Dulce de Leche

My plan this week was (and still is) to share a rundown of fun Easter recipes, printables and dinner ideas. And don’t worry – it will still happen. But I cannot consider myself any kind of friend if we don’t cover this first:

DIY Dulce de Leche.

Did you just shiver in excited anticipation? Because you should. I have been living in a dulce de leche dream world since stumbling upon this foolproof and non-explosive method of making dulce de leche. I’m not kidding when I say that I’ve made a batch of this about every other day for the last week because I can’t stop myself from a) eating it by the spoonful and b) giving it away so I can win the friend-of-the-year award. Listen, I’m not above bribing people to be my friends. Glad we got that out of the way.

Dulce de Leche

Let me back up a bit. A week or so ago, a friend I’ve made through blogging, Amy M. (who has fantastic, impeccable food taste), emailed me to tell me she had boiled a can of sweetened condensed milk in water, stirred in a bit of vanilla, and made the best dulce de leche ever. I emailed her back and said I’d heard of this method, but like pressure cookers in general, it scared the bejeebers out of me to try it. I mean, I don’t know about you but the risk of exploding cans of hot sugar make me nervous. Amy assured me it wasn’t that big of a deal (probably rolling her eyes all the while) especially if you keep an eye on the water level and add water as necessary.

But I was still scared. So I did a little research and in doing so found I wasn’t so crazy about boiling the can for another reason – the possible (or real, whose to say for sure) risk of BPA toxins from lined cans leaching into the milk while boiling. Enter the canning jar theory. I have a ton of canning jars sitting in my basement so I decided to try it out in the slow cooker. Toxin risk eliminated. Explosion risk eliminated.

Dulce de Leche

Now I just had to decide if it really was the stuff dreams are made of. So I opened up two cans of sweetened condensed milk, poured them equally into 3 (1/2-pint) canning jars. Capped them with lids and rings and set them in my slow cooker, covered with water by an inch and cooked the magical jars for 8 1/2 hours (another overnight solution, baby). And oh yes, my friends, the golden, glorious dulce de leche that was pulled from my slow cooker (with a bit of vanilla stirred in) truly is life-changing. For a week or so now, we’ve been dipping apples like crazy into the silky, smooth dulce de leche, not to mention drizzling it slightly warmed over ice cream and…as I sheepishly admitted earlier…simply eating it by the spoonful (my husband insists I mention right here and right now how divine this is on bananas, also).

So what are you waiting for? Make some! It’s easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy and I’m left wondering how I’ve managed to live without a constant supply of dulce de leche in my kitchen before now. Thanks, Amy, for getting the wheels spinning for some fantastic, homemade dulce de leche! How can you resist a one (possibly two if you add the vanilla) ingredient recipe that tastes like heaven? Plus, you’ll want to have some of this on hand thanks to the dessert recipe I’ll be posting next week that utilizes the dreamy stuff.

Dulce de Leche

DIY Dulce de Leche

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 cups

DIY Dulce de Leche

Note: Don't shorten the slow cooker time by setting the temperature to HIGH. I read several reviews over different blogs that said doing that resulted in a very burnt, disgusting mess. Also, slow cookers vary in temperature so you'll have to experiment a little with the actual time you cook your dulce de leche. Mine was perfect after exactly 8 1/2 hours but it might take up to 10 or as short as 8 to achieve the perfect dulce de leche.


  • 2 (14-ounces each) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste, optional
  • 3 (1/2 pint each) canning jars with lids and rings
  • Water


  1. Open the cans of sweetened condensed milk and portion them equally into the three canning jars. Wipe the tops and sides of the canning jars, if needed, in case any of the sweetened condensed milk spilled down the sides. Place a lid and ring on the canning jar and screw tightly to seal. Put the three canning jars in a slow cooker and cover with water by one inch. It doesn't matter whether the jars are laying on their side or standing up straight - do what works best for the size of slow cooker you have. Place the lid on the slow cooker and set to low for 8-9 hours, until the dulce de leche is deep golden brown. Carefully remove the jars from the hot water and let them cool. If desired, open the jars and stir in 1/2 - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract into each jar. Replace the lids and rings and store in the refrigerator. Supposedly it keeps in the refrigerator for up to a month - good luck getting it to last that long!
  2. The dulce de leche can be warmed up on low heat in the microwave or on the stovetop in a pan of water to be drizzled over ice cream, used as dip for apples, spread over crepes etc. We also enjoy it cold or at room temperature for a spread on bananas, apples, sweet breads (like banana or zucchini). The options are endless!

Recipe Source: inspired by this post after Amy M. sent me an email regarding dulce de leche

147 Responses to DIY Dulce de Leche

  1. Jackie says:

    SO YUMMY! The only problem I have with this recipe, when I get a craving for dulce de leche, like I have right now, I can’t wait 8 hours!

  2. Teri says:

    Can you can this?

    • Mel says:

      Teri – Not sure, I haven’t tried but it keeps for several weeks in the refrigerator.

    • kdp says:

      nope! milk and it’s products are not safe for canning, according to the NCHFP. I sure wish it were though! Then I could make my Christmas gifts right now instead of the day before.

      • Vinnie says:

        The method Mel uses for this Dulce de leche is perfectly safe for storing in the Refrigerator , Not in the pantry . Store in refrigerator for up to 1 month . I always pour mine in canning jars as well . Dulce de leche makes wonderful gifts , lable for refrigerator storage only and ( us by ) 1 month out from the date you made it . Happy gift giving !

  3. Angela says:

    I don’t know what I did wrong. 🙁 Mine started leaking out of the top of the kids. I don’t think water got back into it, but when I went to check it, there was milk in the water. I used 1 can each in 2 pt sized jars. They weren’t full when I did it. Was that the problem? They were about half full.

    • Mel says:

      Angela – To be honest, I’m not sure. It might be that the jars were only half full so you might try with full jars. Sorry it didn’t work out!

  4. Lindsey says:

    Can you do this with a large crock pot instead of a slow cooker?

  5. ian douglas says:

    Hi, why do you add the vanilla after the cooking period, rather than before? Cheers

    • Mel says:

      Good question, Ian. To be honest, I’m not sure…its just always how I’ve done it but its worth trying the other way. I wonder if it has something to do with the long cooking time; sometimes vanilla can get a chemically taste if burned or cooked too long.

  6. Beatriz says:

    hola…tambien puedes hacer dulce de leche ( quitando antes las etiquetas de las latas si son de papel ) colocando la lata en una olla de presion con agua, q el agua pase la altura de la lata durante una hora o hora y media. Si no tienes olla a presion puede ser en cualquier olla normal, colocando en el fondo un pañito y despues la lata y agua suficiente que tape la lata la cocina por 2 horas…..espero q te sirva de mucho

    • Viviana says:

      Ella ya lo sabe, pero nos enseño esta forma/método en particular porque las latas tienen BPA un químico malísimo. Conociéndolo en jarros de vidrio elimina la posibilidad the contaminar el cuerpo.

  7. Gemma says:

    Thank you for this recipe! I did this overnight last night and the results are amazing! I’ve been itching to try to make dulce de leche for awhile now, but the horror stories of exploding cans and chemical leakage from the tin liners has kept me away till now. So thank you again for coming up with this simple solution!

  8. Priscilla McCambry says:

    Do you need to sterilize the jar before using them ?

  9. stacy says:

    So I just tired to make this, and after 8 hours I pulled it out and was so excited. Only to find that it was chunky! It tasted ok but it wasn’t smooth like the picture. Did I burn it? Or should I have left it in longer? Has this happened to anyone else?


    • Gemma says:

      I’ve made this a couple of times now and haven’t had any problems so I was raking my brain to figure out why yours would go lumpy. The only things I could come up with are maybe there was residue of something in your jar that caused the sweetened condensed milk to react funny. Or the other was did you cook it on high or low?

    • Mel says:

      stacy – I had that happen one time and it was because I cooked it too long – it was a noticeable difference between smooth and like you said, kind of chunky. I’d suggest decreasing the cooking time just a bit (was it overly dark?).

    • Donna says:

      It happened to me the second time I made it and after rereading her directions I realized I had my settings on the crock pot to high instead of low and still cooked it a little longer to get it a little thicker, might have worked if I had it on low instead of high…..trying again today.

  10. Leah says:

    Do you think this would work with homemade sweetened condensed milk?

    • Mel says:

      Leah – I haven’t tried it but it’s definitely worth experimenting or doing a google search to see if anyone else has tried it. Good luck!

  11. Caitlin says:

    So I’m dying to make this as we head into fall again! But I live in China and canning jars just don’t exist here (and neither does dulce de leche for that matter). Do you think I could use an old jam jar that’s been cleaned out along with its lid? Or would that somehow mess something up?

    • Mel says:

      I think as long as the jar is sealed pretty well, it should work. Make sure if you have to lay it on its side in the crockpot that it doesn’t leak. Definitely worth a try!

  12. Christy says:

    Duhhhh ! Why didn’t I think of that! I was also fearful of boiling cans. I normally make dulce for a cake filling in a double boiler for 3 hours. Can we say trapped?Can we say only if I love you ,special occasion cake ? I was going to try a slow cooker double boiler type method, but your method sounds easier and will result in a higher yeild . Can’t wait to try !

  13. Amanda says:

    How full do you fill the jars, 1/2, 3/4, full? I’m wanting to make up a bunch of these for Christmas gifts.

  14. carli says:

    Hey, I’ve made dulce de leche in my pressure cooker before in the can the milk came in.. i’m wanting to make it in mason jars, seal the jars and use them as christmas gifts. I’ve read through the comments and I should refrigerate it after making it? .. When I make it in the can it came in I cooked it for 20 minutes. Would the time be the same for making it in the mason jars?

    • Mel says:

      I don’t dare give a recommendation for making it in mason jars in the pressure cooker. Any way you make it using jars it should be refrigerated.

  15. Adam says:

    Are you submerging the jars in water with an inch on top or are you only covering the bottom inch of the jar?

  16. Robin says:

    Have you ever made this in pint size jars?

  17. Robin says:

    This looked perfect till I added the vanilla. I added it right after I took it out of the hot water. It was smooth and creamy. I did not taste it and unfortunately I added the vanilla to all three jars before i saw that mixing it in made it lumpy ? curdled. I had cooked it for 8h and the color is exactly the same as the picture. It is lumpy and I don’t know if it tastes right because i have never tasted dulce de leche before.

    • Mel says:

      That’s strange, Robin – I’ve never had it curdle when adding the vanilla. It’s an extra step but you might try scraping it into a blender or food processor to get it smooth again.

      • Robin says:

        I saw on your new pressure cooker Dulce De Leche that you commented that it curdles if you mix it while it is hot. I think that is what happened. I stirred in the vanilla immediately out of the water bath.

  18. Amanda C says:

    Can you cook it with the vanilla in so that you don’t have to open the jars? Or will that ruin its ability to set up?

    • Mel says:

      I tried that once and it gave an off-taste to the dulce de leche from the vanilla cooking too long – but that could have just been me. Might be worth a try to see how you like it.

  19. Cindy says:

    Hi! I came upon the link for this older thread, & I’m so excited to try this! My husband has been telling me for years about the delicious Dulce de Leche that he loved while living in South America.
    My only question is, what temperature of the crock pot do you cook yours on? I saw where it said not on high, but I want to be sure I cook it well enough.
    Thanks so much for all of the wonderful recipes you share, Mel!

  20. Lisa says:

    Hello Mel, since your husband likes this with bananas I will share with you what I have been doing for years with my dulce de lecherous and bananas. Make a graham cracker crust or Oreo cookie crust in a pie plate and mix your dulce de leche with sliced bananas (I use about 7 or 8 bananas) once mixed place in the crust and top with fresh whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

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