This recipe for Sous Vide Crème Brûlée is made with five basic ingredients and is nearly foolproof! Serve this easy dessert on Valentine’s Day, Christmas, or anytime you need a special occasion dessert.
Read on to learn how sous vide cooking will yield perfect results every time you make classic crème brûlée.
What Is Crème Brûlée?
Crème brûlée is a popular French dessert that consists of a silky vanilla custard topped with caramelized sugar. It’s traditionally made with just five ingredients: heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, salt, and eggs.
To create that bittersweet crunchy topping, sugar is sprinkled onto the custard after it’s been baked and allowed to cool and then caramelized using a kitchen torch.
When you tap the back of your spoon atop the sugar topping, it makes a delightful cracking noise as the creamy custard beneath is exposed.
Crème brûlée has a reputation as a special occasion dessert, but it’s secretly so easy to make (especially when preparing it using the sous vide method I’m sharing with you today!).
Make a batch of homemade crème brûlée in the sous vide for Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Christmas, or any time you need an elegant — but easy! — dessert.
What Does Crème Brûlée Taste Like?
Crème brûlée has a consistency similar to flan, but it’s richer and creamier. The custard is silky in texture with a distinctly vanilla flavor. Although sweet, the custard base isn’t cloyingly so.
The crackly sugar atop the custard is on the more bittersweet end of the caramel flavor spectrum.
It’s the perfect complement to the sweet vanilla custard, and the combination of flavors and textures makes for a unique dessert that everyone loves!
How Does Sous Vide Crème Brûlée Differ from the Original?
Traditional crème brûlée is spooned into individual ramekins and baked in the oven using a water bath (similar to cheesecake).
However, this sous vide crème brûlée recipe is made using — you guessed it! — a sous vide machine, also called and immersion circulator.
Instead of ramekins, the vanilla custard base is spooned into individual jars that are sealed before being placed in the sous vide water bath.
The sous vide maintains a constant water temperature and cooks the crème brûlée low and slow.
The benefits of using a sous vide to make crème brûlée is that there’s less babysitting and guesswork on your part. With a sous vide, it’s practically impossible to overcook the crème brûlée.
However, because the sous vide uses the “low and slow” cooking method, it’s important that you plan ahead so the crème brûlée has enough time to cook all the way through in the water bath.
Undercooked crème brûlée will look wet in the center; a slight jiggle is what you want in the custard, but it shouldn’t appear at all liquidy.
Tools Needed to Make Sous Vide Crème Brûlée
This is an incredibly easy crème brûlée recipe, but to make this dessert you have to have a few very specific kitchen tools.
Here’s what you’ll need to make crème brûlée in a sous vide:
- Sous vide — This is sous vide cooker model I use and love.
- Container for sous vide — You’ll need a large container for holding the water and jars of crème brûlée.
- Heat-safe jars with lids — My preferred container for cooking the crème brûlée in the sous vide.
- Food- and heat-safe resealable plastic bags — Jars are easiest to use for this recipe, but you can also cook the custard in heat-safe sous vide bags.
- Measuring cups and spoons — A must for any baking recipe!
- Whisk — For whisking together a smooth custard.
- 4-cup glass measuring cup — For measuring out the wet ingredients.
- Fine mesh strainer — Essential for ensuring the custard is free of lumps.
- Kitchen torch — Not strictly necessary for caramelizing the sugar topping, but it’s easier than using the broiler on your oven. (I’ve given instructions for both methods, however!).
Ingredients in Sous Vide Crème Brûlée
Making vanilla bean crème brûlée requires just five basic ingredients, even when using a sous vide! Here’s what’s in crème brûlée:
- Vanilla bean paste
- Heavy cream
- Egg yolks
- Granulated sugar
For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions to make this crème brûlée recipe, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.
What can I substitute for vanilla bean paste?
If you don’t keep vanilla bean paste on hand, you can substitute it with one of the following:
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
- One whole vanilla bean
- 1 tablespoon of vanilla powder
Can I flavor this Sous Vide Crème Brûlée recipe with other ingredients?
Of course! I stuck to the traditional vanilla crème brûlée recipe, but you may add:
- Spices (ground cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.)
- Citrus zest (lemon, orange, grapefruit, lime)
- Different extracts (replace part of the vanilla bean paste with almond extract, lemon extract, etc. Just note that certain extracts are more potent than others.)
How to Make Sous Vide Crème Brûlée
Making crème brûlée in a sous vide is very straightforward. Simply follow these basic steps:
Making the Crème Brûlée Base
- Prepare the custard base: First, combine egg yolks and granulated sugar to a measuring cup, whisking until yolks and sugar are completely incorporated. Then, whisk in the heavy cream, vanilla bean extract, and pinch of salt.
- Strain the mixture into jars: Place four to six (depends on how large you want each portion to be) 8-ounce jars on the counter. Next, holding a fine-mesh strainer over top of one jar at a time, strain equal amounts of the mixture into each jar.
- Seal the jars: After that, lightly tap each jar on the counter to remove any air bubbles, then screw on the lids just until they’re fingertip tight. You don’t want to seal the lids on too tightly or the jars might crack!
- Prepare the water bath: Fill a 7-quart container with cool tap water (enough to fully submerge the jars). Place the sealed jars in the bottom of the container.
Cooking the Crème Brûlée
- Cook the crème brûlée: Next, place the sous vide circulator in the water, setting up according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Then, set the water temperature to 176 degrees F. Cook the creme brulee for 60 minutes to 75 minutes.
- Cool the crème brûlée: After cooking, use a silicone oven mitt to carefully remove the hot jars from the water. Place the jars on a wire cooling rack and let sit at room temperature to cool for an hour.
Finishing the Crème Brûlée
- Chill the crème brûlée: Transfer the jars to the refrigerator and chill for a minimum of 4 hours.
- Torch the crème brûlée: After chilling, remove the lids and blot any condensation from the top of the custards. Then, sprinkle the tops with sugar and caramelize using a kitchen torch.
- Garnish as desired: We love fresh berries, but I’ve listed more garnish options below.
The above is simply a quick summary of this sous vide dessert recipe. Check out the full recipe in the free printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for all the detailed instructions.
Topping Ideas for Crème Brûlée
We love topping our homemade crème brûlée with fresh, in-season berries, but you can also try topping yours with:
- Fresh fruit – berries are our favorite fruit to use.
- Whipped cream
- A dusting of cocoa powder
- Chocolate curls
- Dried orange slices
- Candied nuts
- Sugared cranberries
- Halved fresh figs
- Chocolate-covered espresso beans
- Chocolate-covered nuts
Tips for Making Crème Brûlée in a Sous Vide Machine
- Not sure how best to separate the eggs? This recipe calls for five egg yolks (save the whites for your morning omelet or another dessert!). If you’re not sure how best to separate eggs, check out my full tutorial here.
- Bring the eggs to room temperature. This ensures the custard will cook evenly in the sous vide. Here’s how to bring eggs to room temperature quickly.
- Use full-fat ingredients. If you use whole milk, half and half, or another lower fat alternative to the heavy cream, your crème brûlée will not set up properly! You MUST use regular heavy cream to make this dessert, there’s no alternative that will yield the same silky smooth results.
Tips for Using Jars
- Tighten the lids on the jars gently. If you close the lids very tightly, the pressure will build up inside the jars and they might crack. Only secure them until they’re fingertip tight.
- Warm the jars before cooking. Another tip for preventing the jars from cracking is to first place them in the sous vide water bath to bring them to a lukewarm temperature (not the full cooking temperature!) before adding the custard mixture. Adding pre-warmed jars to the water bath will ensure they don’t crack.
- Use fewer jars for larger portions. You may use four to six 8-ounce jars for this recipe. Four jars will yield larger portions of crème brûlée, and six jars will yield smaller portions.
- Remove excess moisture. After cooking, remove the jar lids and use paper towels to blot away any condensation from the tops of the custards before adding the sugar topping.
FAQs About This Recipe for Sous Vide Crème Brûlée
Got questions about making perfect crème brûlée or the benefits of sous vide? Here are answers to commonly asked questions. Leave any other questions in the comments on this post and I’ll reply with answers.
What are the best jars to use?
I recommend wider, shallow jars that have a wide mouth. This makes it easier to caramelize the sugar on top!
But, it also depends on how large you want your servings to be. Any mason jar that allows you to tighten the jars to “fingertip tightness” will work.
Here are the jars I use for making sous vide crème brûlée when I want shallower jars and smaller servings.
How can I prevent my jars from cracking?
When making sous vide crème brûlée, it’s possible for glass jars to crack while cooking (if that happens, throw both the crème brûlée and the jars away as the dessert won’t be safe to eat!).
Jars can crack in a sous vide machine for two reasons:
- Too much pressure has built up in the jars — To prevent this, only tighten the jars until they’re fingertip tight. This means you should secure the lids using just your thumb and the tip of one finger.
- The jars experienced “thermal shock” — Adding cold jars to the hot water will cause them to crack. To prevent this, add the empty jars (lids on) to the water bath as it preheats. Remove the jars when the water is comfortably lukewarm and not yet up to full temperature.
Can I make this in the sous vide without jars?
Yes! You can also cook the crème brûlée using the water displacement method.
This is a fancy way of saying you can cook the custard in a food- and heat-safe plastic bag (such as a BPA-free ZipLoc freezer bag).
Add the custard mixture to the bag, then gently lower the unsealed bag into the preheated water of the sous vide bath.
The air will be pushed to the top of the bag and you can seal the bag so that very little air remains. (Or, use a food- and heat-safe vacuum seal bag for cooking crème brûlée in a sous vide.)
Once cooked, transfer the custard to serving dishes, such as individual ramekins, cool and chill as instructed, then top with sugar and torch the top.
Is it possible to torch crème brûlée without a kitchen torch?
Absolutely! After adding the sugar on top of custards, you can torch the tops of the crème brûlée using the broiler on your oven.
However, your jars would have to be oven-safe to use this crème brûlée torching method.
Or, cook the custard using the water displacement method (explained above) and then transfer to oven-safe ramekins prior to torching.
Can this recipe be made in advance?
Yes! The crème brûlée needs to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours anyway prior to serving, but the custard can be prepared and refrigerated up to 48 hours before torching and serving.
Should crème brûlée be served hot or cold?
It should be served chilled. However, you’ll want to wait to torch the crème brûlée until you’re ready to serve it otherwise the caramelized sugar will soften and won’t be crackly.
How long will sous vide crème brûlée last in the fridge?
Crème brûlée cooked in a sous vide lasts longer than traditional baked crème brûlée. That’s because as the custard cooks, the pressure builds up inside the jars and creates a vacuum seal.
So, sous vide crème brûlée will last up to 2 weeks in the fridge! However, that’s only if you do NOT open the jars after cooking the crème brûlée.
Once you add the caramelized sugar topping, the crème brûlée must be consumed immediately.
What to Serve with Crème Brûlée
This homemade crème brûlée recipe is the perfect dessert for any special occasion, such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, or a birthday.
A few special occasion menus that would pair well with the vanilla crème brûlée include:
Pasta dinner menu:
- Serve gorgonzola steak pasta, artichoke shrimp scampi pasta, OR spinach lasagna
- paired with a mixed greens and prosciutto side salad.
Steak dinner menu:
- Favorite steaks with compound butter OR gremolata sauce.
- blue cheese mashed potatoes
- and a butternut squash salad OR roasted brussels sprouts.
Roast chicken dinner menu:
- Serve a citrus roast chicken (or chicken marsala)
- with roasted asparagus OR lemon broccolini
- and duchess potatoes OR smashed potatoes.
Vegetarian dinner menu:
Try this Crème Brûlée Recipe!
Next time you’re looking for an easy sous vide dessert, give this homemade crème brûlée recipe a try!
Did love making this creamy dessert recipe using my sous vide technique? Leave a comment below and give it a review for others to see what you thought of this sous vide crème brûlée.
On Instagram? Share your photo and tag me with @goodlifeeats and #goodlifeeatsrecipes. I’d love to see your photo of your vanilla crème brûlée!
More Special Occasion Desserts:
Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes, with centers that tastes like the most delicious hot fudge, are topped with ice cream and sliced almonds for a pretty presentation and decadent chocolate richness.
In this Raspberry Brownie Parfait with Mascarpone Whip, fudgy brownies are layered with mascarpone whipped cream and raspberries for a delightful dessert!
Strawberry Fool is such an easy strawberry dessert recipe to make for Valentine’s Day (or any occasion!). It’s basically strawberries and cream taken up a notch!
Salted Caramel Budino is such an easy Italian dessert! It features a cookie crust that’s topped with vanilla pudding and then a layer of homemade caramel sauce.
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For the creme brulee
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- Pinch sea salt
For the topping
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preparing the creme brulee
- Add the egg yolks and granulated sugar to a mixing bowl or a 4 cup glass measuring cup, whisking until yolks and sugar are completely incorporated.
- After that, whisk in the heavy cream, vanilla bean extract, and pinch of salt. Stir until sugar has dissolved.
- Place 4-6 (depending on how large you want each serving to be) 8 ounce jars on the counter. Holding a fine-mesh strainer over top of one jar at a time, strain ¼ of the mixture into each jar.
- Remove any air bubbles in the jars by lightly tapping jars on the counter.
- Add the lids to each jar, being careful not to overtighten. The jars should only be fingertip tight.
- Fill a 7 quart container with cool tap water. Place the sealed jars in the bottom of the container. Make sure there is enough water added that the jars are fully submerged.
- Place the sous vide circulator in the water, setting up according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Set the water temperature to 176 degrees F.
- Cook the creme brulee for at least 60 minutes, or up to 75 minutes.
- After cooking, use a silicone oven mitt or canning tongs to carefully remove the hot jars from the water.
- Then, place the jars on a wire cooling rack. Let sit at room temperature to cool for an hour.
- After, transfer the jars to the refrigerator and chill for a minimum of 4 hours.
- After chilling, remove the jars from the fridge. Take the lids off and blot any condensation from the top of the custards.
- Then, sprinkle the tops with the topping sugar, distributing evenly across the top of the custard.
- Caramelize the sugar using a kitchen torch. The flame should be kept about 2 inches above the jar and moved in a back and forth, sweeping motion. Flame the sugar until the sugar develops a deep, golden brown color and is bubbling.
- Allow the caramelized sugar to harden before serving, about 5 minutes.
- Garnish as desired. We love fresh berries.
Cooking the Creme Brulee
Serving the Creme Brulee
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 380Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 243mgSodium: 51mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 0gSugar: 18gProtein: 5g
GoodLifeEats.com offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy. This provided information is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although GoodLifeEats.com makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.