Flan in Mexico: What Is It and Where Does It Come From?

At Benito’s Mexican restaurant, we ‘re pretty positive that no meal is complete without dessert.

Sure, we’re famous for the authentic Mexican food featured in our entrees, as well our as irresistible margaritas. But, we know that a sweet, indulgent dessert needs to also be on the menu!

Thus, we perfected our own version of the famous Mexican flan, which often leaves people wanting seconds (or a box to take home).

In fact, some of our customers stop by solely for this dessert!

Not sure what flan is or where it comes from? We’ll give you a brief overview of the Mexican dessert, focusing on its history as well as its integration into modern Mexican menus.

What is Flan?

The word flan stems from the Old High German word for “flat cake”, which describes it perfectly. The ingredients of flan are very simple, though many modern variations have been created. Traditionally, flan consists simply of eggs, dairy, and sugar, making it a custard.

Some combination of whole eggs, egg yolks, and egg whites are usually used.

As for dairy, usually cream or milk is used, though some recipes call for a combination of both. As for the sugar, which is arguably the most important component, caramelized sugar is used to create a mold that houses the egg and dairy mixture when it is cooked.

After cooking the mixture with it covered, the dish is allowed to cool and solidify. Finally, the flan is removed from the sugary mold by flipping it on a plate. This allows the caramelized sugar to form the top layer of the dish.

Mexican flan is specifically known for using whole milk, eggs and egg yolk, vanilla bean seeds, a pinch of salt, and of course, sugar.

It’s important to note that there are a number of ways to make flan, but the essential ingredients are eggs, dairy, and sugar. Even further, while flan is usually cooked in the oven by submerging the mold in a bath of water, some methods involve cooking it on the stovetop, though this takes much longer.

Where Does Flan Come From?

The concept for flan originated in Ancient Rome where eggs and milk were cooked together and often topped with something sweet like honey. Eventually, the concept spread to Spain, where the idea of cooking the mixture in a caramelized sugar mold became popular.

Many eastern European countries have added a number of flavorings over the years, like almond and citrus.

Mexican Flan

When flan first was introduced to Mexico, ovens were still rare, and it was often cooked using the stovetop method. Even though this method is considered time-consuming, it greatly influenced the development of a distinct, Mexican variety of flan. The most notable component of this Mexican food is its vanilla flavoring.

Many modern Mexican recipes will include cinnamon in the mixture and will top the dish will local fruit like mangoes, papayas, and watermelon.

Really, the variations are endless.

The most important element is to combine eggs and dairy with something sweet.

Many Mexicans like to pair flan with an after-dinner drink like wine or margaritas. Even though it is most popularly eaten as a dessert, many Mexicans eat flan any time of day, most notably as part of comida corrida, which is a late afternoon meal that consists of a number of small plates.

Furthermore, because flan is often cooled before eating, it’s usually made earlier in the day in anticipation for later indulgence. As such, it’s a staple in many preparations that are focused on celebrations and special events and is often the springboard for family bonding.

Our Final Thoughts on Flan

To end this discussion of flan, we will offer a famous Mexican recipe that integrates cacao, which can be locally sourced in Mexico. To make this chocolate flan, we use the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup of cream cheese
  • 1/4 pound of cacao nibs
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

After heating the milk and letting it cook, we blend all these ingredients together before pouring the mixture into a mold lined with caramelized sugar. Then we bake it covered for about an hour and half. Finally, we cool it overnight in the refrigerator and serve it the next day, always topping it with fresh mangoes, raspberries, and blackberries.

Ultimately, no Mexican restaurant is complete without offering flan, which is usually considered one of the most famous Mexican foods even though it originated in Europe. This distinction is a testament to how much Mexico has perfected this classic dish, adding their own distinct style to something that developed in the ancient past.

At Benito’s Mexican restaurant, we wish to pay homage to this signature dish, which is why we feature it as one of the 3 options on our dessert menu. We hope you’ll visit us soon and experience its creamy, silky decadence for yourself.

Stop by Benito’s Mexican restaurant for authentic Mexican food today!