There is nothing better than classic Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee. This rich and creamy custard with a crunchy sugar crust is a make-ahead restaurant-style dessert that you can easily make at home.

Six dishes of vanilla bean creme brulee garnished with berries and mint sprigs, on a light surface, with gold spoons digging into three of the dishes.

Sometimes, you just can’t improve on a classic. Once in awhile, I love a modern restaurant dessert with unexpected ingredients and preparations.

But truly, is there anything better than an amazing dish of creme brulee? The rich custard paired with the crackly torched sugar top is irresistible, in my opinion.

What’s funny is that I’ve published more “creative” flavors like grapefruit creme brulee and coconut creme brulee and even Christmas creme brulee.

But oddly, I’ve never published the most traditional version ever. The kind I was taught to make my first week of culinary school.

So today, I’m sharing my perfect recipe for vanilla bean creme brulee. It will never go out of style!

Closeup on a gold-rimmed ramekin of vanilla creme brulee garnished with blueberries, raspberries, a blackberry and a mint sprig, with a gold spoon breaking through the torched sugar.

What you’ll need for this vanilla bean creme brulee recipe:

  • 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.
  • egg yolks – you’ll need the yolks of 6 large eggs for vanilla creme brulee. Serious Eats has a bunch of ideas for what to do with leftover egg whites.
  • vanilla bean – you’ll be using one whole vanilla bean for this vanilla bean creme brulee recipe.
  • kosher salt – just a pinch. The finished dessert won’t taste salty, but it will taste balanced.
  • fresh fruit and mint to garnish – this is optional, but I love including a few fresh berries and sometimes a small sprig of mint on top when serving creme brulee. Any extra berries and mint can go into a tequila mojito.
  • blowtorch – you can use a specially made kitchen blowtorch, or just one from the hardware store. I use the full size hardware store kind.
  • ramekins or creme brulee dishes – you’ll need six ceramic ramekins or dishes that are oven safe and will hold at least 5 ounces of liquid for this easy vanilla creme brulee recipe.
Several ramekins of light colored custard with torched sugar tops, garnished with berries and mint, on a light surface.

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 vanilla bean creme brulee recipe. If you have a big pan you break out once a year for baked ham with pineapple sauce, 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.

Shallow dish of vanilla creme brulee garnished with berries and mint, with a gold spoon digging in, with vanilla beans alongside.

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 38 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.

How to work with a vanilla bean:

First, carefully use a sharp paring knife to split the vanilla bean right down the middle, lengthwise. Then, use the tip of the paring knife to scrape as many vanilla bean seeds out of each side of the pod as possible.

These seeds will go into the cream mixture on the stove as you start the vanilla creme brulee custard. You will also throw the two pod halves into the cream mixture, too, to coax out any remaining vanilla beans and lend the custard even more vanilla flavor.

The pod will be strained out in the final step of making the custard.

Several ramekins of light colored custard with torched sugar tops, garnished with berries and mint, on a light surface.

How to make the custard for vanilla creme brulee:

In a small saucepan, combine the cream, 6 tablespoons of sugar and the vanilla beans you scraped out of the pod, along with the pod itself.

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, salt and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Once the cream mixture starts to bubble, grab a ladle and slowly add 4 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.

Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large liquid measuring cup. Don’t skip this step! Just like with my apple rose tart, it’s important to ensure the smoothest, creamiest final product.

Then, divide the strained vanilla bean creme brulee mixture between the ramekins in the roasting pan.

Bake the custards 35 to 40 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.

Closeup on a gold-rimmed ramekin of vanilla creme brulee garnished with blueberries, raspberries, a blackberry and a mint sprig, with a gold spoon breaking through the torched sugar.

Some tips for torching the vanilla bean 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 vanilla 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.

Six dishes of vanilla bean creme brulee garnished with berries and mint sprigs, on a light surface, with gold spoons digging into three of the dishes, and extra vanilla beans alongside.

It’s easy to halve this recipe to make creme brulee for two or three.

This recipe makes six servings of vanilla bean creme brulee.

But, if you have a family of three like me, or perhaps you’re doing a date night at home and need a sweet treat after lemon caper pasta, it’s super easy to make a half batch to make three servings.

If there’s just two of you, you’ll have one extra to share with a neighbor, or split for dessert tomorrow. I’ve done the math for you for a half batch of the custard:

  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • Pinch of kosher salt

And then you’ll need an additional 3 tablespoons granulated sugar for topping and torching this vanilla bean brulee recipe.

Can you freeze creme brulee?

Or, if you want to make all 6 but can’t eat them right away, just like my pumpkin creme brulee, vanilla bean 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 vanilla bean creme brulee with sugar and torch just before serving.

If you love freezer friendly recipes like this vanilla creme brulee recipe, be sure to check out my homemade pizza dough and cottage cheese lasagna.

More recipes for vanilla lovers:

Vanilla doesn’t have to be used for dessert only. You can make hot drinks, cold cocktails, and even savory dinners with it!

Shallow dish of vanilla bean creme brulee garnished with berries and mint, with a gold spoon digging in, with vanilla beans alongside.

Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

There is nothing better than classic Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee. This rich and creamy custard with a crunchy sugar crust is a make-ahead restaurant-style dessert that you can easily make at home.

Ingredients

For the Custard:

  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 9 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of kosher salt

For the Topping:

  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Fresh berries and mint sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F; heat large kettle of water to boiling. Place six 6-ounce ramekins (see Home Chef Tip) in roasting pan.
  2. In small saucepan, heat vanilla bean and it's scrapings, cream and 6 tablespoons sugar 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, salt and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar until well combined. While whisking, use ladle to slowly add 4 ladlefuls of hot cream mixture to egg mixture. Gradually whisk in remaining cream mixture. 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 35 to 40 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 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). Top with berries and mint and 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 38 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: 607Total Fat: 48gSaturated Fat: 29gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 351mgSodium: 118mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 0gSugar: 35gProtein: 10g

Nutrition information does not include garnishes. 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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