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Créme Brûlée

This easy créme brûlée recipe is rich, creamy, and even tastier than any version you’ll find in a restaurant! We’ve used whole vanilla beans for a superior taste, and we’ll show you how to use a torch for the perfectly caramelized sugar crust. Top it with fresh berries for a dessert that will leave your guests raving.

Creme brulee in ramekins with strawberries.
Learn how to make Créme Brûlée at home for a show stopping dessert – truly EASY.

VIDEO: Watch us Make THIS RECIPE

What Is Créme Brûlée?

Also known as burnt cream or Trinity cream, Créme brûlée is a decadent French dessert that is made with a rich pudding-like custard base and a sweet caramelized sugar crust. Finished off with a chef’s blow torchso fun – the sugar topping hardens to form a thin, crunchy layer that provides a crisp contrast to the smooth and creamy custard underneath.

Often thought of as a delicacy reserved for fancy restaurants, we discovered that créme brûlée is actually easy to make at home. This créme brûlée recipe is SO much better than restaurant versions; you’ll simply have to try it.

Creme brulee in ramekin prior to torch.
Prior to torching, créme brûlee custard can be made ahead well ahead of time.

Why This Recipe Stands Out

We can’t get enough of this crème brulee recipe. It’s simple yet delicious and the perfect dessert for any occasion. Here’s why we’re raving about this recipe:

  • Simple: This recipe uses just 5 basic ingredients, making one of the easiest desserts for anyone to whip up.
  • Flavor: The combination of fresh vanilla bean and creamy custard is absolutely heavenly. The vanilla bean makes all the difference, just like it does in our Creamy Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.
  • Texture: The contrast between the crunchy caramelized sugar topping and the creamy custard is absolutely perfect.
  • Versatile: It is a perfect dessert for any occasion, be it a casual dinner or a fancy party. It’s especially perfect for Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
  • Make-Ahead: You can prepare the custards up to 2 days in advance, making it a stress-free dessert option.
  • Customizable: You can top the crème brulee with fresh berries or any other fruit of your choice. Strawberries will work great like they do in our Chia Seed Pudding.
  • Impress Your Guests: There’s nothing quite like perfectly creamy, crispy cremé brulee!

Key Recipe Ingredients

  • Heavy Whipping Cream – This is the backbone of our créme brûlée, providing a rich and creamy texture that is simply irresistible.
  • Madagascar Vanilla Bean A whole vanilla bean is highly recommended for this recipe. It infuses the cream with a deep, authentic vanilla flavor that is unmatched by extracts.
  • Egg Yolks – Five large egg yolks are used in this recipe, guaranteeing a custard that is rich and velvety. Be sure to exclude any bits of egg whites for the best results.
  • Fresh Berries – Fresh berries add a pop of color and a burst of freshness to this rich dessert, making it even more appealing to the eye and the palate.
  • Boiling Water –  It is crucial to help the custard bake evenly and prevent the egg yolks from curdling in the oven.
Creme Brulee in ramekin with strawberries and vanilla beans
The crisp sugar topping provides the perfect contrast to the creamy custard.

Substitutions And Variations

This creme brulee will give you classic flavors that are better than anything you’ll find at your favorite restaurant, but you can easily customize it to make it your own. Here are some of our favorite substitution and variation ideas:

  • Vanilla Extract: While we highly recommend the use of a whole Madagascar vanilla bean for its rich flavor, you could substitute it with 1 TB of real vanilla extract if necessary. Just remember to reduce the simmer time to 5 minutes and add the extract at the end.
  • Torchless Caramelization: We’ve tried the broiler method for caramelizing the sugar topping, but a torch is far superior. If you don’t have a torch, be careful not to burn the topping unevenly under the broiler, and watch that the custard underneath doesn’t melt due to the intense heat.
  • Fruit Toppings: We recommend fresh berries for serving, but feel free to experiment with other fruits. You can try anything from poached peaches to caramelized banana, like in our Bananas Foster Ice Cream.
  • Heavy Cream Alternatives: If you’re looking to reduce the fat content, you might try substituting half of the heavy cream with whole milk. Bear in mind that this will alter the texture slightly, making it less rich.
  • Reduced Sugar: If you’re watching your sugar intake, you could try reducing the sugar in the recipe by a small amount. Remember, the caramelized sugar topping is a key flavor component, so don’t cut too much!

Step-By-Step Recipe Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine cream, sugar, vanilla bean seeds, and empty vanilla bean.
  2. Cover and simmer. Strain and allow mixture to cool for 10 minutes.
  1. Drizzle whisked egg yolks into the cooled cream mixture, whisking constantly.
  2. Ladle the custard mixture evenly into the ramekins and bake at 325 F on lower middle rack for about 35 minutes.
  1. Dab off excess moisture and sprinkle 1 tsp sugar over each custard evenly. Tap excess sugar onto the next custard and repeat the process.
  2. Caramelize the sugar topping on each custard using a blowtorch, moving the flame in circles until golden bubbles appear. Chill until ready to serve.

How To Prep Ahead

Crème brûlée is a classic dessert that’s guaranteed to impress, and we have some handy tips to make preparing it even more straightforward. Take a look at our favorite prep-ahead tips for this recipe:

  • Cream Mixture: You can prepare the cream, sugar, and vanilla bean mixture ahead of time. After simmering and letting it cool, store it in the fridge for up to a day. When you’re ready to bake, just reheat it gently before adding the egg yolks.
  • Chill the Custards: After baking the custards, let them cool to room temperature and then chill them in the fridge. This can be done up to 2 days in advance. When ready to serve, just add the sugar topping and caramelize it with a blowtorch.

Tips for how to make the Best Créme Brûlée

  • Use high-quality ingredients. Given that there are so few items used to make créme brûlée, it’s important to make sure they’re high-quality. For this reason, we recommend using whole vanilla beans instead of imitation vanilla extract.
  • Temper the eggs. Tempering means adding small amounts of hot water, or in this case cream, to the egg yolks slowly while stirring constantly. This allows the eggs to warm without cooking and turning into scrambled eggs.
  • Don’t overcook the custard. You’ll want to pull the custard out of the oven before it looks fully done. When removed from the oven, it should still be slightly jiggly like a cheesecake, the top should look glossy, and the center should be springy or slightly spongey to the touch.
  • Torch the sugar. The easiest way to create the sugary coating for the top of your créme brûlée is to use a kitchen torch and work quickly moving it in small circles. Holding the flame in one spot for too long will cause the sugar to burn!
  • Cool to room temperature. For the best results, we recommend chilling the baked custard in the fridge overnight. This allows for a smooth top and helps create the caramelized crust.
Closeup shot of a spoon with Creme Brulee.
One bite of homemade créme brûlée, and you’ll never want to order it at a restaurant again.

Commonly Asked Questions

Is créme brûlée eaten hot or cold?

Traditionally, créme brûlée recipes are served cold. However, the caramelized sugar topping is warm from the heat of the chef’s blow torch, providing the perfect contrast.

Can I make easy créme brûlée ahead of time?

Yes! In fact, we recommend doing so to allow the custard time to cool. Feel free to prepare the custard filling up to 2 days in advance, and keep it covered in the fridge. When you’re ready to serve, add the sugar on top and give it a torch.

Is créme brûlée just flan?

Although similar, créme brûlée and flan are not quite the same. Both are comprised of a pudding-like custard filling. However, the primary difference lies within the topping. Flan is made with a soft liquid caramel layer while créme brûlée is famous for its crispy caramelized sugar layer.

Is this créme brûlée recipe healthy?

This French dessert is indulgent, but because they’re enjoyed in individual 4oz ramekins, they’re perfect in moderation. We also recommend serving it with plenty of fresh, ripe berries for a big pop of color and goodness.

How do you torch créme brûlée?

First, a good quality créme brûlée torch is essential and so worth having. You’ll turn the torch on and hold it several inches from the sugared top of crème brûlée and slowly rotate the flame, keeping constant motion so it doesn’t burn. Once the caramelized sugar is a lovely toffee color, turn torch off and let the dessert cool a bit so the caramelized sugar hardens into a crispy thin topping.


Did you make this?

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creme brulee in a dish

Créme Brûlée

4.90 from 57 ratings
This easy créme brûlée recipe is rich, creamy, and tastier than any version you'll find in a restaurant! Custards can be made up to 2 days in advance. Note: Recipe is for six (6) individual 4-oz ramekins.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Chill Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 6
Author: Amy Dong

Ingredients  

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup granulated sugar, plus more for topping
  • 1 whole Madagascar vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 5 egg yolks, large, take care that no bits of whites are included
  • boiling water
  • fresh berries , for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325F, with rack on lower middle position. In medium saucepan, combine cream and sugar, mixing well. Use a small knife to scrape all seeds from vanilla bean, into the saucepan. Once all seeds have been added to saucepan, add the empty vanilla bean into saucepan.
  • Over medium heat, stir until sugar completely dissolves and the creamy mixture comes to a simmer. Cover pan and reduce heat to lowest setting. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and remove the empty bean and any other pieces of the bean. Set aside to let cool about 10 minutes.
  • In medium bowl, whisk yolks until well blended. Very carefully and in a very slow stream, drizzle egg yolks into the cream mixture while whisking constantly, until all egg yolks are added (a mini silicone spatula really helps with getting all the egg yolks in there.)
  • Place ramekins in a 9×13 pan/baking dish. Gently pour enough boiling water directly into the pan – not into the ramekins themselves – so that the hot water reaches halfway up the outsides of ramekins. This step is important for even-cooking and prevents edges of custards from cooking too fast.
  • Using a ladle, evenly divide custard into ramekins. Place entire pan in oven and bake about 35 minutes. Custards should be almost set in the center when pan is gently shaken.
  • Remove ramekins from baking pan and let cool to room temp – we use these silicone gloves, extremely helpful here. Chill custards in fridge for several hours, until cold throughout. This can be done up to 2 days in advance.
  • When ready to serve, dab off excess moisture from top of custards. Sprinkle 1 tsp sugar over first custard, rotating it so that sugar evenly coats top. Tap excess sugar out onto second custard. Repeat until all custards have a thin, even layer of sugar on top.
  • Turn blowtorch on and move flame constantly in circles over the sugar topping until golden caramel-colored bubbles appear – start with flame about 6 inches away, to get a feel for it. Place finished custards back in the fridge as you work, to allow caramelized sugar to harden. Serve chilled créme brûlée with fresh berries.

Notes

  • Use high-quality ingredients. Given that there are so few items used to make créme brûlée, it’s important to make sure they’re high-quality. For this reason, we recommend using whole vanilla beans instead of imitation vanilla extract.
  • Using vanilla extract as a substitute. We don’t recommend substituting with vanilla extract, as the vanilla bean pods make ALL the difference. That said, you may try 1 TB real vanilla extract if you must. If using extract, reduce the simmer time to 5 minutes and only add extract at the end. 
  • Temper the eggs. Tempering means adding small amounts of hot water, or in this case cream, to the egg yolks slowly while stirring constantly. This allows the eggs to warm without cooking and turning into scrambled eggs.
  • Don’t overcook the custard. You’ll want to pull the custard out of the oven before it looks fully done. When removed from the oven, it should still be slightly jiggly like a cheesecake, the top should look glossy, and the center should be springy or slightly spongey to the touch.
  • Torch the sugar. The easiest way to create the sugary coating for the top of your créme brûlée is to use a kitchen torch and work quickly moving it in small circles. Holding the flame in one spot for too long will cause the sugar to burn.
  • Don’t use the broiler method. We’ve tried the broiler method (no-torch method) for caramelizing the sugar topping, but found that a torch is far superior. It’s too easy to burn the topping unevenly under the broiler, and the custard underneath tends to melt under the intense heat of the broiler. 
  • Cool to room temperature. For the best results, we recommend chilling the baked custard in the fridge overnight. This allows for a smooth top and helps create the caramelized crust.
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and give it a rating. We ❤️ hearing from you! 
 
 
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Nutrition (per serving)

Serving: 1ramekin | Calories: 375kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 252mg | Sodium: 29mg | Potassium: 92mg | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 1383IU | Vitamin C: 0.5mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Amerian, French
Diet: Gluten Free
Method: Bake

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Recipe Rating




21 comments

    • Lien
    • 5 stars

    I made this a couple of nights ago as dessert for our Italian-themed dinner. I overcooked the heavy creme for just a bit as I turned for (just a moment) and saw the pot boiling over. (so, if you do this, it will be ok). I actually think it helped the creme to set. I didn’t have vanilla bean on hand, so I used vanilla bean paste. I added it in with the rest of the ingredients. I will say, this is the ABSOLUTE BEST creme Brulee we have ever had! I was so impressed with myself!
    Thanks for the recipe. We will be making this again.

      • Amy Dong

      Yes!! SO happy you all loved this, Lien! 🙂 🙂

    • Ann
    • 5 stars

    Yum! This creme brûlée sounds delicious! Excited to give it a try! Thanks for the recipe share!

    • Cathleen
    • 5 stars

    I love a good creme brulee but I have never made it at home. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, making it this weekend 🙂

    • Maggie
    • 5 stars

    I could’ve licked the bowl clean. Can’t wait to make it again.

      • Amy Dong

      Thank you!

    • Erin
    • 5 stars

    Creme brulee is one of my all time favorite desserts! Thanks for sharing!

    • Jamie
    • 5 stars

    This dessert is just so yummy and delicious! The texture it gives is just making us entice and tempt with it! The finished product is just so satisfying! Totally loved it!

      • Amy Dong

      Yay, so happy to hear that, Jamie!

    • Luke
    • 5 stars

    The perfect créme brûlée recipe, I will always use, and I’ve tried a lot, and by far, this is the best 🙂

      • Amy Dong

      Aww, that’s amazing, Luke!

    • Lauren
    • 5 stars

    First recipe I’ve ever tried for creme brûlée and only one I will ever use!!!!

      • chewoutloud

      Super awesome, Lauren! 🙂 🙂

    • Michelle R

    I made this recipe for dessert at our New Year’s Eve dinner party and the guests said it was the best creme brûlée they have ever eaten, hands down. Thank you so much for such a simple and delicious recipe!!

      • chewoutloud

      Thanks so much, Michelle! Happy new year to you and yours

    • Mandee

    hey what size/ounces are the ramekins? Thank you

      • chewoutloud

      Mine are about 5oz ramekins, but something between 4.5 to 6oz will work great for individual sizes. The recipe is somewhat forgiving 🙂 Enjoy!

    • Cathy

    Just made this today and not only is it super easy (always been intimidated by custards things) but amazingly creamy and almost…heavenly. I will be bookmarking this page when I need to impress company!

      • chewoutloud

      SO glad you liked it, Cathy! It’s our favorite, and has it not totally ruined restaurant creme brulee for you now? 😉

    • ~ Phuong ~

    I love creme brulee!!! Yours look so good, I gotta get myself a blow torch to try this recipe out soon.

      • chewoutloud

      The blow torch is sooo worth getting. Doesn’t cost much, but works wonders with Creme Brulee or any other brulee’d desserts! 🙂

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