The official Costa Rica Travel Blog. Hundreds of articles on Costa Rica trip planning, Costa Rica travel, and saving money in Costa Rica, plus free discounts. Pura vida!

How To Make Flan De Coco: A Popular Costa Rican Dessert

How To Make Flan De Coco: A Popular Costa Rican Dessert

NOTE: The content on this page was last updated on September 28th, 2017.

THE PERFECT COSTA RICAN DESSERT… JUST IN TIME FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY!

Happy Independence Day, Costa Rica!

On the 15th of September each year we celebrate “día de la independencia”; the birth of the rich coast, which we formally call “Costa Rica”. To many Ticos (a.k.a., Costa Ricans), the day signifies independence, strength, unity, and pride. To others, it means parades, parties, school demonstrations, cultural dress, and farole-crafting.

Although we dine on Costa Rican cuisine year-round, I make a special note of preparing a full Costa Rican feast on the nation’s big day. My go-to dessert is one of Ricky’s absolute favourites, a popular Latin American delicacy, and a staple on most Costa Rican restaurant dessert menus: flan de coco (coconut flan, in English).

Don’t miss our related blog post:

What To Eat And Drink In Costa Rica: Our Costa Rica Food/Beverage List And Order Tips

Have you seen the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. episode The One with the Two Parties? In it, for Rachel’s birthday, Monica opts to prepare a birthday flan in lieu of a traditional birthday cake; the disappointment of everyone in the room is captured perfectly as Joey pokes the gelatinous dessert with dismay and mutters: “Happy birthday Rachel, here’s some goo”. Now, if Joey had been a Costa Rican, we’re certain that Monica’s effort wouldn’t have been met with such resistance. In fact, if Joey was at all like Ricky, that flan wouldn’t have lasted the entirety of the birthday party without being devoured, and there certainly wouldn’t have been enough left <<spoiler alert>> to destroy with a volleyball at the end of the episode à la Rachel’s birthday wish.

If you’re in the mood for a Costa Rican treat, consider preparing flan de coco; it is light, sweet, and easy to make by following our instructions below. Oh, and if you’re feeling extra patriotic and wish to dress the part while you work, consider picking up the “love” brand’s maxi dress that I am wearing in the photo below–not only is the thick strap, razorback, floor-length dress insanely comfortable, but the material perfectly replicates the Costa Rican flag in sections. I call it my Tica dress. 🙂

OUR FLAN DE COCO HEALTH DISCLAIMER

It is worth noting that the preparation of flan de coco breaks just about every food rule that I follow. It is unhealthy in a multitude of ways, and since Ricky and I maintain a fairly strict healthy diet saturated with nutrient and vitamin-packed food choices, whole grains, very little sugar, and vegetarian (if not vegan) ingredients, our consumption of the dessert is essentially taboo. This being said, as an occasional treat that we only indulge in once or twice each year, we allow ourselves the cheat. If you can get past the use of processed white sugar (as well as eggs and milk products, if you are a vegan), not to mentio the high fat content that results from the use of evaporated milk and condensed milk (which can be minimized slightly by using low-fat versions of each, as demonstrated below), flan de coco is worth a taste.

QUICK FLAN DE COCO RECIPE ITEM LIST

Products you will need:

  • White sugar (1+1/2 cup)
  • Large eggs (6)
  • Vanilla (1 teaspoon)
  • 1% or 2% milk (1/2 cups)
  • Evaporated milk (1 can)
  • Sweetened condensed milk (1 can)
  • Shredded unsweetened coconut (2/3 cup)

Equipment you will need:

  • Small stovetop pot; ideally with a lid
  • Baking dish (Pyrex round bundt pan or similar); ideally a glass dish
  • Blender
  • Spatula (optional)
  • Large mixing bowl (optional)

Optional (if you would prefer to display the flan while entertaining, and not simply eat the flan direct from its baking dish):

  • Serving platter/plate; ideally with a rim

HOW TO MAKE FLAN DE COCO – PART #1: CONSTRUCTING THE FLAN’S SUGAR/CARAMEL BASE LAYER

Step #1: Melting the sugar to create caramel

For this step you will need:

  • White sugar (1 cup)
  • Small stovetop pot; ideally with a lid

Before you begin to prepare the flan’s base’s batter, set your oven to preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  1. Separate the sugar into 1 cup and1/2 cup portions. Pour the 1 cup of sugar portion into the pot. Put the 1/2 cup of sugar portion aside for later use.
  2. Place the pot on a stovetop burner set to medium-to-high heat. If a lid is available, apply the lid to the pot to enclose the heat and help the sugar melt from all angles.
  3. Every 10 seconds, lift the pot off the stovetop (and remove the pot’s lid, if applicable) and giggle the pot enough to move the sugar inside around the pot. The purpose of this step is to ensure that the granules on the bottom of the pot do not burn. DO NOT stir the sugar using a utensil.
  4. Continue the above step for as long as necessary (typically 5 or 6 minutes), to both a) allow the sugar to have time to melt in the pot, and b) give it time away from any heat (when lifted from the stovetop) to prevent burning. Be patient; for the first minute or so it will appear as if nothing is happening, but throughout the melting process and as you continue to shake the pot, you will be able to see the sugar form clumps. This is not a problem, as the clumps will continue to melt with further heat application and pot shaking. Remove the pot from the stovetop for good when all of the sugar has melted and the liquid is a dark orange colour that resembles caramel (follow the images snapped throughout the melting pot and displayed above as a guide).

Step #2: Using the caramel to create the flan’s base layer

For this step you will need:

  • Baking dish (Pyrex round bundt pan or similar); ideally a glass dish
  • Spatula (optional)

Complete the following step IMMEDIATELY upon completing the steps outlined above. If you wait to complete the following step more than a minute after you have completed the steps outlined above (i.e., after you have removed the pot from the stovetop for good when all of the sugar has melted), the caramel will begin to cool/harden and it will be too late to use it .

  1. Very carefully (as the caramel will be piping hot!), pour the caramel direct from the pot into the bottom of the baking dish. If you would prefer to do so, use a spatula to scrape all of the caramel contents out of the pot. DO NOT use the spatula (or any other utensil) to spread the caramel throughout the baking dish (this will cause the caramel to clump, and more will end up on your utensil than will stay in the dish). In order to ensure that the caramel spreads evenly throughout the bottom of the baking dish, tip the dish in your preferred direction to cause the caramel liquid to run wherever you need it to go. Note that the caramel will dry in about a minute’s time, so you must work quickly to get the contents out of the pot, into the dish, and spread evenly. Also note that no pre-greasing of the baking dish is necessary.

HOW TO MAKE FLAN DE COCO – PART #2: CREATING AND APPLYING THE FLAN DE COCO MIXTURE

Step #1: Prepare the flan de coco mixture

For this step you will need:

  • Large eggs (6)
  • Vanilla (1 teaspoon)
  • 1% or 2% milk (1/2 cups)
  • Evaporated milk (1 can)
  • Sweetened condensed milk (1 can)
  • White sugar (1/2 cup)
  • Shredded unsweetened coconut (2/3 cup)

This step couldn’t be easier.

  1. Combine the eggs, vanilla, 1% or 2% milk, evaporated milk, condensed milk, remaining sugar, and coconut into a blender and mix for 3 minutes. When completely combined, the mixture should be runny and resemble milk, but slightly more yellow in colour. The mixture will also be bubbly at the top (thanks to the eggs) and heavier on the bottom (the result of sinking coconut). If you would prefer to combine and/or mix the ingredients in a mixing bowl first you certainly can. However, in order to ensure complete collaboration of each recipe part, I recommend blending the contents for at least 1 minute following the use of the mixing bowl. Note that using a mixing bowl is entirely optional; when I prepare flan de coco, I apply all of the ingredients direct to the blender and go!

Step #2: Apply the flan de coco mixture to the caramel base

For this step you will need:

  • Flan’s sugar/caramel base layer (in the baking dish)
  • Flan de coco mixture (in the blender)

You’re almost there!

  1. Remove the baking dish from the fridge. You may notice that the caramel has cracks throughout (or hear slight cracks as you handle the dish). This is not a problem (the cracking is simply caused by temperature changes); the caramel will even out when it melts again in the oven.
  2. Pour the entire contents of the flan de coco mixture into the baking dish overtop of the caramel base. Note that it is normal for the flan to pour smoothly from the blender initially, and come out thicker at the end (the thickness is merely caused by the coconut, which tends to sink to the bottom of the blender). Be sure to pour the entire mixture into the baking dish, including any lasting coconut shreds; if you instead opt to strain the mixture or remove the clumpy coconut shreds from the mix, you will also remove much of the dessert’s desirable flavour.

Step #3: Bake the flan

Flan de coco
Baking the flan de coco

For this step you will need:

  • Uncooked flan (in the baking dish)

Before you begin to bake the flan, ensure your oven has reached 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

  1. Place the baking dish in the middle rack of the oven.
  2. Set the oven timer to bake the flan for 45 minutes.
  3. Once the flan has cooked for 45 minutes, turn off the oven. Allow the flan to remain inside for another 15 minutes, then remove it and let it cool completely. The visible top of the flan (which is actually the bottom of the flan, since flan is traditionally served upside down) will appear cakey. There will also be a few cracks throughout, which will allow you to peek into the dessert’s gelatinous core. Inside, the flan should appear well-formed and opaque, not runny, mushy, or clear.

When cooled (or even chilled, if placed in the refrigerator), serve direct from the baking dish by cutting a slice at a time. Once a piece of flan has been removed from the dish, use a spoon to scoop out some of the melted caramel that has pooled at the bottom of the dish and drizzle it over the top of the slice.

Alternatively, if you plan to serve your flan while entertaining, and you would prefer a more presentable way of displaying the dessert, follow the optional instructions provided below.

OPTIONAL: SERVING THE FLAN ON A PLATTER

For this step you will need:

  • Cooled, cooked flan (in the baking dish)
  • Serving platter/plate; ideally with a rim

If you would prefer your flan to look fancy and presentable, consider serving it on a platter or fancy plate. For the purpose of our demonstration, we used round, inexpensive, tinfoil pizza plates, which are ideal because they offer a convenient lip around the edge. Try to choose a platter or plate that offers the same, to avoid a mess with runaway caramel.

  1. When cooled (or even chilled, if placed in the refrigerator), run a sharp knife around the edges of the baking dish a few times to ensure complete separation between the dish and the flan. Since we used a bundt dish, we needed to cut around both the inner and outer circles.
  2. Turn the platter or plate you wish to use upside down and place it on top of the flan’s baking dish. While holding the platter or plate in place with your thumbs, use your other fingers to clasp onto the bottom of the baking dish. In one quick swoop, turn everything over so the platter or plate is on the bottom and the baking dish is upside down on top. Be sure to flip everything over as evenly and quickly as possible to avoid one side of the flan releasing from the baking dish before the other. DO NOT lift the baking dish away from the flan right away; leave it where it is for 10 minutes so the caramel base layer (which is now the top layer of the flan) has a chance to drip from the baking dish onto the dessert.
  3. Carefully lift the baking dish away from the flan (soak it in hot water in the sink right away to make cleaning it later easier). You should find that the caramel that was once at the bottom of the dessert acts as a helpful deterrent from the flan sticking to the bottom of the dish. Note that there will be caramel remnants left in the bottom of the baking dish that will be discarded when the dish is cleaned (this caramel need not be included with the flan; the flan will be sweet enough!).

FLAN DE COCO TIPS

Flan de coco
Flan de coco

Store the flan in the fridge and serve it cool

Although the flan will last for a number of days, the longer you wait to eat it, the drier and less flavourful it will be. We recommend consuming the flan within two days of preparation.

If you wish to tinker with the recipe, make sure you keep the same ratio of eggs to milk.

Although I like to think that nowadays I can bake flan de coco with my eyes closed, there was a time when I could not seem to accomplish the correct flan consistency. One time the flan barely set at all, and I was left with a mess of what I can only describe as half-chilled, coconut-flavoured jell-o. Once I realized that eggs cannot be added or removed without milk equally being added or removed, I learned how important the ratio of the two is to the flan’s ability to bake properly. My advice? Stick to the recipe proportions provided above exactly. If you wish to make any modifications, ensure that your ratio of eggs to milks remains consistent.

If you would prefer to make a low-fat flan de coco, use low-fat evaporated milk and low-fat condensed milk

In my experience, the low-fat ingredient versions of the two do not hinder the flan, so we tend to make use of them whenever possible. For regular milk, do not use less than 1% milk.

Don’t be put off by the cake’s jiggle

Flan is meant to be gelatinous. Although I’m far more used to baking birthday cakes that stay put when I set them on the table, flan de coco (like most Costa Rican desserts) is meant to be wet and even a bit slimy. If you dare to be like Monica and serve a birthday flan for one of your F.R.I.E.N.D.S., don’t second-guess your baking abilities if your dessert moves and dances more than your party guests do.

QUESTION TO COMMENT ON: Have you tried flan de coco in Costa Rica? What did you think? Have you attempted to bake it on your own? How did it go?

Pura vida!

Take a moment to view our gallery photos below featuring our flan de coco pictures.

Costa Rica Travel Blog

DIY Costa Rica

Costa Rica tour discounts



Have something to say or add to the discussion? Leave your comment below!