Hello friends! Today’s post is all about one of my favorite things in the whole world! Welcome to the best Dulce de Leche Guide on the internet! We will talk about how to make dulce de leche, how to store it, what to make with dulce de leche, where can you buy dulce de leche, and much more!
I will also be evaluating some brands of dulce de leche, as well as showing you how to make your own! I actually have 5 different recipes for dulce de leche here on the blog.
Make sure to watch the videos on YouTube and read the post below if you want to know everything there is to know about this magical sauce called Dulce de Leche!
What is dulce de leche?
Our first topic on this Dulce de Leche Guide: what is dulce de leche? Dulce de leche is a Latin America staple! It was created in Argentina, however, it’s widely popular across all Latin America.
I grew up in Brazil, where dulce de leche is extremely popular and abundant, we call it “doce de leite”. And we put it on everything!
In Spanish dulce means sweet, and leche means milk. The translation would be something like: “candy (or dessert) made from milk”
Dulce de leche is basically a caramel made from sweetened milk. It can be made several different ways.
Traditionally, dulce de leche is made by slowly cooking down milk and sugar, at a very low heat. I have a recipe for that type of dulce de leche here.
However, my very favorite way of making dulce de leche is from a can of condensed milk! More on that later when I explain how to make dulce de leche below.
Is dulce de leche the same as caramel?
No! Dulce de leche is not the same as caramel! Caramel is made from cooked down sugar (often times with the addition of water, butter, or heavy cream).
What is the difference between dulce de leche and caramel? For starters, the ingredients and the ratios. Secondly, the way they are cooked. Dulce de leche needs a slow and low cooking time. Caramel is much faster to make.
What does dulce de leche taste like? Dulce de leche is way richer, thicker, and more fudgy than caramel, and has toasty notes. There is just no comparison to me, and dulce de leche is BY FAR way better than caramel! You will see why below if you continue to read this Dulce de Leche Guide.
How to make dulce de leche?
Like I said above, dulce de leche is made of sweetened milk, cooked down until Maillard reaction occurs between the sugar and milk.
The byproducts of the Maillard reaction are the complex flavors and aromas and the caramelization.
To understand the Maillard reaction in dulce de leche in detail, read this article. It gets very scientific.
But basically, what you have to understand is that: the longer you cook, the darker and the thicker the dulce de leche will be. However, each method has its own cooking time in order to achieve the really thick and rich results.
Let’s talk about the methods. On this video on YouTube, I am comparing the 5 different methods of making dulce de leche. The video can also be found on this page.
First let’s talk about the sweetened condensed milk dulce de leche methods.
Oven method (condensed milk dulce de leche)
We will begin with the oven method.
The oven method consists of baking the sweetened condensed milk over a water bath.
The dulce de leche turns out a bit lumpy, and not as thick since you can’t cook it too much to prevent any further scorching and burning. It is however, a safe and reliable method. It won’t always make the smoothest dulce de leche for frosting and glaze.
For the full oven method, recipe and instructions visit this page.
Stove top method (condensed milk dulce de leche)
Next we have another sweetened condensed milk dulce de leche method: the stove top.
Which consists of boiling a sealed can of condensed milk for a few hours, checking every so often to make sure it’s completely submerged in water.
The results: a thick, dark delicious dulce de leche made out of sweetened condensed milk!
Note that the thickness and darkness of the dulce de leche will depend on how long you cook. Cooking time of the sweetened condensed milk can should be from 2.5 to 4 hours, ALWAYS making sure it’s covered in water, and always making sure the can is completely cooled down before moving it and opening.
For the full recipe and stove top instructions for this method click here.
Pressure cooker method (condensed milk dulce de leche)
You can make dulce de leche from condensed milk by placing the can in the pressure cooker, covering completely by water, and cooking for 35 minutes, and always making sure the can is completely cooled down before moving it and opening.
The results: my favorite way of making dulce de leche ever! Smooth, thick, dark and delicious! And it only takes 35 minutes, plus the cooling down time!
For the full recipe and pressure cooker instructions visit this page.
Slow cooker method (condensed milk dulce de leche)
In the slow cooker method, you also cook a sealed can of condensed milk, but this time in the slow cooker, for 8 hours, and always making sure the can is completely cooled down before moving it and opening.
The results: a very thick and luscious dulce de leche as well! The downside: it takes forever to make it.
For the full recipe and slow cooker instructions visit this page.
And now moving on to the dulce de leche without condensed milk method.
Stove top method (milk + sugar + baking soda)
You can make dulce de leche by cooking down milk and sugar in the stove top, with the addition of baking soda to help the reactions that occur in order to form a thick and rich dulce de leche.
The results: A dark sauce, slightly gritty, thick but not pipeable.
The taste: a mix between caramel and dulce de leche.
For the full recipe and instructions visit this page.
The verdict: the instant pot dulce de leche is the winner in my book!
If you are looking for the best way on how to make dulce de leche, that is your best bet!
Is it safe cooking a can of condensed milk?
As long as you take the safety measures below you will be fine cooking the can of condensed milk. Make absolute sure to pay attention to this the whole time:
- Before cooking the condensed milk can inspect it and make sure it is not dented or have any damages.
- Always be VERY careful, make sure to cover the can with water completely. Set a timer to check on the water every 20 minutes!
- Let the can cool down completely in the water before removing it and opening.
- Don’t knock, shake, or jostle the pan containing the hot can of sweetened condensed milk.
- Never leave the can unattended, check on it constantly while it’s cooking.
If you don’t feel safe with these options, please make the dulce de leche using the oven method, or the stove top method without sweetened condensed milk.
How to store dulce de leche and dulce de leche shelf life
Dulce de leche will last for quite a bit, which means it’s great for making ahead!
You can store dulce de leche in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Some people even say 3 weeks. Make sure it’s well covered.
And you can also freeze dulce de leche, by placing in an air tight container, and placing in the freezer for 1 to 2 months, even though some people say it will last even longer.
I’ve tried freezing dulce de leche in a ziploc bag, but it’s very messy and hard to get the dulce de leche out, and you will end up wasting quite a bit that will be stuck in the bag, so I prefer to store in an air tight container.
To thaw the dulce de leche place it in the fridge, however, the dulce de leche will still be scoopable even straight from the freezer.
Where to buy dulce de leche
Dulce de leche is becoming each time more accessible in the US, because of its increasing popularity.
I am from Brazil and dulce de leche can be found anywhere and everywhere. The artisan dulce de leches are basically some of the best things I’ve ever tasted in my life.
Argentinian dulce de leche is also very popular in Brazil, since Argentina is right next to Brazil, and also since they make arguably the best dulce de leche in the world.
Lucky for you, you can find both Argentinian and Brazilian dulce de leche here in the US! On Amazon, you can get some of my favorite brands of dulce de leche and try for yourself. And here I will introduce you to some of them.
If you don’t want to purchase dulce de leche online, you can also purchase it at Walmart. They sell La Lechera dulce de leche on the Latin food aisle.
Cost: around $2.50 for 13.4 oz.
Ingredients: Milk, Sugar, Agar, Sodium Bicarbonate, Disodium Phosphate.
Evaluation: smooth, creamy and thick. Can pipe it after refrigerating. Not as rich as the homemade pressure cooker (my favorite) and the next brands we will try, but a valid option.
Next on the list, we have Chimbote, an Argentinian dulce de leche which can be found on Amazon here.
Cost: around $10 for 8.8 oz.
Ingredients: milk, sugar, baking soda, glucose.
Evaluation: super rich, one of the richest dulce de leches. The color is very dark and the dulce de leche is smooth and silky. Not able to pipe it (it won’t hold its shape), but will work to add to buttercream, or to fill cakes, cupcakes.
Now let’s analyze another Argentinian dulce de leche which you can find on Amazon here.
Cost: around $17 for 15.86 oz.
Ingredients: water, sugar, full cream milk powder, glucose syrup, skimmed milk powder, natural vanilla flavor.
Evaluation: my favorite dulce de leche taste wise, extremely rich, the darker of all of the dulce de leches I tested. Not pipeable, it won’t hold its shape, but will be great to fill cakes, cupcakes, or use to make frosting, spread on toast, etc. This is a very popular dulce de leche in Brazil, in Argentina, and now around the world. This brand also makes very delicious and coveted alfajores.
This dulce de leche is pricey, but worth trying at least once if you are in love with dulce de leche like I am.
Now finally a Brazilian brand of dulce de leche!
Aviacao is a brand of dulce de leche that you can find at any store in Brazil. It tastes like a typical Brazilian dulce de leche: rich and with a milky aftertaste, which can only be understood by actually trying it. It’s lovely.
Cost: around $11 for 14 oz.
Ingredients: sugar, milk and Lactase enzyme.
Evaluation: even though Aviacao is a rich dulce de leche, is definitely not as rich and dark as the Argentinian dulce de leches, and doesn’t have that sweet snap at the end of each spoonful like the very rich Argentinian ones do. However, it’s very unique, and worth trying. It’s not thick enough to be piped, even after refrigerated, but will make a delicious frosting if added to buttercream, or can be used to fill cakes, cupcakes, top pancakes, and much more.
So, I’ve piped the store-bought dulce de leches and the pressure cooker made at home on a plate, and here are the results:
This picture was right after piping. 20 minutes later, they were all melted down, except for the pressure cooker one.
So, if you are looking for a dulce de leche that won’t leak or melt to fill macarons, cookies, alfajores, or top cupcakes with, go for the homemade pressure cooker one, unless you don’t feel safe about cooking the closed can of condensed milk. In that case, you should use store-bought and make frosting instead to help thicken the dulce de leche with the powdered sugar.
What to do with dulce de leche
And that brings us to the final topic we will approach today: what to do with dulce de leche.
Dulce de leche can be used for many things. First one: eating with a spoon. That’s right, it’s my favorite way of eating dulce de leche.
But, of course, you can use it many other ways.
Simple ways of using dulce de leche are:
- With cheese (yes in Brazil that’s a very popular way of eating dulce de leche, spread on white cheese)
- On top of waffles, pancakes, pound cake
- Spreading on toast
And here are some recipes you can make with dulce de leche:
For the full list of dulce de leche desserts click here.
I hope you enjoyed today’s Dulce de Leche Guide on how to make dulce de leche, how to store it, how to serve it, what to make with dulce de leche, where to buy it, and everything else in between!
Thanks for reading!
Hi Camila! I’ve been following you for a while and hadn’t realized you had dulce de leche running through your veins! Haha I love how you’ve explainned everything about this delicious treat in your blog and the differences between them. I’m Argentinian and love that you are so in love with Havanna’s Dulce de leche. Very nice tips about how to make it thicker, I’m definatelly going to try. Xx
haha yes Havanna is my favorite!!!! Specially the alfajores!!!
Oh, I had no idea that dulce de leche is essentially a caramel made from sweetened milk. I thought it was something completely different honestly. I’d like to try it out with some pastries.
Thank you so much for sharing this information! Can I make dulce de leche myself and then add it to the base of a buttercream? Also wondering if it can be used to drip on a cake or is it too thick of a sauce?
yes I add it to buttercream in all these recipes:
dulce de leche Russian buttercream
dulce de leche mocha swiss meringue buttercream
dulce de leche cream cheese frosting
and if using american buttercream yes you can just add like 1/2 cup of dulce de leche for about 10 oz of butter (probably have to adjust powdered sugar and add more to make it stiff)
and about the drip, yes it’s too thick for a drip, even if you don’t cook it as much, BUT I made a BEAUTIFUL dulce de leche drip this week, the recipe is coming on monday! It’s a gorgeous dulce de leche drip recipe, where I mixed dulce de leche with milk and powdered sugar and it turned out so gorgeous!
I tried this with a pressure cooker but I don’t think 35 min for my cooker was long enough, the milk barely turned color. Weird question, but is there any way to know when it’s “ready” since we can’t eyeball it with a can? Or is it possible to overcook this?
Did you cook on high pressure? And did you start counting 35 minutes after it took on pressure? There’s no way to know when it’s ready, because you can’t open the can. I’ve never been able to overcook it, but I never cooked over 40 minutes on the pressure cooker. I have a crockpot pressure cooker now, which is electric. And I used to have one of those old school aluminum pressure cookers that you have to put on the stove to cook, and both of them cook my dulce de leche at 35 min on high pressure.
Great article! Thank you for sharing so much great information. I just got an instant pot and cannot wait to make this now! I totally agree – eating it right off a spoon might be the best thing ever! 😁
Thank you Hazel! I am glad you liked it!
I’ve used the stove top method and had great results, just got to keep it topped up! Have you put multiple tins in the same pot? Once finished have you put unopened tins back in the cupboard for use at a later date?
So yes I have boiled 2 cans at the same time on the stove top method, just in case I boiled for extra 30 minutes.
And about the storage, I have heard people saying you can store the can for a few months like that, but I have never tried doing that so I cant recommend it.
Thank you Helen. Have a fabulous day!
Great article! Do you think tins of ‘light’ condensed milk (made from skimmed milk and sugar, instead of full fat milk and sugar) would also work to make dulce de leche using the stove top method? Thank you!
I have never tried with that kind!
So I’ve recently become addicted to dulce de leche, which I’ve only ever tried it in the gelato 5 layer icecream. I came across your YouTube video when I was looking up, how to make it & honestly I’m so afraid to make it and have it come out good, because I know if it does I will probably stock up on it and gain a substantial amount if weight from eating it spoonful daily and on everything sweet I eat.!! That of course is not stopping me at all from asking you these questions or that I can make it until my last day on earth, which in that case I’ll be having the best dulce de leche for my last meal.!! I’m buying the pressure cooker you use in the video because I don’t want to stray from the recipe or mess it up, so…
I wanted to know what kind if crock pot you have that’s being used in the video, where you purchased yours from the brand, size etc.?
Is there a difference between an instant pot and pressure cooker, in your opinion?
Would you recommend which product to get to make dulce de leche concerning the pressure cooker and instant pot?
What’s your take on cooking two cans or more together in a pressure cooker or instant pot? Is it possible, or just better to do 1 at a time?
Can you over cook dulce de leche, if so how would you know? Also can it be undercooked? How would you know when it’s finished.
Also what brand of sweetened condensed milk do you recommend when making at home?
You mention in your videos and instructions to inspect the cans before hand. I was wondering what the importance of having no dents, dings or any damages to the can are? Why is it recommended to be perfect before use? & what would happen if you accidentally used one with a dent in it, even if it was a really small one? Also could you explain a bit in a video or unless you can in writing, about what would be acceptable on xans you can use and can’t use? If that is even possible.
Also when doing the oven method or the stovetop when you pour the condensed milk in the pan, to make it not so lumpy could you use a whisk or preferred use an electrical hand mixer top stir it?
Can you use vanilla extract in your dulce de leche or vanilla bean for flavoring?
What is the deal with the colors of dulce de leche, when some are way more lighter in color and some that are darker. Is it just preference or would it be that the lighter it is just means it’s not cooked enough?
Instant pot is simply the name of the brand.
Mine is a Crock-Pot Express.
I do cook two cans at a time sometimes, but not longer.
If the cans have dents in them they can explode because when the cans get dented, the anaerobic condition of the can is gone.
Have you tried any of these methods with sweetened condensed coconut milk?
I haven’t, but I don’t think it will work.
It works! I’m vegan and I do the coconut based ones. You have to cook it longer though.
hai hai, one question, i want those dulce de leche old fashioned aluminum pressure cookers you have to put on the stove to cook, how high will the heat be for 35 minutes? low heat medium ? thanks
I used to have those old fashioned ones, I used medium heat.
Hummmmmm… que delícia 😋 😋 😋 😋
I make my dulce de leche with a sous vide, and now I’m curious how it compares to the pressure cooker one you like! I’ll have to try that next time 🙂
I tried the stovetop boiling method, but obviously didn’t let it go long enough, as it was far too light and thin. How can I thicken it up, I don’t want to throw it out? Thank you!
you can cook it longer by placing in a jar and using a method like this one for example https://cosmopolitancornbread.com/make-homemade-dulce-de-leche-easy-way/