How to Make Dulce de Leche

Learn how to make dulce de leche two different ways. One is more hands on than the other but both are delicious and rich.

Dulce de Leche. Thick, rich, caramel like sauce that I can eat with a spoon. Even if you’ve never heard of dulce de leche, you’ve probably had it. It’s similar to caramel, delicious on so many desserts and today I’m sharing two ways how to make it at home.

One method takes just one ingredient and is fairly “hands off”. The other method calls for 4 ingredients and takes a little more babysitting. Both are amazing. Let’s talk through everything you need to know for dulce de leche.

a spoonful of caramel in a bowl

What is dulce de leche?

Dulce de leche means “sweet of milk” or “candy of milk”. It’s a popular treat in Latin America and is found in other countries such as France, Poland and Italy.

You may have eaten this and not even known it! It looks very similar to caramel and has a caramel flavor. So what is the difference?

What is the difference between dulce de leche and caramel?

Dulce de leche and caramel are very similar and made in a similar fashion. The difference comes in the ingredients.

Dulce de leche is a combination of cooking down milk and sugar. It ends up a thick, spreadable or sometimes pourable sweet treat that is generally used as a topping or filling for other desserts.

Caramel is a combination of cooking down water and sugar. It is usually thinner than dulce de leche and not quite as heavy in flavor.

In these two methods that I mention below, I found the sweetened condensed milk version to be thick. I would use this in a recipe as a filling or a topping or for dipping. The from scratch version was not as thick so I would mostly stick with this as a topping to cheesecake and ice cream.

How to Make Dulce de Leche

There are two ways to make this at home. Both are delicious and have their benefits. Try both and let us know which you like better.

From Sweetened Condensed Milk

This is by far the easiest method. I love it because it is so hands off. Pop it into the oven and you’re ready to go! You’ll end up with a thick, rich caramel-like filling.

  • Preheat the oven to 425º Fahrenheit.
  • Pour the condensed milk into a ceramic pie plate or 8×8 glass baking dish. Cover with foil.
  • Place the pie plate into a larger baking pan.
  • Pour water into the large baking pan until it comes to about ¾ of the way up the smaller baking pan.
  • Bake for 90 minutes or until the caramel has thickened and is light brown in color. Check it at 60 minutes to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated too much. Add more water to the pan if needed.

From Scratch

This method is nice if you don’t want to use your oven. It is made entirely on the stovetop which means you’ll have to watch it and stir it often so that it doesn’t burn. It is important to use a high quality, heavy bottomed saucepan for this method. It will help prevent the sugar mixture from burning or scorching.

This method ends up slightly runnier than the sweetened condensed milk version.

  • In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and baking soda. Heat over medium-low to medium heat, stirring often, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Once the mixture begins boiling reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until caramelized and thickened, about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours. As the mixture thickens, you will need to stir more often as it nears the end of the cooking time to avoid burning it. Watch it closely!
  • Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Both methods are ready to use as soon as they are done cooking. Or you can cool it and use it later.

Can you use dulce de leche and caramel interchangeably?

Because they have a similar flavor, you can usually use them interchangeably. However, if you’re looking to be authentic to a certain recipe, it is best to use what that recipe calls for since it will slightly change the texture and flavor of the dish.

Storage Instructions

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

dulce de leche dripping off a white bowl

What do you eat dulce de leche with?

The possibilities are endless! Serve dulce de leche on cheesecake (even pumpkin cheesecake), ice cream or pancakes. Use it as a filling for brownies or brownie cups or use it to make homemade ice cream.

a spoon full of dulce de leche
a spoon full of dulce de leche

How to Make Dulce de Leche

5 from 1 vote
Learn how to make dulce de leche two different ways. One is more hands on than the other but both are delicious and rich.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients
 

From Scratch Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole milk (948 milliliters)
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar (264 grams)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

From Sweetened Condensed Milk Ingredients:

  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk (1 can)

Instructions
 

From Scratch:

  • In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and baking soda. Heat over medium-low to medium heat, stirring often, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Once the mixture begins boiling reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until caramelized and thickened, about 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours. As the mixture thickens, you will need to stir more often as it nears the end of the cooking time to avoid burning it. Watch it closely!
  • Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
  • Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
  • This made a little over 1 ½ cups of dulce de leche.

From Sweetened Condensed Milk:

  • Preheat the oven to 425º Fahrenheit.
  • Pour the condensed milk into a ceramic pie plate or 8×8 glass baking dish. Cover with foil.
  • Place the pie plate into a larger baking pan.
  • Pour water into the large baking pan until it comes to about ¾ of the way up the smaller baking pan.
  • Bake for 90 minutes or until the caramel has thickened and is light brown in color. Check it at 60 minutes to make sure the water hasn't evaporated too much. Add more water to the pan if needed.
  • The dulce de leche is ready to use as soon as it comes out of the oven, or you can cool it slightly. This sweetened condensed milk technique made a little over 1 cup of dulce de leche.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword candy, caramel, homemade

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

Get 5 Classic Recipes with a Deliciously Secret Twist

You might also like

Join the Discussion

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments