One of my favorite vegan plant based restaurants in LA, Gracias Madre, makes the most amazing egg-less foams for cocktails traditionally made with egg whites (like a pisco sour) and flans. No matter how stuffed I am, I order a flan for myself (and refuse to share it). I have been in a bit of a rut lately and haven’t been inspired to create as much, but we were invited to dinner party at our neighbors and I volunteered to bring dessert. It was a family style at home chill evening, but we knew they would step it up a notch because our neighbors are similar in nature to us. So I had to step up my dessert game. I finally decided it was time to try to create a plant based vegan flan at home that was not based in soy. I used a seaweed as my base. Yes you read that right, seaweed. And no it is not agar agar. Mixed it with some macadamia nuts, coconut fat and spices. Then let it set with a caramel sauce I made out of honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup. Inverted it. Topped it with zest of a lemon and touch of salt. O.M.G. Delicious. Silky. Creamy. Light. Flan. No eggs, no dairy, no refined sugars or soy.
I made another dessert with the seaweed known as Irish Moss. If you ever look on the back of a store bought food package, you may see an ingredient called carrageenan, that is used to thicken, gel or stabilize a product. Extracted as an isolated chemical, it may not be that good for you, especially in high quantities. Eaten in its raw pure form, a whole food product, it can have benefits while making your food gel like. Agar Agar is a type of algae that is often used to thicken foods, but the reason I chose Irish moss is that it is less processed and more of a whole food. You can learn more about it and its preparation in my previous post. Washing the Irish moss well is very important. The next step is rehydration over night. It can be stored in water in the fridge for a few days so prepare it in advance.
Drain the seaweed, chop it into pieces and blend with 2 cups of coconut cream in a high speed blender or food processor. Coconut cream is not coconut milk. Make sure it is not sweetened. You can find cans of coconut cream at Trader Joe’s and other groceries. I sometimes use Marion’s Kitchen coconut cream because it does not use a can or preservatives. I have used both the canned and non-can versions and they come out the same.
Blend it for about 5 minutes until is a smooth liquid.
Add the maple syrup, macadamia nuts, vanilla bean paste, turmeric and Himalayan salt and blend until smooth – another 3-5 minutes. The macadamia nuts provide additional fat and round out the taste. The turmeric provides a bit of color and health – as a spice that has shown numerous benefit against illness and for health, it is important in any diet. Along with adding a bit of the egg-like color, it also allows you to keep the flan for a longer time period. I find turmeric to be a great natural preservative as well as anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.
Once blended to a smooth liquid, set the mixture aside. The color may seem brighter at first but will not remain as bright yellow.
Begin the process of making the honey caramel. Place all the ingredients into a pot – coconut sugar, honey and maple syrup. It is important to remember that sugar is sugar no matter which way you isolate it, but coconut sugar is better than refined white sugar. It does not have coconut in it. It is made by a two step process that involves collecting sap from a flower of the coconut palm and heating it until the water evaporates. While the sugar has more nutrients and benefits, including a low glycemic index compared to white sugar it high fructose corn syrup, it is higher than most foods. So use it and eat it sparingly. It likely falls into the same boat as honey.
You want to watch this process closely so it does not burn or boil over. Over medium to low heat, let the sugar dissolve, stirring frequently. After a few minutes the mixture will start to foam up and bubble. Keep stirring and don’t let it boil. Reduce the heat as needed.
The liquid will settle down and become clear. Let it cool for a few minutes and stir in the coconut cream. You can also use full fat coconut milk.
I prepared individual flans in ramekins. You could use a muffin/cupcake tin – just beware the inversion of a full pan. Pour a small amount of the caramel in the ramekin.
Pour in the flan mixture just to the indent of the ramekin.
Tap down the ramekin once full to release any trapped air bubbles. Place the ramekins in the fridge for at least 2 hours. They can sit for up to one week. I find that they taste the best after some time in the fridge – one to two days. Once set, gently run a butter knife all along the edge of the ramekin to loosen the sides of the flan.
Place a plate over top the ramekin and flip both together holding tightly so the ramekin is inverted on the plate. Gently remove the ramekin allowing the flan to slip out and the caramel to drizzle along the side.
Garnish with the zest of a lemon and sprinkle Himalayan salt on top. The lemon zest cuts through the fat and sweetness. The salt balances the sweetness.
Serve and enjoy.
It holds together. Smooth, light, perfectly firm with a creamy texture.
Salted Honey Caramel Vegan Flan
- 1/4 cup Irish Moss
- 1 cup water + more for washing
- 2 cups or 13.5 oz can of coconut cream
- 3/4 cup maple syrup
- 3/4 cups macadamia nuts
- 6 Tbs vanilla bean paste
- 1/8 tsp turmeric
- 1/8 tsp Himalayan salt + extra for garnish
- 1/3 cup coconut sugar
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 Tbs maple syrup
- 1/4 cup coconut cream or full fat coconut milk
- zest of a lemon for garnish
Wash the Irish moss well, removing twigs and sediment. Wash well. Place in a container and completely cover with 1 cup of water, cover and place in the fridge for 8-24 hours. It will double in size.
Blend moss with coconut cream in a food processor or high speed blender until smooth – about 5 minutes. Add maple syrup, macademia nuts, vanilla bean paste, turmeric and 1/8 tsp himalayan salt and blend until smooth – about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Place coconut sugar, honey, and maple syrup into a small pot and place over medium to low heat, stirring to let the sugar dissolve to incorporate. Do not let it burn or boil over. Stir frequently. After a few minutes the mixture will start to foam up and bubble. Keep stirring and don’t let it boil. Reduce the heat as needed. The liquid will settle down and become clear. Let it cool for a few minutes and stir in the coconut cream or full fat coconut milk. The liquid should look clear.
Pour a small amount of caramel into the bottom of a ramekin or muffin tin. Pour in the flan mixture. Tap down the ramekin to remove air bubbles. Place in the fridge and let sit for 2-96 hours. Let it sit until it will be served.
Gently run a butter knife all along the edge of the ramekin to loosen the sides of the flan.Place a plate over top the ramekin and flip both together holding tightly so the ramekin is inverted on the plate. Gently remove the ramekin allowing the flan to slip out and the caramel to drizzle along the side. Garnish with the zest of a lemon and sprinkle Himalayan salt on top. Serve and enjoy.