While testing a fabulous apple tart recipe – which you should be seeing in the near future – I came across a technique that we used often at the restaurant but I have since forgotten.

Dulce de Leche.

One bite of the impossibly creamy and almost pudding like caramel had me regretting all those missed opportunities of consumption then correcting my mistake by stocking my shelves with cans of sweetened condensed milk.

Dulce de Leche is simply sweetened milk cooked down to a thickened, caramel-like sauce. Chez Pim and Alton Brown have recipes that make this irresistable sauce in the traditional manner by taking a large quantity of both milk and sugar (and vanilla) and slowly cooking it down.

I am very often a traditionalist – taking the slow route to achieve the best possible result. And while I do intend to make Dulce de Leche in the traditional manner very soon I just couldn’t wait a moment longer to tell you about this almost-laughably easy method of making Dulce de Leche.

This may very well be the easiest recipe I will ever write.


In a large pan, completely submerge the can of sweetened condense milk in water. Make sure it is covered by at least one inch of water and remains covered throughout the entire process – this is VERY important otherwise it could explode. Cover the pan with a lid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for three hours. Continually check to make sure the can is completely covered with water.

That’s it.

There are dozens of recipes that can help you utilize your Dulce de Leche but my current favorite application is to take slices of fresh picked tart apples, such as Zestar or Sunrise and submerge those into the sweet caramel. If you are like me one bite will have you whisked away to a dreamland where they serve the most incredible caramel apples you have ever tasted only to abrubtly return from your dream-like state by the urging of your 3 year old to share.



Other resources:

David Lebovitz’s method for Dulce de Leche

Five ways to make DDL from What’s For Lunch Honey?

Dulce de Leche ice cream from Apple Pie, Patis and Pate

From Recipe Girl, Dulce de Leche Pumpkin Toffee Pie – yum!


67 Responses to “Dulce de Leche”

  1. sb

    ashley, i look forward to your posts so much. only you could make dulce de leche in a can still look beautiful!

  2. cata

    Hello Ashley! Love this recipe, my grandmother made “Arequipe” for us always in christmas.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Arequipe=Dulce de leche
    kind regards

  3. Hande

    But why make this when it is in no way easier or quicker than the traditional way, and dangerous to boot? 3 hours? check; look every once in awhile? check. David’s method is quicker and sometimes I make that, but this method and the traditional have the same workload!

  4. Anna

    I love love love dulce de leche and whenever a can of condensed milk sits too long in the pantry, that’s what I make, just the same way as you. I’m off to get some apples now, maybe that will be my dessert tonight 😀

  5. Dawn

    That’s my favorite way to make dulce de leche. I used to make a copy cat of O’Charlie’s Caramel Pie making the cream this way and dumping it in with an oreo cookie crust and topping it with whipped cream and chcoalte sauce and mini chocolate chips.

  6. Rita

    Ah…….you make me homesick now… mom used to do this for us all the time, but she used a pressure cooker. Lovely pics.

  7. Karen P

    I had to try this, with the apples right now being so delicious and all. I got a bit eager (and I KNEW this was a mistake) and opened the can before it had time enough to cool off. . .whoops! Dulce de Leche EVERYWHERE. It’s a good thing I have a tall husband or else I would have had Dulce de Leche on the ceiling indefinitely. Really though, it was pretty awesome. We did eventually get past cleaning Dulce de Leche to eating Dulce de Leche and it was very tasty.

  8. Veronica

    I think I will be making a batch of this tonight! Growing up, dulce de leche or cajeta, was made with goat’s milk and wasn’t readily available in the states so my Mom would make dulce de leche just as you explained. I still remember my try at this one day when I was 12. I forgot about the can on the stove, the water dried up and a huge explosion happened. There was sticky, dulce de leche ALL OVER the kitchen! I was cleaning that mess for hours! lol Love the stuff though. It’s up in my favorites right next to Nutella!

  9. Jason Barker

    So after it’s made, do I leave it in the can? Put it in the refrigerator? Remove it from the can and put it in the refrigerator? Or just eat it so there are no leftovers? 🙂

  10. Mmm-mmm-Miranda

    My boyfriend tried to do this to put in his banoffee pie. But I think he didn’t leave it in long enough as it was still liquid condensed milk when he opened it. So is it 3 hours minimum?

  11. joey

    I grew up on this dulce de leche…both my great-grandmother and my grandmother made it. This certainly brings back memories…and reminds me that I should make some of this myself!

  12. Madison Mayberry

    My step-mom is from Uruguay and first introduced me to dulce de leche when I was in 5th grade. I can still remember how exotic I thought it was at the time and how excited I was to share it with my friends! To find a recipe that is this easy makes me so happy. Thanks for sharing it!

  13. kellypea

    I love making dulce de leche this way but have found it turns out a bit different each time. No matter — you’re so right. It’s heavenly. The original “recipe” I found requires the can to be submerged to only 3/4 of its height and then flipped half way through the cooking time. No explosions.

  14. Cooking Like Mom

    Oh my heavens! I’d absolutely forgotten about this fabulously simple and yummy treat! My mom used to make it for us kids when we were little. I make my own homemade sweetened condensed milk, but hadn’t even thought to make the dulce de leche until you reminded me once more. This will be a wonderful treat for my own little daughter and a fun surprise for Daddy, too! Thank you again for this beautiful website and all the hard work you put into it. Each post brings a bit of nostalgia with it and always makes me want to sit here and read for hours. But, I’ve got to get some work done some time! I’ll be sure to check in when I can. Thanks!

  15. Sara@Sprouted Kitchen

    when someone once showed me this, I could not believe I hadn’t hear of it sooner. So, glad you posted it!Eeasy and SUCH a crowd pleaser. I dont even want to imagine a kitchen with an exploding can of this sticky mesh. eish.

  16. Daytona @ Outside Oslo

    That looks wonderful! My husband brought dulce de leche back from South America for me years ago, before we were even seriously dating–but I haven’t had it since. I’m going to have to try making this recipe this fall. I’m looking forward to seeing your apple tart recipe; tarte Tatin is one of my all-time favorite recipes, and I want to try a Norwegian apple cake soon.

  17. Heather in SF

    I just read this, thanks for helping me via Twitter to make this in the crock pot! So happy mine looks the same color as yours. I have been thinking about this in an apple pie or tart for a long time, so I am most curious to see the results of your experimentation. How many versions do you make, on average, when perfecting a recipe?

  18. Megan Gordon

    I’ve always been scared to do this for some reason…my dad insisted it was his favorite thing as a kid. something about it seemed unsafe: explosions or…but I’m going to dive in now. Looks awesome.

  19. Dianne

    We are so incredibly lucky here in South Africa! We can buy this in most of our stores. We call it Caramel Treat…….but I do remember when I was growing up, how we used to boil 3-4 cans of condensed milk at a time. It really was worth it.

  20. maxx

    Thisis the best and simplest way by far [and only way my grandmother an do it]. In australia, Nestle have now put a warning on ther can about this method- which i a happily ignore.
    I find it useful to put cloth on the bottom of teh pan, place teh can on the cloth and cover the whole lot with water and boil.
    The cloth prevents metal touching metal which can cause hot spots and uneven cooking- also useful when using a bain marie.

  21. Annebeth

    Hi,thanks for this recipie! After I read this (well, actually first I had to recover from being stunned: I never had this, and never heard anyone talk about this (I live in the Netherlands) I started to google: and since I don;t know about your tart recipie yet, I’m going to try the one from Jamie this weekend:

    Looking forward to your recipie!

  22. Delf

    Yes! Dulce de Leche is taking over the world! I am completely obsessed with it…. but I live in Argentina so I can buy it in any store! Lucky me! Still, even here this is considered the easiest recipe (though hardly anyone bothers with is since it is quite cheap to buy) and it never fails. But I have to recomend to anyone who is a fan of dulce de leche to buy one of the premium brands (I love La Pataia). Find it in an obscure store near your home, arrange a contraban from south america or find an excuse to travel. But I`m telling you that dulce de leche is on another level. Meanwhile, use this amazingly easy recipe to enjoy one of the best inventions ever

  23. Fe

    One word: pancakes. That is one of the million ways we use it in South America. Also in cakes, muffins, ice cream…. and preactically anything you can imagine. But pancakes are a great way to start.

  24. Jeanie Parsons

    Last night I made 4 cans in a crockpot. NOTHING COULD BE EASIER. I covered them in water and put them on low for 8 hrs. Mine has a timer so it shut off. By the time I got up in the morn, they were cool enough to open. The hardest I had to work was peeling the labels off the cans. Everyone is getting this for Christmas. Great Pics!

  25. Mary Beth

    I tried the 8-hour in the crockpot on low method and it came out perfect! Delicious! No muss, no fuss.

  26. Brisa

    Have been using this method since I was a kid (with supervision, of course). Using a pressure cooker reduces the time to 20 – 40 minutes, depending on darkness/consistency desired. If you use a pressure cooker, make sure to cover the can with plenty water (double can height) and follow pressure cooker instructions to avoid explosion/burning yourself.


  27. Cindy

    I made this last night. I let it go 3 1/2 hours by mistake, but it was fine. It is more than fine actually. It is a magically sweet nectar of life!!! Thanks for the beautiful photos and inspiration.

  28. Vanessa Ahern

    Hi Ashley. I love your blog! I came across it while doing a search for dulce de leche expert. I’m trying to find caramel statistics. I love dulce de leche too. I think the best way to enjoy it is in crepe or in a churros!

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