Cooking School: 5 Ways to Make Homemade Dulce De Leche

Dulce De Leche (01) by MeetaK

Dulce De Leche - that sinfully good and deliciously decadent thick syrup from Latin America probably makes a lot of Foodie hearts beat faster. I've had it on my mind for quite a few weeks and as I had the week off last week I finally got the chance to make it.

The Food GuideIt is supposed to be a part of a few greater recipes I plan on making and after tasting the finished product I wish I had made more just to drizzle on ice-creams and spread on brioche - but I cannot with this batch. What I realized last week while discussing dulce de leche with a few friends on Facebook was that while many loved the thick caramel-like syrup, many did not know that it was easy enough to make at home. Easy - yes, just time consuming!

Those discussions lead me to write this post as part of my Cooking School series. So, let's roll up our sleeves and make ourselves some dulce de leche - shall we?

Dulce de leche is a milk-based sauce/syrup, which originates from Latin America, especially popular in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. In Spanish it basically means "milk candy" and is available as both a thick syrup/sauce or in the form of candy. In France one will find a delicious spread called confiture de lait or milk jam, which is based on the similar principle of dulce de leche.

Although dulce de leche's flavor is very reminiscent of caramel, it is not anything like caramel. While caramel is made with sugar, duce de leche is prepared by heating and continuously stirring sweetened milk until it has reduced to a thick creamy texture.

Basically dulce de leche is made by simmering whole milk and sugar for several hours while continuously stirring the mixture. As the water evaporates from the milk, the mixture thickens resulting in a golden colored, creamy and rich dulche de leche. There are several methods to make dulce de leche using one or a maximum of three ingredients, what you do need is plenty of time though.

Dulce De Leche (02) by MeetaK

In this post I shall share the three methods I have used myself to make dulce de leche in the past and also one method from a good friend of mine and finally share a link to the quick and easy method for those impatient ones ;-).  index card dulcedeleche

Homemade Dulce De Leche

Printable version of recipe here.

Dulce de leche in a Saucepan

This method usually takes about 2-3 hours to make,   however needs constant stirring to avoid the dulce de leche burning.


  • 2 liters whole full fat milk
  • 500g fine granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  1. In a small saucepan place all of the ingredients together and stir to incorporate.
  2. On medium-low heat gently bring the mixture to a simmer. Stirring constantly, reduce the milk-sugar mixture.
  3. Once the mixture is thick and golden remove from heat. The consistency should be very thick - to test take a tablespoon of the dulce de leche and turn it upside down - it should basically stick to the spoon without any of the it oozing off.
Sticky Note 1 tipstricks
  • Do not skimp on the milk and go for the full fat stuff. Anything else and the dulce de leche just does not taste as good as it should and the consistency will also be effected.

  • You can add spices like vanilla, cardamom or nutmeg to give the dulce de leche a slight twist.

Dulce de leche in a can

This is my favorite way of making dulce de leche. Although it takes 3-4 hours it's the method I prefer because you can more or less forget the can albeit checking on the water level every now and then.

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  1. Remove the label from the can then place the can in a small saucepan.

  2. Pierce two holes on opposite sides of the lid. You can use a can opener or anything hard enough to pierce holes in the metal.

  3. Pour enough water into the saucepan to come up about 2-3 cm from the top of the can. As the condensed milk reduces keep and eye on the water level – it should not come down below this level.

  4. Turn up the heat to medium-high and bring the water to a simmer, then reduce the heat and keep the water at a simmer. Keep a close eye, filling water into the sauce pan every time it reduces its level.

  5. Depending on the consistency you want your dulce de leche to be reduce the milk. For a soft, pourable sauce-like dulce de leche it will take approx. 3 hours however, if you want a thick, gooey and creamy dulce de leche, like the one I made you will need to cook the condensed milk for 4 hours.

  6. Remove the can from the saucepan, using oven gloves and then with a can opener open the can carefully. Pour the contents into a bowl and with a whisk gently whisk the dulce de leche to make it smooth and creamy.

Sticky Note 1 notes

  • Piercing holes in the can is a vital step and should not be skipped as this prevents pressure building up inside of the can, which can cause the can to explode.

  • Make sure that none of the simmering water comes over the top of the can. If the water combines with the milk it will create a thin dulce de leche in consistency and flavor.

  • While simmering you will notice some of the condensed milk escape from the holes. You can scoop this up with a spoon or soak it up with paper towels. As the milk thickens this will stop.

  • When you open the can you will notice a lighter more fluid liquid on the top, however below this is the good, thick and darker creamier stuff. Scrap out all the contents and whisking it together will give you a wonderful homogenous cream.

Dulce de leche in the oven

Another very easy method to make dulce de leche and takes a lot less time. Here too all you need is a simple can condensed milk.

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  1. Pre-heat the oven to approx 200-220 degrees C.

  2. Pour out the contents of the condensed milk into a small shallow ovenproof dish. Cover the dish tightly with heavy duty aluminum foil.

  3. Set the dish in a larger pan or roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with enough hot water so that it comes halfway up the side of the shallow dish.

  4. Bake the milk in the oven for 1-11/2 hours, checking and adding more water if required.

  5. Remove the dulce de leche from the oven, allow to cool then whisk to combine.

Dulce de leche in a pressure cooker

This version is from the mother of my Brazilian friend. I have not tried this myself as I fear the pressure cooker. However, my friend swears that it is faster, safe and a typical method used in Brazil.

  • 1 can can sweetened milk
  1. In a pressure cooker pour a good liter of water and place the can in the middle.

  2. Put on medium-low heat and bring the cooker to a boil. After it begins to steam cook for 40-60 minutes. Once again it depends on the desired consistency – cook for shorter time if you want a thinner consistency and for longer for a thicker consistency.

  3. Turn of the heat and wait for the pressure cooker to cool completely before opening it. Open the pressure cooker and remove the can, allow the can to cool completely before you open it. Trying to open it before it has entirely cooled may cause the can to explode.

  4. Once cooled open the can with a can opener and scrape out the contents into a bowl, then whisk to incorporate into a smooth cream.

 Sticky Note 1 notes

  • You do not need to pierce holes in the can when using the pressure cooker method. The steam pressure in the cooker counter balances the pressure in the can, which prevents it form exploding.

  • The most important thing to remember here is to make sure you allow enough time for both the cooker and the can to cool completely. This will avoid any dangerous accidents and exploding cans.

Dulce de leche in the microwave

A method that will give you dulce de leche in minutes! I have not tried this method myself but my good friend Lydia has and she shares a step by step method for microwave dulce de leche in 10 to 15 minutes.

Storing and Using the Dulce De Leche

Store dulce de leche in Weck jars or similar in the refrigerator for up to a month. Heat the dulce de leche either in a water-bath or in the microwave before using.



Dulce De Leche (03) by MeetaK

Irresistibly good! Some will argue that using a can of sweetened condensed milk to make dulce de leche does not make it homemade. I’d like to digress though. One can makes a delicious thick and creamy dulce de leche and saves me 2-3 hours of constant stirring. You will have to stop yourself from scooping up spoonfuls from the jar. Perfectly smooth, rich and oh so decadent.

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  1. I *love love* dulce de leche!! I cannot count the number of cans of flavored ice cream I've emptied. I made the oven version once when making the ice cream at home. The first step for me is to stop myself from finishing off the condensed milk though :D

  2. Dulce de leche, love it! I normally use the can in the pressure cooker. You know what? It is great with green apple, just dip the sliced apples and I can assure you that you'll need to buy more apples. By the way, your pictures are great!

  3. Thank you for posting all the options for making this! I typically use the can in water method, but the oven is intriguing. Do people actually have the time (and patience) to stand and stir constantly for 2-3 hours? I think my arm would fall off!

  4. What an interesting post! thanks for sharing. I only tried the boiling the can method and I didn t pierce it. It didn t explode perhaps I was lucky :)

  5. Oohh...I love the pressure cooker and oven idea. I have been meaning to try making this stuff at home. This post is great!

  6. Mmmhhh, that looks so tempting! I love Dulce Leche and yours makes me drool...



  7. I'm going to make some tomorrow to go with ice cream!

  8. It's that Irresistibly good! part that worries me ;) Beautiful Meeta.

  9. Oh My Goodness:-) Can I have some Meeta? Thanks for teaching us so many options!

  10. hey meeta, the first method is just like how rabdi is made...

  11. Never heard of it, but it looks so tempting and drool worthy.

  12. My husband is completely addicted to homemade dulce de leche now, especially since we've been making it in the microwave. Maybe it's toooooo easy!

  13. The pics are mindblowing. I wouldn't be surprised if you win DMBLGIT for this again ;)

    But hey, this is a must-try for A :)

  14. Wow looks luscious and delish...So many versions to make this awesome syrup....

  15. Looks so delicious and mouth watering, will definately try making it at home, thanks for posting it :D

  16. That looks delicious and yummy!! Will be trying it soon..

  17. i always make my DDL in the can, without piercing holes... as long as the can is fully submerged (the only thing that needs checking throughout), there's no risk of explosions. I cook it for 2 hours, then leave to cool in the water for an hour before removing.
    best and easiest way ever!

  18. I always buy dulce de leche and have not attempted to make it at home. Thanks for the detailed recipe, Meeta :)

  19. YUM!! Love the Dulche dripping over the bowl! :)

  20. As you may already know here in Argentina we are HUGE dulce de leche consumers...I always buy it since we have so many different brands and qualities , but when I made it once I added some baking soda, I was told it helps the consistency but mostly the color, it gets darker.
    Great pics and tips, thanks for sharing!!

  21. I knew of two ways to make it, but not five--so awesome (and so tasty!).

  22. now, how can i induce jai to make some AND take a pic?

  23. So delicious! I have to try making some!

  24. wonderful post and photos !!! thanks for sharing :)

    I already tried 3 of the options ... + i recently try to make some in my bread mcahine !!! there is a jam programme, with a hook at the bottom of the "pan" that never stop moving. that way it doesn't stick or burn ... and you don't have to watch it carefully ...

  25. Hey Meeta, I haven't been doing the rounds for quite some time..been very busy building up my own blog but I miss the international bloggers a lot. I adore dulce de leche. Interesting ways that you do it. I do mine up to 4 cans at a time (I do baking orders) by placing them still sealed (wrappers removed) in a deep saucepan over medium heat and covering them well with boiling water from the kettle. Bring to the boil and continue boiling for about 1 1/2 - 2 hours depending how thick you want it. Just keep checking on the saucepan every 20-30min to see that the water remains covering the cans.(I use my kitchen timer for this so I dont forget! Top up with more boiling water as needed....allow to cool before opening with a can opener.

  26. I have a confession to make; up till about 5 minutes ago I was under the impression that Dulce de Leche was the same as sweet condensed milk and so I could not understand what all the fuzz was about...:) How wrong was I! Now I don't like condensed milk at all, so not sure if I would like the dulce de leche but at least now I know what it is! Love your blog! Just found it through tastespotting!

  27. I try to stay away from the can method after once I forgot about it and only remembered when I heard an explosion and ran into the kitchen to see dulce de leche all over the kitchen, the ceiling and the glass on the stove top completely shattered. So definitely keep an eye to make sure there's always water!

    I prefer the traditional stir for a few hours. I find 2 hours is usually sufficient, the key is to stir continuously in the last 30 minutes.

    Your blog is great, such good ideas!

  28. Thank you for the link! I recently posted on the oven method for my Alfajores and it was soooo easy. Turned out perfect. Nice to know of the other methods though too!

  29. Magali Vrede - from South AfricaApril 16, 2009 at 1:52:00 PM GMT+2

    Hi Meeta, as a Brazilian I can say t is very nice to cook it on cooke pressure!

  30. I just tried the microwave method twice and both times turned out bad. I think I'll try the boil method next. Thanks.

  31. Mmmm, maybe cooking dulce de leche from a can is not the real thing, but it's the only sane method ;-)

    Very thorough approach!

    Greetings from Spain

  32. Thank you so much for all your feedback on this. I am particularly liking all the different suggestions and methods you have shared. Keep them coming!

  33. I was thinking....although it is a very American way of doing it, I bet this would work in a slow cooker. The even and low heat would mean you wouldn't need to constantly stir!

  34. I've made it in the saucepan - completely immersing the can in water for about 3 hrs, like many others didn't need to pierce any holes - and in the m/w. Found the stovetop method a lot easier, with the m/w, one needs to keep checking and stirring ever so often! That is my two pennies worth to the cooking schol!

    That picture is absolutely awesome!

  35. mmmm .. I love dulce de leche :-)!!!

  36. Meeta, dulce de leche is one of my favorite sauces :) especially in Alfajores!! In Venezuela we call it arequipe and put it on obleas, which are pretty much the wafer-thin crackers that act as a vehicle for you to pile on all the dulce the leche your heart desires :D

  37. I just found a jar of dulce de leche after looking for it forever. It is so good! Making at home will be great!

  38. I love boiling the can of sweetened condensed milk. It's like magic! However, you have me really wanting to try to make my own dulce de leche--the old-fashioned way, if you will. I'm definitely going to try it out!

  39. Love making this from scratch, even if it does take a bit of time and effort.
    By the way, have also had great results with steaming in a Chinese bamboo steamer. wink :)

  40. Dulce the leche is my favorite dessert! in Colombia we call it Arequipe.
    Yours looks amazing! I have to try your recipe.

    I love your blog.


  41. I'm going to make some right now!

  42. I make mine in a can :) It's required in quite a few Estonian desserts - and I love how I can call it by its fancy Spanish name now ;)

  43. Hi, I am Czech and I cook cans of sweetened&thickened condensed milk in water for 1,5 to 3,5 hours depending on how thick and caramelized a cream I want to get. I do not punch any holes and I do not know of anybody who does. It does not explode as long as the can(s) is(are) in the water. Water simply keeps the temperature stable about 80 when simmering in a pot to 120 or so degrees in a pressure cooker. Also flavoured condensed milk coming in metal tubes can be cooked after removal of plastic seals.

  44. Thnaks everyone for your wonderful ideas on Dulce De Leche. This is becoming a very valuable post and hopefully all readers will benefit from it. Hugs to you all!

  45. After a failed attempt at making it in a can, I ended up making a caramel curd with my milk from tthe first time around. It was ready in 15 minutes and tasted delish....

  46. Hi - thanks for this post. Until reading this I had no idea what dulce de leche is... The post caught my attention as I have recently read a recipe in the Humming Bakery cookbook for Banana Cream Pie and ready made dulce de leche being one of the incredients. I don't like shortcuts and buying ready made sooooo now it is me off to the kitchen cooking up some of this delicious sounding dulce de leche :)

  47. Being Brazilian, my mom always made "doce de leite" in the easiest and most practical way I've seen: just put a can of condensed milk (without label, washed and without any holes) into the pressure cooker with the beans (you can also do it without beans, but multitasking was her preferred way). When the beans are ready so is the dulce de leche! Just have to let the can cool down first before opening the can.

  48. I made it today! Thanks for the encouragement! I used your stove top method. Actually reduced 5 cans. I was weary of it but so so happy with the results! I just adore your posts! Cheers!

  49. thanks so much for your comments on this.

    Jessica - so glad it worked for you!! thanks for coming bcak and letting me know. i know it can ne weary but so worth it when on sees and tastes the results!! enjoy!

  50. I made this microwave style & used it to top a tres leches cake...divine!!!! Thanks for the tips! Love your blog!

  51. I usually make it by can on stovetop. I made some last week for Alfajores and left it on for one Hour. Next time I will leave it for 2 so I can get a better consistency. Now the questions is, does anyone have a good cake recipe?

  52. Just a little fact, In Peru we call Dulce Leche, Majar Blanco!

  53. I do stir for 2-3 hours! It`s never a problem, you don`t have to stir it ALL the time, and I think this way you get the best dulce :)

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