Caramel/ Classic Desserts/ Gluten-free/ Gluten-Free Desserts/ no mixer/ Puddings & Custards

Creme Brulee (The Ultimate Guide)

July 25, 2014

With its creamy vanilla custard and crunchy caramelized top, here’s a full guide on how to make the perfect classic creme brulee.

Creme Brulee (5)

The last time I went to dinner at my parents’ house, they had a special guest, so they asked me to make his favorite dessert – creme brulee. Although I’ve made it several times before, it was only on this occasion that I took the time for some serious learning and experimenting to make it perfect. Here are the results! 🙂

Creme brulee is much easier than most people realize. Erez was next to me in the kitchen the whole time I was making it, and later kept saying to the guests how easy peasy it was (of course it is when you just watch someone else do it 😉 ). As long as you know what you’re doing and what can go wrong, and follow some exact rules (it is science, after all), you can easily prepare it yourself in just 15 minutes. So… who’s ready to try?

Creme Brulee - 1

Classic creme brulee is made with 4 simple ingredients:
Cream: Some recipes use both cream and milk, which make the dessert lighter. For the richest flavor, though, I suggest using cream only. If you still want to replace some of the cream with milk, substitute up to 2/3 cup of the cream with milk at a 1:1 ratio. Heat them together in the saucepan during the first step.
Eggs: Some recipes use either whole eggs, egg yolks, or a combination of them. Usually, one whole egg replaces 2 egg yolks, but as with the cream, the more egg yolks you use in custard, the creamier and richer the dessert ends up. It’s not just about flavor, but also texture. The number of egg yolks for this recipe can be either 4, 5, or 6 without changing anything else. I like using 4 for a less eggy taste, but it will be richer if you choose to use more. All options are great and depend solely on personal taste.
Sugar: Usually, not much sugar is added to the custard. For the recipe below, you could use anywhere from 2 tablespoons of sugar to 1/3 cup, depending on taste. I suggest starting with 1/4 cup the first time.
Vanilla: For a classic creme brulee, using vanilla bean is best. However, using vanilla paste or extract is perfectly fine as well!
* You may also add some alcohol if you like – about 2 teaspoons of either rum, brandy, or a flavored liqueur of your choice. Add it to the mixture after all other ingredients have been combined.

Creme Brulee - 2

I’ve tried using both classic ramekins and traditional shallow dishes. I liked the shallow ones better; the ratio of caramel topping to thin custard seems to be best. Still, 4, 5, or 6 ounce (4 ounces equals 1/2 cup/120ml) classic ramekins can also be used. The shallow dishes are about 1 inch high and 4 inch in diameter. Each one will yield 4-6 servings depending on the size of the dish and how much you fill it – you can play a bit with that as well.

How to make creme brulee:
Heat cream and vanilla in a saucepan until the mixture begins to boil. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and sugar in a bowl just until well blended but not airy. Pour the hot cream slowly into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. This technique is called tempering – since the hot cream is mixed with the colder eggs and sugar, it will prevent the eggs from curdling. Once done, the mixture should be smooth and creamy. Be sure to strain the mixture to retrieve and discard any cooked egg pieces.

Creme Brulee (2)

Preparing the waterbath for baking:
A waterbath simply means placing the ramekins inside a large pan and filling the pan with boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. The easiest way to do this is by first placing the large pan with the ramekins in the oven, then pouring the hot water into it. This is also the safest way 😉 Be quick about it, though, so that the oven temperature doesn’t drop due to the open door. This method is often used to help delicate desserts retain moisture and reach an even temperature while baking.
In addition, it’s best to place a regular kitchen towel in the bottom of the pan so that the ramekins don’t touch the hot pan directly.

Baking time:
Creme brulee is baked at a low temperature. It’s done once the custard has set and, if you gently shake the dish, it only has a slight wobble.Once ready, take the ramekins gently out of the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Afterwards, chill for a few good hours in the refrigerator. No shortcuts on this one! I served mine after 4 hours of chilling, which is usually the minimum time, and although it was delicious, I felt like it wasn’t completely set. Preferably, let it chill for a longer time (and up to 2 days).

Creme Brulee - 3

How to caramelize brulee topping:
You’ll need a torch for this one. I like to use coarse sugar, such as demerara, for the topping, but granulated sugar is fine, too. Add sugar on top of the custard. Depending on the dish you use, it should be about 1-2 teaspoons. Shake the ramekins gently from side to side until the custard is evenly coated. Using a torch, move around to caramelize all the top. It’s ok if the browning isn’t quite even.

4.72 from 7 votes
Crème Brulee
YIELD: 4 -6 servings
With its creamy vanilla custard and crunchy caramelized top, here’s a full guide on how to make the perfect classic crème brulee.

  • 2 cups (500ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 vanilla bean , split and seeded (or 1.5-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or paste)
  • 4 large egg yolks (or more – refer to above post)
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams/1.7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • about 6 teaspoons demerara or granulated sugar , for the caramelized topping
  1. Preheat oven to 300F/150C. Place a kitchen towel on the bottom of a large roasting pan or baking dish (to prepare the waterbath). Place 4 6-ounce ramekins, 6 4-ounce ramekins, or 4 shallow fluted dishes on top of the towel.
  2. In a saucepan, heat cream, vanilla pod and seeds on medium heat just to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs and sugar in a medium heatproof bowl until well blended, but not airy. Remove vanilla bean from the hot cream mixture, then pour the mixture slowly and gradually into the egg mixture while simultaneously whisking the egg mixture constantly to prevent curdling. Strain the mixture, then pour evenly among the dishes.
  3. Place roasting pan in the oven and pour in boiling water until it reaches halfway up the ramekins. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the custard has set and is just slightly wobbly when gently shaked. Let ramekins cool on a wire rack to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably longer, and up to 2 days.
  4. To serve, sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of sugar on each dish. Shake the ramekins gently from side to side until evenly coated. Using a torch, start caramelizing the top until nicely browned and bubbly. Preferably, let sit for a few minutes in the refrigerator, uncovered, to let the top harden and the custard get cold again; otherwise serve immediately.

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  • Reply
    July 25, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    Hey, I was an equal partner in the making of this dessert 🙂

    • Reply
      July 28, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      Of course you were 🙂

  • Reply
    Angie (@angiesrecipess)
    July 27, 2014 at 11:02 am

    I bought a torch years ago and it just sits somewhere in my cabinet…shame on me. Your creme brulee looks amazing!

    • Reply
      July 28, 2014 at 8:47 am

      So it’s time you make them! It’s really not that hard 🙂 And thank you!

  • Reply
    March 30, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Hi, Do you have to put a towel in the baking dish?

    • Reply
      March 31, 2015 at 8:54 am

      Hi Barbara 🙂 You don’t have to put a towel, but I like to do it so that the ramekins don’t touch the hot pan directly.

    • Reply
      June 14, 2020 at 1:16 pm

      Followed your recipe exactly but the vanilla beans cuz I only had the liquid extra but it turned out amazing!!! I’m a first timer to making creme brûlée but I’m so impressed and proud that it turned out so well I’m patting myself in the back haha! Thanks for your recipe!

  • Reply
    April 7, 2015 at 12:54 am

    Hi, so I just made creme brulee and it turned out to rich and eggy. I used 8 egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar. Would you suggest less egg?

    • Reply
      April 7, 2015 at 4:24 am

      Hi Tinly, how much heavy cream do you use in your recipe? If it’s 2 cups like in my recipe, then 8 egg yolks is a lot, and the result will turn out too eggy. Read my post above, I talk about all the ingredients, including the number of egg yolks I recommend to use.

      • Reply
        April 7, 2015 at 10:33 am

        I used 1 cup of cream and 1 cup of milk.

    • Reply
      Chequita Cowherd
      June 10, 2019 at 8:22 pm

      Hi tinly , I make this dessert all the time, mine is better than the restaurant so I’ve been told .I use 5 well beaten fresh egg yolks to 1 c sugar, 1 Tbsp of
      Madagascar bourbon pure vanilla bean paste.
      Bake 325 45 -50 min only, let set 5 hrs or overnt.
      For topping I use sugar in the raw with torch rather than white sugar, trust me on this enjoy

      • Reply
        Natalya Gruntkovskiy
        November 2, 2019 at 1:58 pm

        How much cream?

    • Reply
      Evelyn Fried
      June 2, 2020 at 10:00 am

      Can I make it ussing only full fat milk?

      • Reply
        June 3, 2020 at 6:18 am

        Hi Evelyn. I don’t recommend using milk. It will lack the flavor and texture of creme brulee.

  • Reply
    May 4, 2015 at 2:26 pm


    I followed your instructions exactly and they taste heavenly. My husband asked if I can make the creme brulee slightly more firm. How can I make it more firm by adjusting the ingredients?


    • Reply
      May 4, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      Hi Jackie! I’m so glad you like the recipe 🙂 Since creme brulee is a custard, it’s not very firm. It shouldn’t be too liquid though. You might need to bake it for longer next time. If you still want to make it more firm, either reduce the amount of heavy cream or increase the amount of egg yolks.

  • Reply
    February 15, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Hi Shiran!! That brulee just looks sensational!! How do you caramelise the top without using a torch?? Do you have any methods to suggest??

    • Reply
      February 16, 2016 at 5:44 am

      Hi Angela 🙂 The one method I’d suggest if you don’t have a torch is the broiler. First, make sure the custard is completely cold. Place it in the fridge for a few hours. Heat the broiler so that it’s super hot and place a rack underneath it. Sprinkle custard with the sugar and place on the rack until caramelized. With this method you’ll get less caramelization than with the torch, but it works.

  • Reply
    February 19, 2016 at 6:09 am

    Thanks a bunch, Shiran!! ? ??

  • Reply
    January 13, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    What will happen if you whip the egg yolks and sugar too much? One recipe I saw said to whip them until pale

    • Reply
      January 14, 2017 at 4:46 pm

      Hi Tracey, just whip the eggs and sugar until they’re blended well and the mixture is smooth, it should be enough.

    • Reply
      April 22, 2017 at 10:56 am

      I can’t say which restaurant but we would whip until it turned pale. The art is in the tempering without creating too many bubbles. I loved making these I just needed a home recipe with home ovens and not large batch recipe. Can’t wait to try it!

  • Reply
    November 13, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Just made these over the weekend. They turned out delicious, However, as you pointed out in an earlier response I probably should bake a little longer since the custard was a little runny after I had caramelized the sugar using a torch. We’ve eaten three and I’m going to try the other three this evening, This time I’ve put the ramekins back in the fridge to chill after the caramelization step. Let’s see if this helps with the “runny” custard at all, Great site by the way.

    • Reply
      November 17, 2017 at 8:01 am

      Thank you Steve! It should be soft but not runny. Try to cook it more next time, or give it enough time to chill, at least a few hours.

  • Reply
    December 10, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    Hi Shiran! Your fame has reached Greece as well! Just found your website and I am impressed! I would like to bake this in a large pan for many people, let’s say 15. Could you please recommend how to adjust the ingredients and what size of pan should I use along with baking time? Thank you very much!

    • Reply
      December 12, 2017 at 9:14 am

      Hi Kyriacos! That’s sweet of you, thank you so much! 🙂 While you can make creme brulee in one large dish, I haven’t tried it myself. It’s a delicate dessert and heat sensitive, so, unfortunately, without testing it, I don’t know the exact baking temperature, baking time, or quantities.

  • Reply
    December 30, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Hi Shiran, nice site and the creme brulee looks tempting. Can you recommend how many eggs for a litre of milk? We run out of cream thats why we substitute with milk. Thanks

    • Reply
      December 31, 2017 at 10:07 am

      Hi Bella, personally I don’t recommend using milk because the higher fat content of heavy cream makes it rich, stable and less likely to curdle. If you must, substitute up to 2/3 cup of the cream with milk at a 1:1 ratio.

  • Reply
    August 31, 2018 at 9:46 am

    fabulous Clear explanation. Question: Instead of baking, is it poss to continue cooking the mix over bain marie on sthe stove – would it set as a thick custard? Or does it HAVE to be baked? If I don’t have an oven is there some kind of stovetop method? תודה

    • Reply
      September 1, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Classic creme brulee is baked. If you don’t have an oven at all, you can cook the mixture like a custard. It will taste good, but the final result and texture won’t be the same.

    • Reply
      December 31, 2018 at 7:07 am

      hi, you can steam it for 15 min . just cover the top of the ramekins with foil so that the water droplets wont go in.

  • Reply
    September 6, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Ok, tnx. Next question: does this travel well? I’m doing a 3 hour drive and want to take one with me to family. If i pack it in a box on, say, bubble wrap…? some other idea? or will it completely come apart by the end of 3 hours on the road?

    • Reply
      September 8, 2018 at 11:59 am

      You can keep it in a cool place in the car and it will be ok, but you’ll need to refrigerate it when you get there until it’s set. Then caramelize the top before serving.

      • Reply
        September 9, 2018 at 2:23 am

        fabulous! tnx so much.

  • Reply
    November 7, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    love it so much I followed your exact recipe and it turned out delicious

  • Reply
    December 10, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    I made the crème Brulee over the weekend and I thought it was pretty good, the only thing I noticed was an aftertaste of the heavy cream. I’m not sure how to get around that.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2019 at 3:08 am

    Hi Shiran,
    The time has come. My friend bought me a cook’s blowtorch, so I can finally, FINALLY make this.
    A little stupid question – I notice you’ve mentioned multiple baking options in terms of ramekins/fluted dishes. I was wondering if I could just make it in one dish? Like one pie dish or something? Just because I haven’t got ramekins and stuff…

  • Reply
    September 26, 2019 at 10:32 am

    Hi Shiran,
    I’m a fan all the way from India. Your tiramisu is always a hit in my parties (also fool-proof).
    I’m planning to try the creme brulee and wanted to know how and when to incorporate lemon grass and kaffir lime in the recipe.

    • Reply
      September 27, 2019 at 2:03 am

      Thank you, Aparna! 🙂 Add the lime and lemongrass to the cream, and then bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow the flavous to infuse for 10 minutes. Then continue with the recipe. Also, when straining the mixture, discard the solids. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    October 25, 2019 at 7:00 pm

    This is a super easy and delicious recipe. I doubled it and it worked out perfectly. I used all heavy cream and then added one extra egg yolk (9 all together for a doubled batch) just for some extra custard-y goodness. It is absolutely DELICIOUS. Thank you!

  • Reply
    carrie reilly
    September 5, 2022 at 3:10 pm

    Hi, just wanted to say your sugar amount is perfect. For milk I use the sweetened almond milk, add 6 egg yolks to 2 cups of liquid. My mom made excellent creme brûlée she learned while living in France and never heated the milk and eggs. Just used room temp milk. Hence, I’ve never heated the milk then tempered it in with the eggs. I spent a summer in France while in college and this is exactly how the family I stayed with made it. I think people are put off by heating the milk and then tempering the egg yolks. You can end up with scrambled eggs!

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