How to Make Dulce de Leche

You only need one ingredient: sweetened condensed milk.

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Food Network Kitchen’s Instant Pot Dulce de Leche, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: KATE MATHIS

KATE MATHIS

By Heath Goldman for Food Network Kitchen

You could pick up a jar of the premade stuff at the supermarket, or you could scoop up a can of sweetened condensed milk and make dulce de leche yourself — it’s effortless and will reward you with a taste that's far more complex.

While some recipes will instruct you to scald milk and caramelize sugar, we prefer to make dulce de leche the authentic (and easier) way, with just one simple ingredient: a can of sweetened condensed milk.

The classic technique is to simmer a whole can of sweetened condensed milk on the stovetop. As it gently cooks, the sugars transform into milky caramel right inside of the can.

To start, remove the label from the can of sweetened condensed milk and place the unopened can on its side in the bottom of a large pot. Cover the can completely with water by a few inches and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a steady simmer and cook for about 3 hours. During that time, you can walk away and wash some dishes, do some laundry or whatever you like. Just remember to periodically check the water level to make sure the can is submerged at all times. At the end of the cooking time, let the can cool to room temperature in the water before removing it. Open the can and scoop out the dark, caramelized contents.

If you own a slow cooker or Instant Pot, you can use one of these appliances instead so you don’t have to babysit the water level.

To make dulce de leche in the slow cooker, remove the label from the can of sweetened condensed milk, place the can in the slow cooker and cover it with water by a few inches. Cook on low for 10 hours and voila, you’re done.

For the Instant Pot, remove the label from the can of sweetened condensed milk, open the can, and wrap it tightly and completely in foil. Set a rack in the bottom of the Instant Pot and place the can on the center of the rack. Fill the Instant Pot with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the can. Close the Instant Pot, follow the manufacturer’s guide for locking the lid and preparing to cook, and set it to pressure cook on high for 35 minutes. After the pressure-cook cycle is complete, follow the manufacturer's guide for quick release and wait until the quick-release cycle is complete. Being careful of any remaining steam, unlock and remove the lid.

Keep in mind that if your pot, slow cooker or Instant Pot will fit more than one can (in a single layer), you’re welcome to cook two or three jars at once. More dulce de leche equals more joy; that’s a scientific fact.

Finally, you can also make dulce de leche pretty quickly in the oven — all you need is your trusty roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a shallow baking dish inside of your roasting pan. Open the can of sweetened condensed milk and pour it into the baking dish. Cover the baking dish with foil, transfer the roasting pan to the oven and pour hot water into the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until the dulce de leche is dark and caramelized, about 1 hour. Make sure you occasionally check the water level and add more if needed. Let the dulce de leche cool, and whisk until smooth.

To take your dulce de leche to the next level, you can whisk in a pinch of sea salt and a splash of vanilla extract while it’s still hot.

Regardless of the technique you use, make sure you cool the dulce de leche completely before transferring it to an airtight container and putting plastic wrap directly on the surface. Then you can refrigerate it for up to two weeks.

It's great in recipes like Marcela's Dulce de Leche Banana Cream Pie and Ree's Dulce de Leche Coffee.

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