No-Bake Zesty Lime Crème Brûlée

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Editor's Note: You may have had crème brûlée before, but this recipe for No-Bake Zesty Lime Crème Brûlée is on a different level! This no-bake dessert recipe has only five ingredients — really! — and will be the perfect end to any meal. You'll love how light and creamy the dessert is, and you'll really like having this easy no-bake dessert recipe up your sleeve on a hot day in the middle of summer. If this is your first attempt at making crème brûlée, then don't worry. The recipe's author has included tips for caramelizing the sugar and oven-drying the brown sugar following the recipe's instructions. 

This no-bake brûlée does not require egg yolks, as the cream is thickened with lime juice. It is wonderfully refreshing, and may be served in small tart shells instead of dishes.




Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Recipe CourseDessert

Five Ingredients or LessYes


  • 2¼ cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 6 tablespoons oven-dried brown sugar (see below) or confectioners’ sugar for topping


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream and granulated sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a gentle simmer. Cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest. Gradually stir in the lime juice.

  2. Place six standard-size flan dishes in a baking pan. Divide the custard mixture among the dishes. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

  3. When ready to serve, place the dishes on a baking sheet and evenly sprinkle 1 tablespoon brown or confectioners’ sugar over each custard. (If using confectioners’ sugar, use a small sieve to sprinkle the sugar.) Using a hand-held blowtorch, caramelize the sugar (see below).

Caramelizing the Sugar

Different sugars produce slightly different results when caramelized. Brown sugar tends to melt the quickest, in less than a minute. Superfine and regular granulated sugar melt to form a thin, solid disk. Confectioners’ sugar should be sifted or pressed through a sieve to make an even layer so it will brown evenly. Raw sugars are slower to melt than finer sugars, but produce a nice, even browning.

Oven-Dried Brown Sugar

Due to the moisture content of brown sugar, it is recommended to dry it before caramelizing. Spread light or dark brown sugar out on a baking sheet in a 1/8-inch layer and bake in a preheated 275 degrees F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until browned a shade darker. Let cool, place in a small resealable plastic bag, and crush it thoroughly with a rolling pin or flat metal mallet to make fine crystals. Brown sugar treated in this manner has an excellent flavor when caramelized.

The amount of sugar you use to caramelize the top can vary with personal taste and the diameter of the dish. If you use flan dishes, which have a wider diameter, 1 tablespoon of sugar is a good amount for each dish. With a 6-ounce or smaller ramekin, which has a 4-inch or less diameter, about 2 teaspoons of sugar will cover the surface nicely.

When caramelizing the sugar topping of dessert cremes brulees under a broiler, you may prefer to place the containers in a pan and fill the pan with cold water and ice to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. This keeps the containers from overheating, and you can serve the desserts immediately (rather than refrigerating them briefly to cool).


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