Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dulce de Leche : 4 Tried and Tested Ways

I remember as a kid when my mom would buy condensed milk, my sis and I would sneak into the kitchen and eat it by the spoonful. It seemed, at that time, that nothing could be better than sweetened condensed milk.

Of course, I had yet to discover dulce de leche. (pronounced dulchay the laychay)

When I first discovered dulce de leche, I was no longer a child and yet, its rich caramel - toffee taste transformed me into one. I found myself heading to the kitchen over and over again to eat it by the spoonful!

So what is dulce de leche? Nothing but sweetened condensed milk that has been cooked till it thickens and gets a deep caramel colour. But that doesn't still describe the phenomenon that is dulce de leche. If you ask me, it is decadence in a tin. You can't just stop at a spoonful!

You can use it to make ice creams; I've made kulfi using dulce de leche (replaced pista with almonds), I've also made a flan (recipe coming soon) and it is excellent as a topping on ice creams, cakes and fried bananas.

Over the last 4 years, I have made dulce de leche several times in different ways. I have described them in the order of my least favourite to most favourite way of making it.

All you need to make it is a tin of sweetened condensed milk. I have made it with both full fat and low fat condensed milk; there is just a marginal difference in the two, so go ahead use the low fat version.

1. In the tin:

Take the label off the condensed milk tin and place it in a pot. Pour water till the tin is completely immersed in the water - the water should be at least 2 inches above the tin. Place the pot on the stove on medium high heat, when the water starts to simmer, reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for 3 hours.

Caution: Add hot water if the water level starts to fall, never let the water drop below the tin - this is very very important, so again, NEVER let the water level fall below the tin or you risk the tin bursting.

Then drain the water and let the tin cool completely before opening it. I let my can cool down for at least 4-6 hours before opening it.

Pros: Since the dulce de leche is made in the closed tin, you can make it ahead of time and use whenever needed.

Cons: Simmer for 3 hours. Carbon footprint, anyone? Also, you cannot use it right away as you have to let the tin cool before opening it.

2. In the oven:

Pre-heat the oven to 220 deg C.
Pour a tin of condensed milk into a shallow baking dish (preferably use a glass dish so that you can check the progress of the dulce de leche). Cover with aluminium foil. Set this baking dish into a larger baking dish or roasting pan. Pour hot water into the larger pan till it reaches halfway up the baking dish containing the condensed milk.

Bake for about 1 - 1 1/4 hour*. Keep checking the water level at 20 minute intervals and top up the water as and how required.

Cool in the oven with the oven door ajar for about an hour.

*oven temperatures vary, mine got done in an hour.

Pros: A comparitively quicker way of making the dulce de leche.

Cons: If you don't have a glass dish, it means in order to check if the dulce de leche is done, you have to remove both pans from the oven to check it and run the risk of the hot water spilling out.
(been there, done that!)

3. In the microwave:

Pour the contents of a condensed milk can into a deep microwave proof bowl. Microwave on medium power for 2 minutes. Stir.

Continue to microwave and stir till the condensed milk becomes thick and caramel coloured.

Pros: This is the quickest way of making dulce de leche; it took me all of 16 mins to make the dulce de leche in my microwave. Also, it allows you better control over how thick and caramel coloured you want your dulce de leche to be.

Cons: The constant attention required. You have to maintain a near constant vigil next to the microwave.

4. In the pressure cooker

Take the label off the condensed milk tin and place it in the pressure cooker. Cover completely with water; again the water should be at least 2 inches above the tin. Close the pressure cooker (remember, DONT use the weight).

Once it begins to steam, drop the heat to medium - slow and let it steam away for another 60 minutes.

(I let mine steam for about 45 minutes, but I would have liked a more deeper colour - the picture above is of the one I made in the pressure cooker - and a more caramelised taste and hence, the next time, I plan to steam it for an hour).

Turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool before you open the lid. Then drain away the water and let the tin cool completely for about 4-6 hours before you open it.

Pros: This is my favourite method of making dulce de leche. It is quick and "hands-free". Also, if you have a large pressure cooker, you can make several tins in one go and store them for future use. I made 2 tins and stored them in the fridge for over 3 months.

Cons: The time taken to cool the tin before you can open and use it.

So, tell me, how do you make your dulce de leche?

(I have referred here for the different ways of making dulce de leche; however, I do not recollect th website I referred to for the first method listed above).


  1. Wow Aqua, thanks a lot for sharing this 4 ways dear, i love dulce de leche, but never tried out at home..my hearty thanks:)

  2. I disliked condensed milk when i wasyounh even now i don't like to eat them straight, but when it comes to dulce i just love it and this looks so so super delicously yummy.

  3. Ooh that looks amazing!!! yummy..Thanx forsharing dea..!!!

  4. Fabulous one..really delicious...

  5. hey AD,
    First..I just cant take off my eyes from the snaps..am drooooooooling :P
    next...thanks for the recipe am sure this one to is goin to go places :)

  6. I can eat the whole can of condensed milk in one go if I didnt have to worry abt all the calories & sugar. Thanks for the recipe. One quick (lame) question in the pressure cooker method-Is there a chance of the can bursting during steaming? Thank you.

  7. The microwave method would suit me the most...thanks for sharing.

  8. Wonderful...thanks for the information

  9. This is really good. Like the idea...

  10. 3 hours simmering - what will be the monthly bill? The pict are fantastic!

  11. Thanks for your hard work in showing the different ways this can be made. Much appreciated.

  12. Thanks, everyone. I do hope one of these methods works for you!

    Pavani, no it is not a lame question, I was scared of the tin bursting as well. But no, it doesn't burst provided you put in adequate water - at least 2 inches above the tin. And remeber to NOT use the whistle.
    Hope it works for you.

  13. :-) we have the same childhood experience of sneaking condense milk !! this dulche de leche looks stunning!! love it!

  14. Dulce de leche is one of my favorites, have you tasted Haggen Daz's dulce de leche ice cream, it is awesome ! Cool how you have so many methods to make dulce de leche, I have heard of the first one, but I also had some concerns about boiling the tin along with the contents, so I did not try it ! I loved the m/w method the most, quick and easy!

  15. Fabulous...Bookmarking it...Will def try one of these methods (yet to decide) and will let you know...:-)

  16. Whoo, wow so creamy...perfect. 4 methods, too good...and lot of patience:)

  17. Looks great and lovely clicks.
    Do drop by

  18. this is my first visit here ( so it seems unless you changed your layout recently) and i am happy that i came ...yummy pics of Dulce de Leche and so many ways to make it....great .
    the beetroot salad you've posted earlier is mt favorite...

  19. Wow...that's a whole bunch of info....thank u for making the procedure friendly....dulce de leche looks yum...

  20. Even I am big fan of condensed milk.. have never heard about this dish though.. will try it soon as your post explains clearly on what i have to do.. Thanks for the descriptive post.

  21. About to try this recipe...one comment on pronunciation, though. I believe that Dulce de Leche is Spanish--actually, probably Argentinian--and as such, the name would be pronounced dulsay de laychay. Only if it were Italian would you say "dulchay."


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