How to make Dulce De Leche

Make Dulce De Leche by simmering milk, sugar & vanilla with this easy recipe or with a can of condensed milk. The combination of milk and the sweetness of sugar is simply a match made in heaven. And the best part is that you can make it at home with simple ingredients! – all you need is time and patience.

A glass jar with dulce de leche placed on top of a small wooden box.

This rich caramel sauce is a staple in a Mexican kitchen used in many desserts like cookies, ice cream and pies. It needs no introduction! I love making my own Dulce De Leche and then use it to make Alfajores and Sweet Empanadas plus other goodies.

In this post I’m going to show you how to make it from scratch and also from using a can of condensed milk. We’ll start with the can version since it’s the easiest one. So stick around and let me know what method you would like to use?

A glass jar with dulce de leche placed on top of a small wooden box.

Is Cajeta and Dulce De Leche the same thing?

Cajeta is another version of this sweet condiment and it’s made with the same method but with using goat milk instead of regular milk like in this recipe. So if you would like to make cajeta, you can just swap the cow’s milk with goat’s milk.

Ingredients

Only 3 ingredients are needed to make dulce de leche from scratch:

  • Milk – Preferably full fat as it will taste better. But it will still work with a 2% milk
  • White sugar
  • Pure vanilla extract

Or use a can of condensed milk.

Ingredients for this recipe in small bowls on a blue backdrop.

How To Make:

Let’s start with the boiling a can of condensed milk method as it is the easiest and my prefered way to make it.

The step by step photos for method #2 are after the recipe card. Check them out to see if you prefer this recipe 🙂

Dulce De Leche with condensed milk

  • Start by removing the label from the sweetened condensed milk can.
  • Place the can in a medium pot and fill with enough water to cover it completely.
  • Turn the heat to medium high heat and once it starts to boil, lower to medium heat. Enough to keep the bubbles going.
  • Cook the can for 2.5 hours, covered with a lid. Check the pot once in a while to make sure the can is always covered with water.
  • If the water starts to evaporate, just add more hot water.
A can inside a pot filled with water.
Ingredients Icon Graphic.

Important!

Keep a close eye on it and stir every few minutes with a spatula to prevent from burning at the bottom of the pot.

Open the can once it was completely cooled off.

An open can with dulce de leche.

What can dulce de leche be used for?

Here are just a few ways to enjoy dulce de leche

  • Spread a layer on plain cookies.
  • Drizzle into ice cream.
  • Top raspados with.
  • Add to flan
  • Swirl into french toast or pancakes
  • On brownies
A cup with the mexican caramel sauce.

FAQs

How long does dulce de leche last?

Leftover dulce de leche can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container or glass jar for up to three to four months. Rewarm to soften it up in a double boiler or microwave. Or just simply return to room temperature by leaving it on the kitchen counter for a couple of hours.

I didn’t get the rich brown color even though I kept boiling and stirring. What did I do wrong?

Perhaps you need to cook it a little longer and low to medium heat. Continue to cook until it reaches a nice caramel color.

It has become hard after being cold. How do I spread on my dessert? Any tips on making it more spreadable?

You can warm it up in microwave for a few seconds or until you reach the desired consistency. If it became too solid, you may need to thin it out with a little warm milk.

A close up photo of the jar with dulce de leche. One orange rose on the side.

💫 If you make this recipe be sure to leave a rating in the comments below. You can also tag me on Instagram at @anafriasb.🙏

A cup with the mexican caramel sauce.

How to make Dulce De Leche

Servings 1.25 cups
Ana Frias
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 5 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 10 mins
Learn to make your own Dulce De Leche by simmering condensed milk for a couple of hours. It’s as simple as that and you can use it on any dessert you like!
1.25 cups

Ingredients
  

Dulce De Leche with Condensed Milk

  • 1 can condensed milk

Dulce De Leche From Scratch

  • cups milk (1 liter)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar (300g)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions
 

Method #1 with a condensed milk can

  • Remove the label from the sweetened condensed milk can.
  • Place the can in a medium pot and fill with enough water to cover it completely.
  • Turn the heat to medium high heat and once it starts to boil, lower to medium heat. Enough to keep the bubbles going.
  • Cook the can for 2.5 hours, covered. Check the pot once in a while to make sure it’s always covered with water. If the water starts to evaporate, just add more.
  • Cool completely before opening the can.

Method #2 with milk, sugar & vanilla

  • In a heavy bottom saucepan, over medium heat, add the milk, sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer over low (and controlled) heat and simmer for about 1.5 hours. If it start to foam at the top, just remove with a spoon.
  • Important! Keep a close eye on it and stir every few minutes with a spatula to prevent from burning at the bottom of the pot.
  • When the milk starts to get very dark, is important to keep on stirring it non stop. The dulce de leche is done when it reaches a dark deep caramel color. About 2 hours.
  • Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract. Give it a stir to integrate well.

*Ana’s Notes:

  1. While it cooks, you’ll notice that it starts to thicken and the color will change to a beautiful caramel color.
  2. Leftover dulce de leche can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container or glass jar for up to six months.
  3. Rewarm to soften it up in a double boiler or microwave. Or just simply return to room temperature by leaving it on the kitchen counter for a couple of hours.

ADD YOUR OWN PRIVATE NOTES

Whenever you come back to this recipe, you’ll be able to see your notes.

NUTRITION

Serving: 2Tbsp | Sodium: 35mg | Sugar: 22g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Calories: 130kcal | Saturated Fat: 2g | Fat: 3g | Protein: 3g | Carbohydrates: 22g

The nutritional information and US conversions are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this data. If this is important to you, please verify with your favourite nutrition calculator and/or unit conversion tool.

Note: This recipe was originally published in May 2016. It has been updated to revise the content and photographs. The original recipe remains the same. Enjoy! 

Dulce De Leche from scratch (without condensed milk)

This method is all about evaporating the liquid from the milk to caramelize the sugar. If you reduce it too far it will be a chewy caramel so keep your eye on it. 

  • In a heavy bottom saucepan, over low-medium heat, add the milk and sugar. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to medium. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low (and controlled) heat and simmer for about 2 hours. If it start to foam at the top, just remove it with a spoon.
  • When the milk starts to darken, it’s important to keep on stirring it non stop. The dulce de leche is done when it reaches a dark deep caramel color.
  • Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract. Give it a stir to integrate well.
Caramel sauce in a pot with a white spoon.

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4 Comments

  1. Your homemade dulce looks PERFECT friend!! I want to slather it on everything. Definitely doing this.