Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan Flan

I promised I would share with you the dessert we enjoyed at Balla last week.  Coming from the Umbria region of Italy is this gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan flan that uses simple ingredients, is easy to make and can be served with fresh fruit, custard, cream or ice cream (depending on what you are giving up for Lent).

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan Flan

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan Flan

I found this flan easy to make.  There’s no time-consuming nonsense of having to blind-bake pastry and there are no complex ingredients sending you to all corners of Sydney trying to source.

Italian Dessert

Italian Dessert

However, the recipe states this is best baked on a baking sheet but I think individual tart tins with a loose base would work a lot better.  This would allow for a shorter cooking time giving you the crispy finish without burning the sliced apples.

A great comforting flan

A great comforting flan

I made this flan in a 24cm (9 inch) loose bottomed tart tin but I think next time I will use individual 9cm (3.5 inch) tart tins.

No eggs, dairy or wheat

No eggs, dairy or wheat

This is a lovely dessert that’s seemingly suitable for everyone except those with a nut allergy.

Served here with whipped cream

Served here with whipped cream

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan Flan

Serves:  8-10

Degree of Difficulty: 3/5

Cost:  Long ago in Italy this was created as a peasant’s dessert for those short on luxury ingredients like butter, cream and eggs.  Making this today however isn’t as inexpensive as I imagine it was years ago with pine nuts, quality oil and liqueur now being outside of moderately priced essentials.

  • 1 ltr water
  • 350g fine polenta (not instant)
  • pinch of salt
  • 125g aniseed liqueur
  • 125ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 100g caster sugar plus extra
  • pinch of aniseed (ground)
  • 200g walnut kernels, chopped
  • 100g pine nuts
  • 100g raisins, chopped
  • 1 tbs grated lemon rind (about 1 or 2 lemons)
  • 1-2 apples, cored and thinly sliced

Pre-heat oven to 180C (375F)

Grease a 24cm loose b0ttomed tart tin with a little olive oil.  (Or 8 individual tart tins).

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring water to boil.  Add salt.  Whisk in the polenta then turn down to a very low simmer.  Whisk for about 20 minutes making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  Keep uncovered as it has to be thick.  Remove from the heat.

Add liqueur, oil, caster sugar and aniseed and mix until well combined.

Add nuts, raisins and lemon rind and stir until well combined.

Spread the mixture into the tin.  The mixture should be 2.5 – 3cms high.  Decorate with apple slices.  Sprinkle extra caster sugar over apples.

Bake in oven for around 25 minutes or until golden on top.

Remove and cool on a baking rack.

Serve with fresh fruit, ice cream, custard or cream.

Serve with cream, ice cream, custard or fresh fruit

Serve with cream, ice cream, custard or fresh fruit

This recipe has been adapted (slightly) from Gabriele Taddeucci’s Cornmeal, Fruit and Nut Flan.  Here is his version:

Cornmeal, Fruit and Nut Flan with Licorice Ice Cream

Served with licorice ice cream, creme anglaise and I think pistachios

There’s no doubt I could work on my presentation skills but see how he has made these individually – I think that’s  much better approach and the flan would be more crispy whereas my texture was a bit soft.

This recipe serves 8-10

This recipe serves 8-10

If you liked this post you are welcome to share it.


  1. Oh yum, I love anything with polenta in it! The flavors combined between the aniseed, apples, and Polenta must work perfectly! Hubby is not a huge fan ofanything cornmeal related, so I just drool over everyone’s recipes LOL! Beautiful, Hugs, Terra

  2. Charlie, this IS presumptuous! I try to give a number of gluten-free, vegan recipes of alternatives on my blog.I have never seen one as fancy as this! I have this one bookmarked for sure!

  3. What a lovely recipe Charlie, thank you for sharing. It’s one ill definitely mark in my calendar for our yearly visit to my brother’s cottage at Thanksgiving as he recently decided to go gluten free. Certainly not calorie reduced, but with all those incredible ingredients it looks like a small slice would do!

  4. seems so beautiful and delicious… you are amazing. Thank you dear Charlie, love, nia

  5. What a lovely look at the historical origin of a dessert though I have some problems equating it with the caramel based ‘flans’ that I’m more familiar with. It sounds more like a fruit tart to me. I’m sure it’s delicious regardless of what it’s called,however. 🙂

  6. Great! I’ve been looking for a recipe like this for a long time!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  7. Looks great Charlie! I like the cakes and tarts made with olive oil.


  8. Oh my heart I’m in love. Pistachios instead of walnuts, maybe rosewater instead of anise… though in truth your original recipe looks mega goooooood too. Yay Charlie!

  9. This would be very welcomed this fall when we start picking apples in the orchard.

  10. So pretty! And I’ll bet the texture is interesting with the polenta. I’ll have a slice, please.

  11. Looks lovely, Charlie! What a great recipe for folks on a limited diet!

  12. Not only is it pretty, but this dessert sounds so good–mainly because of the anis liqueur, which I love. Thanks for sharing, Charlie.

  13. This looks great. I’ve not seen polenta used in a dessert before. I’d be interested to see what type of texture it gives in this flan. Love the sliced apples on top – beautiful

  14. What a great gluten-free, dairy-free dessert!

  15. It certainly doesn’t look like it’s missing all those things. Looks wonderful! I bet this went down well with the teenagers and their eating regimes?

  16. Oh, how fantastic! Thank you for sharing this – I liked the sound of it before and I love the look of it now. I’ll have to give it a try 🙂

  17. Perfect – I see lots of these retro recipes are making a comeback – perfect for my GF family. I think I have some polenta in the cupboard…………………

  18. Wow, what a lovely flan and I think your presentation would make me quite pleased if I’d done it. 🙂

    Licorice ice cream is on my list to make. John says, “Ewww,” but I remember it as a child and loved it.

  19. Looks mouth watering! Love that it caters to so many allergies!

  20. Oh this does look just yummy Charlie, thanks so much for sharing! I will definitely be trying this out this week. I may have to swap out the liquor though- do you think walnut liquor would work? I just don’t have any anise flavored on hand. xox

    • Hi Rebecca, I didn’t have any aniseed liquor on hand either. We’re not exactly big spirit drinkers! But I went out and bought a bottle as I was sure that Archie would be delighted to finish off the rest of the contents. I’m not sure about the walnut liquor but you could give it a try. Maybe a limoncello would work?

  21. What a lovely Gluten Free recipe Charlie!
    Love apple and polenta combination and your flan looks lovely!
    Cheers! Joanne

  22. Wow that’s such a keeper-not only easy but gluten and dairy free too! 😀

  23. I love the addition of aniseed liqueur to pretty much every dessert recipe!

  24. I have some friends who are gluten free that would love this! It looks soo delicious

  25. Poor people with nut allergies! Oh well, all the more for us.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  26. I adore polenta in desserts, it gives such gorgeous texture. I’m with Hannah – I’m not a walnut girl and very much a pistachio girl, but love anise and liquorice. Yummmm!

  27. It looks delicious and a lovely healthy alternative to all that butter etc etc.


  28. Charlie, your adaptation is wonderful, individually baked or not. Begging your pardon, I have to join the “sub club” too — not a fan of anise flavor — was thinking Gran Marnier?

    • Hi Kim, the aniseed flavour isn’t over-powering in this dessert. If you don’t like it though you could try alternatives. I’m thinking because there’s lemon rind in the flan, you could use limoncello? I guess Grande Marnier would be fairly similar but I do find it very strong. You might need to experiment and there’s no harm in that xx

  29. What a great looking dessert and perfect for vegans. I so wish I could eat raisins – I have always loved them in desserts and baking like this. Life is tough.

  30. What a delightful dessert, Charlie. The only thing that concerns me is the idea that it will serve 8-10. Who are you kidding? It won’t need to serve that many at my house. 🙂

  31. Thanks for the recipe; I will definitely try this. I often find that gluten free recipes are loaded with sugar (which I don’t eat if I can help it), but this one looks reasonable.

  32. This is a wonderful Italian inspiration! I love the addition of the anise liquor. Don’t you feel so overindulged after a trip to Italy, al the gelato, pasta and other amazing treats. Great to get back on bit cleaner living schedule.

  33. Love the look of this recipe, going to try your suggestion and use limoncello (my favourite). Am absolutely inspired to make this tonight!! Thank-you for sharing !

  34. Polenta is a dessert…that’s interesting Charlie. I would love to taste that one.

  35. Looks and sounds amazing! And polenta, very interesting!

  36. This flan looks divine, Charlie! I can’t believe it’s gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan? Amazing 🙂

  37. I think that anise seed would be heavenly with those ingredients. So many people are searching for alternative recipes. I think Vegan would be the most challenging.. they can’t even eat honey for goodness sake. How can a girl get by without honey? Anyway, Vegan or not.. this looks devourable (is that a word, wordpress doesn’t think so)! xx

  38. Oo yum, I’ve never made this kind of dessert before, but I definitely feel like I should give it a go, it looks delicious!

  39. Sorry i haven’t been visiting lately Charlie 🙂 I have been overseas and spending time with family and friends ~ wow I didn’t know that this sort of flan was made in the days when butter, cream and eggs were more expensive, it looks lovely though and will love to make it for my intolerant friends soon! xox

  40. Love the addition of polenta and pine nuts! Looks fantastic, Charlie!

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