You don’t have to be on a tropical vacation to enjoy a slice of this silky-smooth orange-kissed Coconut Flan – it’s just as easy to make at home! A tasty variation on the classic, this flan de coco combines a creamy coconut custard with an orange-rum caramel crown.
Growing up, my Nana made all kinds of desserts, but she generally stuck to what she knew. Boxed cakes and brownies. Gelatin & pudding…from a box.
Always homemade cookies, though. And I never had any complaints.
Abe, on the other hand, was brought up in a house full of young women (his mother and many, many aunts) who absolutely LOVE to bake and cook.
Part of the reason he is so well-versed in the kitchen today, I suppose. Lucky me – right, ladies?
His mother ran a bakery out of her home in the Dominican Republic for a time, and flan de coco like this one was one of her most requested recipes.
This page includes step by step instructions, as well as tips and notes. If you’d like to skip all that, feel free to scroll down to the full, printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.
What is flan?
Flan has a rich and diverse history that spans centuries and continents. The baked custard dessert has evolved over time, with variations found in various cultures around the world. Its roots can be traced back to ancient Rome, where custardy dishes made with milk, eggs, and honey were popular.
Today, several variations can be found all over the world, namely France (creme brulee!), the Philippines, and the Middle East. The Latin American version is arguably the most popular in the Western world, as they adapted the original to include local ingredients – like coconut!
Flan de coco is a variation of the traditional flan, where coconut milk is added to the custard mixture, giving it a distinct flavor. The caramelized sugar on top is the same as in regular flan.
Unless you’re Abe and you throw some orange juice in there for fun.
Why you’ll love this coconut flan
- It requires only simple, wholesome ingredients that taste great.
- Prep is way easier than you might think!
- Looks as impressive as it is delicious.
- Can be made well in advance of any dinner or event.
- A unique dessert that isn’t too sweet, that everyone will enjoy.
The ingredients in this coconut flan are simple, and probably stuff you already have on hand! Note that this recipe is very dairy heavy, so I’m not sure you can get away with a dairy free or vegan version that will taste as good as this one.
- Sweetened condensed milk – using this pantry staple means adding less sugar to the final product.
- Evaporated milk – more canned milk to always have available for when the custard cravings strike.
- Coconut milk – the star of this flan, and what makes it de coco!
- Coconut rum and/or dark rum – we like to add some coconut rum to the custard base, but you can substitute it for more coconut milk. The dark rum tastes delicious in the caramel on top, but just use water if you abstain.
- Granulated sugar – you still need a bit of this for that caramelized top.
- Large eggs – how else do you make custard?
- Vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, kosher salt – all for a little extra flavor.
- Orange juice – freshly squeezed or from a bottle, your choice! This just adds a nice little zing of flavor that pairs nicely with the coconut custard.
For exact ingredient measurements and recipe instructions, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the post!
How to make Coconut Flan
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place a roasting pan in the oven, fill it with about 1-inch of water, and let it heat up while you make the custard.
- Caramelize the sugar. Add sugar, rum, and orange juice to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook on medium-low heat, swirling the pan gently as it cooks, until the sugar is melted and golden. Pour the boozy caramel into a flan pan or 8- or 9-inch cake or pie pan, tipping it so the sugar distributes evenly.
- Cook the custard. Heat coconut milk, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk in another saucepan over low heat. You don’t want to boil, or even simmer the ingredients, you just want the flavors to meld. Whisk in the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt and allow it to cook and melt the sugar.
- You have a choice here, now – if you want a boozy flan, wait until the mixture has cooled to add the coconut rum. If you just want the rum flavor without the alcohol, add the rum in the saucepan with the sugar, etc.
- Meanwhile, whisk the eggs together well in a large bowl. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and add 1/4 cup to the eggs, whisking vigorously until combined. Repeat two more times to temper the eggs (to keep them from scrambling), then add the rest of the milk mixture.
- Bake the flan de coco. Pour the filling on top of the caramelized sugar. Place the flan pan inside the roasting pan, then carefully add more water until it reaches 1-2 inches up the sides. Bake for about 60-75 minutes.
- Chill it. Carefully remove the flan from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan, set on a cooling rack, for at least 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator in the pan for at least 3-4 hours, ideally overnight.
- When you’re ready to serve, carefully run a knife along the sides of the pan. Flip the flan onto a serving plate and let it sit upside down for a few minutes, to allow the caramel to release.
Are clan and crème brûlée the same?
Flan and crème brûlée are not the same thing, but they are very similar.
Crème Brûlée is a creamy French custard dessert made with sugar, thickened with egg yolks and cream. It’s baked in a water bath, then chilled before a layer of sugar is broiled or torched on top. This creates a hard crust of caramel that is shattered with a spoon before being consumed with the custard.
Flan is a soft-yet-solid Spanish custard made of milks, sugar, cream, and eggs. It is poured in a caramel-lined pan, then baked in a water bath. When it is flipped out of the pan, the resulting caramel is liquidy, providing a delicious sauce for the custard.
Can you make coconut flan in advance?
It can be and it should be! You can make and chill flan up to 3 days in advance.
How do you store flan de coco?
Keep leftover coconut flan in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consume it within a week. I do not recommend freezing flan, since dairy does not freeze well.
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Coconut Flan (Flan de Coco)
Orange Caramel Sauce
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons dark rum or water
- 2 tablespoons orange juice fresh squeezed
- 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk 1 can
- 12 ounces evaporated milk 1 can
- 9 ounces coconut milk 3/4 can, shaken
- ½ cup coconut rum optional; sub coconut milk if not using
- 3 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Pinch ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Orange Caramel Sauce
- In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine sugar, rum, and orange juice. Cook, occasionally swirling the pan gently as it cooks, until the sugar is melted and golden. Pour into a flan pan or 8- or 9-inch cake or pie pan, tipping it so the sugar distributes evenly.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Pan a roasting pan with 1-2 inches of water in the oven.
- In a 3-quart saucepan set over low heat, combine sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and coconut milk; whisk well. Add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt and allow it to cook and melt the sugar.
- If you just want rum flavor without the alcohol, add the coconut rum to the saucepan now. Otherwise, wait until the mixture has cooled to add the coconut rum.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together until well blended. Remove the milk mixture from the heat and add 1/4 cup to the eggs, whisking vigorously until combined. Repeat two more times to temper the eggs (to keep them from scrambling), then add the rest of the milk mixture.
- Pour the filling on top of caramelized sugar in the flan pan. Carefully place the pan in the roasting pan in the oven.
- Bake for ~1 hour and 20 minutes, checking for doneness by poking the middle of the flan with a knife. Carefully remove the flan from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan, set on a cooling rack, for at least 30 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator 2 hours, ideally overnight.
- When ready to serve, carefully run a knife along the sides of the pan. Flip the flan onto a serving plate and let it sit upside down for a few minutes, to allow the caramel to release.
This coconut flan post was originally published on December 6, 2018. It was updated with an updated recipe and valuable information on October 27, 2023.