Coconut Crème Brûlée (Dairy-Free)
Updated Oct 29, 2023
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Take a bite of this ultra-creamy, dairy-free, coconut crème brûlée and you’ll instantly fall in love. It’s got a smooth and silky custard base, and a crunchy, caramelized maple sugar topping.
What Is Crème Brûlée?
I’ll admit I’m a sucker for ending a nice dinner out with a classic French crème brûlée. It’s a delicate, rich custard that’s torched with a caramelized sugar topping. The perfect bite of silky smooth, crunchy, and toasty. And while it may look a bit fancy, it’s shockingly easy – if you nail down the time and temperature.
After a few tries, I can confidently say I’ve got the perfect recipe for a dairy-free crème brûlée (yes, it’s true), made with full-fat coconut milk! But don’t let the coconut milk throw you off, because this custard is just as good (flavor and texture wise) as the classic version, without having to use heavy cream. And no, it doesn’t taste overly coconutty. So for those folks looking for dairy-free alternatives when it comes to desserts – I’m confident you’re gonna love this one!
The Best Dairy-Free Crème Brûlée Recipe – 5 Simple Ingredients
This recipe is extremely pantry-friendly, with just 5 ingredients. Plus, it’s a dessert that’s not crazy expensive to make. So if you’re looking to impress on a budget, keep this dairy-free crème brûlée in your back pocket! Here’s what you’ll need.
- Coconut Milk: Make sure to grab a can of full-fat coconut milk. Regular or light coconut milk won’t be creamy enough to create a luscious custard.
- Maple Syrup: There’s no refined sugar here! Instead, I’m using maple syrup (you could use honey as well) for a dessert that’s got just the right amount of sweetness.
- Vanilla Extract: Many classic recipes use the actual vanilla bean – which you can do. But to keep this recipe as simple as possible, vanilla extract works great as well.
- Egg Yolks: Egg yolks are the key to a creamy and thick custard. I’ve tried recipes that also use egg whites, but the consistency just isn’t the same.
- Maple Sugar: I like to use granulated maple sugar for the caramelized topping, but you can also use coconut sugar or organic cane sugar.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below.
How To Make Coconut Crème Brûlée
The key to perfecting this coconut crème brûlée is the temperature. You’ll want to bake them at 325ºF (165°C) with a water bath that helps to evenly cook the custard. With that in mind, grab 4 ramekins and a quarter-sized baking tray to get started.
Warm the coconut milk mixture. In a pot over medium-low heat, whisk together the coconut milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Right when it begins to simmer, remove the pot from the heat.
Temper the eggs. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks vigorously while slowly streaming in the coconut mixture. Keep whisking until the custard is mixed together.
Create a water bath. Evenly pour the custard filling in between the 4 ramekins. Then carefully pour hot water into the baking tray until it reaches halfway up the side of the ramekins, and slide it into the oven. Alternatively, you can slide the tray first into the oven (with the ramekins) and pour the hot water from there to prevent any spilling.
Bake then chill. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the outside of the custard is just set with a slight jiggle in the center. Make sure to let the custard cool down to room temperature before chilling. Cover the tray and pop it in the fridge for at least 4 hours so that the custard sets up evenly.
Create the caramelized sugar topping. When ready to serve, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of maple sugar or coconut sugar over each custard. Then use a kitchen torch to melt the sugar until it’s caramelized. Make sure to keep moving the torch and don’t hold it in one spot, otherwise you’ll burn the sugar and melt the custard underneath.
A Few Tips…
- To make sure you have a smooth layer on top, remove any bubbles from the custard’s surface before chilling. You can do this by using a paper towel and gently touching each bubble. This will automatically pull away the bubble!
- Let the custard cool completely before chilling! When the custard is still warm, it will continue to cook right through to the center. So when it’s time to chill, your custard base will be perfectly, and evenly cooked.
- Sift or grind the sugar topping. Maple sugar and coconut sugar can often have larger granules, which tend to burn when torched. Either sift the sugar or pulse it in a spice grinder for an ultra-fine texture and smoother caramelized topping.
Coconut Crème Brûlée is the Perfect Make-Ahead Dessert
Since creme brulees are meant to be eaten cold, they’re perfect for making ahead of time. The custard itself can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days, although I recommend prepping one day before for the best texture. Just remember that the caramelizing of the sugar has to happen right before serving for the perfect crunch.
We’re All For Easy Desserts Here!
Some of the best desserts are also the simplest. If you’re on a time crunch or want to avoid complicated recipes, these favorites have your name all over them.
Once you make this coconut crème brûlée, I guarantee it’ll be on repeat for any special occasion celebrated at home. So, let me know what you, your friends, and family think of it in a comment below!
Coconut Crème Brûlée (Dairy-Free)
- Preheat oven to 325ºF (165°C). Place 4 ramekins on a rimmed baking tray.
- Make coconut milk mixture. In a pot over medium heat, add the coconut milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Whisk everything together just until the milk begins to simmer, then remove from heat.
- Temper the eggs into a custard. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Add a small amount of the coconut mixture to the egg yolks while whisking vigorously. Continue slowly adding the coconut milk mixture to the mixing bowl until all the coconut milk is incorporated. This process should take two minutes or so.
- Make a hot water bath. Transfer the custard into the 4 ramekins (6-ounce capacity) and carefully pour hot water into the baking dish until it reaches halfway up the side of the ramekins.
- Bake the custards. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the outside of the custard is just set and the middle is slightly wobbly.
- Let them chill. Remove from the oven and allow custard to cool. Cover and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill for at least 4 hours.
- Create caramelized sugar. When ready to serve, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of maple sugar or coconut sugar over the surface of each custard. Using a kitchen torch melt the sugar until caramelized. Then serve immediately.
- If you’d like it a little bit sweeter, you can add one more tablespoon of maple syrup or honey in the custard base, but don’t add more than that otherwise it will change the texture.
- When you torch the chilled custard to caramelize the sugar topping it will start to melt the custard underneath, so try to work quickly. You can also place the ramekin in the freezer for 5 minutes after torching to chill and firm up the custard again.
- This is a great culinary torch if you need one!
- While some recipes say that you can use a top broiler to caramelize the sugar, I find that it melts the custard too much, almost back to a thin pudding consistency. So I’d avoid that if possible.
- You can caramelize the sugar topping in advance as well, but just be aware that it will soften over time and not be as crunchy and crackly as immediately caramelized and served.
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