Crème brûlée is normally associated with the ’80s and French restaurants, but this low-fuss version doesn’t take itself seriously as it gets cooked in the microwave. Though not as elegant as the classic fancy dessert, it’s still packed with vanilla flavor and finished off with a crackly caramel top.

Game plan: Do not put custards in the refrigerator immediately after broiling, because the caramel tops will liquefy. Also, the timing used in this recipe is based on our averages from multiple tests. Since each microwave and toaster oven operates differently, you may need to adjust the times slightly.

This recipe was featured as part of our dorm cooking story.

  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 25 mins 
  • Active: 15 mins 

Ingredients (5)

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 5 tablespoons for topping
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Hot water


  1. In a large microwaveable mixing bowl, microwave cream uncovered for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla extract in a separate large mixing bowl until well combined.
  2. Whisking constantly, pour heated cream in a thin stream down the side of the bowl of egg mixture. Once combined, divide custard among four 1/2-cup ramekins (or any ovenproof or microwaveable container, like a mug).
  3. Place custards in a shallow microwaveable dish, making sure they don’t touch one another. Pour hot water between the ramekins until it reaches two-thirds of the way up the sides. Microwave until center of custards is just set, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the microwave and let completely cool in the water. When cool, refrigerate covered for at least 1 hour.
  4. Once custards have rested, heat toaster oven to broil and, once heated, sprinkle about 4 teaspoons sugar on each custard. Place custards under broiler for about 5 minutes, or until the tops are caramelized and golden brown; watch carefully to avoid burning. Remove from oven and serve. (Alternatively, heat a conventional oven to high broil and arrange the rack in the upper third of the oven. Once the broiler is heated, sprinkle sugar on each custard and place under the broiler until tops are caramelized and golden brown, about 2 minutes; watch carefully to avoid burning.)