May 22, 2020

Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed Milk)

An easy Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed milk) recipe with only 1 ingredient! Sweetened condensed milk is cooked until it becomes thick, creamy caramel-like pudding that you can use for many dessert recipes. It’s delicious straight out of the can, with ice cream, in coffee or spread onto apple slices.

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An easy Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed milk) recipe with only 1 ingredient! <yoastmark class='yoast-text-mark' data-lazy-srcset=Sweetened condensed milk is cooked until it becomes thick, creamy caramel-like pudding that you can use for many dessert recipes. #dulcedeleche #sweetenedcondensedmilk #howtomakedulcedeleche #lalechera #nestle #olgainthekitchen #howto #dessert #filling #caramel” width=”1200″ height=”1800″>

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Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed Milk) Recipe:

Cooking sweetened condensed milk is almost like a tradition among Ukrainian families, except we always called it sguschonka. We use it for cookies and cakes and that’s why we need the thickest texture possible to create thick fillings and frostings for desserts. Using this method of cooking sweetened condensed milk, you get the best results with minimal attention.

You might notice on the back of the can, it says ‘never heat in unopened can’. This is basic knowledge, meaning you don’t want to stick the can into microwave, oven or stove. Just as you would not heat any other canned soups or sauces in cans. You always want to make sure it’s covered in water before it’s being heated.

I like to boil 4-5 cans at a time so I always have some on hand. For last minute baking or when we feel like eating dessert, we make the Waffle Cake. It’s the most delicious, quickest dulce de leche dessert you will ever have!

An easy Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed milk) recipe with only 1 ingredient! <yoastmark class='yoast-text-mark' data-lazy-srcset=Sweetened condensed milk is cooked until it becomes thick, creamy caramel-like pudding that you can use for many dessert recipes. #dulcedeleche #sweetenedcondensedmilk #howtomakedulcedeleche #lalechera #nestle #olgainthekitchen #howto #dessert #filling #caramel” width=”1200″ height=”1800″>

What is Dulce de Leche?

Dulce de leche (cooked condensed milk) is a thickened caramel-like sauce that’s made out of milk and sugar. In other words, it’s sweetened condensed milk heated until it thickens and caramelizes. It’s thick and gooey confection, with a nutty brown color and a taste that’s not quite like anything else. You can also call it jam that’s made out of sweetened condensed milk.

It’s creamy, sweet and caramelized and can range in consistency from a chewy candy to a soft sauce, depends on your desired consistency and color. Very similar to caramel sauce, but so much easier to make especially if you’re using store-bought sweetened condensed milk.

An easy Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed milk) recipe with only 1 ingredient! <yoastmark class='yoast-text-mark' data-lazy-srcset=Sweetened condensed milk is cooked until it becomes thick, creamy caramel-like pudding that you can use for many dessert recipes. #dulcedeleche #sweetenedcondensedmilk #howtomakedulcedeleche #lalechera #nestle #olgainthekitchen #howto #dessert #filling #caramel” width=”1200″ height=”1800″>

Dulce de Leche Ingredients:

This quick tutorial requires only 1 ingredient since water does not really count as an ingredient. We like to use our favorite brand Nestle La Lechera, but you can use any of your favorite brands in here. You can do as much as 5 cans in a pot in single row, or as little as 1 can. Use room temperature water to fully cover the cans making sure they are always fully submerged in water.

An easy Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed milk) recipe with only 1 ingredient! <yoastmark class='yoast-text-mark' data-lazy-srcset=Sweetened condensed milk is cooked until it becomes thick, creamy caramel-like pudding that you can use for many dessert recipes. #dulcedeleche #sweetenedcondensedmilk #howtomakedulcedeleche #lalechera #nestle #olgainthekitchen #howto #dessert #filling #caramel” width=”1200″ height=”1800″>

How to Make Dulce de Leche From Condensed Milk?

  1. Remove the labels off the cans.
  2. Place cans of sweetened condensed milk into a big pot right-side up. You need a pot with lid.
  3. Cover cans with room temperature water, making sure the water level is at least 2-inches above the cans.
  4. Bring the water to a very light rolling boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to lowest and let simmer for 3 to 3 1/2 hours for thickest texture, making sure cans are fully submerged in water at all times. 
  5. Once cans have simmered to desired cooking time, remove the pot from the heat and leave the cans in the water to cool to room temperature. This will ensure the thickest dulce de leche texture possible. 
  6. If not using right away, refrigerate once cooled for up to 1 month in unopened cans.

An easy Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed milk) recipe with only 1 ingredient! <yoastmark class='yoast-text-mark' data-lazy-srcset=Sweetened condensed milk is cooked until it becomes thick, creamy caramel-like pudding that you can use for many dessert recipes. #dulcedeleche #sweetenedcondensedmilk #howtomakedulcedeleche #lalechera #nestle #olgainthekitchen #howto #dessert #filling #caramel” width=”1200″ height=”1800″>

How Long Should I Cook the Condensed Milk?

The cook time will depend on how thick and dark you want the dulce de leche to be.

  • 2-hours cook time will result in a lighter caramel (golden creamy dulce de leche with a thinner texture).
  • 3 to 3 1/2-hours cook time will result in a dark brown rich color with thickest texture possible.

How to Store Dulce de Leche?

Let dulce de leche cool to room temperature in cans. Without opening the cans, store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. From experience, a month was the longest I kept it without it sugaring.

If you opened a can and want to store leftovers, transfer to an airtight container or glass jar. Never store opened dulce de leche in a can!

An easy Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed milk) recipe with only 1 ingredient! <yoastmark class='yoast-text-mark' data-lazy-srcset=Sweetened condensed milk is cooked until it becomes thick, creamy caramel-like pudding that you can use for many dessert recipes. #dulcedeleche #sweetenedcondensedmilk #howtomakedulcedeleche #lalechera #nestle #olgainthekitchen #howto #dessert #filling #caramel” width=”1200″ height=”1800″>

Is Dulce de Leche Caramel?

The key difference between dulce de leche and caramel is that dulce de leche is made from condensed milk (milk and sugar), while caramel is made from sugar and water.

Dulce de leche is usually made by heating up condensed milk and it contains higher sugar levels than regular milk. Once it’s heated, the sugar browns creating golden brown color. Caramel is made by heating sugar until it’s brown in color and sometimes milk and butter are added to create caramel sauce. 

Ways to Enjoy Dulce de Leche:

Eating it by spoonful is probably the most common way to enjoy dulce de leche, but not in my family. We make dulce de leche to use in fillings for desserts or to make cake frosting combined with cream cheese and/or heavy cream. The thicker the dulce de leche, the better results and easier it is to work with when it comes to Ukrainian desserts. Here are some other fun ways to enjoy dulce de leche:

  • As a sweetener in coffee or hot chocolate (dulce de leche + milk)
  • Drizzle on crepes, ice cream or brownies
  • For sticking cookies together
  • Dulce de leche apples – just like caramel apples
  • Spread onto graham crackers or plain biscuits
  • As a dip or spread for churros or apple slices
  • Cheesecake or as caramel layer between cake slices

An easy Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed milk) recipe with only 1 ingredient! <yoastmark class='yoast-text-mark' data-lazy-srcset=Sweetened condensed milk is cooked until it becomes thick, creamy caramel-like pudding that you can use for many dessert recipes. #dulcedeleche #sweetenedcondensedmilk #howtomakedulcedeleche #lalechera #nestle #olgainthekitchen #howto #dessert #filling #caramel” width=”1200″ height=”1800″>

Tips for Making Dulce de Leche:

  • Use stainless steel pot for best results and better control of heat and water.
  • Cover pot with lid to keep water from evaporating.
  • Reduce heat to low as soon as pot with cans starts boiling.
  • Pay attention to the water level. Make sure cans are submerged in water at all times. Not enough water can lead to cans overheating, tearing or even popping. (For decades using this method, we never had it happen).
  • Do not try to open cans while still hot as the hot dulce de leche may spit out because of the pressure inside.
  • Refrigerate cooled cans of dulce de leche unopened for better storage lifetime and to prevent sugaring. Never refrigerate opened dulce de leche in cans. Transfer leftovers into airtight container or glass jar. 

Best Brand of Sweetened Condensed Milk:

Our all-time favorite is the Nestle La Lechera brand. My husband and kids love to spread sweetened condensed milk over a freshly baked slice of bread or our Bread Machine White Bread.

La Lechera Sweetened Condensed Milk has the best taste before it even turns into dulce de leche. Therefore, I always have at least 2 cans on hand. You will get same results from Eagle Brand and genetic store brands should work just as fine.

An easy Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed milk) recipe with only 1 ingredient! <yoastmark class='yoast-text-mark' data-lazy-srcset=Sweetened condensed milk is cooked until it becomes thick, creamy caramel-like pudding that you can use for many dessert recipes. #dulcedeleche #sweetenedcondensedmilk #howtomakedulcedeleche #lalechera #nestle #olgainthekitchen #howto #dessert #filling #caramel” width=”1200″ height=”1800″>

Where to Buy Dulce de Leche?

Nowadays, you can find dulce de leche in any grocery store or supermarkets. In my whole lifetime, I purchased store-bought dulce de leche maybe 3 times. I have to be honest; it is not the same as homemade. It’s called dulce de leche, but at the same time has some hidden additions in it that makes it taste like dulce de leche with something extra. Homemade is thousand times better!

Our All-Time Favorite Dulce de Leche Cookies:

We love dulce de leche desserts! I won’t be wrong if I say we have at least one variety of them at every gathering. We especially like dulce de leche cookies; the filling is irresistible!

Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed Milk)

5 from 9 votes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

An easy Dulce de Leche (Cooked Condensed milk) recipe with only 1 ingredient! Sweetened condensed milk is cooked until it becomes thick, creamy caramel-like pudding that you can use for many dessert recipes. It’s delicious straight out of the can, with ice cream, in coffee or spread onto apple slices.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Remove the labels off the cans.

  2. Place 4 cans of sweetened condensed milk into a big pot right-side up. You need a pot with lid.

  3. Cover cans with room temperature water, making sure the water level is at least 2-inches above the cans. 

  4. Bring the water to a very light rolling boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to lowest and let simmer for 3 to 3 1/2 hours for thickest texture, making sure cans are fully submerged in water at all times. Add more hot water if needed in case some water evaporates during the simmering process. With lid on, you shouldn’t have to do it.

  5. Once cans have simmered to desired cooking time, remove the pot from the heat and leave the cans in the water to cool to room temperature. This will ensure the thickest dulce de leche texture possible. For slightly thinner or lighter in color dulce de leche, remove cans from the hot water using a pair of kitchen tongs and allow them to cool to room temperature. Giving time to cool, will let dulce de leche firm up. Do not try to open cans while still hot as the hot dulce de leche may spit out because of the pressure inside.

  6. If not using right away, refrigerate once cooled for up to 1 month in unopened cans.

Recipe Notes

  • Store: Cool dulce de leche to room temperature. Without opening the cans, store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Store opened can leftovers in an airtight container or glass jar in refrigerator. Never store opened dulce de leche in a can!
  • Ways to Enjoy Dulce de Leche: Eating spoonful. Use in desserts as filling or in frosting (Oreshki or Peach Cookies). As a sweetener in coffee or hot chocolate (dulce de leche + milk). Drizzle on crepes, ice cream or brownies. Spread onto graham crackers or plain biscuits. As a dip or spread for churros or apple slices. Cheesecake or as caramel layer between cake slices.

  • Cook Time: 2-hours for lighter caramel (golden creamy dulce de leche with a thinner texture). 3 to 3 1/2-hours cook for dark brown rich color with thickest texture possible.
  • Pot and Lid: For best results, use an old stainless steel pot with lid for better control of heat and water. Cover pot with lid to keep water form evaporating.
  • Pot-Cleaning: Pot will get a bit sticky from the glue on cans, but it's very easy to clean. I use Bar Keepers Friend or baking soda and a scrubbing pad to turn the pot into new again.

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We first published this recipe in July 2017 and updated it in May 2020 with new photos and more tips.  

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Comments

  • Joanne

    I’ve made dulce de leche a few times using the oven method. It was OK, but not very smooth. And not thick enough. So I tried this one, and it turned out perfectly! With the lid on, I didn’t even have to add water and I boiled it for 3 1/2 hours. Very smooth, very thick, and very delicious. And it was super easy – I kept an eye on it but didn’t have to do anything the entire time. This is the recipe I’m using from now on. Thank you so much for the recipe and detailed instructions. You made this so easy and a real success for me. 🙂

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      Thank you for the wonderful review, Joanne! And thank you for sharing that with us. I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this easy tutorial. 🙂

  • Katerina

    Fantastic recipe! I made 5 cans of these using your method for Christmas to fill my peach and oreshki cookies. The texture was so thick, you would not get it from other methods of making dulce de leche. Made the filling desserts so much easier. From now on, this is the only way I’m making my dulce de leche.

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      Thank you for sharing that with us, Katerina! I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed this recipe! 🙂

  • Karen

    I followed the directions exactly and it was thick when opened the can. When I put it in my Banoffee Pie and refrigerated overnight and fixed my pie the next day , the caramel began to weep and get very loose. Dont know what I did wrong Any ideas?

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      Hi Karen! Just to clarify, this post is ONLY for Dulce de Leche, not for Banofee Pie (which I don’t even have on my website). This wouldn’t be a dulce de leche issue because like you mentioned, the dulce de leche was thick so the recipe did indeed work perfectly for you because it’s suppose to be thick if you follow the recipe. You would troubleshoot the pie recipe on the recipe website of author you used the pie recipe from. Dulce de leche is thick and stays thick refrigerated or at room temperature all the time, UNLESS you start adding things to it then the texture changes. I have never made a Banoffee Pie, but I did a bit troubleshooting for you in case you don’t get an answer from the owner of the pie recipe. I see bananas are used for that pie and people saying that bananas have a tendency to weep, making the custards (in this case the dulce de leche) into a soupy mess. It’s recommended to refrigerate the pie overnight between putting the dulce de leche in and the bananas so that the dulce de leche sets firmly. The less time bananas have on dulce de leche the better. Hope this helps and I would recommend you write about this issue on the whatever recipe site you did! 🙂

  • Jennifer

    Hi! Can it be used in a dessert to freeze as well? Will it thaw and be a thick consistency still?

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      Hi Jennifer! I don’t have experience with freezing filled desserts. Just never had that need to do it, therefore I cannot say how it will turn out. The only dessert with filling I freeze are the macarons that I know work. Sorry I couldn’t help much. If you do decided to try it out, please do share with us. Thanks 🙂

  • Arina

    Olga, can I make this in a slow cooker? Should I up the time? Low? High? Thanks!

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      Hi Arina! I have never tried it in a slow cooker before, therefore I cannot advice anything without experience. I would assume you have to transfer the condensed milk into a jar at first. I will add this to my list, to try in slow cooker and post another version of this tutorial 🙂

  • Peggy

    I make candy from this. Make the thickest and roll teaspoon size amount in crushed nuts, jimmies or coconut. So good.

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      Thank you for sharing that with us, Peggy! Dulce de leche candy sounds absolutely delish!

  • Hamideh

    Thank you for the recipe. I would like to use it for 3 tier wedding cake four layers. What thickness would you suggest is good for that?
    Will it be to heavy for the layers?

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      Hi! It depends if you’re adding something else to the dulce de leche. In general, thicker dulce de leche is a lot easier to work with when it comes to desserts. You don’t have to worry about it running out or off the desserts. I don’t think it would be too heavy, unless you’re adding a very thick layer of dulce de leche to the cake.

  • Teesh

    The very best texture of dulce de leche. I used to do in the oven and was never happy with results when it came to fillings cookies. Your method is my answer. I’m so glad I found your blog!

  • Barbara

    I remember my mom used to make it this way too. It really works and we never bought dulce de leche. I’m so excited finding your blog and this recipe. Now I can finally recreate how my mom used to make it.

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      That’s wonderful, Barbara! Thank you for sharing that with us!

  • April

    I use your method all the time, at least once a month. I do lots of baking with dulce de leche. I have tried slow cooker and instant pot, but neither give those extra thick results. Your recipe is easy to follow, very detailed and simple at the same time. Would recommend for others to try. I stopped buying dulce de leche the day I found your recipe couple years ago.

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      Thank you for sharing that with us and the wonderful review!

  • Rosalyn

    Thank you for all your amazing tips. I was never much of a cook before, so I had been learning a lot from your site because I LOVE how detailed every recipe is. I cooked 4 cans of condensed milk yesterday and the texture is amazingly thick. My kids chose it over Nutella. Never knew it’s so easy. I look forward to more of you’re tips and how to’s. Love your recipes. Keep up the great work!

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      That’s so awesome, Rosalyn! Thank you for your kind words! It makes me happy to share our family favorites with the world 🙂

  • Mike

    We had been making homemade dulce de leche this way for a year now. Before that, I did in instant pot, slow cooker and even oven, but none work as great as your method. It’s impossible to get that really thick texture like from cooking. The best recipe we had found! Thank you for sharing your tips with us.

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      Thank you for sharing that with us, Mike!

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      The exact one that I have for the oven, I wasn’t able to find it on Ebay anymore. BUT, I also do own electric one that I love from this lady at http://www.oreshnitsa.com/ . I spoke to her last week and she mentioned that they will be selling these on Amazon as well. She’s local, so I paid at their website and met her to pick it up.

  • Hayden

    So easy! I will never buy from store again. This tastes so much better than store-bought. They add something else there and the flavor is slightly ‘interesting’. But your easy recipe saves me money too because I buy sweetened condensed milk all the time, so all I have to do is place in a pot and cook. Love it!

    • Olga in the Kitchen

      Thanks Hayden 🙂 I actually bought dulce de leche from store just to try it and I totally agree. It does have something in it because the flavor is different than homemade 🙂

    • Mia

      How long do the cans last without opening? Do we have to keep them in the refrigerator or can we store them in a dry place?

      • Olga in the Kitchen

        Hi Mia, you can store them in dry place as well BUT from experience, cans that I had at room temp started getting sugary at 2 weeks but the ones in fridge didn’t have sugary spots after 1 month. It might go longer than 1 month (who knows) but 1 month (cooked, unopened cans) were still like fresh. Hope this helps 🙂

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