Melty apple chunks meet salted caramel, and a smooth vanilla custard in this plant-based and gluten-free flan recipe!
It’s not too sweet, super easy to prepare (8-ingredient!), and makes the perfect Fall dessert!
🍰 What is Flan?
Flan is a classic French dessert that consists of a vanilla custard baked on a shortcrust pastry. The original version called “Flan Parisien” does not include any add-ins and is baked until the top is golden brown.
Many other desserts based on vanilla custard are also called flan in France. Here, we will prepare a crustless flan, baked in a loaf pan, and packed with soft apple chunks! It’s very different from the original version, but incredibly delicious!
🥣 How to Make Apple Flan
First, we start by making the caramel. Melt the sugar with a teaspoon of water and a good pinch of salt (because salted caramel is the best). Once melted, you want to keep heating until it gets a golden brown color.
Remove from heat and immediately transfer the caramel to a loaf pan.
Next, comes the sautéed cinnamon apples! Apple chunks are sautéed in vegan butter for a few minutes, until tender. If you are a cinnamon lover like I am, I definitely recommend adding a good pinch of ground cinnamon for extra flavor!
Finally, the custard. Unsweetened almond milk makes the base, then we have maple syrup and coconut sugar to sweeten, vanilla extract for flavor, and cornstarch to help thicken everything.
Heat over medium heat and whisk constantly until it thickens.
Once your custard has thickened, add in the apple chunks and stir to combine well. Be gentle while stirring as you don’t want to purée the apples.
Transfer to the loaf pan, on top of the hardened caramel, cover with foil and place in a dish filled with water (we will bake it in a bain-marie which is a hot-water bath). Bake for 40 minutes, let cool completely, and chill for at least 4 hours before flipping over a plate!
The salted caramel will have melted and will cover the flan, so good!
This apple caramel flan is best served chilled, but it can also be served at room temperature. Cut into thick slices and drizzle with some of the caramel syrup!
- Which variety of apple should I use? Preferable apples that will melt during cooking, for example Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, or Cortland. I do not recommend using Pink Lady or Granny Smith.
- Can I substitute the cornstarch? I haven’t personally tried with other starches, but I think potato starch might work as well (only use half).
- Can I add dried fruits? Yes, feel free to stir in a handful of dried raisins, chopped dried figs, or even cranberries!
- Is it possible to make this recipe refined sugar-free? While the custard is already refined sugar-free, the caramel is not. It is however possible to make the caramel using a combination of maple syrup and coconut sugar. I recommend checking my Vegan Crème Caramel recipe for the full method.
- How long does this apple flan keep? This apple flan will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
If you like fresh desserts, you are going to love this apple flan. The combination of tender and melty chunks of apples, the creamy vanilla custard, and the salted caramel syrup is perfect!
Let me know in the comments if you try this recipe!
Apple Caramel Flan (Vegan / Gluten-Free)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp water
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vegan butter
- 3 apples diced into 1-inch cubes
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- Place a 8×4-inch loaf pan on a trivet or cutting board. We will transfer very hot caramel into the loaf so make sure it's not placed directly on your kitchen counter.
- Add the sugar, water, and salt to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, for 3-5 minutes. The sugar will melt and start to bubble, do not stir. Keep heating until it gets a golden brown color, at this point you can stir using a wooden spatula. Once you get a nice caramel color, immediately remove from heat and pour into the loaf pan. Tilt the pan to spread the caramel evenly in the bottom.
- Set aside and let cool at least 10 minutes, the caramel will harden. In the meantime, prepare the apples and custard.
- Heat the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the diced apples and sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until tender. Do not over cook, you don't want to turn the apples into a purée. Once tender, remove from heat.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Add the almond milk, maple syrup, coconut sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla extract to a medium-size saucepan. Whisk to dissolve the cornstarch.
- Heat over medium, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 5 minutes. The custard will become very thick, that is normal. Remove from heat and stir in the sautéed apples. Be gently when stirring, you don't want to mash the apples.
- Transfer the custard and apples to the prepared loaf, on top of the caramel. Use a spatula to smooth the top. Cover the loaf pan with foil and place in a deep baking dish. Add about 2 cups of water to the baking dish to make a bain-marie (water bath). The loaf pan should not be fully immersed, just about 1-inch deep.
- Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before transferring to the refrigerator. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
- To serve, cover the loaf pan with a plate and flip it so the flan is upside down. The caramel syrup will coat the flan.
- This apple caramel flan will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.