How Do You Cook Natilla? (Ultimate Guide)

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This creamy, rich dessert is simple, delicious and perfect for bringing a little Spanish flare to the dinner table.

How Do You Cook Natilla? (Ultimate Guide)

While this is traditionally a Spanish dessert, hundreds of other cultures have created their own versions.

From Puerto Rico to Columbia, you find a range of different recipes telling you slightly different ways to make Natilla. 

In this article we explain the traditional way to cook and serve Natilla.

Showing you what makes Natilla so special to Colombian culture. You will be able to create your own Natilla in no time!

What Is Natilla?

The Spanish version, Natillas, is suspected to be the original version of this dish.

Made of lemon, milk, egg yolks, cinnamon and lemon, Spanish Natillas are fresh and creamy. Resembling a custard with a hard top. 

While the Colombian Natilla is similar to the Spanish dessert, there are a few key differences.

Natilla includes the use of brown sugar or panela.

It is also thickened with cornstarch making it into a thicker, jelly-like consistency that can be sliced  with a knife. 

You can also make Natilla into a range of flavors including chocolate. 

Traditionally, Natilla is served throughout the Christmas season throughout Colombia.

It is prepared on the street as a community to ensure everyone is served a piece of this delicious, comforting dessert. 

How To Make Natilla At Home 

Looking to bring some of your Colombian heritage into your home or wanting to introduce the flavors of different cultures?

Natilla is a simple dish to create that is sure to keep a smile on everyone’s face.

Unless they are lactose intolerant. You may want to experiment with some non-cow’s milk recipes. 

What You Will Need 

  • 8 ounces panela, or 1 cup of light or dark brown sugar plus 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 3 to 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cups whole milk 
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup cornstarch 
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean 
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts and/ or ½ cup raisins. 

Steps To Make Natilla 

  1. Gather all of your ingredients into separate containers and keep them within arms reach. 
  2. Begin by placing your cornstarch into a small bowl and slowly mix in 1 cup of whole milk. Add more milk until the cornstarch mixture is smooth. 
  3. Pour the remaining whole milk into a large saucepan. When the Natilla is fully cooked, the flavor of the cornstarch is no longer discernible.
  4. Grate your panela and add to the milk in the saucepan. Or the brown sugar and molasses depending on what you used. 
  5. Once the panela or brown sugar and molasses have dissolved, add the baking soda, cinnamon sticks, and salt. Ensure to mix well. 
  6. Slowly heat the mixture over a medium -low heat. Continue stirring and bring the mixture to a boil. Take out the cinnamon sticks. 
  7. Begin to slowly whisk in your cornstarch and milk mixture. Continue cooking and stir constantly. Once your mixture begins to thicken, stir in the coconut. 
  8. Cook the mixture for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until it has thickened to the point where you can see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds. To prevent the cornstarch from clumping and the mixture from burning, stir the mixture constantly.
  9. If using, add your raising and nuts, removing the saucepan from the heat. 
  10. Stir in your butter and vanilla. 
  11. Pour your mixture into a greased square mold and refrigerate until firm. Generally 2-4 hours. 
  12. To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into small squares. 

You have now prepared your Natilla for everyone to enjoy.

You can keep your delicious creation in the refrigerator and take it to a friend’s house as a gift throughout the holidays.

How Do You Cook Natilla? (Ultimate Guide)

Natilla is traditionally served with bunuelos, a deep fried cheese fritter.

These are also made at home with the family, however, you can now find these in many Colombian grocery stores. 

This dessert is simple yet delicious, it is sure to make its way into your own Christmas traditions. 

Make Chocolate Natilla

In order to make the chocolate flavored version of Natilla you will require the same ingredients as before along with 6 ounces of cacao chocolate, 4 egg yolks,  and 2 tablespoons of rum. 

  1. Begin by creating your cornstarch and milk mixture in a saucepan on a medium heat. Once boiling, reduce to a low heat and occasionally stir. Use ¾ of your cornstarch leaving the rest for later. 
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in your chopped chocolate and vanilla. Allow the chocolate to melt. 
  3. Pour 1 ¾ cup whole milk into a saucepan and heat to a boil. Remove from the heat. 
  4. Whisk the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup milk in a medium bowl. Cornstarch should be sifted in and whisked into the mixture until smooth. Whisk heated milk gradually.
  5. Return your mixture to the heat and continuously whisk until it begins to boil and is thick and smooth. 
  6. Whisk in the rest of your  milk with your melted chocolate and add your rum. 
  7. Strain your mixture into a bowl, or 8 dessert cups, cover, and refrigerate. 

Slice your firm chocolate flavored Natilla and dust with cinnamon or powdered sugar to then serve.

This dessert goes down best with little ones who prefer a sweeter taste. 

If you happen to prepare both traditional and chocolate Natilla, you can easily layer each mixture to ensure everyone is graced with the flavors of both. 

Bored of chocolate? Why not try different flavors? Add the zest and juice of a lemon to incorporate or a more Spanish touch.

You may often find that many Colombians use condensed milk for a sweeter taste than regular whole milk. It also takes less time to set in the fridge. 

When To Serve Natilla 

Throughout Colombia, Natilla is traditionally served after the main meal as a dessert during the Christmas season.

Due to its nature, you can easily make Natilla in large batches, perfect for serving family and friends. 

Now, however, Natilla is loved throughout the year as a comforting, sweet dessert that can be made in less than 30 minutes. Before setting in the fridge that is. 

You can easily find servings of Natilla in the grocery store and all you have to do is present and serve.

But we promise it is worth the effort to make at home. 

Final Thoughts 

Looking for a simple dessert to blow your loved ones away this Christmas?

Why not try your hand at making traditional Colombian Natilla. 

Similar to flan, this creamy, smooth dessert is full of sweet flavors that will have even the pickiest of eaters wanting more. 

Make sure to serve with bunuelos to ensure everyone gets that delicious crunchy, cheesy bite. 

Not much of a baker? Keep an eye out for pre-made Natilla in your local grocery store.

Although, you may have to do a bit of digging to find it in American stores. 

So, impress your family and try out new flavors with your own Natilla!