Mexican Chocolate Flan

  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves: 8
  • Level: medium

‘It was a big surprise when Dad came out of the kitchen bearing these Mexican flans. For one I had no idea what it would taste like, and two I didn’t know we had pudding! I took a bite and my eyes lit up – it’s just like a crème caramel but Mexican – with a kick of chilli.’

'A beautiful chocolate flan from Dad inspired by the flavours of Mexico.'

What you need

For the caramel

250g caster sugar

150ml water


For the flans

1 litre whole milk

1 whole (dried) ancho chilli – stem and seeds removed

1 stick cinnamon

1 whole vanilla pod

120g caster sugar

4 whole large eggs

4 egg yolks

170g plain chocolate (70%)

4 tbs instant coffee


Dad's Recipe Tales

The choice of Mexican sweets or desserts remind me of the choice of puddings that used to be on offer in your local Chinese takeaway: lychees or ice cream! Traditionally, it seems that desserts do not register in either cuisine.

Lourdes Nichols says in her book Mexican Cookery, ‘Desserts do not occupy a very prominent place in the Mexican meal, partly because fresh fruit is abundant and partly because so much attention is given to the main course.’ My Mexican cookbooks have limited lists of puddings – invariably fruit-based concoctions and often made with coconut.

Hot desserts are not widely eaten with the notable exception of a few classics: churros (doughnuts and hot chocolate sauce – a direct import form Spanish cuisine), the popular crepas con cajeta (pancakes and caramel – often made with goat’s milk) and buñuelos (hot tortilla chips and spiced sugar). Creamy desserts also are rarely eaten – however, cold custard desserts known as flans are very popular. Milk, eggs and sugar were introduced by the Spaniards, probably along with a recipe for the flan.

My Mexican chocolate flan is adapted from the more authentic versions which use evaporated milk AND condensed milk. I know it might be more difficult to get fresh milk in Mexico, but the thought of all that tinned processed milk and sugar does not appeal. So my version is based on the Mexican flavours of chilli, vanilla and cinnamon and made in the style of a crème caramel. Don’t be coy with the ancho chilli – it appears a rather unlikely flavouring. But try it, you’ll be amazed how well the flavours work together. It’s got the Mrs WDC seal of approval. So I must be doing something right…

How Dad Cooked It

How to make the Mexican Chocolate Flan:

  1. Infuse the milk. Pour the milk into a pan with the ancho chilli, cinnamon and vanilla pod (cut the pod in half and slit lengthwise). Bring to the boil and leave to infuse for half an hour with the lid on.
  2. Preheat the oven. 170C Gas 3.
  3. Prepare the ramekins. Put 8 ramekins in a large baking pan. Place 1/4 tsp instant coffee at the bottom of each.
  4. Make the caramel. Use 250g sugar dissolved in 150ml water and heat – when it is turning dark amber with smoke just beginning to rise from the pan it is done – quickly and carefully pour in equal portions into the ramekins.
  5. Add Chocolate to the milk. Break the chocolate in the bottom of a bowl and strain the infused milk over the chocolate. Whisk to combine.
  6. Make the custard. Put the sugar and eggs in a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer until well blended. Pour a quarter of the infused milk and chocolate onto the eggs and continue to mix, then transfer the egg mix to the rest of the milk and mix gently.
  7. Fill the ramekins. Pour the finished chocolate custard into the ramekins.
  8. Bake the flans. Pour heated water – warm, not boiling – into the baking pan until three quarters up the ramekins. Cover with a large sheet of tin foil perforated in several places. Put into the oven for 40 – to 50 minutes. The edges will be firm with the centre still a little wobbly. Take out of the oven and cool for 15 minutes in the water. Remove from the pan and cool on racks. Cover each ramekin and place in the refrigerator overnight.

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