I always make my own Dulce de Leche, and it is one of my favorite ingredients to use in dessert recipes. Dulce de Leche is basically a very dense sweetened milk with caramelized sugar. It is usually prepared by heating sweetened condensed milk for many hours until it thickens, and the sugar in the milk caramelizes, creating a confection of darker color and quite exquisite flavor. It’s basically candied milk, which is what Dulce de Leche actually means, when translated.
It’s hard to find the “right” kind of Dulce de Leche in the stores, and I always prefer homemade version anyway. I plan to use it a lot in my upcoming recipes – in fact, I just made these wonderful peach shaped sandwich cookies with Dulce de Leche and walnut filling – my first recipe in Dulce de Leche series (clicking on the photo will take you to the recipe of the cookies):
How to make homemade Dulce de Leche from sweetened condensed milk
Prep time: 20 min
Total time: 3 hrs
- 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
Note: Before making any desserts that require Dulce de Leche, I usually prepare the Dulce de Leche (cooked condensed milk) one day in advance, to allow it to completely cool. Always make your Dulce de Leche at least 1 day in advance.
1) Open 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk and pour it into 2 small glass jars, such as Kerr, covering each jar with just a loose flat round lid, without a part that screws it in.
2) Fill 2 small pans with water and put each of those glass jars (with loose lids, not screwed) into each pan, so that water level is at or above the level of condensed milk in the jar.
3) Bring both pans (with water and glass jars) to boil on stove top. Boil condensed milk this way, for a total of 1.5 to 3 hours (depends on the thickness and consistency you want to achieve). If you want more runny consistency, boil it for 1.5 hours, if you want it very thick (that’s how I like it because I use it as a filling in cookies) – boil it for 3 hours. After 1 hour of boiling, start mixing the insides of each jar with a spoon every 30 minutes. Also, make sure to take these important things into consideration:
- Do not screw the top lid to the jar – just let it loosely hang on top, allowing a little bit of air to escape. If you screw the top in, you risk creating too much pressure in the jar, which might lead it to explode / break.
- Also, since you will be boiling the water for 3 hours, you will need to add water regularly as it evaporates. For that purpose, I usually heat the water in the kettle to a boiling point and then pour the boiling water from the kettle into the 2 pans with glass jars. Do not pour cold water into the pans, as adding cold water to boiling hot glass jars will break them.
- As water boils around the glass jar and cooks the condensed milk inside the glass jar, the color of the condensed milk will be progressively getting darker and its consistency thicker. Make sure to stir the condensed milk inside the glass jar every 30 minutes.
- After you have cooked condensed milk this way for 3 hours (or less if you want more runny Dulce de Leche), remove the glass jars from the pan to the counter and let them cool for 2 hours at room temperature.
- After 2 hours of cooling, put glass jars with dulce de leche (cooked condensed milk) in the refrigerator for about 5 hours. After 5 hours, the consistency of Dulce de Leche will not be runny, and it will be thick enough to fill various types of cookies without being too runny and leaking out.
4) Making Dulce de Leche is not difficult at all, but it is important to be in the kitchen during the whole process, as it requires stirring every 30 minutes and adding boiling water as it evaporates. I usually cook or bake something else in the kitchen while my Dulce de Leche is being cooked.
Dulce de Leche should be stored refrigerated in an airtight container. I like to store it in an airtight glass jar with the lid on. It stores well for at least a month.
These photos are illustrating major cooking steps: