Crema Catalana Recipe - Authentic Spanish Version (2024)

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There is nothing better than ending a leisurely Spanish lunch with a Crema Catalana and a strong café solo. Fortunately, this quintessential dessert could not be easier to make. It takes only a few ingredients, all of which you probably have on hand.

Looking for more traditional Spanish desserts? Make sure to try my recipes for frisuelos (Spanish crepes) and tarta de aceite (olive oil cake), or check out these 12 delicious Spanish desserts.

Crema Catalana Recipe - Authentic Spanish Version (1)
Jump to:
  • Introduction
  • Ingredients
  • Substitutions
  • How to Make
  • Recipe FAQs
  • Serve
  • Store
  • Expert Tips
  • More Popular Spanish Desserts
  • Authentic Spanish Crema Catalana Recipe

Introduction

Crema Catalana is Spain's version of creme brûlée. Or, as many Catalans would argue, creme brûlée is France's version of Crema Catalana!

Crema Catalana is made with milk instead of cream, and often incorporates lemon peel and cinnamon. It's also not made using a bain-marie (a water bath, or baño maría in Spanish), which means it's easier to make than its French cousin. I guarantee you, it is to die for when made well!

This Crema Catalana recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden's The Food of Spain-- one of my favoriteSpanish cookbooks.

Ingredients

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Wondering what ingredients you need to make this delicious Crema Catalana? Let's talk about a few of the key ingredients, and you'll be ready to go!

  • Milk: You must use whole milk to ensure you'll get a creamy and delicious Crema Catalana that sets properly.
  • Citrus Peel: Another of the key ingredients are lemon and orange peel to flavor the Crema Catalana. Make sure to get a piece of the peel and not just the zest.
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon is the final defining characteristic of Crema Catalana.
  • Egg Yolks: The genius behind this creamy, eggy custard. Use the best quality large egg yolks you can find!

See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Substitutions

  • Milk/Cream: One of the main differences between crema Catalana and crème brûlée is the use of milk instead of cream. Using cream in crema Catalana isn't traditional, but you're welcome to try it!
  • Cinnamon: In France, you're likely to use vanilla to infuse the milk instead of a cinnamon stick. Feel free to substitute the cinnamon with vanilla if you like, but it won't be fully authentic.
  • Caster/Granulated Sugar: I like to use caster (superfine) sugar to get a thin layer of crunchy caramel topping, but you can use granulated sugar without an issue. The topping may be a bit more grainy, however.

How to Make

If you’d like to see the full ingredients and instructions, scroll to the bottom of the post for the printable recipe card.

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  1. Heat the milk, citrus peels, and cinnamon stick until it begins to simmer, then remove it from the heat.
  2. Dissolve the cornstarch in a splash of water to make a slurry.
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3. Add the sugar to the egg yolks.

4. Whisk vigorously until the mixture is pale yellow.

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5. Whisk the cornstarch slurry into the egg yolk mixture.

6. Pour in a splash of the warm milk, whisking constantly.

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7. Remove the citrus peels and cinnamon stick from the milk.

8. Slowly whisk in the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs don't scramble.

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9. Keep whisking the mixture over a low heat until it thickens to a pudding-like consistency.

10. Pour into ramekins or traditional clay dishes.

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11. Cover each serving with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

12. Remove the plastic and sprinkle a layer of sugar on top of each custard.

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13. Get out your blowtorch (or a traditional iron rod like in Catalonia) and burn the sugar until caramelized. Some people prefer a darker crust, others lighter -- it's up to you!

14. Serve alone or with fresh berries (and a strong café con leche of course!).

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Recipe FAQs

What's the difference between crema catalana and creme brulee?

Both crema catalana and creme brulee are custards that are topped with sugar and caramelized. However, there are some key differences.

Crema Catalana is a Spanish dessert from the region of Catalonia. It is flavored with citrus peel (lemon and orange) and cinnamon. Creme brulee is a French dessert that is flavored with vanilla bean. Additionally, Crema Catalana uses whole milk in the recipe, while creme brulee is cream based. Lastly, crema catalana does not need to bake in the oven in a bain marie (water bath) as it is cooked on the stovetop, while creme brulee does.

It's also interesting to note that crema catalana is one of Europe's oldest desserts on record. It was mentioned in the famous medieval Catalan cookbookLlibre de Sent Soví (published in 1324). References to creme brulee didn't appear in print until centuries later, in the 1691 cookbook Le Cuisinier royal et bourgeois.

Is crema catalana the same as flan?

No, it's definitely different. Crema catalana is completely cooked in a saucepan on the stovetop and refrigerated until set, while flan is cooked in the oven in a hot water bath. Although the ingredients are similar, the cooking method and resulting texture is quite different.

How can I caramelize crema catalana in the oven?

If you don't have a blowtorch or a hot iron handy, you can caramelize the crema catalana in the oven. Put it under the broiler (the hottest possible top heat) until you see the sugar melting and crystalizing. Make sure your dish is oven safe for high temperatures and keep a close eye on it -- it can burn in an instant! It might not get as caramelized as the other methods, but it will definitely work.

Should crema catalana be served cold or hot?

It's best to serve crema catalana right after burning the sugar on top, or the topping will turn soft and watery. The custard can be brought to room temperature before burning the sugar, or can be used straight out of the fridge.

Serve

Crema Catalana is usually served as dessert, after a hearty lunch. Generally, you will drink a strong coffee alongside -- either an espresso, cortado, or café con leche. You might also opt for a dessert wine, but remember, it should be even sweeter than the dessert! A Spanish Moscatel, Pedro Ximenez, or Cream sherry would do the trick!

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Store

Make Ahead: Crema Catalana can easily be made ahead--just don't caramelize the sugar topping until right before serving. The chilled custard can be kept in the fridge for up to 2-3 days.

Leftovers: Although the custard itself can keep well in the fridge for a couple of days, the caramelized sugar topping will go soft and watery in the fridge. It's best to eat the caramelized topping right away.

Freezing: Crema Catalana can be frozen before adding the caramelized sugar topping. Simply chill it in freezer-friendly ramekins, cover tightly, and freeze for up to 6 months. Defrost completely before caramelizing the sugar on top and serving.

Expert Tips

  • Make sure to use whole milk for a creamy crema Catalana. Heavy cream can also be substituted.
  • Make sure to refrigerate for at least four hours so that the Crema Catalana fully sets.
  • I like bring the custards to room temperature before adding the caramelized sugar layer, unless it's summer.
  • Decorate and serve with seasonal berries or fruit for an extra special effect!

More Popular Spanish Desserts

  • Authentic Spanish Flan Recipe
  • Spanish Almond Cake (Tarta de Santiago Recipe)
  • Arroz con Leche Recipe (Spanish Rice Pudding)
  • Burnt Basque Cheesecake Recipe

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Crema Catalana Recipe - Authentic Spanish Version (16)

Authentic Spanish Crema Catalana Recipe

A delicious and authentic Spanish Crema Catalana recipe, topped with fresh fruit!

4.94 from 65 votes

Print (images optional) Pin Rate

Course: Dessert

Cuisine: Spanish

Diet: Vegetarian

Prep Time: 15 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes minutes

Chill Time: 4 hours hours

Total Time: 4 hours hours 25 minutes minutes

Servings: 6 people

Calories: 195.57kcal

Author: Lauren Aloise

Ingredients

US Customary - Metric

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 large piece lemon peel including pith
  • 1 large piece orange peel including pith
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup white sugar preferably caster (superfine)
  • additional sugar for caramelization
  • fresh fruit or berries for decoration (optional)

Instructions

  • Pour the milk into a small, heavy-based saucepan and set over medium heat. Add the citrus peels and cinnamon stick, then bring to a simmer and remove from the heat.

  • While the milk is heating, dissolve the cornstarch in a splash of water to make a slurry.

  • Beat the egg yolks and sugar with a whisk until turns pale yellow, then beat in the cornstarch slurry and a splash of the hot milk.

  • Remove the citrus peels and cinnamon stick from the hot milk, and slowly pour in the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling.

  • Turn the heat to low and whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened to a pudding-like consistency.

  • Remove from the heat and divide the mixture among six 6-ounce ramekins or traditional clay dishes. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of each custard to prevent a skin from forming.

  • Chill the crema catalanas for about 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

  • Once the custards have chilled, remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle a thin layer of sugar on top of each custard. Spread the sugar out by tilting the ramekins in all directions.

  • Caramelize the sugar to the desired color with a small blowtorch. (For an authentic flair, use a hot iron for this step instead.) You can also place the ramekins on a baking tray on the top shelf of the oven and brown the sugar with the grill on the highest setting. Watch carefully, as they can burn in an instant!

  • Top with fresh fruit if desired and enjoy immediately!

Notes

  • Make sure to use whole milk for a creamy crema Catalana. Heavy cream can also be substituted.
  • Make sure to refrigerate for at least four hours so that the Crema Catalana fully sets.
  • I like bring the custards to room temperature before adding the caramelized sugar layer, unless it's summer.
  • Decorate and serve with seasonal berries or fruit for an extra special effect!

Nutrition

Serving: 1ramekin | Calories: 195.57kcal | Carbohydrates: 27.34g | Protein: 5.68g | Fat: 7.31g | Saturated Fat: 3.33g | Cholesterol: 172.92mg | Sodium: 51.84mg | Potassium: 164.76mg | Fiber: 0.67g | Sugar: 23.45g | Vitamin A: 414.98IU | Vitamin C: 2.91mg | Calcium: 143.92mg | Iron: 0.55mg

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Photography by Giulia Verdinelli

See Also

  • Burnt Basque Cheesecake Recipe

  • Authentic Spanish Hot Chocolate Recipe

Crema Catalana Recipe - Authentic Spanish Version (2024)

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