Baking Delicious Things That Don't Fit Other Categories Fancy Desserts gluten-free vegan

Simple Vegan Coconut Crème Brûlée

What makes this vegan coconut crème brûlée great is that it doesn't require expensive or unusual ingredients, so you can probably make it with stuff you have in the pantry already. It also comes together super quickly IF you have a Vitamix.

Let’s start this off with an important disclaimer: I am not vegan. I do, however, live in Portland, Oregon, so I very much have vegan and dairy-free friends whom I want to feed delicious things. Thus, my forays into vegan baking must meet two criteria: they must taste good, and they must not be a complete pain in the ass. This simple coconut crème brûlée meets both of those criteria! (IF you have a Vitamix blender).

That’s an important caveat here – you need a Vitamix to get the consistency right on this recipe. I tried it in a food processor, and it came out lumpy. I don’t imagine you’ll fare much better with a standard blender (I don’t have one, so I couldn’t test that). You need a high speed blender that is designed to truly emulsify the liquid. Sorry, friends. No Vitamix? May as well move along.

If you DO have a Vitamix though, this recipe is yummy and suuuuuuper easy. It also doesn’t require you to go out and track down a bunch of fussy or expensive vegan ingredients – which is at the top of my list when it comes to vegan baking.

I scoured the internet to find a vegan crème brûlée recipe to work from and was shocked at how many wanted you to add vegan butter or agar powder or any of a number of other unnecessary extras. (The recipe I ended up adapting wanted you to add nutritional yeast – presumably to make it taste a bit more like traditional custard?) Several wanted you to use some combination of coconut milk and almond milk, or to refrigerate the coconut milk overnight and just use the cream… all of which seemed like a completely unnecessary hassle to me.

But, again, I’m not vegan.

So, I’m much more interested in figuring out vegan recipes that work with what I already have on hand, don’t require a whole bunch of advance planning, and taste good enough that I would actually want to eat them. This coconut crème brûlée qualifies.

It’s made with items I generally have in my pantry, and since I opted to emphasize the coconut (and not try and pretend like it’s a traditional crème brûlée), it turned out really tasty without requiring I buy extra stuff that I then wouldn’t have a use for. Hurray! That makes this a win in my book, so I am recording it here for future reference and to share with anyone else out there who wants to be able to bring sugary joy to the dairy-free, egg-free people in your life.

vegan coconut creme brulee with a can of coconut milk

Ingredients are listed in the order they appear in the recipe and anything that requires prep is in bold. Ingredients are bolded in the directions when you first encounter themand the quantity required is included. Time estimates are bolded and italicized. I also include notes about any special equipment you’ll need.

Level two hassle recipe
Hassle Level Two  (2/4): equipment. You NEED a Vitamix. Otherwise this would be a Hassle Level one just for time’s sake – since you have to chill the custard. It’s also better if you have a kitchen blow torch for the brûlée part. But this is super easy and uses completely straightforward ingredients, so it’s just a matter of finicky equipment.

Simple Vegan Coconut Crème Brûlée

Makes 6 servings. Recipe can be halved for 4, somewhat scanty servings.

Required equipment: a Vitamix or other super-high-speed blender. (This is non-negotiable unless you want lumpy custard). You also need heat-proof ramekins (6 oz or larger). It’s helpful to have a kitchen blowtorch, but if you don’t have one, you can use your oven’s broiler or the back of a spoon you don’t mind sacrificing said spoon.

  • 2, 13.5 oz cans full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup raw cashews
  • ¼ cup unsweetened, shredded (or desiccated) coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • roughly 6 tablespoons turbinado sugar (or granulated sugar) for sprinkling on top

Combine the 2 cans coconut milk, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, ⅛ teaspoon salt, ½ cup granulated sugar in a medium saucepan. Whisk to combine and try to get most of the lumps out. (Don’t worry about this too much, since you’ll be throwing it in the blender after it cooks). Set aside the whisk, add in the ½ cup raw cashews and ¼ cup unsweetened coconut, and switch to a silicone spatula to stir while it heats up.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat while stirring, scraping the bottom to avoid lumps or burning (this can take up to 5 minutes). Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 2-3 minutes while continuing to stir. Timing doesn’t need to be exact, you just want to make sure the custard thickens and to give the cashews and coconut a little time to soften/absorb some liquid. Turn off the heat and get out your Vitamix.

Add the cream mixture to your high-speed blender. (If you’ve never added hot liquid to a blender, be careful! You want to leave the plastic plug in the lid just a bit askew so there’s a way for some steam to escape). Add in 1 teaspoon vanilla and blend until creamy and no visible bits of cashew remain (4-5 mins or so, with a few pauses to scrape down the sides).

Pour the cream into 6 ramekins and then cover the surface of each with plastic wrap, getting the wrap down onto the top of the custard to avoid a film/condensation as they cool. Refrigerate to set for at least 3 hours (ideally overnight). 

Before serving, sprinkle the top of each with approximately 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, creating an even layer across the entire surface of the cream. (This will depend on the surface area so you may need more or less sugar – you want a somewhat thin, even layer across the top). Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar and create a crispy top coating.

Once you have a nice caramelized crust, set the ramekins back in the fridge for 10-30 minutes to allow the sugar to set and custard to cool back down. (You can serve immediately if you’re impatient, but the crust will be crunchier and the custard will be nice and cool if you give them some time to chill).

If you don’t have a torch, take the ramekins out of the fridge for a few minutes to warm up (putting them straight under the broiler could make them crack from temperature strain). Move the top oven rack to the highest position and heat up your broiler to high heat. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Broil for 4-6 minutes, keeping a close eye on them to avoid burning. You will need to let the ramekins cool and then put back in the fridge for at least 20 minutes since the broiler will warm up the custard, which isn’t as pleasant. Though, leave them in the fridge too long and the crunchy topping will go soft. Or! If broilers scare you, you can also (apparently) use the back of a hot spoon to caramelize the sugar (I haven’t tried it, but the Food Networks says so! Let me know how it goes if you do try this!)

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