweetener for this dessert. It even makes this flan recipe super simple because you don’t need to caramelise it – it already tastes like caramel in its natural form. Besides that, it is one of the best natural sweeteners in terms of glycemic index and impact on health.
- Vanilla extract – to enrich the flavour of the dessert and make it extra delicious.
- Tapioca starch or cornstarch – it will thicken the coconut milk cream, but also make it soft and creamy. In combination with agar, it will be responsible for the perfect, soft but compact enough, pudding-like consistency of these flan desserts.
- Agar-agar is a great plant-based replacement for gelatin in sweets. It will act as a gelling agent and help you get a compact dessert that doesn’t fall apart or crush once you flip it and remove the mould. You can use agar powder or flakes (to learn more, I recommend this article on how to use agar-agar in cooking)
Working with agar-agar in this vegan flan recipe
Agar is responsible for giving this dessert a consistency that is compact enough for retaining its shape when you take it out of the mould. However, in this crème caramel recipe, we don’t want to use too much of it because we still want this dessert to be light and creamy.
A standard recipe for getting the perfect jelly consistency with agar would include using eight to ten grams of agar powder to thicken a litre of liquid. Here I used less than 8 g per litre because I didn’t want to get a firm jelly, but rather thicken the cream just a bit and get a softer, pudding-like consistency.
If you are interested in learning more about using agar in desserts, check out this article on how to use agar-agar in cooking. There, I explained how to use different types of agar and how much agar you need set different liquids in more detail.
How to make this easy vegan flan (crème caramel)
1. Making the caramel custard cream
I like to make this vegan custard cream from two components: the first one consists of water and agar, and the second one is a mixture of coconut milk, coconut sugar and tapioca starch. Each of the two is cooked in a separate pot at the same time, and when they are cooked I whisk them together to combine them.
The reason for doing it in two separate parts instead of just mixing it all together is this – I noticed that agar-agar tends to dissolve quite slowly in milk and generally mixtures that already have larger molecules in them.
In this mixture you would already have plant milk, coconut sugar and tapioca starch, all making it dense and possibly preventing agar from dissolving completely.
This is especially noticeable with agar flakes and strips, but the powder also shows better results when it is first dissolved in water rather than in milk. You can read some of my observations on dissolving agar in plant milk in this article about using agar-agar in cooking.
That being said, in case you really want to make everything in one saucepan rather than two, you can: just blend all of the ingredients in a blender first to make sure they are perfectly combined and smooth before heating it on the stovetop.
I will still write my longer way because I believe it gives the best results.
So, to make the cream, you will first need to mix agar with water and bring it to a boil over low heat. Mix regularly while it is simmering over the lowest heat until all agar is dissolved and the mixture becomes smooth and slightly thicker (usually 2-4 minutes with agar powder).
In another saucepan (preferably at the same time), mix the coconut milk, vanilla and coconut blossom sugar. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for a minute or two – until it thickens. If you want to get a smooth and silky texture, whisk it from the moment you put it on the stovetop until it is done.
This takes about a minute on my gas stove, and I suppose it could take slightly longer on an electric one. You will notice the change in texture when it happens – it will turn from watery to thick and creamy.
When both the agar mixture and coconut-tapioca cream are cooked, turn the fire off and pour the liquid agar jelly into the coconut cream. Whisk well to combine and pour into moulds. I used silicone cupcake moulds, but glass and hard plastic worked equally well in my experience.
Let the set at room temperature for an hour. Cooled and thickened desserts should be easy to remove from the moulds. If you used silicone moulds, do it a bit more carefully so as not to have the gentle dessert fall apart when the mould changes its shape.
2. Making the caramel sauce for the vegan crème caramel
Most of the traditional flan desserts are normally made with a layer of dense caramel that goes on the bottom of the mould and merges with the custard cream after eight hours in the fridge.
However, in this recipe, I decided to avoid the long waiting time and add the caramel layer after the flan has thickened in the fridge. It makes this creme caramel recipe easier and more practical, especially if you are in a rush and need your desserts to be ready in less than an hour. Totally possible with this one!
To make the caramel sauce, you will need to dissolve coconut sugar in coconut milk, bring it to a light simmer and cook for a minute over low heat to combine. As it cools down, the caramel will thicken.
Serving and storing the vegan flan (creme caramel)
Carefully remove the flan puddings from their moulds and put them on plates. Pour about two teaspoons or up to a tablespoon of coconut caramel syrup on top of each flan and serve.
I recommend pouring the coconut caramel over flan desserts right before serving because you will get the freshest look. After the flan has spent some hours with the coconut caramel on top, the caramel layer will start dissolving and losing its caramel colour and consistency.
The coconut milk puddings can last for at least three days in the fridge. I like to keep them in moulds, covered with a wax wrap to prevent them from drying out. If you don’t have that much space in the fridge, you can remove them from the moulds and keep them in a closed container.
Easy Vegan Crème Caramel (Flan)
An easy recipe for a delicious vegan flan (crème caramel) made with coconut milk and coconut blossom sugar.
- 1 cup (250 ml) full-fat coconut milk
- 1 tbsp (7 g) tapioca starch
- 1/3 cup (40 g) coconut sugar
- a few drops of vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) water
- 1 tsp (2 g) agar powder
- + for the caramel:
- 1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 3 tbsp coconut sugar
- In one saucepan, mix a teaspoon of agar powder and 1/2 cup of water, put it on low heat and simmer until all agar dissolves. Whisk regularly to get it evenly dissolved. If you are using agar powder, this can take as little as one minute; with flakes a bit longer.
- At the same time, mix 1 cup of coconut milk, 1/3 cup of coconut sugar, vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of tapioca to combine well, and put it on the stove.
- Let it simmer over low heat for up to a few minutes, until it thickens a bit as tapioca absorbs water. Whisk this one regularly as well, to prevent it from separating or sticking to the bottom.
- Remove both saucepans from the heat, pour the agar water into thickened coconut milk mixture and whisk well to combine.
- Pour the mixture into moulds or bowls, let it cool down to room temperature first and then let it thicken and cool down in the fridge (for about an hour).
- In the meantime, cook the caramel - mix coconut milk and coconut sugar in a saucepan and cook (simmer) over low heat for a few minutes while constantly stirring. It will thicken more as it cools down because coconut oil from coconut milk solidifies below room temperature.
- Take the thickened desserts out of the moulds and pour caramel over them. Bon appétit!
- When making this caramel custard, I like to dissolve agar and starch in two separate saucepans because that way I can make sure that all the agar dissolved properly. If you would like to shorten the process, you can put all of the custard ingredients in a blender at the same time and blend well. Then pour into a saucepan and simmer over the lowest heat until it thickens (probably a minute or so).
- Whisking the mixture constantly while it is being heated helps you get the smoothest and creamiest result.
- Making it all in one saucepan is only possible if you are using agar powder OR if you have a high-speed blender that will blend agar flakes really well. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend cooking agar in a separate saucepan as described in the recipe, so as not to leave any bits undissolved.
- One teaspoon of agar-agar powder thickens the same amount of liquid as one tablespoon of agar flakes or agar strips cut into flakes.