Saturday, October 3, 2009

Homemade Dulce de Leche

After a fruitless search for Dulce de Leche around my neighborhood, I had purchased all the ingredients I would need to create my own elixir; milk, sugar and vanilla promised to result in a tempting golden sauce. Also called cateja, leche quemada, doce de leite and manjar, this seductive blend of caramel and vanilla can be found throughout South and Central America.

After slowly simmering milk, vanilla and sugar, the majority of the water in the milk evaporates and the mixture thickens; the resulting dulce de leche is the caramelized product of the Maillard reaction. You can also submerge a can of sweetened condensed milk in water and boil it for several hours, but there is always the slight possibility of a can of molten caramel exploding in your kitchen. Personally, I would prefer to avoid burns, especially when the burning substance sticks to you.

My dulce de leche turned out darker than what I have previously eaten. Perhaps flakes of dark brown from the vanilla bean contributed to the color, or a slightly elevated or lower temperature made it darker, I don't know. I was a little sad at first, thinking it would taste grainy or like burnt sugar, but upon melting it today (1 day after it was finished) and drizzling it over vanilla ice cream, I will stand behind my recipe (well, the food network's recipe, to be exact).

Recipe is from the Food Network's website, thus the italics, to show "it's different from me". I copied their instructions, as mine were more a bit more spastic. Picture me raising the heat, going into the other room to study, the mixture bubbling up with me running back into the kitchen after forgetting about it, swearing as I tried to stir out any foamy parts.
To Make:

4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a large, 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat.

Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved.

Once the sugar has dissolved, add the baking soda and stir to combine.

Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer.

Stir occasionally, but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture.

Continue to cook for 1 hour.

Remove the vanilla bean after 1 hour and continue to cook until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.

Store covered in the refrigerator. Drizzle over bananas, strawberries, crepes, on ice cream or cake.


  1. It still turned out beautiful. Good luck on whatever you are studying for...

  2. yum! I love dolce de leche. I usually just make it by boiling a can of condensed milk. so delicious!

  3. you have more courage than i do! maybe someday i will boil a can-so much easier i know, just a wee bit scary for me...

  4. Yum! I love dulce de leche. There's a local dairy here that sells cajeta in a little 8 oz container. I know, it's so cheating for me to purchase rather than make it - but it's local, so that sort of counts...right? This is a lovely recipe, and your caramel looks great.

  5. huge fan of dulce de leche, especially on ice cream! great job on the sauce

  6. I have been wanting to visit this one day soon, and yours looks wonderful! I think the darker the better...

  7. Alta-I totally do not think it is cheating to buy dulce de leche, just some smart shopping! I love cajeta but it is harder to find in Boston.

    Me too Jessie! I have even used it in iced coffee before lol.

    Elizabeth-thanks! I was worried that the dark color would mean it tasted different, but the taste is spot on.

  8. Mmmmm. Making ice cream with this is the first thing that comes to mind.

  9. Wow, what a nice surprise! I grew up in a town in Mexico that is famous for our cajetas. It's funny because the other day cajeta went on my list of recipes to share on my blog :) My recipe is a little different, but your looks like it also turned out delicious:)

  10. Thanks Spicie Foodie (what is your name, btw?)Wow that must have been an AMAZING childhood...I grew up by some good cheese and beef jerky places, delicious but not quite the same!

  11. A homemade dulce de leche sounds wonderful with ice cream!

  12. That looks wicked good. I think it being extra dark would be good (provided it wasn't burned of course). More rich = more nom.

  13. Oh wow! I'm definitely making this! Great post!!

  14. I make my dulce de leche by pressure cooking 5 cans of sweetened condensed milk for an hour (soft candy type), but to make it runny to use as sauce for ice cream, it has to be pressure cooked for about 45 minutes instead. But I love the soft-candy type (it reminds me of "yema" I used to have in the Philippines). The good thing about this method is, I get to make several cans and keep some in stock for future use.


Tried my recipe? Please let me know how it turned out for you! Be honest (and kind!)