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Homemade Dulce de Leche without Sweetened Condensed Milk

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The creamy, sweet, gooey goodness that is dulce de leche isn’t that hard to make. With a little patience and 4 ingredients you can make this caramelized milk sauce.

Jars of homemade dulce de leche made from milk and sugar.

Did you know you can make your own dulce de leche from scratch? It takes a little time, but it’s super easy. Plus the results are creamy, caramel-y and delicious. 

It’s a great way to use up extra milk before it goes bad. It’s a fabulous way to top ice cream or make a cup of coffee more special. 

Use it as a dip or drizzle or apple slices. Or drizzle it over cake for an extra decadent treat!

I think I may be slightly obsessed. After making a few batches of homemade cajeta and telling you how similar it is to dulce de leche, it occurred to me that I’ve never actually made dulce de leche.

I know, it was a wrong that needed to be fixed immediately.

Enameled cast iron sauce pan with homemade dulce de leche and wooden spoon in it.

Now there are a few ways to go about doing such a thing.  One involves cooking a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Now that would certainly be easy enough, but if you come here often you know I am much more likely to adapt than run to the store for an ingredient and I don’t always stock sweetened condensed milk in the pantry.

So I decided to make some using ingredients I do always have. The process is the exact same as the cajeta.

Jars of hot freshly made dulce de leche, ready to cool.

So it is not hard, but does take a bit of time and patience. The biggest thing to worry about is ensuring your pan is big enough.

It will grow and foam before it concentrates and reduces, so make sure to use a bigger pan than you think you’ll need.  Other than some stirring along the way, it basically makes itself.

A little science experiment

One more thing to discuss.  When making the cajeta, you may remember I was curious about the baking soda.

In fact, even after finding an explanation that I could at least fathom I still wasn’t sure. So I made two batches.

(I know, but sometimes you have to sacrifice and eat twice as much dulche de leche in the name of science. It’s rough, but somebody has to do it.)

Looking down on the top of a jar of deep golden creamy dulce de leche.

In one batch I used a quarter teaspoon of baking soda and in the next batch I used a half teaspoon. While both batches tasted similar with that sweet, rich, creamy flavor and texture you’d expect, there was a quite noticeable difference in color.

Just that little change in pH really affected the look of the end product. Isn’t that interesting?

So next time you want some dulce de leche, don’t be afraid to make it yourself! It’s fun and a bit of a kitchen science experiment!

Great uses for your dulce de leche:

Whip up some caramel apple empanadas. This caramelly goodness is perfect for the filling and drizzling over the top of these tasty treats.

Turn some into sundae cone dream no churn ice cream. It features this sticky sweet sauce along with chocolate and bits of waffle cone.

Make a rolo poke cake with pockets of dulce de leche in moist chocolate cake. Top it all with fluffy frosting and some chopped rolos for a perfectly decadent treat.

piece of rolo poke cake with boiled milk frosting

Put some on top of mini cheesecake jars for a fun twist. Add a few chopped toasted pecans if you’d like or even a drizzle of chocolate for a turtle inspired treat.

You could also stir a little bit into your cup of coffee for a bit of a treat. Or just warm a little bit up and drizzle it over apple slices. The possibilities really are endless!

Warm dulce de leche drizzled over apple slices.

If you love making things from scratch like this, you may also want to try making your own homemade sweetened condensed milk. It is another way to take some milk that is close to its date and make it last a bit longer, or a way to avoid a last minute trip to the store if you don’t have a can in the pantry!

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a review in the recipe card.

Jars of homemade dulce de leche made from milk and sugar.

Homemade Dulce de Leche with no Cans

Servings: 24 Servings (about 4 cups)
Author: Carlee
Creamy, sweet, gooey goodness isn’t that hard to make. With a little patience and 4 ingredients you can have homemade dulce de leche!
4.86 from 14 ratings
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes


  • 4 cups whole milk
  • cups granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or ½ of vanilla bean


  • In a small dish, dissolve the baking soda in a couple Tablespoons of the milk and set aside.
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Get out a very large pot (the mixture will bubble and foam, so you need a pot at least twice the size you think. I used a 6 qt dutch oven.) Stir together the remaining milk and sugar in the pot. Add the vanilla bean pod if using.
    4 cups whole milk, 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a low boil, stirring frequently. Turn off heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda mixture. Be careful, this is one of those bubbling like crazy moments!
  • Return to medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is golden and thick like honey. This will take about 45 minutes to an hour. You don’t need to stand over it the whole time, but you’ll want to keep an eye on it as it will bubble and you don’t want it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Remove from heat and remove vanilla bean if you used it. If not, stir in vanilla extract and let cool.
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a couple of weeks. It will tighten up in the cold, but can be made pourable again with a short stint in the microwave.


For a little extra flavor, you can steep a cinnamon stick in the mixture while it cooks. Remove it when you are done cooking.



Serving: 1ServingCalories: 66kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 44mgSugar: 12g

Nutritional Disclaimer

“Cooking With Carlee” is not a dietitian or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories and other nutritional values can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.

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Recipe Rating


Thursday 21st of March 2024

Thank you for putting the ingredients in the explanation of the directions!! It's so convenient


Friday 22nd of March 2024

I am so glad you found it helpful! I have been working hard to get all of my recipes formatted that way.


Saturday 6th of January 2024

Made your recipe and loved it!! I have something to add though. I doubled it in a 6qt Dutch oven and to keep it from boiling over I used a block of butter and rubbed it around the top rim of the pan to keep it from boiling over. About an inch thick of butter or really any fat would work, I just prefer the taste of butter. Took the same amount of time as original recipe and all stayed in the pot.


Sunday 7th of January 2024

That is a great tip! Now you have a ton of yummy caramelly goodness. What are you planning to do with it?


Saturday 14th of October 2023

Taste wise, this is really good. Unfortunately, I used 1.5% milk and even though I beefed it up with some full fat milk powder, it still came out thin. I ended up cooking it longer than I wanted to to try and thicken it up, so it's darker than I would have liked. So, long story short, don't skimp on the milk. Use full fat unless you like it to be more like syrup.


Saturday 14th of October 2023

Well, shoot. I would think it would still be good stirred into coffee or spooned over ice cream.


Wednesday 27th of October 2021

Can I double this recipe?


Thursday 28th of October 2021

You can, but you would need a really large pot. It can get really foamy, so you need plenty of room for it to grow.


Tuesday 31st of August 2021

This looks awesome!! I was wondering, does it make a significant difference if I use 2% milk instead of whole milk? Thank you!


Tuesday 31st of August 2021

2% should work fine, it just won't be quite as rich when it is done. I hope you enjoy it!