Dulce de Leche Recipe

dulce de leche

The Spruce / Laurel Randolph

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 90 mins
Total: 95 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 1 1/4 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
215 Calories
6g Fat
36g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 215
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 7%
Saturated Fat 4g 18%
Cholesterol 23mg 8%
Sodium 85mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 36g 13%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 36g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 2mg 9%
Calcium 190mg 15%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 248mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Dulce de leche (also known as doce de leite, manjar, arequipe, and caramelized milk) is widely adored throughout Latin America. It's​ a thick, golden sauce that adds rich sweetness to everything it touches. While it might remind you of caramel, it's made differently. Traditional dulce de leche is made by slowly reducing milk and sugar together to create a creamy, dark sauce. Caramel is made by cooking sugar until it browns; sometimes dairy is added, although it's not required.

This recipe is a bit of a shortcut. Instead of using fresh milk and sugar, you only need one magical ingredient: sweetened condensed milk. It's cheaper and more delicious than using store-bought dulce de leche, and you can customize the flavor to your liking. The sweetened condensed milk is cooked in a baine marie (water bath) in the oven, making it easy and hands-off. Just check on the water level once or twice and top up the water as needed.

All you really need to make this recipe is a can of sweetened condensed milk. The vanilla and salt add nice flavor but are certainly optional. The easiest part will be using your homemade dulce de leche since the possibilities are endless. Spread it on toast, add it to your coffee, drizzle it on ice cream, use it as a sauce for cheesecake or bread pudding, and so much more.

“I love homemade Dulce de Leche so much, and it so easy to make. Just with a little bit of patience you can have a wonderfully sweet caramel treat made in your own home. Make sure you are careful as both the Dulce de Leche and water bath can be quite hot.” —Tracy Wilk

dulce de leche/tester image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a low boil. Position a rack the middle of the oven and heat to 400 F.

  3. Add the sweetened condensed milk to a loaf pan and cover tightly with foil. A glass or ceramic loaf pan is best since it weighs more and won't float in the water.

  4. Place the loaf pan in a 9-x 13-inch baking dish or pan. Carefully add the boiling water to the baking dish, so that it reaches 1-inch up the sides.

  5. Bake for 1 hour, then check the water level. Replenish the water if needed to keep the pan covered by 1-inch.

  6. Continue baking until the dulce de leche reaches your desired color and consistency, 30 to 45 minutes more for richly colored and medium-thick dulce de leche.

  7. Remove the loaf pan from the water bath and uncover. Add the vanilla and salt, if using, whisking until smooth and combined.

  8. Let cool uncovered. Store the cooled dulce de leche in a airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Burn Warning

Use caution when handling piping hot, sugary substances. If spilled, hot dulce de leche can stick to skin and cause painful burns.

Tips

  • If you don't have a glass or ceramic loaf pan and 9x13 pan, a similar set-up will work. A 1 to 1 1/2-quart square casserole dish set inside a 9x9 baking pan is a good option. Alternatively, a glass pie pan set inside a large roasting pan also works well. Just ensure that the sweetened condensed milk has enough room to spread out so that it reaches less than an inch up the sides of the dish.
  • You can adjust the color, flavor, and thickness of dulce de leche by shortening or lengthening the cook time. Check the color and texture every 30 to 45 minutes and remove it from the oven when it looks good to you, whether it's a pale golden brown and thin (at about an hour), dark tan and thickened (at about 1 1/2 hours), or a rich brown and very thick (at about 2 hours or even longer). Just make sure you top up the water in the water bath regularly.

Recipe Variation

You'll often find recipes for dulce de leche that call for simmering an entire can (or cans) of sweetened condensed milk. While there is some concern about exploding cans, especially with newer, thinner cans and pull-tab tops, many people swear by this method and have never had any issues. To make dulce de leche in the can, follow these steps:

  1. Peel the label off of a can (or multiple cans) of sweetened condensed milk. Scrub off any residual glue.
  2. Add the can(s) to a large pot on the stovetop. Cover with water, with the water reaching two inches above to the tops of the cans.
  3. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, depending on how dark you'd like your dulce de leche. Check the water every half an hour, adding more as needed to keep it two inches above the cans. DO NOT let the water sink below the tops of the cans.
  4. Turn off the heat and let the cans cool in the water completely before opening. This can take a couple of hours.

How to Store

  • Once the dulce de leche has come to room temperature, transfer it into an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  • We don't recommend freezing dulce de leche since the texture will no longer be thick and creamy upon defrosting.

How to Can I Use Dulce de Leche?

Dulce de leche can be used in a wide variety of ways, from sweetening coffee to drizzling on desserts to serving alongside cookies and fruit as a dip. Use your homemade dulce de leche to make these recipes: