Homemade Dulce de Leche

I fell in love with a lot of culinary-related things while living in Brazil.  Black beans, pressure cooking, limonada, mangoes, and churrasco to name a few.  While I already loved both sweetened condensed milk and dulce de leche, I discovered new ways of using both of them in Brazil. If you’re not familiar with dulce de leche, it’s a thick, caramel-y sauce used heavily in many South and Central American kitchens. Traditional caramel is made by cooking sugar (and usually butter) over high heat and adding cream at the end. Dulce de Leche is made by slow cooking the dairy and sugar together until it’s caramelized and brown. While many people traditionally make it by simmering a sealed can of sweetened condensed milk in water on the stove top, or placing the whole can in a pressure cooker, another easy method for making dulce de leche at home is to simply cook sweetened condensed milk in the oven until dark and caramelized. This oven method is very easy and extremely hands-off. The resulting dulce de leche can be used in a variety of recipes, such as on cakes and cupcakes, drizzled over cheesecake or waffles, or used as a dip for fruit. It’s SO good!

drizzling Dulce de Leche

Ingredients and Equipment

  • Sweetened condensed milk – you’ll use just a regular can from the baking aisle.
  • Shallow Baking Dish – I usually use a pie place, but you may want to use another similar-sized dish, keeping in mind that it needs to fit inside a larger dish to use as a water bath. A loaf pan would also work.
  • Larger Dish – the pan that contains your sweetened condensed milk needs to be placed into a larger dish.
  • Foil – you’ll use foil to cover your dish before baking.
drizzling Dulce de Leche

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Pour your can of sweetened condensed milk into your shallow baking dish.
  3. Cover dish tightly with Foil.
  4. Place the covered dish inside a larger dish and set in oven rack.
  5. Carefully pour hot water into the larger dish so it reaches at least half way up the outside edges of your covered dish.
  6. Bake for one hour and then peek at at it. It will be a light brown at this point. It’s delicious from here on out. The longer you cook, the darker, and thicker it will be. I like to bake at least 1 1/2 hours. This is a great consistency for drizzling with a mild flavor. Continue cooking longer for a deeper flavor and thicker texture. I would cook longer (more like 2-2 1/2 hours) if I wanted to spread the dulce de leche in between cake layers or spread onto cookies.
  7. The longer you bake, the more water that evaporates. I like to keep a hot tea kettle ready so I can refill the water if necessary.
  8. When done, remove from oven and use a whisk to smooth out mixture. It will be lumpy at first, that’s normal! Whisk it till smooth, as it cools it will thicken more.

How to Store Dulce de Leche

When not using, store in an airtight container in the fridge. Caramel will thicken once chilled. You can leave at room temp to soften a bit or gently warm and stir until smooth.

Serving Suggestions

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drizzling Dulce de Leche

Homemade Dulce de Leche


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Description

This thick, spreadable caramel is a staple in Latin-American kitchens and incredibly simple to make at home.  It requires only one ingredient!  Perfect for drizzling over desserts like ice cream or cheesecake, or spreading onto cakes, cupcakes, or cookies.


Ingredients

1 can sweetened condensed milk


Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Pour sweetened condensed milk into a shallow baking dish, such as a pie plate or loaf pan.
  3. Cover very tightly with foil making sure all sides are covered and sealed.  Place baking dish in a larger pan, such as a roasting pan or cake pan and place in oven.
  4. Fill larger pan with hot water until water level reaches about half way up the outside of the covered baking dish.
  5. Cook for about 60-90 minutes and then carefully check.  Color should be a light caramel brown.
  6. Continue cooking if necessary, checking every 15-30 minutes.  The longer you cook, the darker and thicker it becomes.
  7. Remove from oven and whisk mixture until smooth.
  8. Store in fridge.

 

Sara Wells
Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. I’d like to know if this freezes well because I’d like to use it as a layer in an ice cream cake? I wasn’t sure if it would crystallize.

  2. If you put the UNOPENED can of Sweetened Condensed Milk into a pan of water and simmer it for about an 1 1/2 hours you will get the same result. Make sure you do not open the can until it has cooled, otherwise the milk might splatter and burn your skin.This is how we do it in England. No, the can will NOT explode.

  3. I did the cans on the stove a couple of years ago. No problems with explosion but it tasted awful.Found the labels in the trash-I had used evaporated milk by mistake. So I bought some sweetened condensed milk and made it in the crock pot. So good. Easy to eat way too much. I wonder how it would work to put it in a covered bowl in the crock pot-maybe with a little water.
    @Darlene: I would love to have your recipe for homemade sweetened condensed milk. Since the powers that be have decided not to ban BPA in food and drink containers,as much as possible I’m avoiding cans.

  4. So this looks so delicious… I’m thinking on top of a scoop on top of vanilla ice cream (possibly on top of an ooey gooey brownie)
    But it is just my husband and I and as much as I would love to eat an entire can of sweetened condensed milk by myself (caramelized or not) I don’t think we will finish it in one sitting. You said it can be refrigerated and it will thicken… after you put it in the fridge could you pull it out and zap it in the microwave for a few seconds like those little jars of hot fudge and caramel?

  5. Similar to Kim’s experience, when we lived in Las Vegas my stored can of sweetened condensed milk carmelized and I thought it had gone bad so I threw it out. I had no idea this was a desireable product. (I must have lived under a rock too, or in an oven!). The next time it happened, I smelled it, tasted it, then threw it into the recipe anyway – and it turned out great!

  6. I may add… DULCE DE LECHE, is an ARGENTINIAN invent, …You may notice that the name is in spanish, not portuguese…

  7. Aloha,
    So..my family and I have had the Horrible Plague for the last week, one will be half way thru it then another one gets it, now baby girl has it. The only thing that I have eaten in the last 2 days is jello. So, I’m looking thru my blog files to find an easy soup recipe that doesn’t require much manpower, and I see this post. No soup for my family, yet, but dulce de leche is in the oven. I hope it makes the plague go away!

    You girls are amazing.

    Mahalo,
    April

  8. Yay! I have a bunch of leftover sweetened condensed milk and this will make for some happy mouths tomorrow!

  9. This looks delicious! This is my first time visiting your blog and I must say it is adorable. I was wondering if you had a certain recipe that I have been searching for and craving for years now. I visited Brazil in 2001 and had the most amazing tapioca pancake thingy. We were visiting Olinda, Brazil and there was a vendor selling these tapioca things. They were almost like tapioca tortillas with coconut and condensed milk on them. Any ideas? I would love to be able to make these at home. Thanks for your help! Love the site!

  10. I just made some tonight to see how well it works and I was amazed. As a single man in college I appreciate foods that sound like they would be hard to pull off but are really easy. They tend to impress the fairer sex with minimal effort. (Don't tell on me)

    And yes, ice cold apples and piping hot dulce de leche is all kinds of awesome. Too bad the it cancels out the nutritional benefits of the apples.

  11. This isn't the only disgustingly decadent desert made with only sweetened condensed milk I've seen. (Triple Alliteration)

    Try boiling a can of it (unopened) for 20 minutes and then chilling it. If it worked when you open it, you should have a custard like cylinder that you can slice and serve with a berry topping or something like that.

  12. Katie that's super weird! Your oven temp is correct? I wonder if it was the brand of milk- did you use generic? I'm not sure what else to tell you, I've never had that problem!

  13. I tried this, and after 2 hours it was only slightly carmelized. I'm not quite sure what I'm doing wrong. I just might have to brave the 15 degree weather to go get the ready made stuff at walmart.

  14. Easy Peasy! I tried the oven method using fat-free sweetened condensed milk. (thats 2 pts/2 TBSP for all you WWs out there) It was DEEELISH! I dipped apples in it, but I'm thinking drizzled on hot popcorn would be sooo good!

  15. Shannon- I'm not an expert canner, so I really don't know the answer to that!

    Toni- Oh NO! See, that's why they don't recommend that, I'm glad no one was hurt!

    Jaime- It's never really recommended to heat stuff in the can, but since you're the crock pot is at such a low heat, it's pretty safe. I can't tell you there's no risk of explosion though, because I don't know!

    Emy- I really do need to post some pressure cooker recipes, I love mine!

    Toni M- Just store in the fridge- you can warm it up in the microwave and just whisk until smooth.

  16. I did the stove top method last spring for my sons geography project, no problems. Yesterday I did the crockpot method. I have a mini crockpot that fits one can perfectly. Worked great, yummy, yummy, yummy.

  17. For those in Texas…during the summer months, simply place an unopened can in your garage one night…open the next. Voilà!

  18. I use the crockpot method, and make a pie with it. SO easy and perfect for the holidays.

  19. If I wanted to make this in advance for a birthday party, how would you reheat it so the mixture is not thick and still tastes just as wonderful?
    ~Toni