Ignite | Fall 2022

Flan With a Filipino Twist


Flan on a plate.Sophia Santos has fond memories of family gatherings as a child. The second-year student in the NEOMED College of Pharmacy enjoyed seeing relatives and friends, of course. But maybe more than that, special occasions meant her mother would be making leche flan, a traditional Filipino version of the custardy dessert.

“My mom would get so mad at me when I was a kid because we go these Filipino get-togethers and she would make three or four of these standard-sized molds for like a whole party. And I would take like half of them. She’d say ‘you just can't do that. You have to share,’” she recalled.

Santos and her mother, Cora, visited the NEW Center catering kitchen to share the family’s flan recipe with Ignite.

They explained how the traditional Spanish dessert found its way to the south Pacific.

“The Philippines has a multitude of different cultures all mixed together. So most of the influence that we have was from Spain and Japan and China, but mostly Spain. That had the most influence on our language, on food and fashion,” Sophia noted.

While versions of flan can be found in many countries with Hispanic or Latino heritage, the Filipino version is different from most others. “The Philippines has a different kind of a twist on our end, it [flan] has a different texture. It's different from Cuba, from Puerto Rico, from Spain,” Mrs. Santos said.

The difference is in the eggs. Most flan recipes call for whole eggs. The Filipino version uses the yolks only, creating a richer texture.

Two women standing in a kitchen.

Sophia Santos, a second-year pharmacy student (right), with her mother, Cora.

The dessert is steamed in special molds called llaneras. Mrs. Santos brought a small part of her collection of the molds to cook the leche flan.


Santos had heard about NEOMED from family friends who attended. She originally planned to pursue a Doctor of Medicine degree. She took all the biology and pre-med courses she could as an undergraduate at the University of Akron, which she attended while serving in the Army National Guard.

“Then I worked at a pharmacy when I was in college, and I realized I really did love pharmacy,” she said.

She quickly became active at NEOMED, is a member of the student curriculum council and was selected by her peers to be a Student Coater at the White Coat Ceremony for the College of Pharmacy Class of 2026.

A woman and her daughter making flan in a kitchen.

She was also happy to share her Filipino culture – and leche flan – during the University’s Multicultural Festival.



The use of egg yolks, rather than whole eggs, makes the Filipino leche flan richer than most flan from other cultures.

Makes about 20 servings


10 eggs yolks

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

1 can of evaporated milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

White sugar


Coat the bottom of two medium-sized llanera leche flan molds with sugar. Place over low heat and stir until sugar melts and turns golden brown. (“If the sugar burns it gets bitter,” cautions Cora.) Set aside to cool and harden.

Note: if you don’t have a llanera, melt sugar in a saucepan, continuously stirring until golden brown. Immediately pour into ramekins or a flat cake pan to cover the bottom. Set aside to cool and harden.

Fill the bottom of a stove-top steamer with water (make sure water does not touch the bottom of the steamer insert) and place over high heat to boil.

While water is heating up, separate 10 eggs, placing the yolks in a large mixing bowl. Save the eggs whites for other recipes.

Lightly beat egg yolks with a whisk.

Add sweetened condensed milk and mix thoroughly.

Add evaporated milk and mix thoroughly.

Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Strain mixture through a fine sieve to ensure a silky texture.

Pour strained mixture into llaneras, making sure it is evenly distributed.

Place llaneras into steamer insert, cover and reduce heat to medium. Steam leche flan for about 30 minutes or until firm. An inserted toothpick or skewer should come out clean.

Remove llaneras from heat and allow to cool. Run a knife along the edge of the leche flan to loosen it. Invert a serving plate on top of the llanera and turn the leche flan out onto the plate. If any caramelized sugar remains in the bottom of the pan, drizzle it on top of the leche flan.

Let cool completely, and cut into bite-sized portions to serve.