Natilla and Flan are two of the most popular Spanish desserts, but what’s the difference?
To a Spaniard there couldn’t possibly be any confusion, my boys and me have come up with our own meaning.

Flan is like the English egg custard, with a caramel syrup base and set egg custard topping, usually eaten upside down with the caramel running over the custard.

Natilla is a richer version of egg custard without the caramel sauce and highly cinnamon flavoured, or similar to crème brulee without the crust of sugar.

My Spanish dictionary definition is custard.

It is certainly not the custard I grew up with.

Either one is delicious –try them both and decide on your favourite.

You can make natillas in the tradional cazuelas- brown clay dishes- either one large one or individual smaller ones.


1 litre of Milk
250 grams of sugar
9 egg yolks
2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
cinnamon powder

How to Prepare

Put 3/4 litre of milk in a saucepan with half of the sugar and the cinnamon sticks, heat gently until it simmers Then turn off the heat and cool for about 1 hour.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks and the rest of the sugar and milk. When this mixed well, add the previous warm mixture slowly through a sieve, stirring slowly. Be patient here, the slower the better.

Pour all the mixture back into the saucepan and heat slowly, all the time stirring it with a wooden spoon.

After about 5 minutes or so, more patience needed here, it will start thickening. When it starts thickening don’t stop stirring as it can go lumpy very quickly (and its’ really hard to get rid of those lumps again!) It’ll take another 3 or 4 minutes.

Pour it very quickly into small bowls - as soon as you take it off the hob. Pour it carefully, it can still separate.

Instead of cooking it as above, and stirring constantly you can use a bain marie and put it in the oven. This takes longer but is less intensive.

When cool and just before serving sprinkle with cinnamon powder, the Spanish also like to put biscuits on top – something boring like a rich tea biscuit.

The nice thing is that you can make it and serve it in the same dish/es even if you’ve cooked it bain marie style.

Traditional Spanish terracotta Cazuelas can be found at here.

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