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This dulce de leche recipe is luscious, sweet, and super easy to make at home! Three ways to make dulce de leche with simple ingredients.
About This Recipe
Luscious, sweet, and rich, dulce de leche is basically the cousin of caramel in South America. While caramel is made with water and sugar, dulce de leche involves milk and is considerably thicker.
Dulce de leche is a staple of Latin American desserts and with good reason! This gooey confection is super versatile and can be used as a filling, frosting, or garnish. Whether it’s drizzled over ice cream or slathered on brownies, dulce de leche rarely disappoints!
The basic ingredients for dulce de leche remain about the same, but everyone has a preferred method for making their own dulce de leche. Here, I’ve come up with three different ways to make homemade dulce de leche depending on what equipment you might have available. The easiest way is the one that uses sweetened condensed milk cans from your grocery store.
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Dulce de Leche Recipe
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1.5 cups of sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (esencia de vainilla)
- ¼ tsp baking soda (bicarbonato de sodio)
Combine the whole milk, sugar, and baking soda. In a heavy saucepan, bring everything to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon (cuchara de madera). Then, reduce heat to low and simmer until caramel forms.
This should take about 1.5 to 2 hours. Once the caramel is fully formed, stir in the vanilla and remove from the heat.
This is the traditional recipe for preparing this confection. Keep going to check preparation methods involving a slow cooker and a pressure cooker.
Ingredients: (slow cooker)
- 1-3 cans of sweetened condensed milk (latas de leche condensada)
Instructions: (slow cooker)
Remove the wrappers from 1-3 cans of sweetened condensed milk. In a slow cooker, place the unopened can upright and cover it with water. The water level should be just covering the cans- not a lot of extra water is needed. Cook on low heat for 8-10 hours or overnight.
Remove the cans from their hot water bath with tongs and allow them to cool to room temperature. Open them up and scrape their contents (now fully formed dulce de leche) into mason jars for storing.
Instructions: (pressure cooker/Instant Pot)
Repeat the instructions for the slow cooker recipe, but instead, cook the cans on high pressure for 20 minutes.
On the stovetop, you can swap in goat’s milk (leche de cabra) for regular cow’s milk. The end result is called “cajeta.”
It is possible to make a vegan, lactose-free version of dulce de leche with canned coconut milk.
You can also try adding sea salt to your dulce de leche for an irresistible salted caramel flavor! Cinnamon chips and chocolate drops are another fantastic addition.
Serve your dulce de leche warm and drizzle over your favorite dessert! Brownies, cakes, and vanilla ice cream are all fair game! It’s delicious when blended with Costa Rican coffee, too!
The best way, though, might just be to eat it straight off the spoon! (We won’t tell!)
What flavor is dulce de leche?
Though it’s thicker, it’s similar in flavor to caramel. Getting into scientific terms, it’s formed by a Maillard reaction– the same kind of chemical reaction that gives browned food its distinctive rich flavor
What country invented dulce de leche?
According to legend, an Argentinian maid discovered it by accident when she left a pot of milk and sugar simmering.
What does dulce de leche mean?
It roughly translates to “sweet of milk” in English.
Is dulce de leche popular around the world?
Yes! Besides Latin America, France also has a version called “confiture de lait,” a delicious caramel sauce that is often served with cheese.
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1.5 cups of sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- Combine the whole milk, sugar, and baking soda. In a heavy saucepan, bring everything to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
- Then, reduce heat to low and simmer until caramel forms. This should take about 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Once the caramel is fully formed, stir in the vanilla and remove from the heat.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 295Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 123mgCarbohydrates: 58gFiber: 0gSugar: 58gProtein: 5g
Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.
Welcome! I’m Christa, a Spanish teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. We’ve spent over 25 years living in and traveling to Costa Rica with our daughters, and this website is my love letter to all things Costa Rica- and to bilingual parenting too. You can read my full story here. Thanks for stopping by!