Easy Crème Brûlée

Many beginner bakers are SHOCKED at how easy creme brûlée is! Only 6 ingredients required and if you follow my success tips, you’ll be gifted with the smoothest, creamiest dessert ever.

crème brûlée with a raspberry on top

Flecked with espresso and flavored with pure vanilla, this is my favorite crème brûlée recipe. The brilliantly creamy custard can only be reached by cracking through a crisp caramelized sugar ceiling. The textural difference between the two layers is unbelievable and separates this dessert from every other. Simply put, crème brûlée tastes like luxury.

The GREAT news is that you don’t need to dine at a fancy restaurant for the best crème brûlée experience. Not many realize how easy it is to make at home, not to mention several dollars cheaper than the $12 price tag you pay at a restaurant.

Homemade creme brûlée with a spoon

Overview: How to Make Crème Brûlée at Home

The full printable recipe is available below, but let me walk you through the process so you can understand the steps before beginning.

  1. Start with kitchen staples: heavy cream, sugar, egg yolks, salt, vanilla. I like adding a little espresso powder for added flavor. What a difference it makes! I know many may not have espresso powder at the ready, so it’s an optional ingredient. But trust me when I say that espresso powder makes a good crème brûlée the best crème brûlée.
  2. Cook: Heat the heavy cream + salt on the stove. Off heat, add vanilla to flavor. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together. Temper the egg yolk mixture by slowly whisking in some of the warm heavy cream. Pour into ramekins and bake. Let them cool down, then chill for at least 4 hours or even overnight. (Overnight makes crème brûlée an AWESOME make ahead dessert and your guests will be entertained when you whip out that kitchen torch for the topping!)
  3. Top with: sugar, then caramelize it under the broiler or with a kitchen torch.

That’s it, you’re done. Yes, it really is this easy.

Egg yolks and sugar in a large glass measuring cup

Heavy cream and espresso powder in a saucepan

Crème Brûlée Success Tips

  • Best ratio: Heavy cream and egg yolks are the key ingredients in crème brûlée. It took a little bit of testing to figure out the best ratio, but I loved 5 egg yolks with 3 cups of heavy cream the most. This produces a VERY creamy and lush crème brûlée. Save the leftover egg whites and add them to omelets and scrambled eggs the next few mornings.
  • Temper egg yolks: If you’ve never done it before, tempering egg yolks is nothing to fear– all you’re doing is slowly raising the temperature of the egg yolks so they don’t scramble. Whisk *some* of the warm heavy cream into the egg yolks + sugar, then whisk it all into the pot of warm heavy cream. You can watch me temper the egg yolks in the video tutorial.
  • Should I strain it? Straining the custard before cooking it is, in my opinion, optional. If you notice the custard is thick with any lumps, definitely use your sieve to strain it before baking.
  • Shallow ramekins: Serve crème brûlée in individual ramekins. The small ramekins ensure the custard cooks evenly, though you could use a large wide ceramic dish instead. See my recipe note below. I love using individual wide, shallow ramekins so there is more surface area for the caramelized sugar! I suggest these oval ramekins or these circle ramekins. (This recipe yields about 8-10 crème brûlées so you’ll need 2 sets of the oval ramekins OR you can bake the extra custard in other ramekins you may have.)
  • Water bath: Place the ramekins in a large baking dish (I used a 9×13-inch baking pan), pour the custard in each, then fill the pan with hot water. The water bath creates a moist and humid environment for the crème brûlée, which is imperative for their texture. (Same story for lemon pudding cakes.) A regular hot oven typically produces rubber-y tasting crème brûlée with cracked surfaces.
  • Best bake time: You will likely over-bake the crème brûlée your first time. That’s what my friend told me before I began my crème brûlée adventures. They key, he said, is to look for a jiggly center. The edges will be set, the centers will jiggle like jello. (Anyone ever watch My Best Friend’s Wedding with Julia Roberts? Crème brûlée can never be jell-o. YOU could never be jell-o.) For a more accurate answer, use an instant read thermometer. They’re done when the thermometer registers 170°F (77°C).

By the way… my friend was right, I over-baked them my first try. The next few tries, pictured in this post, are texture perfection. You want that creamy custard. Learn from my mistake and take those custards out of the oven early.

ramekins of creme brulee before baking in a water bath

Burnt Sugar Topping

Crème = cream. Brûlée = burnt. Burnt cream. So as many times as I say “caramelized sugar” it’s really burnt sugar. It’s the CRUNCH on the CREAM and it’s so so tasty!

After the custards bake, cool, and chill, it’s time for that special finishing touch. All we’re doing here is sprinkling the surface with granulated sugar. Some recipes insist on superfine sugar for the topping and some recipes call for coarse sugar. I tested the recipe with both, but ended up just using regular granulated sugar– the same sugar we’ll use in the custard themselves. It produced a thick and sturdy caramelized sugar topping, just the kind we want! One important note: Cover the entire surface with a thin layer of granulated sugar. No exposed custard. When applied to heat, the cooled custard will curdle.

2 images of sugar on creme brulee and using a torch to create a burnt sugar topping

Kitchen Torch or Oven Broiler?

For caramelizing, you need intense heat. A kitchen torch is magic. Kitchen torches are surprisingly inexpensive and the couple times a year that I need it, I’m glad I have one. It really makes a difference. Other recipes where I use my kitchen torch:

See my recipe notes for using the oven broiler instead.

Burnt sugar on creamy custard = simple beauty and decadence. Doesn’t this make you feel fancy? We should be wearing pearls and eating our crème brûlées with crystal spoons while sitting on our gold thrones calling each other on our diamond encrusted phones talking about how fancy we are.

zoomed in image of burnt sugar topping on creme brulee

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
crème brûlée with a raspberry on top

Easy Crème Brûlée

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 50 minutes
  • Yield: serves 8
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: French

Description

This is the BEST and creamiest crème brûlée recipe! Flecked with espresso and vanilla, you only need 6 simple ingredients and they’re ready to bake in only 15 minutes.


Ingredients

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 3 cups (720ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream*
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional but recommended)*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract*

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C).
  2. Whisk the egg yolks and 1/2 cup (100g) of granulated sugar together. Set aside. (At this point or before you temper the egg yolks in the next step, bring a small kettle or pot of water to a boil. You’ll need hot water to pour into the baking sheet for the water bath.)
  3. Heat the heavy cream, espresso powder, and salt together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. As soon as it begins to simmer, remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla extract. Remove about 1/2 cup of warm heavy cream and, in a slow and steady stream, whisk into the egg yolks. Keep those egg yolks moving so they don’t scramble. In a slow and steady stream, pour and whisk the egg yolk mixture into the warm heavy cream.
  4. Place ramekins in a large baking pan. If you don’t have 1 pan large enough, bake them in a couple pans. Divide custard between each ramekin, filling to the top. Carefully fill the pan with about a 1/2 inch of the hot water. The baking pan will be hot so use an oven mitt to carefully transfer the pan to the oven.
  5. Bake until the edges are set and centers are a little jiggly. The time depends on the depth of your ramekins. My ramekins are 1-inch and the custard takes 35 minutes. Begin checking them at 30 minutes. For a more accurate sign, they’re done when an instant read thermometer registers 170°F (77°C).
  6. Remove pan from the oven and, using an oven mitt, remove the ramekins from the pan. Place on a wire rack to cool for at least 1 hour. Place in the refrigerator, loosely covered, and chill for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days before topping.
  7. Using the remaining granulated sugar, sprinkle a thin layer all over the surface of the chilled custards. Caramelize the sugar with a kitchen torch and serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour before serving. (Caramelized topping is best enjoyed right away.)

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare the custard mixture through step 4. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 day before baking. You can bake the custard up to 2 days ahead of time. See step 6.
  2. Special Tools: Ninja Food Processor | Glass Measuring CupEspresso PowderOval Ramekins | Kitchen Torch | Butane Fuel
  3. Heavy Cream: 3 cups of half-and-half may be substituted for heavy cream. The custard’s texture will be a little lighter.
  4. Espresso Powder: I know many may not have espresso powder at the ready, so it’s an optional ingredient. But trust me when I say that espresso powder makes a good crème brûlée the best crème brûlée. Leaves great flavor, but the custard doesn’t necessarily taste like coffee. Rather, it’s hinted with espresso flavor. Instead of espresso powder, you can use 2 teaspoons quality instant coffee.
  5. Pure Vanilla Extract: Pure vanilla extract is stirred into the heavy cream after it’s heated. You can use the seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste instead. Either can be whisked into the heavy cream when you add the salt and espresso powder.
  6. Ramekins: Small ramekins ensure the custard cooks evenly, though you could use a large wide ceramic dish instead. I love using individual wide and shallow ramekins so there is more surface area for the caramelized sugar. I suggest these oval ramekins or these circle ramekins. If you don’t have ramekins, use a large wide ceramic or glass dish. Do not use metal. The bake time will increase with a larger size pan.
  7. Oven Broiler Directions: If you don’t have a kitchen torch, use the oven broiler to caramelize the sugar in step 7. After the custard has chilled as directed in step 6, dust the tops with reserved granulated sugar, then place them on a baking sheet on an oven rack directly under the broiler. Broil on high until caramelized. Keep a close eye on it.
  8. See all my success tips written in the post above.

Adapted from Allrecipes and Mark Bittman

ramekins of creme brûlée

155 Comments

  1. Just made this and it is delicious. Creamy and velvety texture and so easy. I did make some adjustments, lessened the salt by a smidge and increased the sugar by a couple tablespoons – the sugar was to make up for not doing the brûlée top. I just prefer the straight custard and this was a wonderful one. Also used 2 cups heavy cream and 1 cup light cream because it’s what I had – turned out wonderfully. Also baked longer, about 45 mins, but I used deep ramekins. I’m looking forward to trying variations of this same recipe. Maple sounds amazing!

  2. Jackie Thoms says:

    Thought it was easy to make ,recipe quite clear and not confusing ! I substituted a mixture of milk and unsalted butter for the heavy cream…there is a buttery liquid floating on top of each one ..internal temp was 170 and no more…what did I do wrong. Thank you. Jackie

    1. Jackie Thoms says:

      Can you please answer my query….so disappointing not to hear back! Jackie

      1. Butter and cream don’t react the same way. You need to use half and half or heavy cream for it to mix and set 🙂

  3. Can I use whipping cream instead to substitute for heavy cream?

    1. Hi Zai, make sure you are using heavy cream or heavy whipping cream. “Whipping cream” (without the word heavy in the title) doesn’t have the same milkfat percentage.

  4. This was an absolute crowd pleaser!! Everyone loved it! Thanks Sally

  5. Absolutely stunning recipe. Its a family fav now. Thanks.
    Tried with the broiler, broke 2 glass bowls (my fault). My glass & ceramic bowls are about 2 in deep. It took me 45-50 mins to bake. I reduced the sugar to somewhere between 1/2 & 1/4 mark, per our taste.

  6. Absolutely perfect! Always my favorite desert. Followed instructions, used the smaller ramekins, instant coffee. Perfect! I don’t cook but will be following you.

  7. Hi! Do you taste the espresso in this recipe? Or is it more of a flavor enhancer? I’m trying to decide between doing a traditional creme brulee or espress creme brulee. :D. Can’t wait to try this!

    1. Hi Cindy! It’s a very faint flavor. My husband doesn’t like coffee and didn’t really notice or mind it. Feel free to skip it or leave it in.

  8. Miriam Hernandez says:

    Easy and delicious; everyone will love it!

  9. I really enjoyed reviewing the Crème Brûlée Tips you shared. I have never added espresso to the version of Crème Brûlée I make, but it sounds like a new twist I should try. I don’t know if you have ever tried making it in a Sous Vide, but my husband and I have mastered making it in mason jars. The mason jars make it a perfect sharable size that can be transported.

  10. SO decadent. Skipped the espresso powder, but used the vanilla bean paste. Ridiculously easy to make, for something that seems so “fancy.”

  11. Carrie Beckett says:

    This recipe sounds just ! I have been a “reputable” southern cook for about 35+ years now, how easy will it be for a simple southern girl to try advanced cooking? You have some FABULOUS ideas tips, and recipes on here and I want to try ALL of them! I just need a few pointers, if possible. Like I have no idea what a ramekins is, so I will need a little help, like where to purchase them, among other things. Any and all help is greatly appreciated!

  12. Please help, I need to know if I can double this recipe and bake it in one large dish. Obviously a longer and slightly lower bake temp.

  13. Turned out awesome!! The down side of this recipe is waiting the suggested 4+ hours to allow for setting. this is my second time preparing.. I over cooked the first time also. But it was still great. This time I timed the batch 35min. Thank you for posting this recipe. Do you have recipe for coconut custard pie?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Renee, We are so glad you enjoyed this recipe! We do have this recipe for Homemade Coconut Cream Pie.

  14. Harmony Prizeman says:

    This recipe is so amazing, easy and delicious! Have made it multiple times.
    I have 6 egg yolks leftover from making macarons and wonder if using 6 with the same quantities of the rest would be too rich or if you would up the rest by the same ratio?
    Thanks so much for your lovely blog where I always find great recipes that always turn out!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Harmony, For the best results it’s best to stick to the recipe as written, 5 yolks 🙂

  15. Snowboardsandpizza says:

    This recipe is the bomb! A new family favorite, had to make it back to back cuz they’re gone fast!

  16. My daughter loves creme brûlée and has requested for me to make this. She is lactose-intolerant, is it possible to replace heavy cream with lactose-free milk + additional butter?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joanne, We haven’t tested any non dairy substitutes but canned coconut milk or cream would be the closest in terms of fat content and texture. Again, we haven’t tested it so I’m unsure of the results. Let us know if you try anything!

      1. Stephanie, thank you for the quick response. I buy lactose-free milk for my daughter and have used them with vinegar to make buttermilk (+ additional butter) to sub. cream in your raspberry muffins (we love that). So not looking for non-dairy sub. as I really believe this is a dairy dessert.

  17. Thank you for sharing this recipe,this is my first attempt of making creme brulee,followed step by step in your recipe and it came out perfectly delicious.so yummy

  18. I made this creme brûlée for some friends, who have a professional chef relative that would cook this dish for them. This recipe was easy to follow, and I was told BETTER than a professional chef’s! I think it’s the espresso that sets it over the edge. I used a pinch of freshly ground espresso beans, and the custard doesn’t taste like coffee. It kicks the vanilla flavour up a notch! It was perfect the first attempt. Thank you for sharing!

  19. I’ve seen ramekins in sizes from 4 oz – 10 oz; does it matter what size i use? Your recipe shows it makes 8 servings, but what size ramekins do you use for 8 servings?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tina, The ramekins we use here are 4oz. You can see recipe note #6 for details and links to the exact ramekins we use.

  20. What kind of heavy cream are you using?

    1. Hi Ces, just regular heavy cream or heavy whipping cream. It’s about 36% milkfat.

  21. I am thinking that i am going to make the creme brulee with eggnog for the holiday season any suggestions. Excellent recipe.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Don, We haven’t tested it with eggnog but let us know if you do – sounds delicious!

  22. I have made cream brûlée in 4star restaurants that I have worked and wanted to make some for Thanksgiving so I am going to try your espresso version and I can’t wait sounds delicious so thanks for sharing and Happy Holidays to all!!!

  23. I made these today and they were absolutely amazing!!!! The espresso powder really takes the crème brûlée to the next level! By far the best I’ve ever had. Thank you Sally!

  24. My fave dessert of all time! This was easy and delicious!! An instant read thermometer is a necessity!

  25. Joanne Frankruyter says:

    Hi
    I need this recipe for 10 servings! Could you help me with adjusting the quantities?
    Thanks
    joanne

  26. Very nice, first time success….

  27. Laura Ashley Pool says:

    Wow wow wow! This recipe is so solid. Thank you so much for sharing this with everybody!
    I didn’t use espresso powder this first go around, instead I just put a dash of cinnamon in it and it is wonderful. This next go around I will try with the espresso powder!
    I ordered the oval ramekins you suggested and it is literally the perfect serving size! I cannot wait to make these for dessert when I do my 3 course dinner days (:

  28. Hi Sally! My name is Kaitlyn and Im 12 years old. I’m wondering if I have to use non stick cooking spray before filling the pans with the custard. Also, can I use a 10 by 10 and 4 inch tall ceramic pan with the same ingredient ratios?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kaitlyn! Do not use non stick spray for this recipe. Yes, you can use a large wide ceramic or glass dish. Do not use metal. The bake time will increase with a larger size pan (I’m unsure exactly how long yours will take). We hope you love this recipe!

  29. Not sure what the texture is suppose to be but mine was like a rich delicious custard. I was shocked how everyone said it’s the best dessert they’ve ever had. I’ll definitely be making this again. It took a lot longer then 35 minutes to get to 170. Wish I’d keep track of the time.

  30. I am having a New Years Eve dinner party for 8 and would like to try this recipe. The recipe says it produces 8 servings, but it looks like it is only 6. Can you clarify? I have the same size ramekins shown in the video.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kim, This recipe yields about 8-10 crème brûlées. Exactly how many you make depends on the size of your ramekins and how full you fill them, but we always get between 8-10 using the ramekins shown above.

1 2 3 4

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×