Crème caramel is basically a flan, or a custard set in caramel sauce and baked. Many recipes use all types of milk, like sweetened condensed milk and cream. But this coconut crème caramel is completely dairy-free. And rather than trying to be a plain classic, the recipe plays up the coconut, for a slight Caribbean version of this beloved international dessert.
Coconut Crème Caramel that Celebrates Global Dairy-Free Flavor
This dreamy Dairy-Free Coconut Crème Caramel was submitted by Marisa Raponi for a recipe contest we held several years ago. We’ve updated it with some options and notes.
I’ve seen several recipes for coconut flan, and have even spotted it on restaurant menus. But in almost all occasions, they still contain dairy. This recipe celebrates the coconut aspect rather than adding in unnecessary milk or cream.
Special Diet Notes: Coconut Crème Caramel
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and vegetarian.
Like traditional creme caramel, this dairy-free coconut creme caramel does contain eggs. If you confuse eggs with dairy, you are not alone. See this post: Are Eggs Dairy? For egg-free options, see Bittman’s No Bake Dairy-Free Flan and this No Bake Vegan Candied Apple Flan.
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup original or vanilla coconut milk beverage (see note below)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract (can sub rum extract or orange extract)
- Pinch salt
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh grated coconut or desiccated coconut (optional)
- Place the sugar in a small saucepan and drizzle the water over it. Swirl the pan to help the sugar dissolve.
- Place the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Do not stir! Watch carefully. Cook on high for approximately 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sugar mixture becomes dark golden brown or amber color. Do not let it burn or smoke. Occasionally swirl the pan to distribute the syrup as one side may burn because of the balance of the burner or stove.
- Immediately pour the syrup into the bottom of a 4-to 6-cup casserole dish or into 4 (6-ounce) ramekins. Swirl it around gently to cover the bottom and just a little up the sides. Allow the caramel to cool - it will harden. This will be the decoration for the top.
- Preheat your oven to 325ºF.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the milk beverage, sugar, extract, and salt, and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the coconut, if using.
- Gently pour the mixture over the hardened caramel syrup in your casserole dish or ramekins.
- Bake the crème caramel for 20 to 25 minutes. The center will jiggle. Allow to cool at room temperature.
- Once cool, refrigerate the dairy-free coconut crème caramel for 5 hours or overnight. It can be made 2 to 3 days in advance.
- To serve, gently run a knife around the edge(s) to loosen, and quickly invert the dessert onto a serving plate(s). Allow any liquid caramel to drizzle over the top(s).
Refined Sugar-Free Options: You can use coconut sugar in place of the white sugar. It is slightly less sweet, but also caramelizes nicely.