DIY: How to Make Homemade Dulce de Leche

by Shawnda on July 7, 2011

in Condiments,DIY,Dulce de Leche

Homemade Dulce de Leche

Making homemade dulce de leche (which I never seem to pronounce correctly) is super easy and so much more economical than buying it at the store. And you have a number of options when it comes to method. A quick Google search will yield recipes that can be baked, cooked over double-boiler, microwaved, and even starting from scratch with milk and sugar.

Me? I use the method that I think makes the darkest and very, very best dulce de leche. It’s also the method that just about every site in that Google search cautions against: the homemade bomb method.

Okay, so it’s not really a bomb. But it could be one. And if you’re smart about it, and maybe even a little lucky, it’s not dangerous at all. I’ve made countless cans of dulce de leche using the boil-the-can method.

No bombs. No e’splosions. JUST KNOW THAT IT COULD HAPPEN.

Just rich, caramely goodness with endless possibilites: Use it in ice cream. On ice cream. Drizzled over a whipped cream-topped mug of hot chocolate. Eat it straight off the spoon. Sandwich it between two vanilla wafers. Bake it in fancy homemade candy bar squares. Drizzle it over donuts! Use it to fill a cupcake. Use it in cupcake frosting. You get the idea :)

Now go make your own dulce de leche!

Homemade Dulce de Leche

Making your own homemade dulce de leche is as easy as (carefully) simmering a pot of water.


  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk, label removed


  1. Place a small washcloth or several folded paper towels in the bottom of a pot and set the cans on top.
  2. Pour water to reach ~2 inches over the can.
  3. Bring water to a simmer and cook covered for ~3 hours, checking every 30 minutes to make sure the water level doesn't evaporate below the lip of the can.
  4. Let cool, open the can, and use. Keep any leftovers refrigerated.


Yields: ~1 1/2 cups

Estimated time: 3 hours


{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Trish July 7, 2011 at 2:49 am

I use this method for making dulce de leche (and i always pronounce it wrong too!) but I was always taught to never never never, not ever open the tin at all until it has cooled down after the cooking. I have always been taught that opening the tin a fraction is what makes it explode. Certainly having a sealed tin, and making sure the water lever stays topped up has always worked for me.


2 Apron Appeal July 7, 2011 at 2:59 am

“e‚Äôsplosions”…:) makes me giggle. perhpas this would be a nice 4th of july recipe to add to a roundup list for next year. ;)


3 Claire @ Claire K Creations July 7, 2011 at 4:31 am

It’s really too simple not to try isn’t it! I’d have to set a timer every 30 minutes though or I’ll forget to refill the water.


4 Lauren at Keep It Sweet July 7, 2011 at 5:04 am

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while! I have a few cans of sweetened condensed milk in my pantry… might finally be time!


5 Michelle July 7, 2011 at 7:22 am

I’ve been trying to limit my dairy intake, but as Claire put it, this really is too simple not to try. It looks absolutely incredible. My husband just discovered chocolate Chinese noodle cookies, I bet this would be fabulous mixed into those.


6 Carol Jardim July 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

Here, in Brazil, we just leave the closed can in a pressure cooker with water for about 40 minutes. Reminds me of my childhood! ;)


7 mis-cakes July 7, 2011 at 11:16 am

do you use condensed milk or sweetened condensed milk? thanks


8 foodiebride July 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm

*Sweetened* condensed milk. Thanks for the catch!


9 Ari July 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I’ve wanted to make homemade dulce de leche for the longest time, but have always been intimidated. This makes it look easy. Thanks for sharing!


10 Caroline Mitsuko July 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Here, in Brazil, we just leave the closed can in a pressure cooker with water for about 40 minutes. Reminds me of my childhood! [2]


11 Happy When Not Hungry July 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Wow I’ve never heard of making your own dulche de leche. What a great idea!


12 Maureen July 7, 2011 at 8:26 pm

I’ve made this a lot and I’ve never popped the can. I always wait til it’s cooled before opening though.


13 Jessica July 7, 2011 at 10:48 pm

I do this all.the.time! So good, so dangerous. :-)


14 Gretchen @ July 8, 2011 at 9:53 am

My mom used to do this when I was little and we always ate it with pineapple.


15 Jackie July 8, 2011 at 10:05 am

OMG..this is my favorite and only method of making Dulce de Leche!


16 Elina (Russian Bites) July 8, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I think that’s how they make it in Russia (although they sell it all ready in cans as well) because it’s translated as “boiled condensed milk.” I’ve heard the crockpot method works well too. It would be pretty awesome to set it up before bed and wake up to the sweet smell of dolce de leche. Mmm, now I want some :)


17 Whammy! July 8, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Dool-say day letch-ay – the Y’s are much softer with a Spanish accent, but just like we say most foreign words in English, try to be semi-accurate without sounding pretentious.


18 Nikki (Pennies on a Platter) July 8, 2011 at 11:59 pm

I made dulce de leche last week for the first time using David Lebovitz version and loved it. I think I’ll keep with his version as I’m quite the fraidy (sp?) cat when it comes to this method. :) It looks great, though!!


19 Annie July 9, 2011 at 6:06 am

I never open my cans either, but I keep them covered with water and simmer them. So far no problems with explosions!


20 Tatiana July 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Make two cans
Let cool -ish.
Put into a graham cracker crust.
Chill. (I do it over night) you want it nice and cold.
Serve with cut strawberries and kiwis
Top with a dollop of whipped cream.
Makes a delightful crowd pleasing Carmel Pie
Perfect for summer!


21 I Live in a Frying Pan July 15, 2011 at 6:26 am

Just discovered your blog through a BlogHer referral, and wanted to tell you that your photography is stunning! Really lovely shots and recipes…especially love this dulce de leche one, huge fan of the stuff, it’s so addictive!


22 Madelyn February 26, 2012 at 10:28 am

Unbelievable. I made your Dulce le Leche buttercream frosting yesterday to put over Devil’s Food cupcakes & it was TO DIE FOR. My friends & family devoured it & my husband & I finished off the cooked Dulce le Leche in our coffee this morning. This could be dangerous…


23 Zan March 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I have made this many times for “Carmel” sauce no one believes it can be this easy. Tastes great on ice cream, fruit and angle food cake.


24 Harry June 2, 2012 at 11:53 am

I have 2 cans, unbreached, in big deep pot completely submerged in water.. when it gets low, i boil a 2nd pot of water and once it’s boiling i pour it in. Making sure the cans stay covered all the time. oooooo! it’s time to take them off!


25 Mardi Wetmore January 13, 2013 at 8:21 pm

My concern with cooking it in the can is what will leach out of the can and into the finished dulce de leche. The better way is to pour the condensed milk into a canning jar then close the lid. Then follow the directions as above. What’s nice about this method is that you can check to see how dark the dulce is getting as it goes. Some people like it darker and some lighter. I like mine on the darker side.


26 Katie K December 8, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Genius! Doing this.


27 Joanne Martindale July 13, 2013 at 6:17 am

My dolce de leche, made from scratch, has turned grainy. Now that its cold it is a hard grainy rock. Help. What do I do to fix it. ..if I can


28 Lilian October 25, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Hi there,

may i know are we suppose to simmer it at low heat for the 3 hours? meaning, once water boils, then i lower to low heat and let simmer for 3 hours?

please clarify. thank you dear!


29 Shawnda October 30, 2013 at 9:34 am

The latter – but you’re talking about maybe a 15 minute difference in the end. Either way, it will be magical and delicious :)


30 Judy November 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm

During college I tried making this in my mom’s kitchen and got the e-splosion. It was years before she got the goop off the ceiling! Lately I’ve been more careful, but residual glue on the can ends up on the inside of the pan and takes ages to scrub off. I love the idea of using a canning jar, can’t wait to try that! Thanks!


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