Brazilian Coconut Flan with Plum Sauce (Manjar Branco)
This Brazilian Coconut Flan is sponsored by La Lechera.
A classic Brazilian dessert, very popular during the holidays but easy enough to be enjoyed all year round! All you’ll need are a handful of ingredients and a little bit of patience to wait for the flan to set in the fridge overnight.
And in the blink of an eye, Christmas is all around us! My favorite time of the year.
Now that we have Rebecca, it’s not as easy to travel to another country for the holidays, so my parents and brother are coming here to spend her first Christmas with us!
I love Christmas time in the United States. Everywhere you go is like entering the North Pole, with the festive decoration and Christmas songs blasting nonstop. Plus the weather! Even with global warming, North American weather is way more Christmas-y than South American tropical summer!
But as much as I love all that, I just can’t help but feel a little nostalgic and miss spending the holidays down in Brazil. The big parties, our lame fake Christmas trees, the big turkey, Roberto Carlos’ concert on TV (always the same songs! 😂) and the desserts.
Oh, the desserts!
We call it “Manjar Branco” but it’s not to be mistaken for “Manjar Blanco” from Latin America and other Spanish-speaking countries, as their versions are very different from the Brazilian one.
Being the food nerd that I am, I did search for Manjar Branco’s history, but couldn’t find anything. Nobody quite knows how it became so popular in Brazil, but I do have a feeling it is a spinoff from the French Blancmange.
The more traditional recipe of Manjar Branco calls for milk, coconut milk, cornstarch and sugar. However, the modern version is made with sweet condensed milk and is much better, in my opinion.
Sweet condensed milk is a staple in Brazilian cuisine and I was happy to find my beloved brand – La Lechera – here in the US. You have no idea of how many of those cans I’ve opened in my life… Too many to count!
From Brigadeiro to Passion Fruit Mousse, almost all Brazilian desserts call for “Leite Moça” (which is how we call “La Lechera” in Portuguese).
In fact, if you open my pantry right now, chances are you will find a few of those guys in there. Cause you never know when my sweet tooth will demand some late night brigadeiro!
You can also serve this coconut flan with other sauces, like berries, passion fruit or even caramel and chocolate.
For the sake of authenticity, I’m sharing the traditional version, with a sauce made of prunes (dried plums). I chose to add a bit of wine to the sauce – which gives it almost a “mulled wine” after taste to it – but feel free to substitute that for water if you’d prefer!
You will also notice that my photos show the mini Manjar Brancos. You can do that – using mini bundt pans – or just use a big bundt pan and serve it the traditional way!
If you’re Brazilian and you’re reading this post, you are probably puzzled at the little mint I used to decorate the flan as it is not common. But I just couldn’t resist adding a pop of green to make it more “photographable”! No need to add it if you don’t care for aesthetics as it is not necessary for flavor.
Whatever you choose to do, I hope this makes your Christmas (or New Year’s Eve) table. If it brings you even a fraction of the joy I feel when I’m down in Brazil for Christmas, then my work here is done! ☺️
For the coconut flan:
- - 200ml (1 cup) coconut milk
- - 1/2 cup cornstarch
- - 1 can (14 ounces) sweet condensed milk
- - 1 liter (4 1/2 cups) whole milk
For the plum sauce:
- 14 ounces (2 cups) prunes (dried plums)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup red wine (substitute for water if desired)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Making the coconut flan:
- Combine the coconut milk and cornstarch in a large pot, whisking until the cornstarch is dissolved. Then, add the remaining ingredients and bring it to the stove, over medium low heat. Cook, stirring constantly (yeah, sorry!) until thickened and you start to see the bottom of the pan when you stir. That will probably take anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes!
- Run a bundt pan (or mini bundt pans for individual versions) under cold water, so it's wet when you pour the cream. That will help you release the flan later on.
- Transfer the cream to the wet pan and let it cool at room temperature. Then, refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
Making the plum sauce:
- Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over medium low heat until it reduces and thickens into syrup consistency, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool in the fridge.
Assembling the coconut flan:
- When ready to serve, turn the bundt pan into a serving platter to unmold the flan. You shouldn't have any problems if you wet your pan before pouring the cream, but you can run a butter knife along the edges to be safe.
- You can spoon some of the sauce over the flan or serve it white with the sauce on the side!