Crème brulee is a custard named for the burnt sugar layer on top that cracks and crunches satisfyingly as you push in your spoon. Most of us see crème brulee on the menus of fancy restaurants and assume it must fall in the domain of trained expert chefs. Be intimidated no more! It so happens that crème brulee is a dessert of few ingredients—cream, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. This simple recipe skips all the oven steps (which include a water bath) and does it all on the stovetop. It has a little more tooth (denseness) than oven-cooked crème brulees, but if anyone asks, you can say the stovetop version is the original way to make this classic, elegant dessert.

My favorite heavy cream is sold at Trader Joe’s in the plastic bottle – it’s thick, rich, and doesn’t have any extra additives like many brands sold in grocery chains. Make sure you use a quality pure heavy cream.

The featured photo shows the steps in making the burnt sugar crust. Start with the cold custard, top with sugar, and use a torch to melt it quickly without heating up the custard. For best results, create the burnt sugar crust in two phases: melt the sugar partway so that it bubbles up, wait one minute, then torch it a second time to melt sugar the rest of the way.

This easy yet elegant recipe is from our Trader Joe’s cookbook, “The 5 Ingredient Cookbook.”

Stovetop Creme Brûlée 


  • 2 cups (16 fl oz) heavy cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar plus extra sugar for the top
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Heat cream in a saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. Pour in hot cream, a little at a time, while whisking. Pour mixture back into saucepan and whisk over medium-low heat until thickened, about 6-7 minutes. Lower heat if mixture begins to bubble.
  3. Divide mixture among 6 ramekins and chill in fridge for 3 hours (or until the next day).
  4. To make the burnt sugar crust, evenly sprinkle each custard with about 2 tsp sugar and use a blowtorch or kitchen torch to melt it until the sugar looks glossy. Let it rest 5 minutes before serving so that the rim can cool.

Prep and cooking time: about 15 minutes (not including time to chill or to torch the crust)

Serves 6

Nutrition Snapshot

Per serving: 339 calories, 35 g fat, 17 g saturated fat, 2 g protein, 9 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 32 mg sodium