Recipe: Dulce de Leche

14 Jan

What is dulce de leche, you ask? That is an excellent question. It’s basically caramel, but made from milk and sugar instead of just sugar. Literally translated it means “milk candy”. It’s gotten pretty popular up in the states in the last 10 or so years, but it’s a South American candy. I actually grew up with it, because my mom’s family is from Argentina and they have a dulce de leche recipe that is passed down from oldest child to oldest child on her father’s side of the family. My grandfather, Nono, is the oldest child in his family, and I am the oldest of mine. So when I was around 10 or 12 he taught me how to make dulce de leche.

My brother, sister, cousin and I were in San Diego visiting my grandparents. We were playing in the back yard and my Nono came to get me and bring me inside. I remember being a little annoyed because I wanted to be outside playing, but he brought me into the kitchen and told me that because I was the oldest he was going to teach me how to make his dulce de leche. He told me that his mother had taught him when he had been around my age (at the time) and so it was my turn to learn. I still remember that day, the kitchen tiles against my feet, the cool darkness of the kitchen. I didn’t try making it on my own until years later but that was one of the only afternoons I ever spent learning something from my Nono.

My grandparents used to eat dulce de leche on toast in the mornings. My grandparents ALWAYS eat toast for breakfast-toast with butter, cream cheese, jam, honey, dulce de leche, and sometimes a combination of the above! I always preferred cream cheese and honey, but someone always ate their pan con dulce de leche.

This being my second year as a poor-ass grad student, I wanted to give christmas gifts but could not spend much money. I also didn’t want to give crap gifts. Then I remembered that pretty much everyone in the whole world likes caramel, my friends probably haven’t eaten much dulce de leche in their lives, and gosh darnit it just sounds so exotic. Duuuulce de lechhhhe. Mmmmmmm. Also, when you tell your friends that you spent six hours in front of the stove stirring they are very impressed and think you are the best friend ever. Which I am.

Dulce de Leche

Ok, now, here’s the thing. I can’t actually give you my family recipe. Well, I could but I’ve been instructed not to. Seriously. So I’m giving you Alton Brown’s instead. Rest assured, though, I have checked it for accuracy and it is basically the same, but this will only make you 1 jar and mine made 8. Also, I’m taking out some of his totally unnecessary steps. Like, straining the finished product. Um, Alton? You really don’t need to do that.

1 quart whole milk

12 ounces sugar

1 vanilla bean, split with seeds scraped out

1/2 tsp baking soda

Mix everything together. Grab your vanilla bean, split it lengthwise and scrape all of the seeds into the milk sugar mix, then throw the vanilla pod in there as well.

In the beginning.

Now. Keep the heat at about medium low so that you achieve a very gentle simmer, and stir constantly for the next 2 hours. You really have to stir frequently otherwise the bottom of the caramel will burn. At some point take out the vanilla bean pod.

I'm sorry this picture is horrible.

This is about what the dulce de leche should look like-a medium brown caramel color. This picture is terrible because it was late and I had no natural light. The batch I made was huge so I was stirring for six hours, not two.

Allow to cool and then pour into jars.

You can serve dulce de leche:

on toast

on ice cream

as a cookie topping (alfajores, anyone???)

on pretzels (enthusiastically suggested to me by a friend the day after I gave him his jar).

on apples (pears, whatever)

with PIE

as a cake filling




or you can just eat it from the jar.

❤ stef

6 Responses to “Recipe: Dulce de Leche”

  1. elizabeth January 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    WHADDUP! So glad to see another delicious new recipe. Every time you appear, I almost want to start cooking.

    Dulce de Leche makes me want to go into the kitchen.

    Delicious gifts are the best kind. I received some homemade preserves during the holidays and it just thrilled me (and my belly) to no end.

  2. Patricio January 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    dear Steffany,
    Dulce de leche!! the sour of argentinian meals!! We put dulce de leche in every type of meals. One of my friends tell me once that an argentinian, specially when he live’s outside Argentina, put dulce de leche in all food possible. I use with bread, with fruits ( a banana used like a stick on the dulce pot!!), in milkshakes (banana, strawberry, vanilla ice cream and dulce, mmmmmm….), with pies, with “crème de marrons” here in France, with ice cream, etc…
    Try a spoon of dulce in middle of a chocolate little cakes before cooking… delicious.
    Felicitaciones por tus recetas. Mil besos.

    • steffanyf January 22, 2011 at 8:02 pm #

      Hola Patricio!
      I have not thought of a milkshake with dulce de leche…but that sounds excellent! Dulce and banana and vanilla ice cream, yum! I really want to try to make alfajores because I have some leftover dulce de leche for myself, and I LOVE alfajores. LOVE. The only problem might be that I would eat them all.

  3. Ori June 25, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Nice Blog!!

    Well… i just make it with sweeted condesed milk.
    i just put the can in a pressure pot. Leave it there for 15 min.
    Let it cool. Open the can, Voilá!

  4. Stella September 25, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    For the past fifteen minutes, I have been eating store-bought dulce de leche straight from its jar. This inspires me to, at the very least, put some bread in the toaster and slice up some fruit. Yum!


  1. test | iqaone - January 14, 2011

    […] Recipe: Dulce de Leche steffanyf wrote 16 minutes ago What is dulce de leche, you ask? That is an excellent question. It’s basically caramel, but made from milk and sugar instead of just sugar. Literally translated it means “milk candy”. It’s gotten pretty popular up in the states in […] […]

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