This homemade dulce de leche will be your new favorite substitute for caramel with a Latin twist. Spread it or drizzle it on all your sweet treats for lots of extra richness and creaminess!
The Best Homemade Dulce de Leche
This homemade dulce de leche is so creamy and indulgent that you’re never going back to store-bought again! The only secret to making it successfully is to keep on stirring because everything about this recipe is super easy.
Made with only 5 ingredients, cow’s milk and sugar are the stars of this sweet spread. Cooked to your desired consistency, whether it’s thicker or a little thinner for drizzling on your favorite sweet treats, its caramel-like flavor always hits the spot.
Keep an eye on the pot as the dulce de leche cools, otherwise there might not be any left by the time you’re ready to store it. Spoonful by spoonful, you’ll watch it disappear quickly so you might want to make a few batches. Just saying!
Looking for an American style caramel sauce instead? Try my favorite Salted Caramel Sauce (or leave out the salt for a traditional caramel sauce!).
What Is Dulce de Leche?
Dulce de leche is a sweet, caramel-like spread made from slowly simmered cow’s milk and sugar popular in many Latin cuisines. It’s cooked for several hours over low heat and must be stirred constantly in order to achieve a rich, smooth, and creamy consistency.
This sweet spread is used as a topping for baked goods and even sliced bread. It’s also a delicious filling for cookies, being more famously used in alfajores— crumbly Argentinian sandwich cookies.
What’s The Difference Between Dulce de Leche and Caramel?
Caramel is made with water and sugar, while dulce de leche is prepared with milk and sugar. Ultimately, dulce the leche is much richer in taste thanks to this.
What’s The Difference Between Dulce de Leche and Cajeta?
Although they can be used interchangeably, the main difference between dulce de leche and cajeta is the type of milk they use. Dulce de leche uses cow’s milk, whereas cajeta uses goat’s milk. In terms of flavor, they’re quite similar, though.
You only need 5 simple ingredients to make homemade dulce de leche. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for full ingredient amounts.
- Whole milk – It makes the creamiest dulce de leche, but feel free to use low-fat milk.
- Granulated sugar – Don’t use light brown or dark brown sugar.
- Vanilla extract – Almond extract works too, but will obviously change the final flavor!
- Baking soda – Please don’t use baking powder for this. They’re not the same thing. You can leave it out if you’re stirring the mixture every 2-3 minutes.
How to Make Dulce de Leche
Making homemade dulce de leche is just like making caramel. It’s easy as long as you don’t stop stirring!
- Bring it to a simmer. Bring the milk, sugar, and salt to a light simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the vanilla and then sprinkle the top with the baking soda and whisk until combined.
- Cook it. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring constantly until it begins to change color and gets thicker. This takes a lot of patience and will take between 1½-2 hours. Don’t scrape anything that sticks to the bottom of the pan. This can cause clumps in the sauce, so just let it be. It should be between golden and copper in color, with a spread-like consistency.
- Blend it. If the sauce is too thick or lumpy, add it to a blender and process it until smooth. Pour through a small mesh strainer.
- Serve. Spread or drizzle it (depending on the consistency) on your favorite sweet treats. Serve it warm or cool it completely before storing it.
Tips for Success
Making homemade dulce de leche is easy with a couple of cheats to help you keep it from burning or fix any clumping.
- Don’t leave it unattended. You’ll need to check back and stir the mixture every 2-3 minutes once it hits the pot. Make sure you don’t have any plans for the next 2 hours when you start cooking.
- Play with the consistency. While a thicker dulce de leche is perfect for spreading, a thinner one is great for drizzling over sweet treats. Cook it until it’s almost to your desired consistency and then remove it from the heat. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
- Don’t raise the heat. This needs to be cooked low and slow, otherwise, the bottom of the mixture will scorch.
This homemade dulce de leche is perfect with most sweet treats, but I particularly love it on fall-flavored ones like apple and pumpkin desserts. You can also use it as a dip for your favorite cookies or Homemade Churros in it!
How to Store
Once fully cooled, refrigerate this homemade dulce de leche in an airtight container for up to 7 days. Keep it away from any strong-smelling foods like onions or chilis to avoid the transfer of odors.
More Latin Dessert Recipes
- Pineapple Empanadas
- Crème Caramel
- Orejas (Palmiers)
- Roscón de Reyes
- Easy Tres Leches Cake
- Arroz con Leche
Dulce de Leche
- 6 cups whole milk
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- In a large sauce pan over medium heat, bring the milk, sugar and salt to a light simmer. Add the vanilla and then sprinkle the top with the baking soda and whisk until combined.
- Turn down the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to change color and gets thicker. This takes a lot of patience and will take between 1 ½ to 2 hours. Make sure to stir very often! Do not scrape anything that sticks to the bottom of the pan. This can cause clumps in the sauce.
- If the sauce is too thick or lumpy, add to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour through a small mesh strainer.
- Serve warm, or cool completely to store.
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