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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.

Use some to make some caramel pecan macaroons. That recipe only takes three ingredients and the combination of coconut, dulce de leche and pecans is fabulous!

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!

Love this recipe? Give it a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review in the recipe card below!

Yield: 24 Servings (about 4 cups)

Homemade Dulce de Leche with no Cans

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

Creamy, sweet, gooey goodness isn’t that hard to make. With a little patience and 4 ingredients you can have homemade dulce de leche!

Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. In a small dish, dissolve the baking soda in a couple Tablespoons of the milk and set aside.
  2. In 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. Add the vanilla bean if using.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. Remove from heat and remove vanilla bean if you used it. If not, stir in vanilla extract and let cool.
  6. 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.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

24

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 66Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 4mgSodium: 44mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 1g

All nutritional information is estimated and will depend on the exact ingredients you use.

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I'd love to see it! Share a picture on Instagram or Pinterest and tag me @carleecooks to let me know how it went!

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.

Share with your friends!

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Saflamot

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!

Carlee

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!

Tamara Jones

Wednesday 9th of June 2021

Can you make dulce de leche in a crock pot?

Carlee

Sunday 13th of June 2021

I did give it a go today, and after 9 hours on high with the lid off the milk mixture did get a nice deep caramel color and the volume dropped like it should. However the texture was off. It was a bit grainy like the milk had split a bit. You could try it on low for longer, and I may come back and try it again sometime, but for right now I'd suggest making the dulce de leche on the stove. However, there are tons of recipes out there for making dulce de leche from a can of sweetened condensed milk in the slow cooker.

Carlee

Wednesday 9th of June 2021

I haven't tried that, but I can't see why not. I would do several hours on high. In fact, now I'm curious... I will try to make a batch this weekend!

Andrea Nine

Friday 28th of May 2021

Iā€™m in love, Iā€™m in heaven, this is my dream sauce! Have a sweet holiday weekend my friend!

Carlee

Friday 28th of May 2021

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Frugal Hausfrau

Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

Good for you Carlee; I've only ever made dulce de leche completely from scratch once...what a great way to make a beautiful, wholesome (and no additive) dulce!

Mollie

Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies

Wednesday 26th of July 2017

Next rainy day, I need to try this!!

Carlee

Wednesday 26th of July 2017

It is really satisfying to make your own for some reason!

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