Pumpkin flan combines the creamy, lusciousness of caramel flan with the earthy goodness of pumpkin for the perfect fall dessert. This flan is super easy to make and looks very impressive, especially if you add a little caramel decoration to it. I also found some super cute chocolate pumpkins for a little extra drama.
While our love affair with pumpkins has deepened in recent years, especially with the advent of the pumpkin spice latte, Cubans have been making this pumpkin flan since way before PSL was even a thing. I remember my mom making this flan when I was eight, and I loved it way back then. It’s so creamy and pumpkiny, you’re tastebuds will thank me!
Fresh Pumpkin Mash
I tried different combinations of ingredients, and in the end, I settled on Mami’s version, which uses a caramel flan recipe with one and half cups of fresh pumpkin mash. I like this version best because the end result is a Cuban dessert that is luscious, creamy, and beautiful to look at.
Caramel flan is super easy to make and has just five ingredients that turn out a spectacular Cuban dessert with a decadent caramel sauce. The ingredients include sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, vanilla and eggs. This pumpkin flan also has caramel sauce AND a great pumpkin flavor.
Although fresh pumpkin adds a bit of work to the process, I liked it better than using canned pumpkin because it gives the flan a silky, light flavor and beautifully creamy color.
If you want to save a little time, you can use the canned pumpkin. Your flan will have a deeper color and a more robust pumpkin pie flavor, especially if you add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the mix. But I gotta tell you I didn’t like this as much. The flan came out too dark and too much like pumpkin pie. I wanted it to taste more like flan.
Pumpkin Flan Is Not Like Pumpkin Pie
I feel like I have to say this right off the bat because I struggled with this issue. To be honest, I hadn’t had pumpkin flan in years. I’d never made it myself, and Mami (aka Beantrain) hadn’t made it in quite a while, although I’d been pestering her for one.
So, the pumpkin dessert my tastebuds were familiar with was pumpkin pie, which has a deep, rich, and spicy pumpkin flavor. I expected that flavor with a little extra lusciousness thrown in, but it was not like that. Flan has a more delicate taste and color.
At first, I wanted my flan to have a more robust pumpkin flavor laced with pumpkin spice. But I changed my mind after trying different variations. I found out that the closer I moved to the pumpkin pie flavor, the less it looked and tasted like flan. The color was much darker and the texture was not as smooth and creamy. So, I’m gonna let flan be flan and not put it through an identity crisis.
How To Make Pumpkin Flan
Flan is baked in a water bath known as the Bain Marie method. You place the flan in a roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with water. You can also make the flan in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot using a special flan mold . You still have to add the water, but it’s a bit quicker and easier than baking. However, I couldn’t do this with the pumpkin flan.
The reason for this is that the pumpkin adds more volume to the recipe, so the mix is too much for the flan mold (the molds have to be small enough to fit inside the pressure cooker). I tried anyway. I filled the mold to the top, put on the lid, and set it in the pressure cooker. The flan didn’t have enough room to cook and spilled out and became a watery mess. However Mami’s flan mold is a little bigger the oven.
This way, you can use any mold you like. You can use the flan mold, a cake pan, a pie plate or ramekins . I did not make mine in ramekins, but if you go this route, you’ll likely need 12 ramekins. Also, keep in mind that different mold sizes could impact the cooking time.
This pumpkin flan has a delicious caramel sauce that’s just cooked sugar. As you heat up the sugar, it forms a thick syrup that quickly hardens. This caramel sauce is used to coat the flan mold before you add the flan mix. As the flan bakes, some of the caramel dissolves and becomes a fantastic caramel sauce. This is what makes flan so amazing!
I use about a cup of sugar for the pumpkin flan. But you can use a little extra sugar and create some decorative swirls with the hardening caramel that you can use as decoration. I even made a little basket to hold my chocolate pumpkins!
Looking to make a different pumpkin dessert for Thanksgiving? Give this pumpkin flan a try! Also, when you’re not in the pumpkin mode (is that even possible?) try my caramel flan, it’s the #1 Cuban dessert 🥰🍮Print
Pumpkin flan combines the creamy, lusciousness of caramel flan with fresh pumpkin for the perfect fall dessert!
1 pound fresh pumpkin to make 1 1/2 cups pumpkin mash ** See note
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
1 can evaporated milk (12 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
Make the Pumpkin Mash:
If you’re using fresh pumpkin, peel and cut the pumpkin into one-inch chunks. The pumpkin skin is hard to peel, but it’s easier to peel if you cut the pumpkin into strips first. Boil until fork tender and mash, about 15 minutes.
Make the caramel: While the pumpkin is cooking, prepare the caramel.
- Place 1 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan on medium high heat. Cook until sugar melts and has a deep amber color. You can swirl the pan to help the sugar dissolve, but don’t stir it. This should take about 12-14 minutes.
- Pour the caramel into the flan mold and swirl the mold a bit to get it up the sides a little. You need to work fast because the caramel hardens quickly, BUT be very careful not to spill the caramel or to touch the pie plate or cake pan where the caramel will be because it will burn you. I cannot stress this enough. USE MITTENS, THE CARAMEL IS VERY HOT AND CAN BURN YOU.
- If you want to make some caramel decorations, you can heat up 1 1/2 cups of sugar and reserve some of the caramel to make decorations. In that case, pour about 2/3 of caramel in the flan mold. Then use a metal spoon to spoon out some of the caramel into a parchment to create different shapes. You can also pour it over an inverted, greased bowl to create a basket like the one I made. The shapes don’t have to be perfect, they will look great either way!
- You can use different molds for the flan. I used a small, round flan mold. But you can use a pie plate, a regular cake pan or ramekins . The size of the mold will impact the baking time.
- Make sure to use a metal spoon for the caramel because the caramel is so hot it will melt a plastic spoon (caramel is serious business!).
Preheat: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Mix: Pour 1 1/2 cups mashed pumpkin, the cans of evaporated and sweetened condensed milk into a blender. Add the five eggs, a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Blend on low for about 30 seconds.
- You need to strain the mix to make sure no eggshell or solids end up in your flan. The easier way to do this is to hold a strainer over the flan container and pour the mix over the strainer.
- Your flan container will cook in a water bath. Place your flan container (ramekins, pie plate or cake pan) in a large roasting pan with deep sides and fill the roasting pan with enough water to go halfway up the side of the container.
- For the ramekins, bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes. You want the edges to be set and the middle to jiggle just a bit. The top should be a pale gold.
- For the pie plate or cake pan, cook for about 1 hour or until the edges are set and the middle jiggles just a bit.
- The flan mold I used cooked for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, so you need to check it as it cooks.
Chill: Remove the flan from the water bath and let it come to room temperature. Then chill it in the refrigerator overnight. To serve, run a paring knife around the edge to loosen and then invert in a cake plate.
You really need about 13 ounces of pumpkin but the skin adds a bit of weight so you need to buy about a pound of pumpkin.
If you don’t want to make the fresh pumpkin mash, you can use canned pumpkin. Keep in mind that canned pumpkins will make the flan darker in color and the taste will be a bit more like pumpkin pie.
The pan and the flan mold will end up with hard caramel stuck to it. To clean it, just soak the pan and the sugar will dissolve. Then it’s a breeze to clean.
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