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Dulce de Leche


Imagine a creamy, rich, brown caramel made from the simplest of ingredients — milk and sugar — and involving little more than a pot of boiling water and a couple hours. Hard to believe, but the best way to make dulce de leche is also the easiest way. And tell me you’re not salivating as you eye the caramel I’ve got sitting in a jar in my fridge. This stuff is to die for, people.


Ingredients: 1 can sweetened condensed milk.
Special equipment: 1 big, tall pot and lots of water

Peel the label of the can of sweetened condensed milk. Do not open the can.
Fill the pot with water so that the water level covers the can by at least an inch. Plunk the can into the pot to check, then remove.
Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil; once the water is boiling, add the can, and turn the heat down to medium high, bringing the water to a simmer. The can should be standing on one side, not rolling around.
Now, I noticed that the can tends to make a lot of noise as the bubbles from the boiling water try to escape from beneath it. One trick, if you happen to have two pairs of tongs lying around, is to prop the can on a tilt by sticking a small ball of tin foil underneath it. This stops the noise.
Leave the can in the simmering water for at least 2 hours (longer for a firmer caramel — I left it in for 3), and make sure to replenish the water as often as you need to in order to keep the water level above the can. I had to add about a cup every half hour to 45 minutes.


When 2 hours (or your desired cooking time) have elapsed, turn off the heat and leave the can in the water for at least half an hour, to cool slightly. If you were to remove it immediately, the heat inside the can would overpower the air pressure surrounding it, and it would explode.

After 30-45 minutes, remove the can with tongs; if it’s not too hot to touch, you can open it with a can opener. Dulce de leche will start oozing out as you open the can, and you should feel free to — ahem — clean it up. With your fingers. And then try it. Gaahhh it’s so good 🙂


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • a. grace February 25, 2008,

    talk about your food porn. good lord in heaven, that’s beautiful.

  • foodie February 26, 2008,

    mmm my …. i always hear about this process but have never actually tried it. i really have no excuse not to……. must…. lick… spoon…

  • Deborah February 26, 2008,

    This is the way we learned to make it in Junior High Spanish class. And then we ate it on apple slices. Yum!!

  • cakewardrobe February 26, 2008,

    I never knew it was this easy!!! Yikes for fattynass tonight!!

  • Madeline February 26, 2008,

    This looks amazing and so easy!

    So, as long as you leave the can in the water to cool afterwards, it shouldn’t explode, right? Forgive me, I am a chicken sometimes 😉

  • rivka February 26, 2008,

    Right 🙂 Embarrassingly easy, eh?

  • Allen February 26, 2008,

    Looks thick and rich — I’ve been wanting to try this, fear of explosion has stopped me before. I’ll have to throw caution to the wind 🙂 Beautiful caramel like this is worth it.

  • Jill February 26, 2008,

    Just a little tip….If you make this, use a large pot & make 3 or 4 cans at the same time. It keeps forever.

  • Andrew February 26, 2008,

    My dad made this for us once. In Chile where he’s from they call it Manjar. ^_^

  • Medena February 27, 2008,

    WOW! Soooooo easy! Thank you, thank you, I can’t wait to make this—TODAY!!! :)))

  • david February 27, 2008,

    I, like most commenters, hadn’t really dulce de leche is so easy to make. Eating it with apples sounds delicious.

  • Dom Inican February 27, 2008,

    Boil the can! Who would’ve thought. A variation to this is what’s called Dulce de Leche “Cortada” (Cut), in which you curdle the milk by adding a squeeze of lemon juice. Pic is here: http://u.univision.com/contentroot/uol/art/images/mujer/coc/2004/10/dulce_leche.jpg

  • Amy February 27, 2008,

    I would think the can would be harmful…or at least add a bad taste. Guess I should try and decide.

  • Tim February 28, 2008,

    I’d prop it up to begin with- 3 little foil balls would be stable, or 2 “rails”.

    Great idea though, checking the cupboard now!!

  • crockpot lady February 28, 2008,

    I wonder if I could do this in the crockpot…
    leave it overnight?
    I think I need this.

  • rivka February 28, 2008,

    I’ve definitely heard that it’s possible in a crock pot. The trick would be to put in the water cold with the can inside, prop up the can, turn the crock on low, and leave it overnight. You’d probably get a thicker, more solid caramel that way, but it’d be no less scrumptious.

  • Matin February 28, 2008,

    Thats genius:-)
    X M

  • crockpot lady February 28, 2008,

    thanks, Rivka! I’m going to try it out. I’ll let you know how it comes out.

  • Sunmarc February 28, 2008,

    My Dad used to make this when I was growing up in the late 60’s early 70’s. It was always a great treat when he did!

    You can quicken the cooling time by running cool water from the the sink into the pot once the cooking time is finished. Then pop it into the freezer for a while.

  • Bob February 28, 2008,

    I’m 45 years old and my family has been making this since before I was born. We simmer it for two hours and then take it right out of the water and put it in the fridge right away and I’ve never seen it explode.

  • NJMom February 28, 2008,

    We call this World War II caramel. I often make it in my pressure cooker–low pressure for 1 hour. You don’t have to wait so long!

    A shorter cooking time yields more of a sauce, perfect for topping ice cream.

  • zack February 29, 2008,

    It’s actually called cajeta. “cah heh tha”
    Translates to burnt milk. which it is.
    Dulce de leche just means sweet milk.
    This stuff gives people diabetes.
    It’s great.

  • saba February 29, 2008,

    Another way to achieve this is to lay in a stock of tinned condensed milk and wait 30 years. My grandmother did this in Switzerland before World War II and my cousin and I ate the lot in the early 1960s.

  • Blah February 29, 2008,

    When I live in NY, my mom out of nostalgia, did this for my brothers and me. We felt it was forever to cool off! Now that we moved back to Argentina, there’s an endless number of brands of it, but it’ll never feel as special as it did then.

    Mom used to cut a vanilla cake bisquit in half and spread a large amount of it in the middle (usualy with sliced canned peach) and moisturize the cake a bit with rum or oporto wine for our birthdays. Then got creative with the decoration 😛

    I highly recomend trying it with bananas!

  • Ryan February 29, 2008,

    How do I store it after? Refrigerator?

  • Mr_Br0wn February 29, 2008,

    My mother used to use this method to make caramel pie. she would make a graham cracker crumb crust and line it with banana slices then spoon cans of this caramel over the bananas and refrigerate

  • Fernando Sotomayor February 29, 2008,

    i think you should call it MANJAR like we do, is so much easier for foreign people

    i had no idea it was this easy, i’m gonna make me some today ! ! ! !

    call it Manjar ! Dulce de Leche is too long !

  • Dianne February 29, 2008,

    I made some today because I could find it in my store and I needed it for this week’s Tuesday with Dorie recipe. But how do you store it? Does it need to be refrigerated?

  • rivka February 29, 2008,

    It keeps in the refrigerator forever — enjoy!

  • Dianne February 29, 2008,

    Thanks! I will! 🙂

  • Jessica February 29, 2008,

    to make a real good dessert out of this put a layer of graham crackers in the bottom of a 13×9 glass baking dish. then whip the can of boiled sweetened condensed milk with one pint of heavy whipping cream. when stiff spread the mix over the graham crackers. crumble some graham cracker over the top for garnish. chill and serve… very delicious!

  • Am March 1, 2008,

    I haven’t read all the comments above so someone may have already mentioned this but i use this technique to make the toffee for banoffie pie.

    You just need a biscuit base, covered with the stuff above, then banna slices on top of that, then whipped cream (though i like to get crative and put random stuff throughout)

  • Leah March 2, 2008,

    I would love to make this – you don’t happen to know where I can buy tinned condensed milk in Israel, do you??

  • rivka March 2, 2008,

    I do, in fact! Do you by chance live in Jerusalem? (I don’t know if you saw on my about page that I lived there for two years and just arrived back in the US this past summer…) If you’re in J’lem, “Super Moshava” on Emek Refaim has sweetened condensed milk, as do some “Mister Zol” stores. If you’re in Tel Aviv, there are countless places to get it — just try real supermarkets, not the little “Makolot.” Good luck!

  • rivka March 2, 2008,

    I love all the fantastic names people have for this! Glad to know that it’s actually called Cajeta or Manjar and not that long tongue twister of a name I thought. 🙂 And thanks for posting dessert ideas, everyone — not that I don’t love eating it out of the jar for breakfast, but it’d be nice to share this with my next dinner guests.

  • VD March 2, 2008,

    And if you mix about 3 tbsp of cocoa with it, you will have a delicious chocolate cake icing. I guarantee!

  • Melanie March 2, 2008,

    My friend Tamara and I decided to try this out last night. I got very excited after I stumbled across the simple process the other day at work when I was browsing tastespotting.com. She decided to cook hers for 2 hours, I boiled mine for 3. They both turned out delicious! I had some with apple earlier on today. 😀

  • Christine March 3, 2008,

    Looks amazing, easy and sooo fattening! Gotta give it a try. I think I will try to make it healthy and have apples or bananas with it. Did anyone try it in the crockpot?

  • Grace Lane March 8, 2008,

    In Australia, we layer the caramel into a pie shell, slice bananas over it, then cream, topped with passionfruit. So quick, so impressive.

  • Hanna March 9, 2008,

    Freakin’ beautiful!

  • Stefania March 10, 2008,

    Can this work with condensed milk that’s in a pop-tab can? The only ones I’ve seen at the store have the easy to open tab (like on a pop can). I’m worried that this type of can will explode regardless if I keep the can submerged.

  • Carolina March 11, 2008,

    Hi everyone,

    This is a great way to make dulce de leche. I had never heard of this method before, which is weird.

    Just so you know, it’s not “actually” called cajeta or manjar. Those are different names for dulce de leche. I lived in Venezuela for a while and there they called it arequipe I think, and I believe they call it cajeta in Mexico and Peru and manjar in Chile (where I live now) but it is dulce de leche in Argentina (where my fiance is from and where I believe they use it and make it the most. I even believe that this is where it was first made) and its called doce de leite in Brazil (where I’m from). Leche dulce means “sweet milk”, but dulce de leche means “a sweet or candy made of milk” or “milk candy”. So really I guess you can call it any of those names because they are all correct somewhere, but for me, this is and will always be Dulce de Leche in Spanish and Doce de Leite in Portuguese. Thanks for the method!!

  • rivka March 11, 2008,

    Carolina, thanks for your detailed explanation of all the names for this caramel!

    Stefania, I’d be nervous to try it with a pop tab; if you do try it, remove everything around the pot and please let us know how it goes!

  • crockpot lady March 11, 2008,

    Rivka, I made this yesterday! It was amazing, and oh so easy in the crockpot.

    Thank you so much for the wonderful idea!

  • Heather March 13, 2008,

    This looks lovely! My junior high school Spanish teacher was from Puerto Rico, and she made this for our class once. We ate it on Saltines crackers. I loved the sweet with the salty. I may have to try it myself! Thanks for sharing.

  • avis March 13, 2008,

    I did this once and while the caramel was warm is was so soft but after it cooled off it was almost solid. Was it supposed to do that? Could I have warmed it up again to make it soften? Also – do you just store it in the unopened can or do you put it in another container? Would it last longer in the original can or does the can cause problems?
    This really was the best stuff I had ever tasted.

  • rivka March 13, 2008,

    Avis: If you cook the caramel for 2 or so hours, it comes out pretty soft; if you cook it for 3, it comes out more solid. It will melt and liquify if you melt it, so stick some in the microwave for a couple seconds and enjoy!

  • russ March 19, 2008,

    Keeping it covered with water while boiling was mentioned, but not emphasized enough. If the water gets low, the can may get too hot and explode. Sweet, delicious Napalm substitute will be all over your ceiling (hopefully not you), and you will never get it off.

  • Angie March 21, 2008,

    Oh, that’s just wrong! I love it when my sweetened condensed milk caramelizes in the can. I’m going to have to try this on purpose! But not for the next 10 weeks, because I’m doing a weight loss thing. It definitely wouldn’t help the cause!

  • Logan April 9, 2008,

    I decided to try this recipe out today and was amazed at how great it turned out. I cooked it for 2 and half hours and the consistency was perfect, a nice smooth creamy style.

    This is the most delicious caramel I have ever eaten. So sooooo good.

    These directions were perfect. Just make sure you follow them exactly so you don’t have an exploding mess like post 48.

    Just typing this makes me have to go nibble a couple more spoonfulls.

    DO THIS! It is easy and super delicious

  • Chuck April 14, 2008,

    I have never heard of this before. I can’t wait to give it a try this weekend. Thank you for sharing.

  • meredithann April 15, 2008,

    This is about my favorite desert! My grandmother made it years ago (I’m 62). We would salivate in anticipation of the “done” product.
    She would then prepare fresh whipped cream and add a tablespoon of that. Pure heaven.

  • Niall Harbison April 17, 2008,

    Hi there,

    I just stumbled accross your blog by using stumbleupon and love the design of the whole thing! I normally skip straight past food blogs as I have over 20 in my RSS and dont even have enough time to read the ones that I have! I am started out as a blogger myself and always tried to keep the design simple like yours as I think it is crucial, especially if you can back it up with some nice food pics like yours! Keep up the good work and if you feel like sharing some of the photos with other foodies pop over to http://www.ifoods.tv which is my new site for foodies! Cheers!

  • Owen April 24, 2008,

    This sounds fun , but a bit of a random, question, but how should the can sound when shaken, as I had a can going for about 2 and a half hours and it still sounds far to liquidy inside.

  • rivka April 24, 2008,

    Not sure — I’ve never shaken the can. was your water at a rolling boil the whole time? and was the can totally submerged? If so, you should be fine… 🙂 enjoy!

  • erin May 20, 2008,

    Oh My Heavens – I made this last night and it was wonderful. Put a spot in my coffee this morning and what a treat! I just left it in the pan of water over night to cool down and it was sooo thick! YUMMY!!!!

  • Jaimeson May 31, 2008,

    This is a great way to do it on the stove. I have only made it in a crock pot. It takes about 8 hours that way but its perfect to leave in overnight = )

    Thanks for all the dessert suggestions… I love to make it but then never have any use for it all!

  • RPO June 30, 2008,

    This looks delicious!

  • Benedicte August 19, 2008,

    Hi, just wondering if Viking milk(the only condesed milk i can find in Norway) can be used? per100g it has 6,5g og protein
    9,5g carbohydrates and 8,1g fat

    This just looks delicious btw.

  • SilverMoon Dragon August 30, 2008,

    @ Benedicte – I’m pretty sure you can use any brand of sweetened condensed milk, as long as it is sweetened, and is condensed, not evaporated milk.

    @Jamieson – When you make it in the crockpot, do you cover the tin with water, or do you have it 2/3 up the sides and put the holes in the top? I’ve seen this done many ways, once even in the oven, but all require supervision to keep the water level constant.

  • Jaime September 21, 2008,

    Thanks so much for this. I heard about how you could make this when I was in college, but never knew the specific instructions. Cool web page.

  • JMF October 21, 2008,

    Great tutorial. I’m from Cuba and 60 years old. I can remember from when I was 3 or 4 years old that my Grandmother made it for us.
    Dulce de leche tranlates to Milk Candy, not sweet milk. Whaever name you call it in your country is fine. It’s just not recognized in all countries. Dulce de leche is a discriptive name that means Milk Candy and is recongnized in all Spanish speaking countries.
    In all the years of making Dulce de leche, not a single one has ever exloded.
    When I’ve introduced this to people in work they are skepticle that it is home made and that the can would explode if it were to be boild.
    I get them to bring in a can and we would make it in work. They are always amazed that it didn’t explode and that it is home made.

    It takes the same amount of energy to boil 7 cans as it does to do 1 can. I can fit 7 cans in the pot that I use. Friends always know whats in the little can with no lable.

    Buy a little wire cooling rack that will fit in your pot to keep the cans off the bottom of the pot.
    Before I put the cans into the pot, I take a teaspoon and scratch an X on the top of each can and then I put them in with the X up. At the half way point I flip the cans over with a pair of tongs to make sure that they cook evenly from both ends. This is probably not needed but thats the way that I do it.
    Make lots of Dulce de leche and pass them out.

  • amylucyabbly November 2, 2008,

    Sounds just like the Sweet Potato Queens’ Danger Pudding to me…YUM!

  • cribcat November 2, 2008,

    OMG, I tried this and it turned out perfect. The taste was caramel to perfection. No explosion or mishaps.

  • alan November 11, 2008,

    ExAanO blkOpwF7nnBsJ42K7La

  • Health Hazard November 24, 2008,

    Heating the can will dissolve toxic heavy metals from the can to contents.

  • Mara November 27, 2008,

    Who cares what Health Hazard says, that looks delicious and far too easy!

  • april December 6, 2008,

    OMG! this recipe seems sooooo easy and i bet it tastes DIVINE! I can’t wait to try this!

  • Kim December 9, 2008,

    Health Hazard, *what* toxic heavy metals??? It’s tin, and approved by the FDA (not that they are perfect angels). And heating does not dissolve any metals at that temperature anyway. Did you mean, toxic compounds form the tin alloy might leech intio the food? Umm…foodsafe tin. Thanks for the caution, though.

  • Sandra December 22, 2008,

    I boiled a tin of the famous sweetened condensed milk for 90 minutes………let it cool………whipped 1 cup of whipping cream and then whipped the condensed milk..folded the cream into the milk and topped it onto my cheesecake…………a hit……..I’ve told all of you, but family will have to keep guessing…..Enjoy all.

  • Danielle March 7, 2009,

    i made this with the pop-tab cans. it worked perfectly. Thank you for posting this! As for the metals in the can contaminating the contents, cans are sprayed with plastic so this doesn’t happen during the manufacturing process, as well so that the contents do not erode the can itself. There should be no concerns about any chemicals or toxic metals seeping into the Dulce de Leche.

  • trizha March 10, 2009,

    I do this using a pressure cooker, works faster and produces the same results

  • kellypea March 16, 2009,

    You are soooooo right with this method. I don’t purchase dulce de leche — it goes in the pan. Love it!

  • Steffany March 24, 2009,

    This looks fabulous! How long is it safe to store in the can? Or should it be removed to another container right away?

  • Michele March 25, 2009,

    I can’t believe I’ve never made this myself. I’m off to the cabinet tomorrow! Yummy!