Purin, Caramel Pudding, Flan, Creme Caramel… Many Names for an Iconic Dessert

Creme Caramel - Yumeiro Patissiere 09 - 02Creamy soft and sticky sweet, I have always been fascinated by that strange jiggly dessert called purin that is so often featured in anime… But what is it exactly? Well, purin is the Japanese pronunciation of the English word pudding, but contrary to what it’s name suggests, it actually refers to a dessert called flan, caramel custard, or more commonly, creme caramel.

With a thin layer of soft caramel on top, this smooth custard dessert is similar to creme brulee, which is instead custard with hard caramel on top. The slightly bitter caramel compliments sweetness of the custard wonderfully, making for a dessert that will have you coming back for seconds!

Parfait - K-On 03In Japan, purin is a very popular snack or dessert – so much so that prepackaged purin is widely available in convenience stores! In anime, it can be found being consumed by characters in a variety of forms, including as a component of the illustrious parfait… In episode 9 of Yumeiro Patissiere, Ichigo competes with another student to make the best purin. She goes through all the steps of making this dessert, complete with all the mistakes that can happen along the way! If you want to know more about purin, it’s a great episode to check out!

About the recipe:

Purin is almost unfairly easy to make, considering the adorable and delicious dessert that results in the end…. But, like any recipe, there are a few very important techniques and tips to keep in mind.

The first thing you need is a vessel to steam your purin in. It could be a mould designed specifically for making purin, or a heat-proof mug could be used. I like to use a ceramic coffee cup that tapers a bit, with the bottom narrower than the top. Purin moulds typically have tapered shape, and it should hold at least 1/2 cup of liquid or more.

Creme Caramel - Yumeiro Patissiere 09 - 01When making purin, the first step is making the caramel. It can be hard knowing when the caramel is finished, and honestly, it’s really up to your tastes how dark you would like it, with a darker caramel being more bitter than a lighter one. While there should be some bitterness in the caramel to offset the sweetness of the custard, cooking it for too long will result in burnt caramel that will be overly bitter, while cooking it for too short a time will result in an overly sweet caramel that will not contrast well with the custard. The colour turns very quickly from medium to dark, so have your hot water at the ready so that the cooking process can be halted when you have reached your ideal caramel stage. Check out the picture above for a visualization of what your caramel might look like, with colours ranging from a dark to a very light caramel.

Also, be very careful adding the hot water to the caramel as it can cause the caramel to splash up and burn you. Hot water will lessen the amount of splashing (versus cold or room temperature water), but still exercise caution. Using a long-handled spoon or ladle to add the water will help minimize your proximity to the pot and your chance of being burned.

Creme Caramel - Yumeiro Patissiere 09 - 05Now for the custard: while making it, it’s important to try and not whip too much air into the custard. Doing so can cause the custard have pockets of air inside. The purin will still taste good, but will not be quite as attractive – see the adjoining picture for an illustration! To prevent this, a good technique is to keep the whisk in constant contact with the bottom of the bowl while you mix.

As for cooking the purin, this can be done in either an oven or on the stovetop. I much prefer the stovetop for small, individual-sized portions (like in the recipe below) since it’s more convenient and I can control the heat better. It’s very Creme Caramel - Yumeiro Patissiere 09 - 03important to not let the water boil or to overcook the purin as doing so can cause the custard to become bubbly along the edges and not as smooth. To stop this from happening, make sure to carefully adjust the heat so that it never boils. Placing the cups of purin on top of a small dishcloth or towel at the bottom of the pot will also help to even out the heat coming from the element below the pot.

About the ingredients:

I’m pretty sure you know what eggs, sugar, and milk are, and where to buy them. Let’s get cooking!

Creme Caramel 0001Creme Caramel 0002

The recipe:

Purin (aka Caramel Pudding or Creme Caramel)

Makes 4 small, individual sized purin


For the caramel:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp hot water
  • unsalted butter for greasing the moulds

For the custard:

  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla (optional)


For the caramel:

1. Lightly butter the inside of 4 purin moulds.

Place sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer on medium heat until the sugar melts and is dissolved into the water. Continue heating until the sugar turns a deep amber colour, being careful not to burn the caramel.

2. Remove caramel from the heat and, using a long handled spoon or ladle, carefully add hot water to the caramel in 2 – 3 small portions. Swirl the contents of the pot together to incorporate the water into the caramel. Be careful of hot caramel splashing up during this step, as it can cause burns.

Evenly distribute caramel among the 4 moulds. Set aside.

For the custard:

1. Prepare the steaming environment for the purin: Fill a pot with a fitted lid with enough water so that the bottom half of the cups are covered when placed into the water. Place a small, clean dishcloth or towel at the bottom of the pot to help distribute the heat evenly. Bring to a low boil.

2. While the water is heating, place milk and sugar in a small pot set on medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved and the milk is hot and steaming.

Whisk eggs in a heatproof bowl until the yolks are well incorporated into the whites. Try not to produce too many bubbles or mix a lot of air into the eggs. Slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs, whisking vigorously as you pour, being careful not to scramble the eggs. Ensure the eggs and milk are incorporated together completely.

3. Strain the egg mixture using a fine meshed strainer and remove any foam from its surface using a spoon. Gently pour egg mixture evenly into each mould with the caramel sauce at the bottom. Cover securely with foil.

4. Gently place the uncooked custard in the prepared steaming environment. Cover the pot with a lid and cook, making sure the water remains just below the boiling point. Steam for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the top of the custard has solidified and is shiny, and the purin wiggles slightly in it’s mould when gently shaken.

Remove from hot water and let cool to room temperature, keeping the foil covering the moulds. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours.

Just before serving, remove the purin from the mould.

Creme Caramel - Yumeiro Patissiere 09 - 06

To remove purin from the mould:

1. Run the tip of a thin knife along the top edge of the custard. Hold the mould at an angle and gently tap against a hard surface, turning it slowly to loosen the custard from the mould on all sides.

2. Turn the mould upside down on a serving plate. The purin should pop out of the mould, landing with the caramel facing up. Tap the bottom of the mould if it does not come out. Be gentle with the purin as it is very soft and a bit fragile once removed from it’s mould.

Note: If your mould is not very full, you may need to gently guide the purin out by holding the mould at an angle and turning it slowly while tapping the bottom. This will prevent the purin from landing with the caramel on the bottom or from breaking.

Serve as a sweet teatime snack or as a simple dessert.

Creme Caramel - Yumeiro Patissiere 09 - 04


14 thoughts on “Purin, Caramel Pudding, Flan, Creme Caramel… Many Names for an Iconic Dessert

  1. Pingback: Crème pudding, Purin-icious! | Japanese Street Food

  2. I made this but when i remove the pudding from my bowl, the caramel solidified and stuck on the bowl. Shld i do something or is this normal?


    • This sometimes happens when the pudding is unmoulded too soon… basically, when the moisture from the pudding seeps into the hard caramel, the caramel at the bottom will get softer/more liquidy.

      So, letting it sit a bit longer might help. Actually, I ideally like leaving mine in the fridge overnight so that it’s nicely chilled and the caramel is soft… I also think it tastes even better this way! A little caramel might still stick to the bottom, but it’s usually sticky/gooey and not totally solid (you can just scrape it out with a spoon).

      Hope this helps!


  3. Mine came out a disaster. The caramel did not solidify even after 30 minutes and mixed with the custard. The custard was tough, probably overcooked, even though I only steamed it for 18 minutes. Tasted like a very sweet chawanmushi.


  4. Made this 3 times already and about to make it again and it’s come out PERFECT every time. I’ve also made it at times doubling and tripling the recipe because my family can’t seem to get enough of it. So delicious, light and giggly. One thing to keep in mind when steaming the purin is, don’t allow the water to boil, that can cause it to over cook. For caramel to be completely liquid, let purin cool to room temperature(I know how difficult this is) before placing in fridge. Also it’s extremely important to let it get very cold before unmolding. If the caramel is sticky, it’s not cold enough yet. So, just put it back in the fridge leaving it in the container you cooked it in longer before attempting to umold again. Before you pour the purin mixture on top of the caramel, it’s important the caramel be stiff, it doesn’t need to be hard, but it shouldn’t be liquidy. If it is, just put it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes until it is no longer runney. Also, when you remove purin from steaming, remove foil cover and check for doneness, it should still be a little jiggly when gently shaken, if you find it sloshy, just recover with the foil cover and put back to steam for 2 and no more than 3 more minutes. I usually leave my water on the fire so it remains hot until after I’ve checked to make sure the purin is cooked properly. All this information I’ve given is from my experiences cooking and eating this wonderfully delicious, light and refreshing dessert.


    • This is NOT flan. Flan is heavier and usually has 2 or 3 different types of milk (whole, condensed and or evaporated milk). This is more a custard, with the use of only one type of milk which makes it lighter than flan.


      • There are many regional varieties of flan/creme caramel all over the world, with some places eating it with dulce de leche and using condensed milk, and others adding cream cheese, cinnamon, or evaporated milk. In fact, flan can also refer to an open pastry or sponge cake containing a sweet or savory filling, similar to a tart. But, in the context of Japan, anime and this post, this type of light, sweet flan/creme caramel is very similar to what would be bought and sold all over the country.

        As for the name, this dessert is most often called “purin” (derived from the word “pudding”) in Japan, though the other 3 names listed in this post (flan, creme caramel, caramel pudding) tend to be used interchangeably all over the world to refer to the same, or similar, dessert, regardless of regional differences.

        Thanks for your comment! If you have a recipe for other types of flan/creme caramel, I’d love to see them and try them out 🙂


  5. I can’t seem to get the sugar to melt for the caramel sauce (or decompose). I got back white sugar again even after changing from a glass pot to a metal pot, am I doing it wrong??


    • Anonymous, the key to getting the sugar to caramelize(melt) is to cook on medium to medium low heat. Also, do not stir the sugar, just left the pot off the stove and gently swirl the melted sugar around. Also, are you adding the water as listed in the recipe? Another trick to help melt the sugar is to place a lid on the pot (saw this on a Martha Stewart program). The condensation will run down the inside wall of the pan and help with melting the sugar. Just also keep in mind, when you’re making caramel, you need to watch it for as long as it takes. Be patient, try it again. Let’s know how it turns out the next time.


  6. Anonymous, the key to getting the sugar to caramelize(melt) is to cook on medium to medium low heat. Also, do not stir the sugar, just left the pot off the stove every minute or two and gently swirl the melted sugar around. Also, are you adding the water as listed in the recipe? Another trick to help melt the sugar is to place a lid on the pot (saw this on a Martha Stewart program). The condensation will run down the inside wall of the pan and help with melting the sugar. Keep in mind, when you’re making caramel, you need to watch it for as long as it takes to melt the sugar. Be patient, try it again. Let’s know how it turns out the next time.


  7. I am excited to try this! I make flan a lot, but am looking to make more of the traditional Japanese purin. Have you heard of anyone trying to make this in an Instant Pot? It has the ability to steam, but I have never tried it.


  8. Pingback: Recipe: Pudding, Flan, Creme Caramel, Purin – SEVAC – SouthEastern Virginia Anime Community –

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