Natilla (Creamy Egg Custard)


A direct descendant of the Spanish crema Catalana, natilla is a rich, creamy egg custard made without the crispy sugar topping. It's sweet, thick, comforting, and perfect for entertaining because it can be prepared ahead. Be careful when adding eggs to the warm milk mixture; if you combine them too quickly, you can wind up scrambling the eggs. To prevent that, add the milk mixture to the eggs very slowly in order to increase their temperature gradually.

Natilla: Creamy Custard
Photo: © Lucy Schaeffer
Total Time:
3 hrs 30 mins
6 servings


  • 4 cups whole milk

  • 1 (2-inch) strip of lemon zest

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

  • 8 large egg yolks

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • Ground cinnamon, for garnish


  1. In a large saucepan, combine milk with lemon zest, cinnamon stick, and salt. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat. Meanwhile, in a large heatproof bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat granulated sugar with egg yolks at medium speed until they are pale, about 4 minutes. Beat in cornstarch slurry. With mixer on low speed, gradually beat in half of the hot milk.

  2. Pour the egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining hot milk and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly for 18 minutes, until very thick. Whisk in the vanilla.

  3. Transfer custard to a large bowl and discard cinnamon stick and lemon zest. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto surface of custard and refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. Spoon custard into 6 bowls, sprinkle with ground cinnamon, and serve.

Make Ahead

The egg custard can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

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