The most fun you’ll have with canned goods
sweetened condensed milk dulce de leche
Credit: Photo by DebbiSmirnoff via Getty Images

If you’ve smeared dulce de leche on a piece of toast, drizzled it over yogurt or ice cream, or even spooned it right into your mouth, odds are the toasty, caramelly sauce brought on some degree of euphoria. Well, it does for me. While cans of the stuff are for sale at most grocery stores, once I found out it was possible to DIY dulce de leche with a can of sweetened condensed milk, I was hooked. The whole process takes a few hours to finish, but if every time-consuming project I started ended with dulce de leche, I think I’d be a lot happier.

There are a few ways to make sweetened condensed milk dulce de leche, from the oven to a pressure cooker to a double boiler. Ultimately, the method that requires the least finesse and special equipment is to make the sauce on the stove, submerged in water.

Much as you’re probably hoping this recipe has a “quick and easy option,” it doesn’t, really. While you can make super quick caramel sauces, it’s hard to get the silky-smooth, yet thick and puddingy texture of dulce de leche without dedicating a few hours to the process.

FIrst, remove the label completely from a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. Place the can on its side in a large, heavy bottomed pot like a Dutch oven or stockpot.

Fill the pot with water and make sure the cans are covered by at least 2½ inches.

Slowly bring the pot of water to a low boil over high heat. As soon as the water starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low. Let the cans simmer in the water for 2½ to 3 hours. Every 30 minutes, check to make sure the water level is still well above the top of the can. If it seems close, add more water.

Use tongs to pull the cans out of the water and place them onto a wire cooling rack. Don’t (I repeat, don’t) try to open the can immediately—the pressure that has built up in the can throughout the cooking process could cause the can to sputter and possibly explode.

Once the can has cooled, open it and spoon that rich dulce de leche on toast, yogurt, pastries, oatmeal, roasted sweet potatoes, or apples. One of my personal favorites is to stir it into espresso or coffee. If you want to reheat it for warmth and a more drizzly consistency, scoop the sauce into the top of a double boiler.

Store dulce de leche in jars with lids in the fridge. It’ll keep for several weeks or up to 1 month.