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Natilla - Colombian Christmas Custard


Natilla - Colombian Christmas Custard


Marian Blazes
Natilla is a rich, custard-like dessert that is enjoyed during Christmas in Colombia. It is traditionally served with round deep-fried cheese fritters called buñuelos. Natilla is similar to dulce de leche, but it is thickened with cornstarch, and made with panela, a dark molasses-like sugar that is a byproduct of sugarcane processing. Some recipes for natilla include shredded fresh coconut.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes


  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces panela, or 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 3-4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup frozen fresh shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)


  1. Pour the mik into a heavy-bottomed pot. Dissolve the cornstarch in the milk over low heat.

  2. Grate the panela and add to the milk mixture, or add the brown sugar to the milk mixture. Add the baking soda, cinnamon sticks, and salt.

  3. Heat the milk/sugar mixture over low heat, stirring, until it starts to thicken. Add the coconut (optional).

  4. Cook at barely a simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened. Stir constantly so that the corn starch doesn't clump, and the mixture doesn't burn.

  5. The mixture will get very thick and hard to stir, and turn a medium caramel brown. If you scrape a spatula along the bottom of the pot, you should be able to see the bottom for several seconds before the mixture closes in on itself.

  6. Remove from heat. Take out the cinnamon sticks and stir in the butter and vanilla (and nuts, if desired).

  7. Pour mixture into a greased 8 inch square pyrex pan, or in any greased mold. Let cool.

  8. Cut into 1-2 inch square pieces, sprinkle with cinnamon if desired, and serve.

Note: The corn starch has a strange taste until the natilla is thoroughly cooked.

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