Natillas de Leche (Spanish Custard)

Natillas de Leche (Spanish Custard)

The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Refrigerate: 45 mins
Total: 80 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
299 Calories
15g Fat
24g Carbs
17g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 299
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 7g 35%
Cholesterol 303mg 101%
Sodium 201mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 24g 9%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 22g
Protein 17g
Vitamin C 1mg 7%
Calcium 325mg 25%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 422mg 9%
*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.)

Although the exact origin of natillas (custard in English) is not known, nuns in convents across Europe prepared them. One of the theories is that the nuns actually developed the dessert. No matter where natillas came from, one thing is certain: They conjure up childhood memories for many Spaniards, and along with flan, cuajada, and crema catalana, they are comfort food in Spain.

This recipe is for the basic vanilla-flavored natillas that are thick, creamy, and a rich yellow color. Although infused with lemon and cinnamon flavor when cooking, sprinkle ground cinnamon on top just before serving. Other popular flavors for natillas include chocolate and turrón.


  • 6 cups whole milk, divided

  • 1 lemon, zested

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 8 large egg yolks

  • 8 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Ground cinnamon, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Natillas de Leche (Spanish Custard) ingredients

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  2. Pour 5 cups of milk into a large saucepan. Add lemon peel and cinnamon stick and warm the milk, uncovered, over medium heat, until just before it boils. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

    Milk with a cinnamon stick and lemon peel in a pan

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  3. In a small bowl, whisk remaining 1 cup milk with the cornstarch.

    Milk and cornstarch in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  4. Place egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and beat with an electric mixer until it is frothy.

    Egg yolks and sugar beat together in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  5. Add the milk-cornstarch mixture and continue to beat with mixer until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

    Egg yolks and sugar beat together with cornstarch mixture in a bowl

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  6. Remove the lemon peel and cinnamon stick from the warm milk, using a slotted spoon.

    Cinnamon stick and lemon peel removed from pot

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  7. Return the pot to the stove on medium heat. After milk is hot, but not boiling, add the vanilla extract.

    Milk and vanilla in a pot

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  8. Slowly pour egg yolk mixture into the warming milk, while beating with electric mixer on low speed.

    Egg mixture added to milk and mixed together in a pot

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  9. Using a wooden spoon, stir continuously over medium heat, so the milk does not stick. Stir until mixture thickens.

    Custard mixture in a pot

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  10. Ladle thickened mixture through a fine mesh sieve placed over a large bowl, in order to eliminate any lumps.

    Strain the custard mixture through a fine metal sieve

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  11. Pour strained natillas mixture evenly into 6 small bowls, ramekins, or cups. Allow to cool to room temperature on the counter, then cover ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

    Custard in small white ramekins with plastic wrap

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

  12. Once chilled, garnish with cinnamon before serving.

    Natillas de Leche (Spanish Custard) garnished with cinnamon

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn