Natillas is a traditional egg custard dessert from Spain. The custard is made by whisking hot milk into an egg and cornstarch mixture. The mixture is then cooked in a pot until it is thick. The flavorings are added at various stages. After cooking, the custard is chilled for several hours to be served cold, with a Maria biscuit on top.
A key step in making Natillas, is slowly pouring some of the hot milk into the egg mixture, while simultaneously mixing the eggs. This will gradually increase the temperature of the eggs, so that when they are added to the rest of the hot milk in the pan, the eggs will not curdle causing the custard to become ruined.
Typical flavorings used are cinnamon, vanilla and lemon. Maria biscuits, called Maria cookies in the US are a lightly sweet vanilla flavored biscuit which can be found almost everywhere but its particularly popular in Spain.
Natilla translates to custard in English. Every Spanish country has some version of Natilla. Though it’s compared to Spanish crema Catalana and flan, there are key differences. Flan is a type of custard with a slightly thin gelatinous texture which is accompanied by a caramel sauce. Spanish crema Catalana is a custard with a crispy sugary topping.
Origin & Cultural Significance
The origin of Natillas is unknown, except that it originated in Europe. The origin of custards in general is usually credited to the United Kingdom. Custards are a well loved dessert in Spain. Besides traditional Natilla also called Natilla de Leche, other popular custards are Flan, Crema Catalina and Mató de Pedralbes.
Spanish Natilla Recipe
- Whole Milk - 500 ml
- Sugar - 4 tbsp
- Cinnamon stick - 1
- Vanilla extract - 1 tbsp
- Egg yolks - 4
- Cornstarch - 1 tbsp
- Maria style cookies - 4
- In a pot over medium heat, add all of the milk, cinnamon stick, sugar, and vanilla extract.
- Bring the milk to a boil then turn off the heat.
- Let the milk rest for about 10 min.
- In the meantime, beat the egg yolks lightly and add the cornstarch a little at a time to avoid big lumps from forming.
- Mix until the mixture is smooth with no lumps.
- Remove the cinnamon stick from the milk.
- Take ¼ cup of the warm spiced milk and add it slowly to the egg yolk mixture.
- Beat slowly to temper the eggs.
- Reheat the remaining milk over low heat and add the tempered egg yolks.
- Stir constantly as the mixture thickens. When the mixture becomes a flan-like consistency take the pot off the heat.
- Pour the natilla into individual ramekins.
- Top with maria cookies.
- Chill the natilla in the fridge for at least 4 hours or best, overnight.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 347Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 197mgSodium: 157mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 1gSugar: 29gProtein: 8g