I love Japanese purin. It goes by many names: flan, pudding, crème caramel, Hokkaido milk pudding, Japanese custard, egg pudding, flan de leche, caramel flan – no matter what you call it, it’s delicious. Creamy, smooth, thick, firm-yet-soft, and literally covered in caramel, purin is the perfect dessert.
I love cutting into purin – there’s something so satisfying about spooning out that first bite. Plus it’s so pretty! The contrast between the deep, dark caramel and the pale yellow of the custard just speaks to me. Purin is incredibly popular in Japan – read my super long article here – but if you’re craving purin, why not make it at home?
What is purin?
Purin is a Japanese take on crème caramel, also known as flan, caramel custard, egg pudding, or caramel pudding. Essentially it’s a gently cooked custard dessert made from eggs, milk, and sugar, with a layer of clear caramel sauce on top. It’s creamy and sweet, with a hint of caramelization from the caramel. It originated in Europe – specifically Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal, but now it’s pretty much made and enjoyed all over the world.
There are two kinds of Japanese purin:
- Baked/steamed – This is the classic retro Japanese purin that you’ll find in most cafes. It’s smooth and creamy, on the slightly firmer side, but still has a bit of jiggle. Sometimes it’s called yaki-purin (baked pudding) or mushi-purin (steamed pudding).
- Gelatin/no bake – This is made with gelatin, it’s smooth and wobbly, kind of like the texture of jello. The super popular store-bought purin called Pucchin Purin by Glico is made with gelatin.
Purin is silky smooth and sweet, with just the right hint of bitterness from deeply caramelized sugar.
The perfect Japanese purin
The perfect purin, to me, is smooth and creamy custard with just the right amount of sweetness and a hint of vanilla. The caramel needs to be on the bittersweet side so it contrasts and compliments the custard. It should keep it’s shape on your tongue until you sink into it, then it should dissolve into a velvety smooth melty bite.
What does Japanese purin taste like?
There are so many Japanese purins out there, from home made, to store-bought, to cafe, and high-end versions. They all taste delicious, varying between firm and soft, extra sweet to just sweet enough, with different levels of bitterness from the caramel. If you’ve had crème brûlée before, purin tastes like the custard part of crème brûlée. It also tastes kind of like a firmer, more set vanilla pudding.
Ingredients for Japanese Purin
Purin is incredibly simple and it’s so amazing that something so delicious can come from just 4 ingredients!
- Sugar. We’re going to use granulated white sugar both for the layer caramel that self-sauces the custard, and the custard itself.
- Eggs. This recipes needs two large eggs and one extra egg yolk. The extra egg yolk adds another dimension of richness and depth and also makes the custard a beautiful yellow. If you use just whole eggs, your custard will be more pale and also more jiggly. Make sure you use the best eggs you can because part of the deliciousness of purin is the purity of the ingredients.
- Milk. Whole fat milk is your friend here. You want it to be rich and creamy.
- Vanilla. Vanilla is key to adding that hint of baked goods essence and a sweet aroma that hits your nose even before you taste the purin. If you have whole vanilla beans, you can add those in for a beautiful vanilla bean flecked purin.
How to Make Japanese Purin
- Make the caramel. Making caramel is easy, it’s just sugar and a bit of water heated slowly over a medium flame until the sugar starts to dissolve and caramelize. At first the sugar will turn liquid and have lots of tiny bubbles that will slowly turn brown on the edges of the pan, the center of the pan will still be clear. Swirl your pan gently to incorporate the caramelized sugar with the uncaramelized sugar. After your sugar bubbles away for a bit the bubbles will become larger and everything will be more and more caramelized and brown. I like my caramel on the darker side because I like the contrast of bittersweet with sweet but take your caramel off the heat when you see the color you like. Immediately add in a bit of hot water – but be careful because the caramel will sputter and splash – and swirl to combine. This extra bit of water thins out the caramel so that when you tip the purin out onto a plate, it will be a thin caramel glaze.
- Pour the caramel. When the caramel is done, immediately pour it into your pudding molds or ramekins. Swirl to coat the bottoms evenly. Set aside.
- Make the custard. In another pot, heat the milk and remaining sugar over medium low heat, stirring every so often, making sure the sugar dissolves. You don’t want the cream to come to a boil, just heat it enough to dissolve the sugar.
- Combine the eggs and milk. Whisk the eggs and egg yolk well so that there are no bits of egg white left then slowly add the warm milk, whisking as you go. Strain and pour the custard into the prepared pudding molds/ramekins.
- Bake. It’s time to bake! The purin are going to bake in a warm water bath, aka a bain marie, in a low the oven. The bain marie makes the heat nice and even and moist, helping the custard bake slowly and evenly.
- Chill. This is probably the hardest part but these purin need to chill so they set up perfectly. Chill them overnight so they set – the texture is best when cold.
- Flip. This is probably the most nerve wracking part of making purin: getting it out of the mold. You want to use a knife to loosen the edges and break the suction of the custard against the mold. Once you’ve broken the seal, flip it over on to a plate (bonus points if you have a retro pudding dish) and shake to release!
How to steam custard/crème caramel/purin
If you don’t have an oven or don’t want to turn the oven on, you can steam the purin as well. Add about 2 inches of water to a deep skillet and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, turn the heat to low and place your purin cups (cover the tops with foil) in the pan, then put the lid on the pan to steam for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off but leave the lid on for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the pan, and let cool on a wire rack before chilling completely.
Instant Pot custard/crème caramel/purin
Yes! You can use an Instant Pot or pressure cooker to make purin. Just add 1 cup of cold water to the insert and place the steamer rack in. Carefully place the foil covered ramekins/molds on the rack. Set the Instant Pot on to high pressure for 12 minutes then do a natural release. Carefully remove the purin and let cool at room temp before chilling completely.
Can I make custard/purin without milk?
Yes! You can use alternate milk products like soy, almond, oat, rice, hazelnut, any of the alternate milks will work but you will get a different flavor – the purin won’t be as rich as if you use full fat milk.
Can I make custard/purin without sugar?
You’ll need a sugar alternate to make custard/flan/purin without sugar. I’ve heard that sugar substitutes like erythritol and swerve work, but I haven’t tried them.
Can I make custard/purin without eggs?
Unfortunately you’re going to need eggs for this recipe because eggs are the main component of custard. They’re what sets and gives purin that smooth texture.
How to eat Japanese purin
I love serving purin with the classic dollop of softly whipped cream and a cherry on top because it evokes those home cafe feels. A cup of pour over black coffee on the side completes the whole cottagecore experience!
Why you should make Japanese purin
- You’ve been to Japan and are addicted to purin like me and wish you could fly back just to eat purin but in the time of Covid are left with a purin shaped hole in your soul
- You like flan or crème caramel or custard and want to try something new
- You watch anime and are always curious why everyone talks about purin
- You’re a fan of the super cute Sanrio character Pompompurin
- You live the home cafe life and need purin to make your home cafe complete
- You think purin is super cute and retro and you want to know if it tastes good too
Happy purin making everyone! This recipe is on repeat here at our place because I can’t get over how easy and delicious it is. Especially now that it’s cherry season, I’ve been topping our purin with fresh cherries and it’s just the cutest.
home cafe vibes and purin,
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tbsp water room temp
- 1 tbsp water hot
- 1 cup whole milk full fat
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- whipped cream
- fresh cherries
Make The Caramel
In a small sauce pan, add 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon water without stirring together. Heat over medium high heat until the sugar starts to dissolve on its own and caramelize. Let bubble until it turns a beautiful amber. Swirl the pot if needed to fully incorporate the sugar. When a deep brown, remove the heat from the pan and very carefully add in 1 tablespoon of water. The caramel will hiss and sputter, so watch out! Swirl to combine.
Immediately pour the caramel into the ramekins/pudding molds, as equally as possible. Swirl to spread across the bottom of the pudding molds. Set aside.
If you want to make smaller purin, just divide the mix between 4 smaller ramekins. Decrease the bake time by 5 minutes.
Japanese Purin Recipe
Amount Per Serving (1 pudding)
Calories 321 Calories from Fat 79
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 3.4g21%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.