The first known recipe for crema catalana appears in the Catalan cookbooks Llibre de Sent Soví (14th century) and Llibre del Coch (16th century). The first of these was published three centuries before recipes for the French crème brûlée. The recipe included a custard cream, over which sugar was poured and subsequently burnt with a hot iron rod, creating the characteristic burnt crust. Some differences between the crema catalana and crème brûlée include the cooking method and subsequent consistency; the French give aroma with cream and vanilla, while the Catalan do so with milk, cinnamon and lemon zest.
Analogous recipes appear in 17th century Spanish cookery books, usually under the name of Cream of Saint Joseph ("Crema de san José"), since it was a traditional dessert served during Saint Joseph's Day, although nowadays it is consumed at all times of the year. The recipe was referred to as crema catalana (Catalan cream) for the first time by the Spanish friar Juan de Altamiras in his 1745 cookbook, where the recipe was said to be of Catalan origin. However, there are claims that Altamiras got his recipe during his stay in the Portuguese city of Monsaraz, Alentejo in his youth. The burnt sugar topping is documented in 1770.
- Colman Andrews (3 December 2005). Catalan Cuisine, Revised Edition: Vivid Flavors From Spain's Mediterranean Coast. Harvard Common Press. pp. 247–. ISBN 978-1-55832-329-2.
- 'Llibre de Sent Soví. Llibre de totes maneres de potatges de menjar', a cura de Rudolf Grewe. Edició revisada per Amadeu J. Soberanas i Joan Santanach. 'Llibre de totes maneres de confits', edició crítica de Joan Santanach i Suñol. Barcelona, Barcino (Els nostres clàssics, B 22) / Lluís Cifuentes i Comamala
- El convit del Tirant, Jaume Fàbrega, Pages Editors, 2007. ISBN 978-84-9779-520-3
- Richard Sax (9 November 2010). Classic Home Desserts: A Treasury of Heirloom and Contemporary Recipes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 149–. ISBN 0-547-50480-2.
- Roden, Claudia (2012-03-24). "Burnt cream - Crema cremada". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-10-14.
- Nuevo arte de la cocina española. Ariel. 1 October 2017. p. 493. ISBN 978-84-344-2530-9.