This creamy coconut crème brûlée is a dairy-free version of the classic dessert, made with coconut milk, egg yolks, and a burnt sugar topping.
Guys, I love crème brûlée.
I love that it's oh so fancy, but is made with ingredients I have on hand.
Or at least, ingredients I usually have on hand.
A while back, I was preparing an anniversary dinner for my parents, and had everything planned out to make classic French crème brûlée.
The main course (fish meunière), perfect.
But when I started to make the dessert, I realized something. I'd forgotten to buy heavy cream.
At first, I panicked, thinking, "You can't make crème brûlée without cream! After all, cream is in the name!"
But then, I realized I had a can of coconut milk in my cabinet, and everything fell into place.
This coconut crème brûlée is made with coconut milk instead of cream, egg yolks, and a delicious burnt sugar topping.
What Is Crème Brûlée?
Crème brûlée is French for burnt cream, and is a baked custard topped with caramelized sugar.
If you want to try an herbal version, try this lavender crème brûlée.
Can I Use a Carton of Coconut Milk Instead of a Can?
Canned coconut milk is thicker than the kind you buy in cartons, and won't create the thick, creamy custard we're looking for.
Can I Use Less Sugar?
Coconut milk is a little bit sweeter than cow's milk, so while I wouldn't use less sugar in traditional crème brûlée, here you can if you want to.
To make this less sweet, use less sugar in the custard. I've also completely skipped the sugar in the custard, and it was still tasty.
That said, if you use less sugar, this dessert won't be as rich and decadent.
Don't skip the sugar on the top of the coconut crème brûlée though, because you need it to create the glassy sugar top.
Do I Really Need Ramekins?
You need small oven-safe dishes to bake the custards.
Over the years, I've used a few different styles of ramekins.
If you're looking for small ramekins that stack easily and don't take up much room in the cabinet, I like these Pyrex ramekins.
Otherwise, I like to use white porcelain ramekins.
Do I Need a Kitchen Torch?
You do not!
You can create the burnt sugar top by using the broiler on your oven.
That said, the broiler won't always create a perfectly glassy burnt sugar top, especially if you're using a broiler on an electric oven.
If you love crème brûlée, I recommend buying a butane kitchen torch. Keep in mind that you'll also need to pick up a can of butane to use the torch.
How to Make Coconut Crème Brûlée
Start by heating the coconut milk.
Bring it to a boil and then set it aside, off-heat.
Next, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, vanilla extract, and a little citrus zest.
At this point, you can whisk in some shredded unsweetened coconut if you really want to make this dessert extra coconut-y.
Next, begin whisking the eggs and slowly pour the warm coconut milk into the egg mixture.
Make sure to keep whisking the whole time that you're adding the milk. It will keep the eggs from scrambling.
Next, place the ramekins inside a large baking dish.
Carefully pour in the custard, and skim off any large bubbles.
Pour hot water into the baking dish around the ramekins, taking care to avoid splashing water into the custard. Continue pouring water until it reaches halfway up the ramekins.
Bake the crème brûlée until the centers begin to set.
The edges will still be a little jiggly.
Remove the custards from the baking dish, and chill them for at least three hours.
Make sure they're cool to the touch before moving onto the next step.
Just before serving, sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar on each custard. Use your torch (or the broiler) to burn the sugar.
The sugar will bubble, and then as it cools, harden into a glass-like top.
Top the coconut crème brûlée with berries (if you want to!) and serve them right away.
Coconut Crème Brûlée
- 4 - 6 ramekins
- kitchen torch (optional)
- 1 quart water (for water bath)
- 13 ounce can coconut milk (not light)
- 4 egg yolks
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of 1 lemon or orange
- 6 tablespoons sugar, divided (or less, use ~1 TB per ramekin)
- berries, if desired
- Preheat oven to 300ºF. Begin boiling water in a tea kettle (or in a small pot).Use a microplane grater to zest the lemon or orange. Take care to only remove the zest, and not the white pith.Add coconut milk to a pot and heat over medium heat. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, shredded coconut (if using), vanilla extract, and citrus zest. Whisk until combined but not airy.
- Slowly begin whisking the warm milk into the egg mixture. As you pour, continue whisking constantly. (This will help keep the eggs from cooking.)
- Place 4-6 ramekins into a large baking dish. Divide the batter between the ramekins. Skim off any large bubbles.Carefully pour the hot water into the casserole dish, taking care not to splash water into the ramekins. Add water until the water level reaches halfway up the ramekins.
- Bake about 50-60 minutes, until the centers are set. If using very shallow ramekins, begin checking on the custards earlier (after about 35-40 minutes).Remove the custards from the baking dish and set aside to cool. Once they've reached room temperature, move the ramekins to the fridge.Chill for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days. (The sugar won't caramelize as well if the custard isn't cold.)
- Just before serving, sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly across the top of each custard.Torch method: Use a kitchen torch to burn the sugar by moving the torch slowly across each custard dish. The sugar will darken and bubble up. Allow the bubbles to subside and the sugar to harden before serving. The sugar will harden within just a minute or two.Broiler method: Optionally, set the custards in a shallow pan filled with ice. (This will keep the custard cold while broiling.)Move an oven rack to about 4" below the broiler, and preheat the broiler to high. Move the custards under the broiler, and watch carefully until the sugar browns and bubbles. Remove from the broiler immediately.The timing will depend on your oven. Gas broilers may work in seconds, electric broilers may take several minutes.
- Optionally, top with fresh berries or sliced stone fruit. Serve the crème brûlée immediately.