Canelés (also spelled cannelés), are a squat French pastry from Bordeaux with a distinctive architecture that comes from the beautiful copper molds they are baked in. The legend has it that they were invented by nuns as a way to use egg yolks left over from winemaking, as egg yolks were traditionally used to filter wine. The result is a crunchy, caramelized shell that gives way to a custardy interior. They are so steeped in local culture that Bordeaux long ago developed a guild of canauliers that lives on to this day.
While canelés are sweet and infused with vanilla and rum (and then often soaked in rum after baking), there is a lot of room to improvise by tweaking the recipe a bit to suit either sweet or savory tastes. Here are a few of our favorite canelé variations. (But this classic recipe from Serious Eats serves as an excellent foundation.) Note that if you don’t have canelé molds, you can make them in a muffin tin… they won’t look as cute, but they’ll taste just as delicious.
Parmesan and Pancetta Canelé
Food writer Nicola Lamb recently treated her Substack subscribers to a savory recipe for Parmesan and Pancetta Canelés. These would be delish for breakfast, or as part of an apéro paired with a glass of crémant.
TikToker Condiment Claire recently borrowed Nicola Lamb’s recipe for canelés and experimented with a Lillet Canelé in a three-part video series. As she points out, since canelés and Lillet are both from Bordeaux, it makes sense to put them together. Simply swap rum out for Lillet Blanc, and you’re on your way to something original and unexpected.
Lemongrass and Ginger Canelé
For a canelé that really plays with the sweet-savory seesaw, try this Lemongrass and Ginger Canelé recipe from Phil’s Home Kitchen, which keeps the rum while taking inspiration from Asian flavors like spicy ginger and citrusy lemongrass.
Grand Marnier Canelé
While rum is traditional for canelés, both in the batter and for soaking when they’re done, Grand Marnier is an excellent substitute, adding a note of orange. You can either go splitsies on the rum and Grand Marnier, or go all in on the latter, as in this recipe from Cook Your Feelings.
Pandan or Ube Canelé
When baking a non-alcoholic version of canelés, the absence of a strong rum flavor leaves room for more subtle ingredients to shine. Try one of these two recipes from What to Cook Today, which use coconut water and pandan, and coconut water and ube, for a sweet and earthy alternative.
Thyme Mushroom Canelé
Looking for an appetizer to serve at your next apéro? This recipe for Thyme Mushroom Canelés from Jules Cooking will make for an unexpectedly delicious snack.
When all else fails… make it chocolate. This recipe for Chocolate Canelés from La Cuisine de Bernard makes for an extra rich dessert with a chocolatey custard center.
Take inspiration from these canelés from pastry chef Hana Quon to embrace the grassy freshness of matcha in your canelés. You can use this recipe from French Girl Cuisine for canelés with matcha baked into the batter, or you can make a standard canelés and pipe it full of a matcha ganache.
Rosemary Goat Cheese Pastis Canelé
This one is a bit of a whopper. Incorporate fresh rosemary, tangy goat cheese, honey, and anise-flavored Pastis or absinthe to make this savory canelé recipe from Kachen.
Catherine Rickman is a writer and professional francophile who has lived in Paris, New York, and Berlin. She is currently somewhere in Brooklyn with a fork in one hand and a pen in the other, and you can follow her adventures on Instagram @catrickman.