3 surprising tips for perfect Dulce de leche {Recipe}

Dulce de leche is the ‘new black’ for pastry chefs –filling gourmet macarons, biscuits and cakes.

The luscious milk caramel, much loved by Latin Americans, is taking the world by storm and I am unashamedly smitten.  Why?  Because I don’t have to make toffee first!

It’s simple to make from scratch.  All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes, a generous sized pan and patience.

Wear comfortable shoes
Take it from me, comfortable shoes are a must! I made my first batch of dulce de leche after traipsing around a shopping centre for a couple of hours in cowboy boots that offer no cushioning support.  Pink cowboy boots are lovely to look at but they’re not really designed for all day wearing and certainly not for kitchen duties.  Half way through the caramel and I was regretting my decision not to change footwear. (Since I was working with hot liquids I felt I couldn't just kick them off – safety always comes first in the kitchen!)

Use a large pan
I learned the hard way that you need a generous sized pan to make the caramel in.  My 2 litre saucepan quickly overflowed with foaming milk when I added the bicarb and kept foaming even off the heat.  I quickly transferred the milk mess to my big red Chasseur pot and kept going – crisis averted!  The less said about the state of my cooktop afterwards, the better (but I think you can imagine how it looked.)  Start big and you’ll have no problems.

Be patient (and give it your undivided attention)
As soon as your milk begins to boil and you toss in the bicarb, you’ve got to stir the caramel constantly for around 45 minutes (until it gets to a lovely caramel colour).  You don’t need so much forearm strength as you need to be free from distractions.  That means no
  •  toilet stops
  •  helping your daughter with a drawing
  • answering the phone across the room, or 
  • checking your emails.
The recipe also instructs to stir the caramel for an additional 15 minutes while it sits in the ice bath to cool it down completely – I missed this instruction (I was more concerned about my aching feet by that stage). The caramel ended up quite thick but otherwise tasted great – I don’t know if this is a crucial step or not so if you've still got the energy, keep stirring.

This caramel is so di-licious that you’ll be struggling to not eat it by the spoonful, straight out of the jar (try it sprinkled with sea salt). 

Recipe: Dulce de leche 
{print out recipe}
Recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller  Makes approx 250ml.

750ml milk
225g caster sugar
Seeds from I vanilla bean
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Have ice ready to create a water bath to cool

  • Make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes.
  • Place milk, sugar and vanilla bean seeds into a LARGE saucepan (an enamelled pot is perfect).
  • Stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Increase heat and just as it comes to the boil, add the bicarbonate of soda (it will foam), then REDUCE heat to medium.
  • Now the fun part – stand there and stir the mixture CONSTANTLY for 40-45minutes.  Don’t walk away. Don’t answer the phone.  The caramel needs your full attention (just like a good risotto).
  • The caramel is cooked when it reaches a rich caramel colour and when you scrape your wooden spoon through the mixture and the bottom of the pan stays visible.
  • Put your plug in the sink and add ice.  Plunge your pot into the ice to stop cooking and keep stirring caramel for another 10-15minutes until caramel is completely cool.
  • Spoon into a sterile container and store in the fridge for up to a month (if it lasts that long).
  • Bring to room temperature before using.
  • If caramel is too thick, thin it down by heating cream and mixing it bit by bit into warmed caramel.



Looks wonderful! I bake mine in a pie dish in the oven. I'm just too distracted and accident prone to attempt any other way hehe :P
Anne said…
Yes, I agree Di-licious! The new 'black' for pastry chefs but something that's been used in other countries for years. I'm an even bigger cheat and use a can of condensed milk. Agree on the comfortable shoes and make sure the kids aren't going to disturb you for at least half an hour (is that at all possible? LOL).

Anne @ Domesblissity xx
I'm with Anne, I love a sweetened condensed milk version of dulce de leche. I made some the other night with some grilled bananas... somehow yours looks so much better than mine though!
Di-licious said…
Thanks for all of the caramel love!

@Lorraine - hadn't heard of that method but will look into it. I love shortcuts!

@Anne - I was happy to cheat but since I signed up to Baked from Scratch, I felt I had to show how to do it. (That's not to say I didn't have a can of Top 'n Fill in the pantry in case it didn't work out!)

@Brenda - hugs!

@Richgirl - You must be the richest girl in Bondi if you can afford to do grilled bananas! ;-) Great dessert idea....
I stand and cook for hours each day. It now feels that I no longer own ANY comfortable shoes....and am starting to seriously consider buying one of those ugly anti-fatigue mats for the floor.
Dulce de leche is something I've always wanted to try but shied away from (fear of major kitchen mess!!). Looks and sounds so simple the way you describe it. Great post and recipe, looking forward to giving it a go! I think I've got the stamina to stand and stir...years of risotto making has to be good preparation, yes? :)

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