Crema Catalana or Spanish custard, is Spains’s version of french Creme Brulee, but easier! A silky, creamy custard, flavored with cinnamon and citrus and topped with a shattering crust of caramelized sugar that just begs for a spoon!
The Classic Crema Catalana Recipe
Like Creme Brulee, Crema Catalana is a classic custard but made “the Spanish way” – with milk instead of cream, less sugar and flavored with cinnamon stick and lemon or orange peel.
On my first trip to
But what set’s this Catalan dessert apart is that it’s made entirely on the stove top !!! That’s right, no water bath, so no juggling ramekins into a pan and “hoping” I get the hot water into the pan and not in the ramekins!
What goes in Crema Catalana?
- The ingredient list is short-just milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and either lemon or orange peel.
- Cornstarch?? Yes, cornstarch! Most creme brulee recipes don’t call for a thickener – the eggs and cream are enough. But… since this recipe uses milk instead of cream, the cornstarch helps thicken the custard.
- Lemon or orange peel: you absolutely can use either or leave it out altogether. Here at ACT, we love this Spanish custard with whatever one we happen to have on hand!
- Egg yolks: Regular eggs are fine here. So what to do with the extra egg whites? This Brownie Cake with Whiskey Meringue is fabulous!
- Milk: This is not the time to watch your fat intake. You need full-fat milk for a silky and luscious texture!
- Sugar: Granulated white sugar works best for both the custard and the caramelized sugar top.
How to make this Crema Catalana Dessert:
- Mix the cornstarch and milk and set aside.
- Combine the eggs yolks and sugar and whisk until thick and pale yellow.
- Stir in the cornstarch mixture.
- Heat the milk – heating over medium heat helps infuse the milk with the citrus and cinnamon flavors.
- Remove from the heat– Slowly add the warm milk to the egg yolk mixture. If you add it too quickly it will curdle the egg yolks.
- Strain Pour the rest of the milk into the egg yolk mixture through a strainer and stir to combine.
- Cook the custard: add the egg mixture back to the pan you heated the milk in and cook over low heat. When you can drag your finger through a custard-coated spoon or spatula, the custard is done. Pour into individual ramekins or creme brulee dishes.
Recipe Notes and Tips:
- This custard is on the thinner side so if it’s not as thick as you expect, don’t worry. It’s supposed to be that way!
- Remove the ramekins from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you caramelize the sugar. You want to serve the crema at room temperature.
- If you don’t have a torch you can use your broiler – check out this article on the best technique!
Spanish Recipes for your next Tapas Party!
If you loved this Crema Catalana recipe, I would love for you to leave me a five star rating!
- 2 cups milk
- 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 large strips citrus peel, sliced lemon or orange
- 5 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- In a small bowl, combine 2 Tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch and stir until the cornstarch is dissolved.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining milk, cinnamon stick and citrus peel.
- Heat over medium-low heat until the milk begins to bubble, stirring frequently.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes so that the cinnamon and citrus can infuse the milk.
- While the milk is heating, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl.
- Whisk briskly until the eggs are thick and pale yellow. You can do this in a mixer but I use a whisk – less to wash!
- Add in the cornstarch mixture and a pinch of salt and whisk to combine.
- Ladle in a few tablespoons of the milk into the egg mixture and whisk.
- Add in a couple more tablespoons of the milk and whisk.
- Using a strainer, strain the rest of the milk into the egg mixture and whisk to combine.
- Return the egg mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 – 8 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon or spatula.