Classic French Lemon Crème Brulée Recipe

Creme Brulee. GMVozd - Getty Images
  • 65 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 60 mins
  • Yield: 6 servings
Ratings (5)

Bright lemon zest and smooth, rich cream are a match made in culinary heaven in this classic French lemon creme brulee recipe. The subtle, perfumed hint of citrus adds a luscious dimension of flavor to an already delectable dessert. Finish this with a light coating of burnt sugar and a simple decoration of a fresh strawberries or raspberries, and you have the ultimate dessert. 

Créme Brulée is best made individually, but you can ring the changes by changing the depth of the dish you make it in. A classic French brulèe is made in a shallow dish, but over time the method of making in a ramekin had grown in popularity. If you do make this in a shallow dish, reduce the cooking time by at least 15 minutes. 

Updated by Elaine Lemm March 2017

What You'll Need

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup half and half (light cream)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to Make It

Preheat the oven to 300F.

Arrange 6 custard cups in a large pan with sides at least 1 1/2 inches deep.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the heavy cream, half and half, and lemon zest just to a boil, and then remove it from the heat. Allow it to cool on the countertop for 10 minutes. Pour the lemon-infused cream through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and set it aside for a moment.

Rinse the sieve for later use and discard the used citrus zest.

Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl until they turn frothy and bright yellow. Slowly whisk 1/3 cup sugar, the lemon cream, and vanilla extract into the beaten eggs. Beat the mixture for 90 seconds.

Pour the eggs and cream through a medium-mesh sieve into a large (4 cup) liquid measuring cup. Divide the mixture between 6 custard cups and fill the large pan with hot water half-way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the custard in the hot-water bath for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until the custard is set, but still moves a bit in the center when jiggled. Cool the custard in the water bath for 20 minutes, and then refrigerate them until they are chilled.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar over tops of the custards and caramelize the sugar with a small, handheld kitchen torch. Serve immediately.

This lemon infused Crème Brulée recipe makes 6 servings.

Notes on Making a Creme Brulee.

You can make shallow brulees too which are more traditional, the choice is yours but cooking times will be less as the cream is not as deep. 

Alternative Flavourings for Lemon Crème Brulée

Ring the changes by switiching the lemon for orange or alternatively use a splash of your favorite liqueur such as a Grand Marnier Liqueur in the classic creme brulée, but note, these are not for children. 

Again, perhaps not one for children but great as dessert is the Cafe au Lait Brulée or a decadent splash of​ culinary  Lavender or​ an extra splash of​ vanilla extract.

Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
Calories 421
Total Fat 36 g
Saturated Fat 21 g
Unsaturated Fat 10 g
Cholesterol 367 mg
Sodium 128 mg
Carbohydrates 14 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Protein 12 g
(The nutrition information on our recipes is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. Individual results may vary.)