It can be two different things.
Spanish Flan
Photo by Getty Images

What is Flan? What is Flan Made of?

Flan can refer to two different things: either a baked custard dessert topped with caramel similar to the French crème caramel, or a tart-like sweet pastry with a filling called a fruit flan.

What is a Dessert Flan?

A dessert flan is made of eggs; sweetened condensed milk, cream or whole milk; and flavorings such as vanilla, orange, coconut, or coffee. Because egg-based custard is delicate, flan is baked in a water bath in the oven.

What is a Fruit Flan?

A fruit flan is typically baked in a special metal flan ring with straight sides. Unlike a tart or a cake pan, a flan ring does not have a bottom, which makes it easier to unmold. A flan ring needs to be placed on a baking sheet for baking. The baked pastry shell is then topped with pastry cream and fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apricots, or peaches or combinations thereof.

What Country is Flan from?

Flan is a popular dessert in Spain and Latin America, and its name and not so much its preparation varies from country to country.

Flan napolitano is another name for Mexican flan with a caramel layer on the bottom that is inverted onto a serving plate so the caramel is on top. It's quite similar to Spanish flan, and that's not surprising because the Spanish originally brought the flan to Mexico, from where it spread all over Latin America.

In Mexico and Central America, flan can be made with fresh milk or with condensed milk. Cuban flan uses only evaporated and condensed milk from cans because fresh milk is not readily available there.

Leche flan is the Filipino version of flan similar to Mexican flan.

Flan de queso is a Latin American flan variation made with cream cheese that can also be flavored with coconut.

What is the Difference Between a Flan and a Quiche?

While there are also savory flans made with eggs, vegetable puree and often cheese (Italian sformato is a type of flan) flans are usually sweet and served for dessert. Quiche, on the other hand, is always savory. And a quiche pan, unlike a flan ring, always has a bottom.

What is the Difference between Flan and Crème Brulee?

In flan, the caramel top is soft and liquid whereas in crème brulee, it is a layer of hardened caramelized sugar that requires a crème brulee torch to make.

Some Favorite Flan Recipes

Here are some of our top-rated flan recipes. For more on how to make this cool, custardy dessert, check out Perfect Flan.

Add homemade caramel to a flan mold and then fill with an easy custard mixture and bake in a water bath. "The Venezuelan quesillo recipe, pronounced ke-see-yo, has bounced around our family since as long as I can remember," says imgoingbananas.

Quesillo (Venezuelan Flan)
Photo by imgoingbananas

Here's a vanilla flan that's made with both evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk.

Spanish Flan
Photo by Mexicanlady

"A cheesecake-like custard bakes over a layer of caramel in my attempt at making flan that tastes like cheesecake," says Chef John. "Much to my (pleasant) surprise, I ended up with a flan-flavored cheesecake instead, thanks to the power of caramelized sugar. Careful, that thin layer of caramel can be overpowering. Whether or not you make a successful graham cracker crust topping, I hope you give this gorgeous recipe a try soon."

Chef John's Cheesecake Flan
Photo by Chef John

"A delicious, tropical coconut flan" says Esther. "Authentically Caribbean!"

Flan de Coco (Coconut Flan)
Photo by LatinaCook

"A beautiful fresh fruit dessert, this is not your regular 'fruit pizza,'" says Aunt Jeannie. "You can substitute your favorite fruits or berries for those in this recipe."

Fresh Fruit Flan
Photo by Trishie

A real classic! This sweet and simple baked custard features caramelized sugar, milk, and eggs.

Flan II
Photo by Kim's Cooking Now

Check out our collection of Flan Recipes.