What is vegan flan made of?

Flan is a delicious custard dessert with a rich, velvety texture. Traditional flan recipes often contain eggs and milk or cream. But vegan flans swap the animal products for plant-based ingredients, making this treat accessible for vegans and people with dietary restrictions. So what is vegan flan made of? The base ingredients are quite simple.

Main Ingredients

Vegan flan typically contains just a few main components:

  • Plant-based milk – This forms the creamy, custardy base. Popular choices are soy milk, almond milk, oat milk or coconut milk.
  • Cornstarch – This acts to thicken the flan and gives it a smooth, pudding-like texture.
  • Sugar – Sugar adds sweetness and also helps thicken the mixture.
  • Flavorings – Things like vanilla, cinnamon and lemon zest infuse the flan with flavor.

The plant-based milk provides the bulk of the liquid and the richness in vegan flan. Cornstarch is necessary for thickening since there are no eggs to add structure. And sugar and flavorings polish off the flavor profile.

Plant-Based Milk Options

One of the biggest decisions when making vegan flan is which plant milk to use. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular options:

Soy Milk

Soy milk has a neutral flavor that blends smoothly into sweet dishes. It has a creamy consistency that mimics the texture of cow’s milk. Soy milk contains protein and emulsifiers that help stabilize the flan. This makes it a great choice for securing that perfect smooth, custardy texture.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is lower in fat than soy and coconut milks, meaning your flan may turn out a little more gelatinous in texture. However its mild, slightly sweet flavor allows the other ingredients to really shine. Just be sure to puree the almond milk with cornstarch thoroughly so there are no grainy bits.

Oat Milk

Oat milk is naturally sweeter and thinner than other plant milks. It can work well in vegan flan but tends to produce a softer set. Combining it with coconut milk or mixing in some extra cornstarch helps oat milk better hold its shape. The faint oat taste also complements baked desserts nicely.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is dense and creamy with a lovely natural sweetness. Full-fat coconut milk makes decadent, beautifully-set vegan flans. Light coconut milk can also be used for a lighter texture and taste. The coconut flavor pairs wonderfully with tropical fruits like mango or pineapple too.

How to Thicken Vegan Flan

Without the coagulant properties of eggs, vegan flans need a little help to reach that perfect thick yet creamy consistency. Here are some tips:

  • Cornstarch slurry – Mixing cornstarch with the plant milk before cooking allows it to fully dissolve and thicken properly.
  • Higher ratio – Using up to 1/4 cup cornstarch for every 2-2.5 cups plant milk really helps with thickening power.
  • Shelf-stable milk – Evaporated or condensed milk is pre-thickened for extra stability when making egg-free flans.
  • Whipped tofu – Blending soft or silken tofu into the flan base can help with creaminess and structure.
  • Agar or gelatin – These thickeners provide extra stability though agar is the vegan choice over animal-derived gelatin.

Getting the right thickness may require some trial and error based on your choice of milk and other ingredients. But with the above tips, you can perfect your vegan flan recipe.

Example Vegan Flan Ingredients

To give you a better idea of specific ingredients that work well, here are a couple example recipes:

Coconut Flan

  • 1 14oz can coconut milk
  • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

The coconut milk base provides lush texture and flavor. Condensed milk thickens while also adding sweetness. Cornstarch, sugar and flavor extracts round it out.

Vanilla Soy Flan

  • 3 cups unsweetened soy milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt

Here the soy milk offers a neutral backdrop for the vanilla and citrus flavors. Sugar helps sweeten and thicken along with the cornstarch.

Vegan Substitutions

In traditional flan, eggs provide liquid, structure, and bind ingredients together. For vegan flan, it takes a combination of ingredients to mimic this effect. Here are some common substitutions:

Instead of Use
Eggs Plant milk + cornstarch + agar or tofu
Dairy milk Soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, coconut milk
Butter or cream Coconut oil, vegan butter, cashew cream

With the right substitutions, vegan flan can mimic the taste and texture of the traditional version quite closely. It just takes a few adapations.

Flavoring Ideas

One benefit of vegan flan is that you can really customize the flavors. Here are some tasty mix-ins to try:

  • Fresh fruit like mango, pineapple or strawberry
  • citrus zests like lemon, lime or orange
  • Vanilla, almond, coconut or maple extracts
  • spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom
  • Espresso or instant coffee
  • Chocolate or carob chips
  • Shredded coconut
  • Chopped nuts

Feel free to get creative with different flavor combinations in your vegan flans. The smooth, creamy base is the perfect canvas for both sweet and savory mix-ins.

Making Vegan Flan

While ingredients vary, the basic method for making vegan flan is straightforward:

  1. Whisk together the plant milk, sugar and cornstarch until smooth.
  2. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in any other flavorings or extra thickeners if using.
  4. Pour the mixture into ramekins and chill for at least 2 hours to set.
  5. Once set, loosen the edges with a knife and invert onto a plate to unmold.

The more gentle cooking helps prevent the cornstarch from getting lumpy. Chilling is key for the vegan flan to properly set. Feel free to garnish with fruit, nuts, coconut flakes or chocolate shavings on top.

Tips for Perfect Vegan Flan

Follow these tips for flawlessly smooth, delicious vegan flan every time:

  • Fully dissolve the cornstarch in a slurry before adding to the milk.
  • Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.
  • Chill for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight for the firmest set.
  • Use a water bath (place ramekins in a pan with hot water) for even gentler heating.
  • Add agar flakes if your flan isn’t setting up firm enough.
  • Substitute up to half the milk with canned coconut milk for more body.
  • Be sure to unmold onto a serving plate, not over the water bath.

With its lush, pudding-like texture and endless flavor possibilities, vegan flan makes for a decadent yet dairy-free dessert. Follow the tips above and you can master the perfect, mouthwatering vegan flans.

Storing and Serving Vegan Flan

Unlike traditional flans, vegan flans tend to firm up more when chilled overnight vs. softening. For serving, here are some tips:

  • Let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving if too firm.
  • Store leftovers in the fridge up to 5 days.
  • Cover surface tightly with plastic wrap to prevent drying out.
  • Can freeze up to 2 months; thaw overnight in fridge before serving.
  • Serve drizzled with chocolate or caramel sauce if desired.
  • Garnish with fresh fruit like berries, banana or mango.
  • Top with coconut flakes, citrus zest or chopped nuts for texture.

The silky-smooth flan is delicious on its own but also pairs well with many toppings. Be sure to chill thoroughly until serving for best results. Enjoy this egg and dairy-free take on a classic!


Vegan flan swaps a few plant-based ingredients in for the traditional eggs and dairy. Mainly, plant milks like soy, almond or coconut provide the bulk of the liquid and texture. Cornstarch is crucial for thickening and binding without the use of eggs. Sugar and flavorings like vanilla or fruit purees infuse the flan with sweetness and taste. With the right ratio of ingredients and proper chilling time, you can achieve the perfect creamy yet firm vegan flan. This versatile dessert works with endless mix-ins so you can create your own signature flavors. Whip up a batch of dairy and egg-free flan to enjoy this pudding-like treat anytime.

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