Natilla (Creamy Egg Custard)


This rich, creamy egg custard can be made ahead of time, making it perfect for entertaining.

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

A direct descendant of the Spanish crema Catalana, this natilla recipe from Cuban food expert Lourdes Castro 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 from happening, add the milk mixture to the eggs very slowly, so you increase their temperature gradually.


  • 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. Combine milk with lemon zest, cinnamon stick, and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, then remove from heat.

  2. Meanwhile, in a large heatproof bowl, using an 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.

  3. Pour egg and milk mixture back into saucepan with remaining hot milk and cook custard over medium-low heat, whisking constantly for 10 to 12 minutes, until very thick. Whisk in vanilla.

  4. Strain custard through a wire mesh strainer into a large bowl and discard cinnamon stick and lemon zest. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto surface of custard and refrigerate at least 8 hours. Spoon custard into 6 bowls, sprinkle with ground cinnamon, and serve.

Make Ahead

The natilla can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

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