How to Make Natillas: A Traditional Spanish Dessert


Natillas is a delicious and creamy dessert that has been enjoyed in Spain for centuries. This traditional dessert is made with simple ingredients like milk, eggs, sugar, and cinnamon, but the result is a rich and flavorful treat that is sure to impress your friends and family. In this article, we will explore the history of natillas, the ingredients and steps involved in making it, and some tips and variations to enhance your natillas-making experience.

The History of Natillas

Natillas has a long history in Spanish cuisine, dating back to the Middle Ages. The word “natillas” comes from the Latin word “nata,” which means cream. Originally, natillas were made with almond milk, honey, and spices, and were often served as a remedy for digestive problems. Over time, the recipe evolved to include ingredients like eggs and sugar, resulting in the creamy dessert we know today.

The Ingredients

To make natillas, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 4 cups of milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of cornstarch
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • A pinch of salt
  • Ground cinnamon for garnish

The Steps

Now that we have gathered our ingredients, let’s dive into the steps involved in making natillas:

  1. In a saucepan, heat the milk and cinnamon stick over medium heat until it starts to simmer. This will infuse the milk with the flavor of cinnamon.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until well combined.
  3. Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.
  4. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens to a custard-like consistency. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Once the natillas have thickened, remove them from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick.
  6. Transfer the natillas to individual serving dishes or a large bowl, and let them cool to room temperature.
  7. Once cooled, refrigerate the natillas for at least 2 hours, or until they are chilled and set.
  8. Before serving, sprinkle ground cinnamon on top for garnish.

Tips and Variations

While the basic recipe for natillas is delicious on its own, there are several ways to enhance the flavor and presentation of this traditional Spanish dessert. Here are some tips and variations to consider:

  • For a richer flavor, substitute some of the milk with heavy cream.
  • Add a splash of vanilla extract or a sprinkle of lemon zest to the mixture for an extra layer of flavor.
  • Instead of ground cinnamon, you can also garnish the natillas with fresh berries or a drizzle of caramel sauce.
  • If you prefer a thicker consistency, increase the amount of cornstarch in the recipe.
  • For a dairy-free version, you can use almond milk or coconut milk instead of regular milk.


1. Can I use whole eggs instead of just egg yolks?

While using whole eggs is possible, using only egg yolks will result in a smoother and creamier texture for your natillas. The yolks contain more fat, which contributes to the richness of the dessert.

2. Can I make natillas in advance?

Absolutely! Natillas can be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them. Just make sure to cover them with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface.

3. Can I freeze natillas?

While it is possible to freeze natillas, the texture may change slightly upon thawing. The custard may become slightly grainy or separate. It is best to enjoy natillas fresh for the best taste and texture.

4. Can I use a different spice instead of cinnamon?

While cinnamon is the traditional spice used in natillas, you can experiment with other spices like nutmeg or cardamom for a unique twist on the classic recipe. Just remember to use them sparingly, as they can easily overpower the delicate flavors of the dessert.

5. Can I serve natillas with other desserts?

Absolutely! Natillas can be enjoyed on their own or served as a topping for other desserts like cakes or pies. The creamy texture and subtle sweetness of natillas complement a wide range of desserts, making them a versatile addition to any sweet treat.


Natillas is a traditional Spanish dessert that has stood the test of time. With its creamy texture and delicate flavors, it is no wonder that natillas continues to be a favorite among dessert lovers. By following the simple steps outlined in this article, you can recreate this classic dessert in your own kitchen. Whether you enjoy it on its own or as a topping for other desserts, natillas is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth and impress your guests.



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