This Lemon Infused Almond Milk Custard is a dairy-free twist on one of our favorite desserts growing up, Crema Catalana! This sweet Spanish dessert with hints of lemon and cinnamon comes together in this creamy custard delight. Allergic to nuts? You can make this dessert nut-free by using nut-free plant-based milk or even regular milk.
Growing up, we would share an after-dinner dish of this Crema Catalana with our sister and mom (yes, we all shared one small dessert). We would all fight over the last piece of burnt sugar on the top while our dad watched with a huge grin on his face. That’s what food is to us--it’s the sweet memories and the happy moments gathered around the table together. We hope this custard recipe gives you those same comforting, nostalgic, priceless feelings!
What is Crema Catalana?
Crema Catalana is a traditional dessert from Spain dish with a texture that closely resembles thick creamy custard. Like a creme brulee, it has a burnt sugar topping that gives a satisfying crack and crunch when you tap the top and bite into it! It’s decadent, creamy, and the lemon and cinnamon flavor makes it extra special.
Crema Catalana is originally from Spain's Catalonia region where Barcelona is located with incredibly beautiful beaches and bordering France and the Pyrenees. The next best thing to traveling to Catalonias is making this treat! Spanish menus don’t often have a large dessert selection, but the ones that are available are always to die for. Crema Catalana can always be found in our favorite authentic eateries, but we think this homemade version is the best of all!
What is the Difference Between Crème Brûlée and Crema Catalana?
They’re fairly similar, but Crema Catalana is made with milk that’s then thickened with cornstarch on the stovetop, where creme brulee is made with heavy cream and cooked in a water bath in the oven.
How to Make Crema Catalana at Home
All of the exact steps for the recipe are in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post. Scroll for some step-by-step photos of each step of the process so you can see how we made this creamy dessert from Spain, we are also including extra tips along the way too.
- Start by heating your milk of choice with the peel of one lemon and two cinnamon sticks. heat on medium-low, so the lemon and cinnamon have time to infuse the milk. Watch carefully and don't allow the milk to boil.
- While the milk is heating beat egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla until pale yellow. No Need to use an electric mixer you can easily beat the yolks with a whisk. Once the eggs turn pale yellow add corn starch and beat until well incorporated.
Tempering the eggs
Tempering is a technique used to mix raw eggs into a hot mixture. It is done by slowly warming up the eggs, in order to obtain a smooth mixture and preventing the eggs from cooking and becoming scrambled eggs.
3. Once the milk is hot and small bubbles form on the side of the sauce it's time to temper the eggs. Add a small amount of the hot milk into the eggs and mix well, keep adding the milk in small amounts.
4. Cook the custard base in a sauce pan until it thicken and coats the back of a spoon.
5. Divide the custard into 6 ramekins and let them cool in the fridge.
6. Sprinkle sugar on top of custard and torch. If you choose wide ramekins you will get more burnt sugar surface which is really delicious.
How to Burn the Sugar Without a Torch
No torch, no problem! To make crema Catalana or crème Brûlée without a torch, sprinkle the tops of your crema Catalana with sugar, then place them in the oven under the broiler. Just make sure the ramekins can withstand the broiler temperature, you don't want to end up with cracked ramekins! Keep a close eye on them and pull the dishes out as soon as they caramelize and turn golden brown! We do, however, recommend investing in a small kitchen torch (affiliate link), alternatively you can use a caramelizing iron, which is definitely on our wish list.
More Delicious Recipes From Spain
- Romesco Sauce
- Tortilla de Patatas
- Patatas Bravas
- Espinacas a la Catalana
- Pan con Tomate
- Authentic Spanish Gazpacho
- Montadito de Berenjena
DID YOU LIKE OUR CREMA CATALANA RECIPE?
If you enjoyed this recipe, it would help us tremendously if you left us a star rating in the comments below or on the recipe card. Do you have any questions about the recipe? Do you need a swap for any of the ingredients? We are here to help, just leave us a question in the comments below.
This post was originally published on February 9th, 2012, we have updated the post with new images and step-by-step instructions. Enjoy!Print
Crema Catalana is a lemon and cinnamon infused Spanish dessert. It comes together in a creamy custard delight with a crunchy sugar topping.
- 4 cups unsweetened plant-based milk (such as almond, cashew, coconut, oat, etc if you want to make it dairy-free) or regular milk, low fat or whole, if you want to make it dairy
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- The peel of one medium-size lemon
- 4 egg yolks
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp cornstarch, tapioca starch, or potato starch
- Prepare 6 ½ cup size ramekins
- Heat the milk, cinnamon stick, and lemon peel together in a pot over medium-low heat, until bubbles start to form on the sides. This can take up to 10 minutes depending on your stove, you want the lemon and cinnamon to have time to infuse their flavor into the milk. Watch it closely to prevent it from boiling
- In the meantime, in a medium bowl beat the eggs yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Add the corn starch and keep beating for another minute or so
- Add the vanilla extract and keep beating until smooth and creamy
- Remove and discard the cinnamon stick and lemon rind from milk. Slowly add about ½ cup of warm milk to the egg yolks, stirring constantly to temper the eggs (it's important to follow this step, or else you will end up with scrambled eggs instead of custard)
- Slowly add the rest of the milk, whisking until well incorporated
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a wooden spoon (do not let it boil), about 3-4 minutes
- Pour ½ cup of custard into each ramekin and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until set
- Before serving, sprinkle each ramekin with 1 tablespoon of sugar and caramelize using a torch or a caramelizing iron
- Calories are calculated using almond milk. If using any other milk, adjust the calories accordingly.
- If you can find wide and low ramekins, you will have more surface for a crunchy sugar topping.
- Prep Time: 15
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Spain
- Serving Size: 1 ramekin
- Calories: 233
- Sugar: 37.7
- Sodium: 130
- Fat: 4.9
- Saturated Fat: 1.1
- Unsaturated Fat: 3.5
- Trans Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 45
- Fiber: .6
- Protein: 2.9
- Cholesterol: 123