Vanilla Creme Brulee

5 from 39 votes

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Vanilla creme brulee is a simple yet indulgent French custard with a crisp sugar topping! Make this recipe for a classic holiday dessert!

burnt sugar topping on vanilla creme brulee

Holidays are the perfect time to splurge on rich, indulgent and delicious desserts! While French Christmas desserts like a croquembouche tree can be challenging and labor intensive to make, there are plenty of impressive French desserts that don’t require much effort at all. 

Finish off your holiday meal with delicious classics like chocolate mousse, French silk pie, or creme brulee.

Or make butterscotch budino, which is an Italian dessert that combines sweet pudding with brown sugar caramel. It captures similar flavors as a brulee, but is creamy from top to bottom.

Vanilla creme brulee

Creamy vanilla custard is just one part of the classic French dessert, creme brulee, which in English, means burnt cream.

Simply put, it’s a rich vanilla flavored custard topped with caramelized sugar, otherwise known as caramel.  Half of the fun of the dessert is breaking through that thin, crispy layer of hard caramel get to the rich dessert beneath!

Creme brulee flavors

Vanilla is the classic flavor, but the custard can be made in other flavors, too. If you love chocolate desserts, make a chocolate creme brulee. In the summer, make a refreshing lemon brulee, or for a spicy-sweet flavor, try cinnamon creme brulee. The flavor variations are practically endless.

closeup: spooning out french vanilla dessert from ramekin

Video: How to make creme brulee

This classic dessert is extremely easy to make, and super rich in texture. Sometimes simpler really is better when it comes to dessert.

Check out the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post to watch us making vanilla creme brulee from start to finish.

One benefit of making this vanilla creme brulee recipe is that you only need 4 basic ingredients; eggs, sugar, cream and vanilla extract.

BONUS!! This recipe doesn’t require tempering cream and eggs together!

french custard dessert in white ramekin

Instructions and tips

  1. Make the custard.

Using a whisk or an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and sugar to dissolve the granules and incorporate air into the mixture. Add the cream and vanilla extract, then mix on low until combined.

  1. Pour vanilla custard into ramekins.

Next, divide the mixture evenly into your ramekins. Be sure to leave some space at the top for the sugar.

Tip: If you notice any foam or bubbles in the custard, pour it through a fine mesh strainer to remove them.

side by side collage of ingredients for french creme brulee recipe
  1. Bake until set.

Place the ramekins in a roasting pan and set it on the middle rack of your oven. VERY carefully pour hot water into the pan, around the ramekins. This creates a water bath, which helps the custard to bake evenly and avoid cracking.

IMPORTANT: Do not let any water get into the custard-filled ramekins; it will prevent the vanilla creme brulee from firming up in the oven.

Bake until the edges are firm and the center jiggles just a bit.

  1. Chill, then create creme brulee topping.

Be sure to refrigerate the vanilla custard for at least 2 hours before adding the sugar.

Just before serving, sprinkle a layer of white granulated sugar over the top of each custard. You don’t need a thick layer, but be sure to cover the custard completely. 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar should be plenty.

Then, use a kitchen torch to burn the sugar until it starts to bubble and turn a golden brown color.

Don’t have a kitchen torch?

If you don’t have a butane kitchen torch, place the entire tray of vanilla creme brulee under the broiler for a minute or two. Watch it closely, as the sugar can burn or catch fire if it’s left under the broiler for too long.

side by side collage: caramelizing sugar topping on vanilla creme brulee

Recipe notes

  • Use room temperature ingredients: Using chilled cream and eggs will result in curdling, and the texture will be extra lumpy when baked. Yolks are more fragile at room temperature, though, so it may be best to separate them first before warming.
  • Avoid splashes: If liquid from the water bath gets into the ramekins, it can create divots in the custard and prevent it from setting up properly. Pour slowly and carefully, or wrap a thin layer of foil around each ramekin to create a protective “fence.”
  • Make ahead: The custard can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept in the refrigerator tightly wrapped in plastic. However, don’t add the sugar topping until just before serving, or the moisture from the custard will dissolve the caramel.
  • Leftover egg whites: After separating out the yolks, store the whites in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Use them for omelets, meringue cookies, pavlova, or even candied nuts!
side by side collage of creme brulee dessert

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This recipe, first published on Kevin Is Cooking June 10, 2013, was last updated with new content on Dec. 10, 2021.

closeup: spooning out french vanilla dessert from ramekin

Vanilla Creme Brulee + Video

5 from 39 votes
Vanilla creme brulee is a simple yet indulgent French custard with a crisp sugar topping. Make this recipe for a classic holiday dessert!
Servings: 8
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour



  • Set oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 300°F.
  • In a large mixing bowl, use electric mixer or whisk to combine the egg yolks and sugar, mixing until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is pale yellow in color.
  • Add the whipping cream and vanilla extract, and beat on low speed until well blended, about 30 seconds.
  • Pour custard evenly throughout 8 ramekins or custard cups, leaving 1/2 inch space below the rim. (See Note 1)
    Optionally, pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer directly into the ramekins or custard cups, to remove any foam, bubbles, or cooked egg.
  • Place the filled ramekins into a large roasting pan with sides (13×9") and carefully pour hot water around ramekins so that the water comes 3/4 way up the sides of ramekins.
  • Bake until set, about 50 minutes. Carefully remove pan from oven and leave ramekins in the water bath until cooled.
  • Remove ramekins from water bath, use paper toweling to dry off the sides. Place in refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours, and up to two days. (See Note 2)
  • Prior to serving, remove from refrigerator and sprinkle about 1-2 teaspoons of sugar over top of each vanilla custard.
    Using a small, hand-held butane torch, melt and caramelize the sugar. If you don't have a torch, place ramekins under broiler, 2 to 3 inches from the heat source.
    Turn on broiler and cook until sugar melts and browns or even blackens a bit, about 5 minutes. Optionally – Re-chill the creme brulee for 5 minutes to harden the sugar before serving.



  1. The size ramekins I use are 3 1/4″ in diameter, 1 1/4″ deep and hold roughly 1/2 cup.
  2. The vanilla creme brulee sugar topping will begin to soften after about 2 hours. If not serving right away, do not make the caramelized sugar topping. Instead, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Just before serving, add sugar and torch/broil the sugar.


Calories: 406kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Cholesterol: 346mg | Sodium: 39mg | Potassium: 80mg | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 1420IU | Vitamin C: 0.4mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 0.6mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Desserts
Cuisine: Melting Pot
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image: 4 small dishes of classic creme brulee


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. 5 stars
    Hi Kevin,
    This looks and sounds so yummy! Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t seem to locate the video. When I found it and clicked on video it took me back to the recipe card. I’d really like to watch it as I have never made Cream Brulee before. Any suggestions??

    1. Susanna,
      The video is in the recipe card and does work, I just checked. But if you’re still having problems viewing it for whatever reason (ad blockers on browser?) you can view all my videos here on my Youtube channel! Thanks for following along. 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    I haven’t tried the recipe however it is my mother’s birthday and I’m hoping it turns out great 🙂

    1. Instead of using a kitchen torch use the Broiler. You can broil your crème brûlée. Heat your broiler up super hot, and put the rack just underneath. Make sure the custard is very cold and fully set — overnight, ideally. Watch carefully as not to burn. Hope this helps.

      1. 5 stars
        Check your manual I believe all stoves have a broiler yours might be at the bottom of your stove … I could be wrong but I had an old electric stove once and that’s where mine was located hope this helps

  3. 5 stars
    Oh My Goodness! I am going to have to keep your site pulled up on my favorites every day before I begin to cook! I am barely able to catch my breath over this recipe! Amazing!

    1. YES! Stacie, all you do is hover your mouse over the number of serving and move Left or Right to adjust and the ingredient list changes for that amount. 🙂

  4. Hi Kevin.
    It’s rare that one of your recipes does nit work out for me, but this one did not. :-(. It puffed up and browned like a soufflé. Tasted great, but definitely not what I was expecting.
    Maybe I beat the eggs to high or too long? What speed do you beat the at and for how many minutes?
    Thanks in advance for helping me troubleshoot!

    1. Eva, I am so bummed it didn’t work for you. This is definitely one of my Top 5 recipes on the site because it’s so easy and so good! I actually, and I’m not kidding, made this again 3 days ago for a birthday celebration and it was creamy and amazing. Not sure what could have happened. You baked in a water bath correct? As for the eggs and beating, I would follow the instructions exactly as written and watch the video (18,000,000 views and counting), too. Please let me know!

      1. 5 stars
        Thanks Kevin. I ended up making this without using a mixer and it worked great. Just used a whisk to mix the yolks sugar and cream and it turned out great! Next time I’ll try the chocolate version!
        P.s. any uses for the egg whites? I hate to waste so many!

      2. Wonderful, thanks for letting me know! My uses typically go to egg white omelets and making merengues or a pavlova.

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe a few times now & it turned out perfect every time!! Thank you for the awesome recipe!

    1. I am so glad you have made it a few times and it turns out for you! I appreciate you taking the time to share that!

  6. 5 stars
    Hi Kevin – thanks for sharing this recipe. It was delicious! I had a hard time getting my creme brûlée to set. It turned out more of a soft pudding consistency than the thick custard in your video. Have you ever had this problem? I was worried about them overcooking so took the custards out after baking for over an hour (I think total baking time was about 75 mins). I also cut the recipe exactly in half & used glass bowls instead of ceramic ramekins (because I don’t own any). Could either of these have contributed to the issue? I’m going to buy some ramekins & try again. Would love if you could give me some tips to incorporate.

    1. The cooking time is probably the problem and did you have enough water surrounding the ramekins? Glass bowls or ceramic ramekins, I’m sure either will work. Let me know!

      1. Thanks Kevin. When you say the cooking time is the problem, do you mean I should’ve cooked it for more or less time? I left them in for 50% more time than the recipe called for because I thought the longer bake time might help them set. Should I have left them in for longer than 75 mins?

      2. Apologies Lily, I misread and thought you said you cut the cooking time in half which would have been 25 minutes! Did you do the water bath?

      3. No need to apologize. I made the recipe again, this time with more water in the bath like you suggested. I just left them in the oven until set – about 2 hours total. I think I may have overcooked them. Although this recipe is so good it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s over or undercooked – it always comes out delicious! 🥰 Do you measure the internal temp? If so, what should it be?

        Also, my custard doesn’t look as fluffy as your photos. Could the problem be how I’m mixing everything? I get worried about over beating & turning the heavy cream into whipped cream. Is it possible to overmix during either step? How long do you typically mix after adding the cream?

      4. Honestly I can’t imagine cooking these in a water bath for 2 hours. I would think they’d be scrambled, hard eggs think by then. This should not take more than 50 minutes. What size ramekins are you using? As for mixing, beat until just mixed so they do not whip and get all foamy (literally just like in the video). Let me know!

      5. They weren’t anything like scrambled or hard eggs. They were so good this time I’ve recommended your recipe to a bunch of people since. Maybe I just have a really old oven?

        My ramekins are 3.5 inches diameter & 2.25 inches deep – so slightly wider than yours but I halve the recipe & split it between 4 ramekins so I thought the extra height wouldn’t make too much of a difference.

        Anyways, I really appreciate you working with me on this. I’m planning to make it for Mother’s Day so she can have a special treat during quarantine. Thank you. And thanks again for sharing such a great recipe. Will definitely be trying more from your website in the future.

      6. Kevin,

        I tend to do larger batches of this, for 13 ramekins, I use 18 egg yolks. I also eliminate the sugar, and I melt chocolate using that to make a chocolate Creme Brulee. I’ve also done Lavender, Pumpkin, and ButterScotch, which is my favorite. And here’s the kicker, I cook mine for 2 hrs and there’s no hardness in the eggs. I strain everthing, and take time to assure a smooth product. If hosting a party, I’ll do do several bataches, yes I have that many ramekins.

        I ran across your site while looking to see if there were any more new items posted from Piret’s. I’m always looking for new gems, and Piret’s was my all time favorite.


      7. That’s great Roger. BTW, I finally got my ordered Piret’s Cookbook! So I’ll have to poke around and see what is next to share. Cheers Roger!

  7. 5 stars
    This was fabulous. However, I tasted the butane from the handheld torch. Do you also have this problem? If so, and ideas to mitigate beside putting it under the broiler? Thanks again with sharing your recipe. Simply perfect!

    1. Thanks so much Tara! Nope, I’ve never had that issue with butane and my other way would be to go under the broiler.