Dulce De Leche

by Alice Currah on December 17, 2009. Updated January 10, 2010



It is crunch time around here. I still have lots of baking and other homemade food items to make, package, and deliver for Christmas.  This Christmas I made  dulce de leche for the kids to give to their teachers.  Because time is precious, I am going to show you how to make this under 30 minutes (20 minutes to be exact) using a pressure cooker or the more common way of cooking it on the stovetop.

I have a special fondness for dulce de leche.  Fifteen years ago I lived in a rural part of Bolivia for a summer volunteering at an elementary school.  For breakfast, someone from our group would walk across the street to a roadside vendor, buy sweet bread, bring it back to the house, and we all slathered dulce de leche on toast.  My word, just thinking about it brings back sweet memories.

Dulce de leche means “milk candy” in Spanish and is also known as milk caramel.  A very popular spread in South America, it is made by cooking sweetened milk which then turns into dulce de leche.  The easiest way to make this is by boiling cans of sweetened condensed milk for a few hours. As I already mentioned, I am going to show you how to make dulce de leche two ways.  The first method is using a stock pot.  The second and quickest method is using a pressure cooker.  The difference between the two methods is time.  One cooks at a simmering boil for 3 hours and the other 20 minutes.  So lets get started.

{Related Post: Simple Glorious Caramel Sauce}

How to Make Dulce De Leche
The only ingredient you need are unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk.  Peel the labels off of each one.
condensedmilkpeeledlabelsWhether you plan on cooking these cans in a pressure cooker or a regular pot,  fill your pot with water. Place cans in the pot making sure the water is well above the tops of the cans – otherwise your dulce de leche will explode onto your ceiling and could cause damage to your kitchen.

If you are using a regular pot, make sure you have a lid. Bring water to boil and then to a simmer with the lid on. Check every 30 minutes to make sure the water level is still above the tops of the cans. Cook for 3 hours.

If you are using a pressure cooker, do the same thing above except make sure you have about 1.5 inches of water above the tops of the cans. Seal your lid on and when your pressure cooker indicates you have a seal, cook for 20 minutes (cooking time starts after your pressure cooker indicator pops up).  Allow the pot to completely cool before trying to un-tighten lid.

With both methods you must allow the unopened cans to completely cool before removing lid. Enjoy!

{Helpful comment from Amanda: DO NOT get over-excited and attempt to cool the cans down with cool, cold or icy water.  This can cause it to explode, as well.} – thanks Amanda!


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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

ThatsSoYummy December 17, 2009 at 6:26 am

That’s so funny I was actually thinking of making this the other day, thank you for sharing your easy recipe. Dulce de leche is a favorite in this house :-)



Jenny December 17, 2009 at 6:37 am

Wow, what a fabulous idea. I think you might have solved my neighbor dilemma this year. This looks easy and fabulous AND I have several lovely pressure cookers who would be more then willing to be the recipient of such yumminess. I love your blog.


Jenny December 17, 2009 at 6:38 am

Just one ??? for you. Are you using hi pressure or low pressure? I have the Kuhn Rikon pressure cookers and there are two levels of cooking. Thanks! I am buying cans of milk today! And, BTW, not just saying this cuz you single-handedly made my morning by solving my neighbor gifting dilemma….I adore your blog!


alice December 17, 2009 at 11:44 am

I’m not sure but my guess is the low-pressure. I found this article and it would appear that pressure cookers with just one setting, like mine, are low pressure. Hope this helps!



Muneeba December 17, 2009 at 7:59 am

I love this stuff. I know it’s relatively easy to make this way, but I still wish they’d sell it as is in stores like they do in parts of Latin America! But until that fateful day, I’ll continue it making it at home like you do :)


Leslie December 17, 2009 at 8:06 am

Wow! I cannot wait to try this!! Thank!


Michelle December 17, 2009 at 8:56 am

Mmm. Wonderful!


Elaine Cho December 17, 2009 at 11:31 am

crazy! i was just making this for a birthday cake!


incrediblecrunchyflavor December 17, 2009 at 12:46 pm

i’ve always wanted to try this, but i’ve heard it’s incredibly dangerous…?!


alice December 17, 2009 at 1:11 pm

It is only dangerous if the water level falls below the tops of the cans. You must have the cans submerged in water the entire time. Using a pressure cooker, I found that the water level didn’t drop very much from when I filled it. For the stove top method, just keep checking every 30 minutes. Hope that helps!


Gourmet Mama December 17, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Mmm! I live in Guatemala and dulce de leche is everywhere here, but I didn’t know how to make it. Now, do you know how to make those mouthwatering dulce de leche sticks? I’m guessing this stuff . . . along with icing sugar?


swee December 17, 2009 at 2:29 pm

ah.. too bad i dont have a pressure cooker at home to quicken the process. I just made some and dipped them with churros and baileys :)


Eva December 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Awesome! I love your simple but delicious recipes!


VintageMixer December 17, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Excellent idea for Christmas gifts! Thanks for the post.


Danica December 17, 2009 at 6:39 pm

WOW, Alice that is such an easy thing to do. I never knew you could just take a can and do that. I might have to try it for fun!

LOVE the fun Holiday look of your site :)


Lauren December 17, 2009 at 7:25 pm

So easy and so yummy! I want some =D.


Amanda December 17, 2009 at 7:26 pm

DO NOT get over-excited and attempt to cool the cans down with cool, cold or icy water. This can cause it to explode, as well.


alice December 17, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Thanks Amanda. I am going to add your tip to the post.


erica December 17, 2009 at 8:44 pm

I noticed the picture of the canning jars. Can you can this and if so how long will it last?
Stephanie, The Crockpot Lady, has a blog and posted something on making dulce de leche in a crockpot. I tried it and it did not look as thick and yummy as yours. It was in the crock for 8 hours and was still too thin for my liking. I’m going to try it out this way…it looks too delish not to!


alice December 17, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Hi Erica,
Because it has dairy, I am told it should not be canned and is considered perishable – needing to be refrigerated. Hope this helps.


Elaine December 17, 2009 at 8:56 pm

I am excited to find this recipe, who would have thought that it would be this easy to prepare. I love making gormet desserts, this will be so much easier.


Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef December 17, 2009 at 9:53 pm

I love making dulce de leche using this technique – thanks for reminding us all how simple it really is!!


Jenna December 17, 2009 at 10:08 pm

3 hours to make dulce de leche if you don’t own a pressure cooker??? Sounds very easy to make though.


uzma December 18, 2009 at 1:20 am

I make a variation of this and it turns out fabulous. After boiling cans, ad a pack of double cream and mix well, pour in a dish, cover with crushed digestive biscuits…its yum!!


alice December 18, 2009 at 1:40 am

Thanks for sharing your variation, can’t wait to try it!


Nutmeg Nanny December 18, 2009 at 10:45 am

Delicious! I have always been fearful of boiling the cans but it makes sense if you keep the water over the cans you will be safe. I guess I should get over my fear and just do it! :)


Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen December 18, 2009 at 12:21 pm

Wow, I am impressed! That is definitely quick and easy! Love dulce de leche!


Lori @ RecipeGirl December 19, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Dulce de leche is just about the best invention known to mankind (alongside Nutella, of course!) I make mine in the oven- sweetened condensed milk in a pie plate and placed in a water bath. I’m afraid of the possibility of explosions in my kitchen via the boiling method!! Looks like you kept a pretty good eye on yours ;)


Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets December 20, 2009 at 1:34 am

Dulce de leche is hands down one of my favorite things ever! I love the speed and simplicity of the pressure cooker method which I used before, but never thought about giving this away as gifts. Thanks!


Leslie December 21, 2009 at 5:32 pm

This is my second comment on this. I made this today using the pressure canning method and LOVE it!! I never dreamed how beautiful the color of the caramel would be when I opened the can’s lid. Wow! I have decided that this is what my husband is giving to his co-workers. I think I will attach the recipe. Thanks for the great idea to give as gifts. Love your blog & your recipes!!


Suddenly Sahm December 22, 2009 at 11:02 am

I did a whole series on this as well. It’s such a magical thing to open those cans and find the gorgeous caramel. Your photography is beautiful!


Prego Cook December 25, 2009 at 2:41 pm

I made a batch of Dulce De Leche a few weeks ago and used it to make an Argentinian Christmas cookie called Alfajores…. they are a sandwich cookie that then have the edges rolled in dessicated coconut. So delicious!

Love your site – the pictures are amazing! Just happened to find it tonight….


Elise December 29, 2009 at 11:13 am

I made mine this year directly into decorative mason jars, with fleur de sel added… delicious, and so easy to give as gifts after!


Lory November 15, 2011 at 10:10 am

Elise, what is your method for making dulce de leche directly into mason jars and how much fleur de sel did you add?


Puna December 30, 2009 at 8:10 am

That’s it? I had no idea! I just love this site! I am going to try it today!


Laura B February 15, 2010 at 9:19 am

Wondering if you could tell me how long can I keep the dulce de leche cans once they are cooked. (unopen of course).
I only did two this past week end, and only open one…


alice February 16, 2010 at 1:33 am

They’ll keep for some time since they are still canned. I have a few cans that have been in my fridge for months. I just pull them out as needed. Hope this helps.


Corinna March 12, 2010 at 9:46 pm

I just borrowed my neighbor’s pressure cooker today and, oila, 15 minutes later, I got dulce de leche!! Now, I have to figure out how to make those yummy Alfajores!


Terry April 1, 2010 at 3:07 am

I was taught the stove top method by several South American friends (Chileans) They taught me to boil the cans for only an hour. Are the extra 2 hours really necessary?


Corinna April 7, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I’ve tried 2 recipes for the Alfajores cookies that would get dulce de leche sandwiched in the middle and I still don’t have the perfect cookie. Anyone have a good recipe for these?


alice April 8, 2010 at 12:34 am

Hi Corinna,
Although I have not tried the recipe for myself, Matt of MattBites.com has a Alfajores cookies recipe. He also prepared them on the Martha Stewart show. Here’s the link http://mattbites.com/2009/01/01/alfajores-recipe/


Corinna April 23, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Thanks, Alice for the recommendation. I did try out the recipe from Matt of MattBites.com and it was very delightful. My best friend, who is Argentinian, even gave me compliments! She says, though, that there is an alternative version where the cookie recipe is more like a shortbread one. I tried that one and those were hard to make sandwiches.


Ashley August 14, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I made this recipe (the 3 hour method) for the third time and it was delicious at first, but I found that after a couple days, the dulce de leche turned gritty! can you tell me what might have caused this? I stored the DDL in small mason jars. thanks


JoMi May 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Thanks for sharing! My first attempt to make a Dulce De Leche, turns out to be Perfect!!! =)


Teri June 6, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Hi! I know this is an old post of yours but I came across it in a search and I have a couple of questions:
1) I read in a similar recipe that the sweetened condensed milk can(s) need to be placed on a steamer basket or trivet and not directly on the bottom of the pressure cooker or else they may explode, but you don’t say that anywhere. Is it ok for the can to touch the bottom of the pan, as well as the sides, as long as there is sufficient water above the top of the can?
2) Do you know if this is safe for pressure cookers when using the new, pop-top Eagle brand cans?
Thanks in advance! Have a great day!


Priscilla December 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm

I see someone else found her dulce de leche crystallized after a few days in the refrigerator. I’ve used this method and others, I’ve tried different brands of sweetened condensed milk, but mine invariably crystallizes and gets a grainy texture after a few days. I’ve searched and searched, but I cannot find a solution. Suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!


Margo January 4, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Priscilla, I’ve had only one can of dulce de leche develop a teaspoon-sized area of crystals in the center. It was pressure-cooked for 18 minutes, cooled overnight in the covered cooker, dried off and then re-shelved until opened. I used the rest of the dulce de leche in the can immediately, so cannot say whether refrigerating it might have let the crystalized area grow. Since then, I have shaken each can thoroughly before pressure cooking it, and then cook it for just 15 minutes for a more creamy result. It refrigerates beautifully after that treatment, with no crystals developing.


Priscilla January 6, 2014 at 6:21 am

Thanks I’ll try that! I’m also wondering if it has to do with not letting the can cool completely to room temperature before opening. I’m usually in a hurry to use it, so I open it while it’s still slightly warm. Planning on doing some testing soon. Thanks for the suggestions!


Kate Wetmore January 28, 2014 at 9:37 pm

I don’t worry about exploding cans, I worry about the aluminum in the can leaching into the dulce de leche. The better way to make it is to pour the condensed milk into a canning jar and then proceed as you outlined above. The other benefit to this method (other than not eating aluminum) is that you can watch the color of the dulce de leche and pull it out when it reaches your desired color. I like mine really dark!


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