Flan is one the most wonderful egg-based custards you will ever have. Very popular in Latin and Spanish cooking, this version has condensed milk which gives it a creamy, luxurious texture. This chocolate version is outstanding and easier to make than what you might think. And, I added a step-by-step video to guide you, so there's really no excuse.
Originally posted in September 2012, this post has been updated with images and text to serve you better. I made a tweak to the original recipe to make it creamier and with more chocolate flavor!
Flan is such a traditional dessert here in Argentina, I had to post about it. And chocolate flan made with condensed milk is an even simpler recipe than the old-fashioned one.
This is adapted from the recipe given to me by a Mexican friend of my grandmother's, the same one that taught me how to make Pastel Azteca (chicken tortilla casserole). I made it better, according to me, because it's richer and with a more pronounced chocolate flavor.
About this recipe
- Creamy: using condensed milk and cream ensures a velvet custard which makes this dessert melt in your mouth.
- Flavor: I use both semisweet chocolate and cocoa powder to infuse the milk and get that deeper flavor.
- Make ahead: flan doesn't freeze well, but you can keep it in the pan in the refrigerator (well wrapped) for several days before removing it.
- Chocolate: this recipe calls for semisweet and I like to use from 60% to 72%. But feel free to use your favorite dark baking chocolate. The better one you use the best flavor you will get.
- Cocoa powder: you want to use unsweetened. I find that darker ones have better flavor. But again, use the one you usually bake with.
- Condensed milk: it's a must ingredient and can't be substituted.
- Milk: use whole for richer results.
- Cream: I find that any type works as long as it's the regular, full fat type. I like double or heavy for this recipe.
- Eggs: can't have flan without eggs. Use the freshest ones you can find for best results.
- Flavorings: vanilla is a must and I recommend using pure extract or paste. You can also infuse the milk with a vanilla pod, opened. Salt is also used to enhance flavors, and sea salt is always my first choice.
- Sugar: it's used for the caramel only and it must be white, granulated.
Caramelizing the pan
Just in case you think making flan is tricky, it's really not. The only step that can be challenging is caramelizing the pan. So, let's dive into the details and tips.
- Beware how hot it is: the caramel lined tube pan sounds complicated to some but it's a simple idea. The only thing to watch is that you're working with caramel. Caramel. Unbelievably hot caramel, the way only caramel can be.
- Melting the sugar: for years I melted the sugar directly in the pan I was using, just like I was taught. But I have an extra step that is really a shortcut, because it makes your life easier and the chances of burning almost non-existent. And that is making the caramel in a skillet first and then adding it to the pan.
- When is it done: when all of the sugar is dissolved, the caramel is ready. By the time this happens, it will be a deep amber color. Don't be tempted to cook it more as it can burn in an instant and you will have to start all over again.
- Top tip: make sure the center of the pan in coated as shown in the image below. This is easily done with the help of a spoon, as is shown in the video steps below.
Steps to make it
From caramelizing the pan to baking it in a water bath, you can have a great chocolate flan following my tips in the recipe and the video below.
I put together a step-by-step video to guide you 👇🏻
I wanted to make this flan with both semisweet chocolate and cocoa powder. I think there's no better combination to get a deep chocolate flavor.
First I infused the milk with a cinnamon stick and then added good chocolate both in chips and powder form. The amount of cinnamon can be more if you want a stronger taste or omit the chocolate and you have cinnamon flan...
- Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
- Chocolate and cocoa powder: both act together to give this recipe a deep chocolate flavor. Use the best semisweet brands of both bars and powder you can afford as it will make a difference in the flavor.
- Refrigeration: this is an important step to allow the flan to settle and become creamier, similar to what happens to cheesecake.
- Flipping it over: this is the trickiest part for many, even more than making the caramel, and the secret is a very cold flan, straight from the refrigerator. Don't make it wait around. BUT, and this is another big one, you do have to soften the caramel before flipping or you won't be able to remove it in one piece. Watch the video in the post for step-by-step guidance.
- Flavorings: I sometimes add a cinnamon stick or cardamom pods (or both) to the milk and cream while they are heating to infuse a different flavor. Also, you can add drops of pure orange extract or coconut or coffee together with the vanilla.
Frequently asked questions
It has to be creamy, soft, and smooth when you eat it. And have a good caramel around it. Signs of a not-too-good flan: it's grainy in the mouth, it's too dense and somewhat dry (over baking), it's too watery with not enough flavor.
It will become dense, firm and start to dry out. Read the question above for other tips of what a good flan should be.
It should still be jiggly in the center and the edges will be set, similar to baked cheesecake. It will continue to bake with the residual heat until it cools down completely, so you don't want to let it become completely firm in the oven.
Cold. And it's important that you follow this rule if you want good results. The only thing you do after you take it out of the refrigerator is to soften the caramel in the bottom; otherwise you won't be able to remove it completely. For this, you put the pan over a low flame or burner until the flan's bottom releases. You will feel it if you gently shake the pan. There is a step-by-step video showing all of this in the post.
Yes it does if you want to achieve that creamy, smooth texture. And those qualities are essential to a good flan, so follow the instructions in this recipe, they're easy and you will get great results.
Other recipes you might like:
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Flan is the most wonderful egg-based custard you will ever have! Very popular in Latin cooking, this version has condensed milk which gives it a creamy, luxurious texture. The chocolate version here is outstanding.
To caramelize the pan:
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
For the custard:
- 1 can condensed milk
- 1 can whole milk (use the same can)
- ½ can cream (double, heavy or whipping)
- ½ can water (I use the can and eyeball half water and half cream)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3.5 ounces (100g) semisweet chocolate chunks
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- Whipped cream and fruit, to serve, optional
To caramelize the pan:
- Have ready a 9-inch flan pan which is round with a central tube. Or another tube pan with smooth sides (not intricate bundt ones).
- Trick: preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C. Put the flan pan inside while you make the caramel. This will help you coat it with the caramel because of the warm surface, it will glide more easily. But this step is optional.
- Pour the sugar into a non-stick skillet or saucepan and heat at medium temperature on the stovetop. Don't touch it at first.
- It will remain the same for a few minutes, but it will start to turn darker in a second.
- Stir it with a spoon (I use a silicone since the skillet is non-stick) constantly. It will be grainy and at some point you will feel it will never melt completely. Have patience.
- Adjust the temperature so that you allow it to melt but not burn in the process. If necessary, lift the skillet a couple of times or lower the heat.
- Dissolve the little pieces with the back of the spoon while you stir it.
- It's ready when no sugar bits remain. It will be a deep amber color.
- Pour into the prepared flan pan, grabbing it with thick kitchen towels or oven mitts, remember the pan is hot and the caramel even hotter.
- Swirl so that it coats the bottom and sides, and aid yourself with the back of a spoon to coat the central tube. Reserve.
For the custard:
- Open a can of condensed milk and pour the contents in a large bowl. Reserve.
- Using the same can as measure, put 1 cup of milk, ½ cup of cream and ½ cup of water in a saucepan. I eyeball the water and cream in the same can until it fills up.
- Bring to the point where it's about to boil and immediately turned heat off.
- Put chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl, add the hot milk mixture and let stand 1 minute to soften the chocolate.
- Whisk well until no flecks of chocolate remain and let everything cool down until it is warm, about ½ hour. We need to add it to the eggs and if it's too hot we might curdle them.
- Preheat oven to 300º F /150º C.
- Have ready hot or boiling water for the water bath.
- Add the lukewarm chocolate mixture into the condensed milk and mix until well incorporated.
- Whisk the eggs to blend in a large bowl.
- Gradually add the chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly until smooth.
- Put the flan pan (careful it might be hot from the caramel) in a larger one with 2 inch sides that will go into the oven. Pour the custard into into the flan pan. Do this near the oven for easier handling when the pan is full.
- Fill the larger pan with water until it reaches halfway up the flan pan.
- Bake for about 40, until the edges are set and the center is still quite jiggly. The time will vary depending on how tall the pan is and each oven.
- Turn the oven off and let cool down until warm in the oven.
- Remove from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
- Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours, well covered. I do it from one day to the other. At this point you can leave the flan in the pan for 3 days in the fridge.
- When you're ready to serve, put the pan directly on a low flame or electric burner and move it around to loosen the caramel. Shake the pan clockwise and counter-clockwise carefully until you feel that the bottom is loose and the whole flan is moving.
- Invert onto a serving plate that is large enough to hold the dessert. It's better if it has some sort of edge to keep the caramel inside.
- Heat the caramel stuck in the bottom of the pan over the burner and use it as extra sauce to serve. You can add a few tablespoons of water to make it thinner.
- Serve cold with whipped cream, chocolate shavings and fresh fruit. Or eat plain, it's amazing also.
Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Chocolate and cocoa powder: both act together to give this recipe a deep chocolate flavor. Use the best semisweet brands of both bars and powder you can afford as it will make a difference in the flavor.
Refrigeration: this is an important step to allow the flan to settle and become creamier, similar to what happens to cheesecake.
Flipping it over: this is the trickiest part for many, even more than making the caramel, and the secret is a very cold flan, straight from the refrigerator. Don't make it wait around. BUT, and this is another big one, you do have to soften the caramel before flipping or you won't be able to remove it in one piece. Watch the video in the post for step-by-step guidance.
Flavorings: I sometimes add a cinnamon stick or cardamom pods (or both) to the milk and cream while they are heating to infuse a different flavor. Also, you can add drops of pure orange extract or coconut or coffee together with the vanilla.
Keywords: chocolate flan