Crème Brûlée

Creme Brulees sugar cracked open to show custard

The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Cool and Chill: 3 hrs
Total: 3 hrs 55 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Yield: 6 ramekins
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
388 Calories
30g Fat
27g Carbs
4g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 388
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 30g 39%
Saturated Fat 19g 94%
Cholesterol 151mg 50%
Sodium 77mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 10%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 27g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 2%
Calcium 61mg 5%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 91mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

An elegant, classic crème brûlée—French for burnt cream—may sound like a fancy, complicated dessert, but it is surprisingly simple. With only five ingredients, it's just a matter of heating the cream, combining the ingredients, baking, and chilling. And another advantage—the creamy vanilla custard can be made and refrigerated up to three to four days in advance. The signature caramelized sugar topping is what makes it so unique, and it takes just a few minutes with a culinary torch.

Six 4-ounce ramekins are the perfect size for this indulgent dessert. You'll have six desserts to serve all at once or stretch them over a few days, torching them as you serve them. You can even freeze the base custards for up to one month. It's a beautiful dessert, worthy of a special occasion or holiday, but easy and convenient enough to fix and serve any night of the week.

For an extra-special presentation, place the ramekin on a dessert plate and add some fresh berries or chocolate-dipped strawberries, and serve along with a dessert wine, such as Sauternes or moscato.

"Crème brûlée is such an indulgent, delicious, yet simple dessert. I love that it’s perfectly portioned, and you can serve it ‘as needed’ by adding the caramelized sugar on top. I would recommend some adult supervision for the water bath and sugar caramelization, but you can definitely get your family involved in making this classic treat." —Tracy Wilk

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A Note From Our Recipe Tester


For the Custard:

  • 1 pure vanilla bean, or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or extract

  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided

  • 4 large egg yolks

  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt

For the Topping:

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar, superfine or plain white granulated sugar

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 F.

    creme brulee ingredients, sugar, egg yolk, cream and vanilla bean gathered

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  2. Using a small sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise; scrape out the seeds with the blade's dull edge.

    vanilla bean cut open on cutting board to scrape out interior

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  3. Put the cream in a medium saucepan with the vanilla bean and seeds or 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar and stir to blend. Bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat, cover the pan, and set aside to steep for about 10 minutes. If you are using vanilla extract, you can skip this steeping time.

    cream in pot with split vanilla pod

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  4. Arrange 6 (4-ounce) ramekins in a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.

    six ramekins in a metal baking tray

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  5. If the cream has cooled, bring it back to a simmer and remove the vanilla bean.

    vanilla pod being removed with sieve from pot of cream after steeping

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  6. Meanwhile, in a medium, heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and salt until well blended.

    egg yolks in bowl whisked with whisk

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  7. While whisking the egg yolk mixture continuously, slowly add about 3/4 cup of the hot cream. Gradually whisk the remaining hot cream into the tempered egg and cream mixture until well blended.

    warm cream being poured into bowl of egg yolks and whisked

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  8. To ensure a smooth texture, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.

    custard being strained through fine mesh seive

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  9. Divide the custard mixture evenly among the six ramekins.

    ramekins filled with custard mixture in metal baking tray ready for oven

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  10. Carefully add about 1 inch of boiling water to the baking pan, or enough to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. The bain-marie surrounds the ramekins, ensuring gentle, even heat. Place the pan in the preheated oven, taking care to avoid sloshing water onto the custards. Bake the crème brûlée in the pre heated 325 F oven for about 35 to 40 minutes. If you are using shallow ramekins, check on them after about 30 minutes. The custards should be soft-set with some jiggle when moved. If using an instant-read thermometer, look for a temperature of around 170 F to 175 F.

    ramekins filled with custard, in metal baking tray with water being added to tray to create a water bath

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  11. Cool the custards for about 45 minutes to an hour on a cooling rack.

    baked creme brulee custards on a cooling rack

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  12. Place cooled custards on a baking dish or baking sheet and cover them loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to two to three days.

    cooled custards in ramekins on a sheet tray covered with plastic wrap

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  13. When it's time to serve the crème brûlée, remove a ramekin from the refrigerator and sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of sugar over the top (about 2 teaspoons for a wider, shallow ramekin); shake it lightly to spread the sugar as evenly as possible. Repeat with the remaining ramekins or as many as you plan to serve.

    a single baked custard in ramekin with white sugar sprinkled on top

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic

  14. Up to 30 minutes before serving, caramelize the sugar with a kitchen torch, constantly moving it in a circular motion as the sugar darkens. The melted, caramelized sugar will form a hard, candy-like top within 2 to 3 minutes.

    brulee torch caramelizing sugar on top of custard for creme brulee

    The Spruce Eats / Ana Zelic


  • When adding the hot cream to the egg yolks, add the cream slowly and make sure you are constantly whisking, or you could end up with scrambled eggs. The purpose is to increase the temperature of the eggs without cooking them.
  • In order to avoid a hot water mess when transporting the bain-marie of ramekins to the oven, you can bring the pan with the custard ramekins to the oven first, and with the rack pulled out of the oven slightly, pour the boiling water into the pan as instructed while the pan rests in the oven.
  • When using traditional shallow crème brûlée ramekins, you will need to use a larger baking pan or two pans. Since shallow ramekins have a depth of about 1 inch, add only about 1/2 inch of boiling water to the outer baking pan(s) and check on them after about 30 minutes. When it's time to caramelize the topping, you'll need about 2 teaspoons of sugar because of the larger surface area. 

Crème Brûlée Without a Torch

  • If you don't have a culinary torch, you can brûlée the custards under the broiler. Place one to three chilled custards on a baking dish and add the sugar. Position the rack in the highest position, place the custards under the broiler, and turn it on broil. After a few minutes, begin checking on the custards and turn them frequently to get an evenly caramelized crust. It will take anywhere from about 5 to 8 minutes. The crème brûlée topping won't look as uniformly browned, and the custard will be pretty warm, but it will still be delicious.

How to Store Crème Brûlée

  • Cover crème brûlée custards that have not been brûléed in the refrigerator for up to four days. Leftover crème brûlée with a caramelized top may also be refrigerated, but the topping will not hold up for longer than about 30 minutes.
  • You may refrigerate unbaked custard for three to four days.
  • To freeze cooled, freshly baked crème brûlée custards, wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and then place them in a covered airtight container; freeze for up to one month. Defrost the custards in the refrigerator for several hours or until the custard is soft. Sprinkle the custards with sugar and torch them to caramelize the topping.

Is crème brûlée difficult to make?

Crème brûlée is suprisingly easy to make. Not only is it a fast and simple preparation, but you can also make it up to three to four days in advance. The creamy custard mixture takes just about 10 minutes to prepare and cook.

What if I burn my topping?

If the top burns, just scrape it off and try again with more sugar.

Is crème brûlée served cold?

The serving temperature depends on preference. Once the custards are brûléed, they can be served right away or after about 10 to 20 minutes at room temperature. Or they can be returned to the fridge for up to 30 minutes and served cold. The topping is at its crunchy best within a few minutes of caramelizing it.