Leite Creme – Portuguese Crème Brûlée

What makes traditional Portuguese cuisine so remarkable is its simplicity of ingredients, recipes, and techniques. Such simplicity combined with a certain conservatism, makes every dish so distinctively Portuguese. With ingredients and flavours that repeat themselves in what seems a deliberate way of reaffirmation of a country and its cuisine. This is mostly noticeable in Portugal’s sweet recipes, a world of golden pastries and egg custard infused with lemon peel and cinnamon. Leite-creme is a great example of such tradition and repetition of flavours. It’s almost like a fusion of pastel de nata and the French crème brûlée.

What’s the Difference Between Leite-Creme and Crème Brûlée?

The main difference between these two ‘cremes’ is the base of the custard, in the Portuguese Leite-Creme, full fat milk is used, while the French Crème Brûlée calls for heavy cream. The other main difference is in the flavours, the Portuguese custard is infused with lemon peel and cinnamon, the French with vanilla. The cooking technique is also very different, in Portugal it’s cooked on the stove until it thickens, a little corn starch is also added to help with the consistency. But a Crème Brûlée is cooked in a water bath in the oven. Both desserts have the classic burnt sugar on top, but in Portugal it’s also often consumed just with a dusting of cinnamon on top.

Leite Creme Infused Milk

Portuguese Leite Creme Recipe

For a traditional leite-creme you only need milk, sugar, egg yolks, corn starch, cinnamon and lemon peel. I like adding half a pod of vanilla to my custard, but that’s optional. You can also add orange peel, coffee, chocolate, or infuse it with other spices of your taste. It’s simply the perfect sweet treat, really easy to make, and in my opinion even better than its French counterpart!

Leite Creme Custard

How to Make Portuguese Leite-Creme

 Serves: 6

Calories per Portion: 386

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes + refrigerating


  • 500ml full fat milk
  • 100g sugar + more to sprinkle on top
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 20g corn starch
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Peels of half a lemon
  • ½ vanilla pod


  1. Start by pouring the milk into a milk pan, add the cinnamon, lemon peel and the scraped seeds, and pod of the vanilla. Bring it to a simmer, then remove from the heat, cover with a lid. Let it cool for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the egg yolks, sugar, and corn starch to a large bowl, whisk to combine.
  3. Once the infused milk is cooler but still slightly warm, pour a little bit of it into the egg and sugar mixture to temper it, stir well. Pour it into the remaining infused milk.
  4. Cook the custard over low heat, stirring constantly. Once it starts to thicken and the foam that was sitting on top of it disappears, continue to cook for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.
  5. Divide the hot custard into 6 ramekins, cover each portion with cling film. Refrigerate for about 4 hours before serving.
  6. When it’s time to serve, pour a thin layer of granulated sugar on top then caramelize it with a kitchen blow torch.
Portuguese Creme Brulee

 Have you tried this recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Leave a Comment