Homemade Dulce de Leche Recipe on Food52 (2024)

5 Ingredients or Fewer

by: Catherine Lamb



4 Ratings

  • Makes 1 cup

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Author Notes

Caution: before you proceed with this recipe, understand that dulce de leche is dangerously addictive. It's perfectly sweet and rich -- without being too sweet or too rich. Its name also translates to "milk jam," so it is perfectly acceptable to spread thickly on buttered toast, topped with a sprinkle of sea salt.
For a vegan variation, replace the milk with coconut milk. This can also be made with goats milk for an added tang, but then you're technically making cajeta.
This recipe was inspired by the versions by Deb Perelman and Alton Brown, then adapted. —Catherine Lamb

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • 1 quartwhole milk
  • 1 cupsugar
  • 1/2 teaspoonkosher salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 1/4 teaspoonbaking soda
  1. Mix the first four ingredients together in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Take off the heat.
  2. Stir in the baking soda, then put the mixture back on the stove over low heat. You want the mixture to bubble along the edges, but not to boil over.
  3. Let the mixture cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The color will begin to sneak from white to tan after an hour or so, then will darken rapidly. Keep a close eye on it now, stirring constantly. As the mixture darkens it will become thicker, and also nuttier. After your dulce de leche reaches your desired tone of caramel color, take it off the heat and let it cool slightly
  4. If you want your dulce de leche to have a silky smooth texture, push it through a fine mesh strainer. If you don't want to go through the extra effort, it will be more than fine as is.
  5. Dulce de leche keeps, refrigerated, for up to four weeks. Eat it over ice cream, spread on toast, or right out of the jar.


  • Candy
  • Condiment/Spread
  • South American
  • Mexican
  • Cheese
  • 5 Ingredients or Fewer
  • Make Ahead
  • One-Pot Wonders
  • Slow Cooker
  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Fall

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Smaug

  • Chef Carlos

  • Andie Paysinger

  • Nancy Henderson

  • Mauricio Leonardo

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46 Reviews

Smaug February 7, 2020

I have to wonder about the coconut milk version. When you cook milk, the casein (one of the main proteins) unravels (denatures) and forms a bond with water molecules, which causes it to thicken. As coconut milk contains very little protein, and not the same ones, I wouldn't expect it to behave much like regular milk in this type of recipe.

Kim March 22, 2019

A terrible waste—salty and definitely NOT a traditional Dulce de Leche! My son’s class was doing a Heritage report and the teacher suggested bringing in samples of a food or dish for the class. I have very fond memories of my Abuela making Dulce de Leche when I was a kid and I thought it would be a fun project. Unfortunately, I found this recipe. This might be a modern salted caramel sauce but it is nothing like real Dulce de Leche. The salt ruined the recipe and we made a double batch. Very unfortunate!

Darian February 10, 2019

I made this today, a double recipe. It took waaayyy longer than listed - thankfully I had read the other reviews so was prepared for that! However, it turned out really well and is SO delicious so no complaints!

Chef C. May 21, 2018

On the other hand, I've made this recipe several times but I just opened a can of Nestle dulce de leche and it is superb - a consideration when getting DDL in your mouth ASAP

Daph May 21, 2018

This is amazing. The cooking took longer (about 3 hours), but the result was a really smooth, creamy (and not grainy!), vanilla dream. I am not a dulce de leche expert, but this one set the bar very high for me.

Andie P. August 11, 2016

I make it in a Crock-pot, the longer lower temp cooking makes it smoother and less grainy.
It is also, in my opinion, better when made with goat milk. I got my recipe from an ex-neighbor, they lived next door to me for almost 20 years. They were originally from Durango, Mexico.
It is an essential ingredient in the tres leches cake.

Karen July 11, 2017

Directions for the crockpot?

Nancy H. July 24, 2016

ok. only made one error while making. I halved the recipe. turned out so good I wish I had made the whole amount! Yum. thanks for another community pick keeper!

Mauricio L. December 14, 2014

mmm... this is delicious, but in Argentina it is not grainy, it is very smooth... in Chile it is called manjar... it can be made by boling a can of condensed milk (dont open the can) for several hours (2 or so...)

Kerri June 30, 2014

I think the can in water is fine. I have done it for years just the can in a pot of boiling water for an hour. Of course, make sure the water doesn't run out,,, but why would you walk away from the stove when you're cooking anyway, right?

Gloria B. June 27, 2014

who would think dulce de leche will have so many comments.
Im agree with Chef Carlos.
I grow with Dukce de leche and think fudge is different dulce de leche is cooked milk with sugar and is amazing!
Nestle has a product they called Caramel and this is mkore alike to dulce de leche anyway the best dulce de leche for me is made in home!

Chef C. June 27, 2014

Dear Jewels - hard to believe that dulce de leche is really fudge. When I think of fudge, Mackinac Island or Maine comes to mind, not Buenos Aires

Mauricio L. December 14, 2014

never thought of that

Jewels V. June 27, 2014

FWIW this is called "fudge" in English. A fellow from Columbia gave me a half coconut shell full of something incredibly good but he didn't know what it was called, he only knew it was made from milk and sugar. It took me a lot of searching to discover the name. Modern Americans are so accustomed to *chocolate* fudge that we perceive plain fudge to be an exciting new flavor.

Fudge is a crystalline product, that's why it takes so long to form. The quick recipe uses marshmallow creme to jump start the crystallization process so it is not such a demanding process. Milk and honey is a time honored combination, but for some reason fudge is a quite recent invention, 1896. Some combinations might crystallize and some might not. Useful information for experimenters: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fudge

Victor L. June 27, 2014

I use the condensed in a can/water method. After it's done I add toasted pecans or walnuts and coconut. Top a really good vanilla ice cream and you're good to go.

raisingkane June 20, 2014

It's late and I want to go to bed. Early work day tomorrow. My dulce de leche has been simmering for 2.5 hours and it looks like it could last another hour. Uh, wonder what would happen if I turn it off and go to bed and finish it in the morning? Probably not a good idea...

weshook September 16, 2014

I made this today, and I know that your comment was 3 months ago, but I had to go in and out of the house today and didn't want to leave this cooking while I was out so I turned it off when I left and resumed when I returned. I also was cooking down 1/2 gallon of milk instead of 1 quart so it took longer. but it eventually cooked down and is so delicious. I am looking forward to making alfajores now.

Grace H. July 14, 2017


Michele May 20, 2014

I just finished making a batch and the color is much darker than the photo here. I used raw milk and I wonder if that contributed to the deeper color. It's delicious!!

J. P. May 14, 2014

I hate to say this but the color isn't as dark as I'd like to see it. But then, I spent a month in Buenos Aires last year and became addicted to La Salamandra Dulce de Leche. It's like a staple down there. They put dulce de leche in everything. So the question is - how do make the Argentinian version?

JadeTree May 8, 2014

Great success with this recipe; delicious results! Generously gave one jar away and made a friend for life. I must say that this definitely a litmus test for one's stovetop. My crummy electric burners turned out to be very difficult to regulate for a long, slow process like this one that is more delicate than a braise. It took me almost *three* hours to get to a good, caramel-colored stage (a bit darker than the pictures above) because my burners are so clumsy to calibrate. You know, too low, then boiling and frothing, then low again, aggravation. So electric stove people, get ready to know your appliance better!

Elena May 1, 2014

Which coconut milk would you use for the vegan option?

Gloria B. April 10, 2014

I wanna say cover the t5ins with water in the pressupre cook.

Gloria B. April 10, 2014

In a pressure cooker with wáter over the tins I cook about 1 hour, LET COOL BY a while before to open the pressure cook.
And let the tins cool before to open. And is ready!

Homemade Dulce de Leche Recipe on Food52 (2024)


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