Homemade Dulce de Leche

Makes 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups
Below are two different ways to make this delicious caramel spread: One is more classic—cooking down milk and sugar—but it requires a fair amount of attention and stirring. The other uses sweetened condensed milk and a long, though mostly unattended, time in the oven.

Dulce de Leche stars in our recipe for Simple Strawberry Dulce de Leche Shortbread Tart.
Published in Gourmet Live 04.27.11


Classic Method:

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sweetened Condensed Milk Method:

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk


  • A 9-inch deep-dish pie plate


Classic Method:

  • Stir together milk, sugar, and baking soda in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and thickened, about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. (After about an hour, stir more often as milk caramelizes, to avoid burning.) Stir in vanilla. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Sweetened Condensed Milk Method:

  • Heat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Set plate in a roasting pan and add enough hot water to pan to reach halfway up pie plate. Bake milk in middle of oven 45 minutes. Check water level and add additional, if necessary, then continue to bake 45 minutes more, or until milk is thick and brown. Remove pie plate from water bath and cool, uncovered.


  • The leftover dulce de leche will keep for a couple of weeks, refrigerated. It would be great stirred into coffee or cocoa, spread on toast, or warmed and drizzled on ice cream. Try it with peanut butter on a sandwich (surely the top trade at the school lunch table).
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