Homemade Dulce de Leche: A Rich Caramel Sauce

Dulce de leche (also known as manjar, manjar blanco, and arequipe), is widely adored all over South America. It’s​ found in birthday cakes, ice cream, pastries, cookies, and more. Recipes vary by region, but it basically involves boiling milk and sugar until the mixture turns into a thick, golden caramel sauce. It’s a slow process but worth every minute.


  • 1 (14-ounce can) condensed milk, about 1 1/4 cups
  • 1 (12-ounce can) evaporated milk, about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 generous pinch salt, optional
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Place the evaporated and condensed milks in a heavy-bottomed pot with the corn syrup. Add the cinnamon sticks, baking soda, and a pinch of salt if desired. (Salt doesn’t always appear in traditional dulce de leche recipes, but it intensifies the flavor.)

  2. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring continuously with a flat-edge wooden or silicone spoon until the water begins to evaporate into steam. Keep stirring to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan, where it can burn. Adjust the temperature as necessary to keep the pot just barely simmering.

  3. As the mixture slowly starts to thicken and darken slightly in color, be patient and keep stirring. The entire process takes 30 to 45 minutes.

  4. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the pot erupts in big slow bubbles and the mixture looks very thick. At this point, you should test the consistency. Lift the spoon up out of the mixture and let some of the sauce drizzle back onto the surface of the dulce de leche. If it forms a ribbon that does not disappear after 10 seconds or so, the sauce is ready. You can also check by dragging the spoon along the bottom of the pot. You should be able to see the bottom for a few seconds before the thickened caramel closes in on itself and covers the bottom again.

  5. Remove the pot from heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Take out and discard the cinnamon sticks, and stir in the vanilla.

  6. Let the dulce de leche cool completely before you use it in a recipe or serve it.

Tip: If the dulce de leche starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, you can quickly move it to a fresh one before it starts to burn and continue on with the process. If burnt chunks accidentally get mixed in, strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot, then continue cooking and stirring until it reaches the desired consistency.

Homemade Dulce de Leche: A Rich Caramel Sauce

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