Custard vs Flan

Custard vs Flan: Decoding Two Classic Desserts

Nothing beats a perfectly made dessert after a sumptuous meal. And smooth, rich, and sweet custards are among the best incredible ways of ending a nice dinner. There are many custard desserts, each with unique ingredients and preparation methods.

Two popular and most loved custard desserts are custard and flan. These custard desserts have an almost similar flavor, with a great flavor and a glossy silken texture. However, they are not the same. Their differences lie in the ingredients ratio, cooking method, toppings used, and how they are thickened. Stay tuned to get more insights on custard and flan.

Custard vs Flan

Custard vs Flan: Overview

Custard, also called crème Brulee, is a dessert prepared from milk, eggs, and sugar. The ingredients are thickened by heat. Vanilla or other flavorings may sometimes be added to the sauce or not. Serving this dessert involves using it as a base for savory dishes, or as a filling for some cakes and pies. You can also serve custard the way it is, cold and solidified.

Flan, also known as crème caramel, is a typical dessert made with a custard base and a caramel topping. You can decide to have toppings like vegetables in the middle or eat them without toppings. Put simply, flan comprises custard at the bottom and caramel at the top.

Therefore, custard and flan are the same things, with flan having additional ingredients – caramel top and sometimes toppings in the center.

About Custard

There are two ways of making custard, depending on the desired consistency. One, you can make it to have a gel-like consistency or a pourable consistency. Regardless of the preferred consistency, the ingredients used to make custard remain the same.

To prepare custard, you’ll need milk, egg, sugar, and flavorings like vanilla. These are common essential ingredients, and some custard recipes may call for more ingredients.

The thickness of the custard is due to the eggs used. However, some people prefer adding cornstarch instead of eggs to achieve a thick consistency.

You can prepare custard on a stove or use low heat in the oven. Depending on your preferred heat source, the custard may be categorized as baked or stirred custard. Choosing the former leads to a stirred custard. Making stirred custard involves constant stirring so that curds don’t form and the custard becomes smooth. This result in a custard with a pouring consistency.

Baked custard is cooked in the oven using a water bath. The water bath ensures even heat distribution to the custard. This prevents overheating and the formation of curds. Going for the latter gives you baked custard.

You can eat custard as it is or use it to make other types of desserts like flan.

About Flan

Flan is a dessert consisting of a custard base and a caramel top. Although this custard has a French origin, it is famous worldwide, especially in European countries and Latin America.

The flan custard base is a type of baked custard that’s baked in the oven, achieving a gel-like consistency. It’s then topped with caramel. Flan combines custard base’s rich taste and topped caramel’s sweetness.

To make flan, you’ll need milk (either whole or condensed), sugar, cream, and flavorings like vanilla to add flavor. Start by cooking the sugar until it becomes caramel. Next, pour the caramel sugar into a mold and add the ingredients for the custard base.

Making flan in the oven using a water bath ensures it heats slowly and heat is evenly distributed. This prevents curds from forming. Heat the flan in a water bath until it is set and the custard base becomes gel-like. Invert the food mold onto a plate, creating a crunchy caramel sauce top with a soft gelatinous custard at the bottom.

Differences Between Custard And Flan

Although almost similar, custard and flan are not entirely the same. Here are some critical differences between custard and flan:

Appearance – both custard and flan are creamy desserts. However, custard has a smaller diameter and a bigger height. This dessert’s top, middle, and base parts appear silky smooth, unlike flan. It seems like a mound.

On the other hand, flan has a larger diameter and a smaller height. It appears flatter, more like a pie. The top part of this dessert looks crispy, while the center and base parts seem silky smooth.

Cooking method – custard and flan can be prepared in a water bath in the oven. However, unlike flan, you can make custard on a stove using low heat.

Flavor – although the two custards have much in common, they don’t taste the same. Custard is usually made with whole milk, sugar, eggs, and flavorings. This gives the custard a mild sweet flavor.

As for flan, it’s prepared with different types of dairy products, like sweet condensed milk, cream cheese, and evaporated milk. This makes flan have a sweeter and tangier flavor than custard.

Ingredients – custards are by default sweet, while flans may be sweet or savory. The sweet nature of custard calls for ingredients that enhance sweetness. Sweet flans call for sweet ingredients. But, if you make savory flan, you’ll need ingredients that enhance savory flavor like spices and herbs.

Serving options – custard is sweet and best served as dessert towards the end of your meal. Savory flans can be eaten as desserts or during breakfast, brunch, dinner, or lunch.

Texture – custard, and flan both have a smooth texture at the base. However, flan has a crispier texture that seems crunchy when eaten.

Custard vs Flan


Custard desserts like flan and custard are creamy with a rich flavor. They are perfect for finishing a nice meal. Custard can have a gel-like or pourable consistency. This depends on the cooking method used, on a stove or in the oven. Although custards taste mildly sweet, they are best eaten as deserts.

Flan comprises a baked custard base and a caramel coat on top. Flans are sweeter than custards with a tangier taste. They can also be savory. Savory flans can be eaten any time of the day.