Pumpkin Crème Brûlée is a deceptively simple dessert that’s elegant enough for any holiday celebration. Velvety pumpkin custard topped with a classic, crackly caramel crust adds finesse to any meal!

If you love classic holiday desserts like Pumpkin Pie and Gingerbread Cake you are going to fall head over heels for this pumpkin creme brulee.

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Pumpkin Crème Brûlée with spoonful along the side and the top cracked open

What Is Creme Brulee?

The French word crème brûlée translates to “burnt cream” in the King’s English. Still sound yummy? Luckily for us, this centuries-old dessert classic didn’t taste like burnt creme to the culinary critics of old! 

Creme brulee is a delicate custard topped with a crackly caramelized sugar crust. Texturally the thin crust is the perfect foil to the silky creme bottom. After all, I’m not sure how many people would get excited if you say you’re serving “burnt cream,” but mention creme brulee, and no one’s late for dinner!

four servings of Pumpkin Crème Brûlée with whipped cream on top

Why You’ll L-O-V-E Making (& eating) Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Even if this is your first time making a no-torch creme brulee, you will love it! It’s hard to find a good cook who hasn’t had a “fail” or two when trying out a new recipe, but it certainly isn’t going to this one! It’s all about tempering your custard, and I’ll explain that below. So, “buckle up, buttercup,” you and the special people who share your pumpkin brulee will be coming up roses!

  • We love this easy pumpkin creme brulee recipe because it makes any occasion special when you serve this decadently delectable brulee. 
  • This uniquely flavored pumpkin creme brulee stars brown sugar for its crackly, crispy crust.
  • Making creme brulee ahead 1 – 2 days can take the stress off a time-packed schedule.
  • Pumpkin brulee has that particular “oomph,” caramelly toffee goodness from your secret weapon, molasses. Oh, yeah!
  • Pumpkin Crème Brûlée is a simple dessert that’s elegant enough for any holiday or guests.
  • And, of course, the biggest reason my pumpkin creme brulee is a hit? You don’t need to buy anything extra; no-torch creme brulee, yahoo!
ingredients for Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

Ingredients For Easy Pumpkin Creme Brulee

No fancy equipment is needed to create a fancy brulee dessert: medium saucepan, whisk, mixing bowl, 8 ounce ramekins, baking dish with sides.

  • Heavy Whipping Cream – is the key component of the luscious and silky mouthfeel of a brulee custard.
  • Half And Half – offsets some of the richness and fat in a brulee recipe instead of using heavy whipping cream only.
  • Solid-Pack Pumpkin – pure pumpkin puree only! Check the label because pumpkin pie filling is already spiced and highly sweetened.   
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice and Salt – I have an easy pumpkin spice mix recipe if you don’t have a bottle on hand.
  • Egg Yolks – separate the whites from large eggs. Allow them to fully warm to room temperature to assist in the tempering process. 
  • Molasses – is the secret ingredient that really sets this pumpkin crème brûlée apart. Light molasses gives the crème brûlée an essence of gingerbread, making them freaking delicious! Light molasses is preferred over dark molasses for this pumpkin brulee recipe. It’s lighter in color, sweeter in taste, and has fewer bitter notes than dark. Either can be used. 
  • Brown Sugar – should also be light. Dark brown sugar will have more moisture which doesn’t like to crystalize as easily. 
  • Whip Cream (Optional) – Who doesn’t like a little whipped cream on top?
  • Cinnamon (Optional Garnish) Creme brulee looks professional with that little pinch of aromatic coloring artfully sprinkled.
  • *You will need HOT water for the baking process, not as an added ingredient
how to make Pumpkin Crème Brûlée photo collage

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How To Make Pumpkin Creme Brulee Without A Torch

First things first, separate 5 egg yolks and allow them to warm to room temperature before you set up the rest of your brulee ingredients. While you’re at it, you might as well use the egg whites to whip up a few Lemon Meringue Martinis.

(full printable recipe at the end of this post)

Part I Creating the Custard: Pumpkin Creme

  1. Heat cream, half and half, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice and salt to a low simmer.
  2. Whisk molasses and egg yolks together in a large bowl, then temper* the eggs with ~ ½ cup of the heated cream mixture. Slowly add the remaining heated cream to the egg molasses mixture.
  3. Put prepared ramekins into a deep baking dish and fill ramekins with the custard. fill the dish with hot water until the water level is halfway up the side of the brulee ramekins.
  4. Bake until the pumpkin brulee is set.
  5. Allow pumpkin creme brulee to cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then remove and refrigerate.

Part II Creating the Crackle: No-Torch Brulee

  1. After at least 3 hours or overnight, remove thoroughly chilled and set pumpkin brulee from the fridge.
  2. Sprinkle brown sugar over each brulee custard and place them on a baking sheet.
  3. Broil 4-inches from heat until sugar begins to bubble and melt. 
  4. Cool for 2 minutes, and serve pumpkin creme brulee with a dollop of whip cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
3 servings of Crème Brûlée with pumpkins around

Chef’s Tip:  How To Temper The Yolks For Perfect Pumpkin Creme Brulee.

“Tempering” sounds way more intimidating than, “hey, don’t add the hot stuff to the cold stuff too fast!” Not helping? It really is that simple. Ok, here’s a better breakdown so even first-timers can’t fail, chillax.

I’ve seen professional chefs whisk in ½ a cup of the hot liquid into the molasses and egg mixture to start the tempering process. But until I did it a couple of times and got a feel for making creme brulee, I began with ¼ cup. It’s important to whisk while adding the cream mixture to the egg. Repeat this process a couple of times to slowly raise the temperature of the egg mixture, then incorporate the rest. Viola! No scrambled eggs!

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée in a white ramekin

Pumpkin Creme Brulee Recipe Notes/Tips

Here are some notes to help you make the best pumpkin brulee without the stress of using a torch

  • Creme brulee is not a recipe you want to substitute heavy (whipping) cream. Its butterfat content of >36% makes all the difference in the texture and set of the custard.
  • Make sure to use pure pumpkin NOT Pumpkin pie filling. The latter already has sugar and spices added.
  • The best, most foolproof way to get a smooth and perfectly flavored creme brulee is to avoid “scrambling” the eggs when you add the hot cream by tempering.
  • You can freeze the egg whites in an ice cube tray and transfer them to a freezer bag.
  • Before you ask, “do you have to use a water bath when making creme brulee,” the answer is yes. You need the humidity to help set up the custard, just like my Brownie Bottom Cherry Cheesecake!. See FAQs for “why.”
  • For the best results, pumpkin creme brulee should be between 1 and 2 inches thick for a perfect custard ratio to caramel crust.
  • Try putting the baking pan with the brulee ramekins in the oven first. THEN, carefully pour hot water into the corner of the pan using a kettle, pitcher, or pourable glass measuring cup! 
  • Be sure to allow plenty of time for the pumpkin creme to set up in the fridge. Some chefs actually prefer to make a creme brulee day ahead and allow it to set overnight. 
  • Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap (don’t allow it to touch the surface of the custard) if you leave the pumpkin brulee in the refrigerator overnight or after the 3-4 hour mark.
  • Creme brulee crusts will remain at peak crunchiness for up to an hour. After that, the moisture starts to melt and absorb the sugar.
spoonful of Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

How To Store Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Crème brûlée doesn’t keep well leftover because you lose the crunchy top…..but that hasn’t stopped me! 

If I have one left over, I just keep it in the fridge and enjoy it the next day.  The top isn’t crunchy, but all the flavors are still there.  I wouldn’t serve it this way to guests…..but I’m sure not going to let it go to waste!  #justsayin’

Chef’s Tip: If you don’t need all the pumpkin brulee ramekins, only caramelize the ones you will serve, and leave the rest covered tightly in the fridge.

3 servings of Pumpkin Crème Brûlée with gold spoons

Creme Brulee FAQs

Is there a difference between heavy cream and heavy whipping cream?

Nope, just the label depending on the brand. In the U.S., the standard for “heavy” cream is 36% minimum butterfat. For pumpkin creme brulee, you want to stick with the heavy stuff.

What should the texture of creme brulee be?

Crème brûlée should end up as a soft-set custard, like the texture of Greek yogurt. It is not like flan, which is a firm-set custard. The texture can vary widely based on the cream you use and any other ingredient you might add, like pumpkin, in this case.

Why do you need to use a water bath for creme brulee?

The beauty of the water bath is it insulates the brulee custard, so the edges don’t cook too fast, and the humidity keeps the top from setting quickly and cracking.

What is the best size of ramekins for creme brulee?

The ideal ramekin size for this creme brulee recipe is 8 ounces. The ramekins I use are almost 4 inches in diameter and are 1.9 inches deep. Other sizes can also be used. Cooking time is determined by the depth of the liquid.

Crème Brûlée with a bowl of whipped cream

What Can I Make With Extra Egg Whites

In my world, pumpkin creme brulee is a perfect dessert for any holiday gathering…….or just a Tuesday night. 😉 You have likely noticed this brulee recipe uses five egg yolks, I want you to know I’ve solved the age-old dilemma of what to do with egg whites that isn’t making an omelet!

I’ve gathered some delicious recipes that happily welcome those extra egg whites you’re going to have left: Oven Fried Pickles, Tiramisu Brownies, or Ultimate Coconut Cake. Take a load off and enjoy one of these creamy, dreamy adult beverages, Lemon Meringue Martini or Cran Cherry Whiskey Sour Cocktail both cocktails include egg whites!

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serving of Crème Brûlée with whipped cream

Originally posted in December 2011. UPDATED November 2022. We spiffed up this post with more info and photos.

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée in a white ramekin

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

Yield: 4 (1 cup) servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Pumpkin Crème Brûlée is a deceptively simple dessert that's elegant enough for any holiday celebration.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • whip cream (optional)
  • cinnamon (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F, and spray 4 (1-cup) ramekins with cooking spray.
  2. Using a medium saucepan, heat cream, half and half, pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice on medium-high heat, bring to a low simmer .
  3. Whisk molasses and egg yolks together in a large bowl, and add the heated cream to the egg molasses mixture.
  4. Place ramekins in deep baking pan. Pour custard mixture into prepared ramekins.
  5. Pour hot water into baking pan until it's half way up ramekins, being careful not to get any inside on the custard. Carefully place pan in oven.
  6. Bake 45-55 minutes or until set. Cool in pan 30 minutes. Remove ramekins from pan and refrigerate a least 3 hours or overnight.
  7. Just before serving, preheat broiler and move rack to top position. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of brown sugar over each custard. Place ramekins on baking sheet and broil 4-inches from heat for 1-5 minutes until sugar begins to bubble and melt.
  8. Cool for 2 minutes and serve with a dollop of whip cream and garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 557Total Fat: 35gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 368mgSodium: 295mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 1gSugar: 47gProtein: 12g
Pumpkin Crème Brûlée with whipped cream