This Pumpkin Creme Brulee is sugar, pumpkin spice and everything nice. Perfect for Thanksgiving or any fall gathering, this make ahead dessert is rich, creamy and delicious. 

Several shallow white ramekins filled with pumpkin creme brulee, with a spoon digging into one of the custards.

You may have noticed that I’ve been on a certain dessert kick. After publishing vanilla bean creme brulee and coconut creme brulee, I kind of just kept going.

Not only is it a fun (and way easier than it looks!) dessert to make, but it’s super portable and easy to give away to friends and neighbors (provided you trust them to bring your little dish back).

Heck, I may even do another flavor (chocolate?) before I stop my creme brulee marathon. But today, I’m here with one that you can enjoy all fall – pumpkin creme brulee!

This is perfect to take to any autumn gathering or dinner party, and it’s my preferred alternative to pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving (or Christmas, if you’re not making my gingerbread-inspired Christmas creme brulee).

Shallow white ramekins filled with pumpkin spice creme brulee on a wooden tabletop, with pumpkin seeds and spoons garnishing the scene.

What you’ll need for this pumpkin creme brulee recipe:

  • pumpkin – You’ll need canned 100% pure pumpkin puree for this recipe, NOT canned “pumpkin pie mix” or “pumpkin pie filling.”
  • heavy cream – I use heavy whipping cream for this recipe, and that’s it. Some people use a combination of cream and milk, but if I’m splurging and making creme brulee, I like it extra rich (cream is also what I use to make my microwave caramel sauce decadent).
  • granulated sugar – you’ll need this for both the custard and for sprinkling on top to torch.
  • brown sugar – I only use granulated sugar for most creme brulee recipes, but for this pumpkin creme brulee recipe, I also added light brown sugar to give it some extra caramel and molasses flavor notes.
  • egg yolks – you’ll need the yolks of 6 large eggs for pumpkin creme brulee. Perhaps try an egg white quiche with the leftover whites?
  • vanilla extract – to add extra rich flavor.
  • spices – just like a pumpkin pie, we’ll be adding cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. You could also use 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice if you’d prefer that instead.
  • kosher salt – just a pinch. The finished dessert won’t taste salty, but it will taste balanced.
  • blowtorch – you can use a specially made kitchen blowtorch, or just one from the hardware store. I use the full size hardware store kind. If you don’t have a blowtorch, no worries – I have another option for you below!
  • ramekins or creme brulee dishes – you’ll need six ceramic ramekins or dishes that are oven safe and will hold at least 6 ounces of liquid for this pumpkin spice creme brulee recipe.
Shallow white ramekins filled with pumpkin creme brulee on a wooden tabletop, with pumpkin seeds, cinnamon sticks, a grey linen and spoons garnishing the scene.

Prep the ramekins and roasting pan:

The first step to this recipe is preheating your oven to 300 degrees F and bringing a tea kettle of water to a boil on the stove.

You will need a roasting pan or a very large baking pan with high sides for this pumpkin creme brulee recipe. If you have a big pan you break out once a year for Cajun turkey, well, now you’ll need to break it out twice a year.

All of the ramekins need to fit onto the bottom of the pan in an even layer.

Once the custard mixture is prepared (more on that below), you will be dividing it between the ramekins. Then, place the roasting pan with the filled ramekins onto a pulled-out oven rack.

Carefully pour boiling water from the kettle into the pan around the ramekins. Be sure not to get any water into any of the custards.

You want to fill the pan with enough water so that the hot water comes up to the halfway point of each ramekin. This hot water bath will allow the custard to cook evenly without cracking.

Once the hot water is poured in, carefully push the oven rack with the roasting pan on it fully into the oven.

A note about ramekin size:

Size DOES matter for creme brulee ramekins. Not only will you need six 6 ounce ramekins, but you’ll need to pay attention to the shape of them and how it will relate to the baking time for this recipe.

If your ramekins are wide and shallow, your custard may bake a little faster. If your ramekins are narrow and deep, you will likely need to bake your custard longer.

In the photos you see in this post, I’m using wide and shallow ramekins, and my custard took about 33 minutes to bake until it was just set (the middles still trembled slightly, while the custard was set on the outer edges).

If you use narrow and deep ramekins, start at 35 minutes and continue baking, checking every 5 minutes until your custard is just set. It could take up to an hour.

A circular white ceramic ramekin filled with an orange-hued custard topped with caramelized sugar, garnished with a cinnamon stick, with a spoon digging in.

How to make the custard for pumpkin spice creme brulee:

In a small saucepan, combine the cream, brown sugar and spices.

Heat this over medium heat until the cream just starts to bubble around the edges of the pan. Watch it carefully, because you don’t want the mixture to come to a full rolling boil.

While you’re keeping one eye on the cream, grab a large bowl and whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt.

Once the cream mixture starts to bubble, grab a ladle and slowly add 3 ladles of the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture while whisking constantly.

Then, whisk the remaining cream into the egg mixture while continuing to whisk. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk again, until smooth.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large liquid measuring cup. This will catch any clumped spices and stringy bits of pumpkin. 

Don’t skip the straining! Just like with my apple rose tart, it’s important to ensure the smoothest, creamiest final product. The strainer will catch lots of stringy pumpkin that you don’t want in your custard.

Then, divide the strained pumpkin spice creme brulee mixture between the ramekins in the roasting pan.

Bake the custards 30 to 35 minutes or until they are JUST set. Gently shake one of the ramekins, and the custard should tremble slightly in the middle but be set on the outer edges.

Some tips for torching the pumpkin creme brulee:

First of all, just like with my lemon creme brulee, you want to be sure to get an EVEN layer of sugar across the surface of each custard.

I sprinkle the tablespoon of sugar across the custard as evenly as I can, and then I kind of tilt and shake and shimmy the ramekin until it’s even more evened out.

Once you start torching the sugar, it’s important to remember to keep the torch moving constantly so none of the areas burn.

Personally, I’ve found it easiest to brown the sugar of the pumpkin creme brulee in stages. Meaning, first I torch the entire surface of the sugar until it is light golden brown.

And then I go back and keep torching until everything is medium golden brown. And then again until it’s all dark golden brown.

As soon as you start to smell any sugar burning, stop torching immediately. Dark brown sugar is delicious, but burnt sugar is just bitter.

Shallow white ramekins filled with a fall spiced orange-huged custard on a wooden tabletop, with pumpkin seeds and spoons garnishing the scene.

Can I make creme brulee without a torch?

Absolutely! If you don’t have a blowtorch and don’t want to keep one around the house (I don’t really blame you), you can still make pumpkin creme brulee (or grapefruit creme brulee or any flavor at all).

After the custard bakes and chills, instead of browning the sugar on top with a blowtorch, you’ll be using the broiler on your oven. It’s a little bit trickier, but I know you can do it.

Place the top oven rack as close as you can get it to the broiler element, and set the broiler to low. Place the pumpkin spice creme brulee ramekins, with sugar sprinkled on top, on a pan and slide the pan beneath the broiler.

Watch very carefully and rotate and move the ramekins around (using tongs or pot holders) until the sugar is evenly browned but not burned. And that’s it! It’s easy enough to make creme brulee without a torch, right?

Can you freeze creme brulee?

Yes, creme brulee is able to be frozen!

To freeze, complete the recipe through Step 5, but instead of transferring to the refrigerator, wrap and transfer to the freezer instead. It’s best if you put the wrapped ramekins in a freezer bag, as well.

The custards should keep about 3 months in the freezer.

When ready to serve, thaw in the refrigerator for about 4 to 6 hours, and then sprinkle the tops of the pumpkin spice creme brulee with sugar and torch just before serving.

If you love freezer friendly recipes like this pumpkin creme brulee recipe, be sure to check out my make ahead egg muffins and Greek lasagna.

More recipes for pumpkin lovers:

All of the recipes below use canned pumpkin, so you can use the leftover canned pumpkin from this creme brulee to get started on one of these recipes!

A circular white ceramic ramekin filled with an orange-hued custard topped with caramelized sugar, garnished with a cinnamon stick, with a spoon digging in.

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

This Pumpkin Creme Brulee is sugar, pumpkin spice and everything nice. Perfect for Thanksgiving or any fall gathering, this make ahead dessert is rich, creamy and delicious. 

Ingredients

For the Custard:

  • 2-1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • Pinch ground ginger
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 4-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree

For the Topping:

  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F; heat large kettle of water to boiling. Place six 6-ounce ramekins (see Home Chef Tip below) in roasting pan.
  2. In small saucepan, heat cream, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger over medium heat 6 to 7 minutes until cream just starts to bubble around edges of pan (do not bring to a full boil).
  3. Meanwhile, in large bowl, whisk egg yolks, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt until well combined. While whisking, use ladle to slowly add 3 ladlefuls of hot cream mixture to egg mixture. Gradually whisk in remaining cream mixture. Add pumpkin puree and whisk until smooth. Strain through fine mesh strainer into large liquid measuring cup.
  4. Divide custard mixture between ramekins; place roasting pan in oven. Add enough boiling water to come halfway up sides of the ramekins. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until custards are just set (they should tremble slightly in the middle, but be set on outer edges).
  5. Use tongs or pancake turner to carefully transfer ramekins to cooling rack; let stand 30 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill at least 4 hours or up to 2 days before serving.
  6. To serve, sprinkle 1 tablespoon granulated sugar over each custard. Using blowtorch, caramelize top of each custard until sugar bubbles and turns brown (this can also be done under a broiler). Serve immediately.

Notes

Home Chef Tip: If your ramekins are wide and shallow, your custard may bake a little faster. If your ramekins are narrow and deep, you will likely need to bake your custard longer.

In the photos you see in this post, I'm using wide and shallow ramekins, and my custard took about 33 minutes to bake until it was just set.

If you use narrow and deep ramekins, start at 35 minutes and continue baking, checking every 5 minutes until your custard is just set. It could take up to an hour.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 705Total Fat: 62gSaturated Fat: 38gTrans Fat: 2gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 364mgSodium: 78mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 0gSugar: 32gProtein: 7g

This website provides estimated nutrition information as a courtesy only. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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