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.
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!