Vegan Flan

August  2, 2022
0 Ratings
Photo by Anitalectric
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 24 hours
  • Serves 9
Author Notes

Jars of seamoss gel have been popping up on store shelves at my local organic bodega, at my favorite supplement shop, and even the juice section at my local supermarket. I was excited to buy a jar. Years ago, I’d loved Irish seamoss smoothies in Jamaica, flavored with a touch of cinnamon. Among other incredible Jamaican ingredients like callaloo and ackees, I missed seamoss, which is known for its high concentration of nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and iodine.

Once home, it sat in my fridge for weeks. I realized I had no idea what to do with it. That changed last month when I decided to work on a vegan flan. I wanted a rich, authentic texture without any processed ingredients. The seamoss gel came to mind, and I scooped the entire jar into the pan with my coconut milk and coconut sugar. The result tasted amazing but the texture was too similar to tofu. To cut the gel structure, I added a cup of pumpkin to my next batch and that gave the perfect, custard-y results with just enough soft yield in each bite.

Besides the magic of seamoss gel, there are other exciting aspects of this recipe:

1. Two shortcuts inadvertently make this easier to prepare than a traditional flan, without sacrificing flavor or texture. Replacing sugar with coconut sugar, we cut out the complicated candy making skills required to prepare caramel from scratch, since all you do here is melt the pre-caramelized coconut sugar into a spoonful of seamoss gel. Second, this is a no-bake dessert. No bain marie or oven required, because the gel matrix forms as it cools via the polysaccharides in the seaweed and pectin in the pumpkin instead of egg proteins, which require precise baking in order to set correctly.

2. The recipe includes three of my essential aromatics—lemon, cinnamon, and vanilla. Combined with a small amount of sea salt, they are barely detectable in the final result, but still manage to elevate the flavor of the custard. Without them, it is a completely different dessert. This is where other vegan flan recipes fall flat. We omit complexity in the execution of the flan but embrace it in the flavoring! It is really hard to eat just one slice. —Anitalectric

What You'll Need
  • 2 14-ounce cans full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk
  • 16 ounces unflavored seamoss gel, divided
  • 1 cup coconut sugar, divided
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  1. Have handy a 7-inch round or square baking pan. (Alternately, use individual ramekins.)
  2. Combine 1/2 cup coconut sugar and 1 tablespoon of the seamoss gel in a small pan. Place over medium heat and stir until just melted and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour into the baking pan and swirl to coat the bottom. (If it gets too cool and won’t spread, use an offset spatula to help.) Set aside while you prepare the custard.
  3. To make the custard, place a large pan over medium heat and whisk together the coconut milk, remaining coconut sugar, remaining seamoss gel and the pumpkin puree. When the mixture is hot and starts steaming, add the vanilla pod and seeds, lemon zest, sea salt and cinnamon. Whisk to combine. Stir gently until mixture starts bubbling. Remove vanilla pod. Carefully pour hot custard mixture over the caramel in the pan.
  4. Place the pan on a rack and cool for about one hour at room temperature. Then transfer to refrigerator and chill overnight, uncovered.
  5. Just before serving, run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen custard. Invert onto a tray, preferably a flat one with a raised edge to catch the syrup. (You may have to pound on the bottom of the pan a few times to loosen custard.) Serve chilled. Keep any leftovers refrigerated in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Please note that over time the flan will lose height. But over the course of a couple days the flavor will actually improve!
  6. Note: There is no standard for seamoss gel so texture may vary from brand to brand. If the seamoss gel you buy is runny and pourable, I recommend simmering it in a pan over low heat to reduce the water content before using in the recipe. Aim for a jam-like consistency.

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I am a self-trained vegan chef, pastry chef and baker. More recently, I founded Anita's Yogurt in Brooklyn, NY. Anita's Coconut Yogurt is now available from coast-to-coast and for nationwide delivery from our website. I still frequently bake desserts for my daughter and post recipe videos on instagram. Currently baking: Kombucha Muffins From Jerrelle Guy, Genius Nut and Seed bread from Sarah Britton.

1 Review

fionad283 August 15, 2022
Could you make this with agar agar instead?