Easy Vegan Flan (No-Bake!)

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Plate with a portion of vegan flan with a bite removed

If you’ve never had flan, you’re in for a treat! This easy, vegan version may be dairy- and egg-free, but it doesn’t skimp on flavor or texture. A dreamy, salted caramel sauce beautifully coats a coconut milk custard. The result? A cheesecake-like coconut custard covered in rich, salty caramel sauce. Swoon! Talk about a dreamy dessert. Plus, just 7 ingredients required. Let us show you how it’s done!

Bowls and spoons of coconut sugar, salt, vanilla, cornstarch, maple syrup, coconut milk, and water

What is Flan?

Flan (also called crème caramel) is a creamy custard dessert with a thin layer of caramel sauce on top. While it’s enjoyed in many regions around the world, flan is thought to have first originated in ancient Rome and is especially popular in Latin America. Many variations now exist, and they often include regional ingredients, such as pineapple juice in Puerto Rico and coffee in Costa Rica.

Though flan is traditionally made with eggs, milk, and sugar, the following is a plant-based and refined-sugar-free version inspired by the concept.

Saucepan of bubbling coconut sugar caramel sauce

How to Make Vegan Flan

We know we’re in for a challenge whenever creating a recipe that’s traditionally made almost exclusively from ingredients we’re trying not to use: milk, eggs, and cane sugar. But friends, with this one, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the result!

Coconut milk provides a luxurious, creamy, rich base for the custard and pairs beautifully with vanilla and maple syrup for a simple yet bold flavor. Top with a pleasantly salty, vanilla-infused caramel sauce, and it’s love at first bite.

Ramekins with a layer of salted caramel sauce

For the caramel layer, coconut sugar combines with salt, vanilla, and water and is heated until bubbly and thickened. It’s added to the ramekins before the custard so that once the flan ramekins are flipped onto a plate, the beautiful caramel layer is at the top.

For the custard layer, agar and cornstarch (or arrowroot starch) take the place of the eggs in a traditional flan. Agar comes from seaweed (red algae) and is used throughout Asia for making desserts. It’s fiber-rich (makes you feel full longer), and when boiled, it thickens like jello. Pretty neat, we’d say. What can’t you do, seaweed!?

Pouring the creamy coconut custard layer over the salted caramel sauce

We hope you LOVE this vegan flan! It’s:

Creamy
Sweet
Luscious
Naturally sweetened
Decadent
& SO delicious!

It’s the perfect dessert for romantic occasions, holidays, or whenever the flan craving strikes!

More Caramelly Vegan Treats

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Top-down photo showing the caramel layer on top of portions of vegan flan

Easy Vegan Flan (No-Bake!)

Creamy, luxurious vegan flan with salted caramel sauce, no baking required! Surprisingly easy to make with just 7 simple ingredients.
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Plate of gluten-free vegan flan
4.73 from 11 votes
Prep Time 4 hours
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings 8 (half-ramekin servings)
Course Dessert
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Latin-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? 3 Days

Ingredients

CARAMEL

  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp water

CUSTARD

  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • 1 tsp agar agar powder (not flakes)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 (13.5-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk (we like Whole Foods 365 brand)

Instructions

  • Start by getting out 4 individual ramekins; ideally they should be 3-4 inches in diameter (at the base) and 2-3 inches deep. Place them within easy reach.
  • CARAMEL: Add the coconut sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and water to a medium saucepan and turn on medium-low heat. Set a timer for 3 minutes and stir constantly while cooking – the sugar will dissolve and the mixture should start to bubble vigorously and thicken slightly. Stick with it! If it is only gently bubbling, turn up your heat very slightly. Or if it’s smelling burnt at all, turn heat down. As soon as the 3-minute timer goes off, quickly distribute the caramel between your 4 prepared ramekins (~1 heaping tablespoon per ramekin). Set aside.
  • CUSTARD: You can rinse the same saucepan with hot water and use it for the custard, or choose another — make sure whatever pan you choose is deep enough to hold 4 cups (950 ml) of boiling liquid.
  • Add the salt, cornstarch or arrowroot, agar agar, maple syrup, and vanilla extract to the cooled (or room temperature) saucepan and whisk together until few lumps remain. Then add the coconut milk and whisk vigorously until well combined.
  • Place the saucepan over high heat, whisking continuously until the mixture comes to a boil. This should take about 5-7 minutes. Then reduce the heat to medium low and set a timer for 2 minutes. Continue whisking until the timer goes off. The mixture will have thickened but should still be quite loose and pourable.
  • Carefully distribute the custard between the ramekins, on top of the caramel. Let the flan cool for 5-10 minutes before transferring it to the refrigerator. Refrigerate for 3 hours, uncovered. If chilling for more than 3 hours, cover lightly with foil, leaving room for a bit of ventilation.
  • Once set, you can eat your flan straight from the ramekins with a spoon, or carefully remove them by loosening the edges with a butter knife and turning them upside down onto a plate. You may need to shake gently and tap the bottom to help them slip out!
  • Best enjoyed the first day, but will keep for up to 3 days lightly covered in the refrigerator. Not freezer friendly.

Video

Notes

*A full ramekin feels very indulgent and filling. We prefer 1 ramekin of flan served between two people. Or, if you have smaller ramekins (we didn’t), feel free to split recipe into 6-8 ramekins.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with cornstarch.

Nutrition (1 of 8 servings)

Serving: 1 half-ramekin serving Calories: 247 Carbohydrates: 21.5 g Protein: 1.2 g Fat: 16.8 g Saturated Fat: 15.5 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 g Monounsaturated Fat: 0 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 173 mg Potassium: 174 mg Fiber: 0.3 g Sugar: 17.3 g Vitamin A: 0 IU Vitamin C: 0 mg Calcium: 13.9 mg Iron: 0.6 mg

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    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Marisol, we don’t think it will be thick enough, but let us know if you try it!

  1. BeeH says

    Again, and again every time I made any of your recipes they are a success and yes!!!!, it is a flan. It is DELICIOUS!!!!… I have been looking for a recipe that will give me that creamy consistency with a delicious dripping caramel and you just ended my quest with your recipe. I had all the ingredients; I always have Vegan baking and cooking ingredients at hand just in case I bump into a recipe. I used one can of cream of coconut and one can of milk. I purchase these products from an Indian grocery store near my house and the quality is much better. I looked into the 365 brand and had only 4 grams of fat, so I thought the milk I used would work better (17 grams of fat) and it did. My husband loved it. I notice that if I leave them in the refrigerator longer than 3 hours, even overnight the caramel will dissolve better and it will drip when I turn the ramekins. It renders 4 full ramekins, I had to make it the minute we finished them. The flan is not only delicious but super easy!…I made a video for my sister, too bad I stopped using FB and Instagram, otherwise I would’ve posted…Thank you so much!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Aw, we are SO glad you and your husband enjoyed it, Bee! Thank you for your super kind review and sharing your experience! xo

  2. Irene says

    I made this and it did not turn out for me. Since I didn’t have and couldn’t find agar agar powder, I used gelatin. The custard never set. It tasted alright, but it did not taste like flan. It tasted like vanilla pudding or custard. Also, I used 6 ramekins and still had enough left over for a pie pan’s worth of custard, which did not set either. Not sure where I went wrong, maybe the gelatin? Even if it had set, it would not have been like traditional flan, probably because traditional flan uses eggs and sweetened condensed milk + evaporated milk.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Irene, we haven’t tried it with gelatin, but that’s likely the issue. This recipe requires agar to work properly. This won’t be exactly like a traditional flan due to the ingredient swaps, but should be very delicious and similar in texture and flavor. We’d suggest buying agar online if you decide to try it again.

  3. Carolyn says

    Just okay. I wouldn’t call it flan, it was more the taste of coconut custard. It did have the flan consistency though. If I make it again I’ll use almond milk.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Sorry to hear that, Carolyn! Let us know if you try it out with almond milk. We think it might need more agar to set properly.

  4. Nicole Wilson says

    This is literally the best vegan dessert I’ve ever had! It’s divine. I just finished eating the last of it and I’m ready to make more. I appreciate the level of detail you always include in your recipes. It makes all the difference in the world to have the specific heat setting, temperature, and time. The precision on your recipes is really quite something. I can feel the love you put in to creating. Thank you for that. Excellent recipe, 5 stars, hands down.

  5. Aidan says

    This was really simple and easy to make, and had such a lovely texture! I would recommend adding a bit more vanilla if you want a stronger flavour :) Thank you so much for creating this!

  6. Carla says

    I made this last night for a dinner party and it was a total hit! I substituted agar for gelatin (since I am not totally vegan) and it worked using the same quantity. Itwas restaurant quality! Light, not too sweet, and delicious! Will definitely make it again. I would leave longer in the fridge if possible, at least 5 hours.

  7. cat says

    The caramel element took slightly longer than instructed but worked perfectly. I used light brown sugar instead as I didn’t want to buy a different sugar.

    The custard was delicious and flavorful, but mine just didn’t set quite right, even with 6 hours in the fridge. I used gelatin instead of Agar, but I’ve subbed the two in the past without issue. When I try this recipe again, I’ll double the gelatin to see if I get a more favorable result. I’ll also try the coconut milk suggested instead of a local store brand to see if the variations in fat content could be behind it. Flavor-wise, these were excellent! I’ll troubleshoot texture with the next batch.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the review and for sharing your experience, Cat, it’s super helpful for us and other readers! Can’t wait to hear how round 2 goes!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Valerie! We haven’t tried this with gelatin but we think it would work. Let us know how it goes! xo

  8. Lyuba Misheva says

    A dream come True! Since I am on lactose free diet, I am trying to make something close to brule or caramel.
    Thanks a lot! I did it and it is better than excpected.

  9. Tracy says

    Since I live in New England, would be fun to see if caramel could be made from maple syrup. Maple sugar should work fine, just harder to come by and so expensive! Thanks for the recipe. Eggs and dairy are on my allergens list.

  10. EMC says

    I’m thrilled to find a vegan flan recipe! A long, long time ago, summer after my 6th grade year, I spent a few weeks in Spain and flan became almost a daily staple! Still love the stuff in all its various iterations – creme caramel, panna cotta, creme brûlée… yum! Thanks for developing this!

    I am, however, trying to reduce my use of coconut products. Do you think another thick, creamy milk (cashew maybe?) would be a feasible replacement given the agar and cornstarch? Or does this recipe really need the sat fat from the coconut?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi there! We haven’t tried this with any milks other than coconut, and we’re not sure how it would go! We suspect that the fat in the coconut helps with the final texture, but it’s possible a cashew milk could work instead. Let us know how it goes if you give it a try! xo

      • Lexi says

        Would love to hear the answer to this too! I’m allergic to all things coconut so curious which other milks would be a suitable substitute! :) thanks!!

  11. ESTHER RAWLINS says

    This is certainly on my to do list. At last a flan that I can eat without the eggs. I have never liked flan because of the eggs. I will certainly give this a try.

  12. Jess S says

    I can’t comment on the caramel aspect, but I made the custard tonight and it was phenomenal! I subbed 2x tapioca starch for the agar, left the rest as listed. I topped with strawberries and everyone loved it, even my not vegan father in law. I will definitely make again!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Woohoo! We love to hear this. Thanks for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications, Jess. Super helpful! xo

  13. Ann says

    This looks soooo freakin’ delicious! Vegan flan! Brilliant!! I’m in the middle of moving apartments, so playing in the kitchen is on hold for a little while.😭But once I’m back on track, this is on the menu. About Alexis’s question regarding eggs, you can make a stove-top egg custard. I’m not sure how it works with dairy-free milk, but Alexis could check it out. Also, this flan recipe makes me think that moussaka is back in my life again! Thank you!!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Sneha! After heating the caramel and coconut milk mixture on the stovetop, the flan is simply chilled in the refrigerator, not baked or steamed. If you want to make the caramel or coconut milk mixture in the instant pot, theoretically you could do it on the saute setting but we think it might burn. Hope this helps!

  14. Stacy says

    What is agar agar? Is it expensive? I don’t have other recipes that call for it so I’m not sure I want to try to find it. Did you test this using gelatin powder, like a pan a cotta? Wondering if that could work too.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Stacy! Agar agar is a naturally gelatinous powder derived from marine red algae. It is not very expensive in our experience (~$5/oz), and you use so little that it lasts a long time. Our goal with this recipe was to replicate the results of gelatin with a fully vegan alternative, but if you have gelatin it should work similarly. Let us know how it goes! xo

      • Kelly says

        I prepared this flan today! It was quick and easy – the hardest part was the wait while it set! I do not have ramekins, so I used one round cake tin. Delish!

  15. Sofia says

    Hello! Do you think I can use xanthan gum instead of the agar agar? Xanthan is all I have at home right now and it seems like it can be used 1:1 in replacement of agar agar in most recipes.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Sofia! We haven’t tried it and we aren’t sure it will work the same way, but we don’t know! Let us know how it goes if you give it a try! xo

      • Sofia says

        Hi again! So I realized that I have total mom brain and typed xanthan gum, when what I have is GUAR gum. I made this recipe yesterday using the same measure of guar gum and they came out perfectly. If anyone wants to try this sub, I confirm that it works!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Nessa! From what we’ve read 1 tsp powder is ~1 Tbsp flakes, so they should work if you just use a bit more! Let us know how it goes if you give it a try! xo

        • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

          Hi Colette! We haven’t tried this with other milks and we aren’t sure it would work. The fat in the coconut milk is super helpful for texture and flavor in this recipe, but something like cashew or almond might work – we don’t know. Let us know how it goes if you give it a try!

    • Renee says

      I just made with Xantham gum because that all I could find. It was edible but quite rubbery. I will make again but I will find agar agar first! To be fair I will rate it then. This recipe will get a 3 though because it did turn out.

      • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

        Sorry to hear it didn’t turn out well with xanthan gum, Renee. Agar is key for the right texture. We hope you love it next time!

  16. Tessa says

    This looks delicious! I’d like to make one big one (rather than small portions). Could I make this in a metal cake pan? What do you recommend?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Tessa! We aren’t how this would turn out in a larger pan since we haven’t tried it, but it could work. If anything you may need to chill for longer (maybe 4+ hours) to ensure that the center is totally firm. Let us know how it goes! xo

    • jess says

      Same! I’d do that for a Venezuelan-style quesillo. There is another Venezuelan dessert that is sort of like a coconut flan and it’s so delicious.

  17. The Vegan Goddess says

    Are you SERIOUS? I love flan! I can’t believe it can be vegan and looks great!

    I am SO making this! Will check back …

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi there! We have only tested this recipe with agar agar powder, so we aren’t sure how the sheets would compare. It’s possible you could add 1 or two to the coconut milk mixture as it’s heating, but we wouldn’t recommend adding using/adding extra water to prepare the sheets. Let us know how it goes if you give it a try! xo

    • Alexis says

      How many eggs do we use if we wanted to use them instead of agar agar? Do we still use the cornstarch also? Thanks!

      • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

        Hi Alexis! Due to the nature of this recipe being no-bake, we wouldn’t recommend using eggs in place of the agar agar. If you do, you need to do more of a traditional flan method and bake them or they will be unsafe to eat. You could look up a dairy-free or traditional flan recipe for inspiration, as we cannot guarantee good results when adding eggs to this recipe. Hope this helps!

          • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

            Hi there! Do you mean guar gum? We haven’t experimented with it in the kitchen ourselves but we have heard that it can work similarly to agar agar. Let us know your results if you give it a try!