Dulce de leche: all you need is a pan and boiling water

casaveneracion.com Dulce de leche

Long before we came across the term dulce de leche, Speedy and I had been boiling sweetened condensed milk in its unopened can to transform the milk into a thick caramel. We’d spoon the caramel and just eat it like that. So indulgent. So delicious. This was around the time that Sam was a little over a year old and I was pregnant with Alex. Aside from making caramel and it with cream when making fruit salad, we really didn’t have many uses for mixing sweetened condensed milk. In short, I never really learned about the differences in terms of brands. We’ve never been choosy with brands when making caramel in the past and you can just imagine my surprise when, one day, the mixing sweetened condensed milk did not transform into a thick caramel even after two hours of simmering in water.

When I made the salted caramel cake, I mentioned this issue about not being able to make homemade dulce de leche anymore — the milk (we usually buy Alaska) just refused to caramelize! Reader Nina commented that “Alaska is sweetened condensed ‘filled’ milk – made of vegetable oil from coconuts… This maybe the reason you are not getting good results.”

I took Nina’s recommendation, bought two cans of Milkmaid sweetened condensed milk, put them in pot, poured in enough water to fully submerge them then I let the water boil. The moment the water was boiling, I lowered the heat, covered the pot and let the water simmer for an hour and a half. And, voila! Dulce de leche. Thank you, Nina. Thank you indeed.

Note that these photos were taken some 24 hours later. After simmering the cans of milk, I removed them from the hot water and let them cool to room temperature. Then, I put them inside the fridge. That’s why the caramel is that thick. If allowed to warm to room temperature, the caramel would be thinner and almost pourable.

casaveneracion.com Dulce de leche

Why not enjoy the dulce de leche right after simmering? For one, you’ll burn your hand holding the hot can to open it. Second, the very hot caramel will ooze out once you open the can. Even after letting the can sit on the counter for an hour, for as long as the caramel inside is still quite hot, it will ooze out once the can is punctured. We’ve tried that in the past, those times when we just couldn’t wait, and the result was a mess.

casaveneracion.com Dulce de leche

Now, the famous legend that has given dulce de leche the nickname “Dangerous Pudding” when cooked this way. I’m referring to the claims that boiling the unopened can of milk can make it burst and cause a bad kitchen accident and human injuries. The truth is, everyone who has relayed the “danger” to me are people who have never even tried making dulce de leche this way. In fact, I’ve never heard nor read a first hand account of a can of condensed milk exploding while simmering in water.

So, if you want to try and make dulce de leche the easy way, here are a few things to ensure that your dulce de leche making is hazard free:

1. Use a deep pot so that the cans are fully submerged in water. Ideally, the water level should be an inch higher than the cans. And, incidentally, you don’t need to stand the cans upright inside the pot. I put them in sideways so that they can roll and move around during cooking.

2. Use a heavy lid for the pot that fits snugly to avoid as much evaporation as possible. And just in case something goes wrong, a heavy lid can absorb a lot of the impact if the can should explode.

3. Check the water level every twenty minutes or so. Add more water if the water level becomes lower than the height of the cans.

And just how long does the can of milk have to simmer in water before the milk turns to caramel? An hour and a half is fine with me. Some cooks swear by two to three hours. See, the longer the simmering, the thicker the caramel. So, it’s really up to you. As a guide, the dulce de leche in the photos above resulted from an hour and a half of simmering.


  1. says

    I have a friend who swears by his pressure cooking method to make dulce de leche, which I have been too afraid to try. I’ll stick to the two hour cooking method :)

      • Martha, Martha says

        I use a slow cooker for caramelizing MILKMAID condensed milk, cooking about 4 cans for about 4.5 hours. One hour on high and the rest of the time on low. Water level always remains constant throughout. You can use thinned out caramel as an additional component to a trifle cake.

    • Tin says

      I cook mine using the pressure cooker too. Much faster, hence I save gas. Also, I make three at a time(you can probably cook more as long as they fit in your pot/pressure cooker) even though I am not planning to use all at the same time. I just keep the extras in the pantry. Instant dulce de leche when I need it.

  2. geri says

    This was one of my lola’s homemade desserts. And it was only from her that I have eaten dulce de leche. This photo brought back a lot of memories.

  3. nina says

    you’re welcome, ms. connie! just made a few cans of dulce de leche the other day. planning to make dulce de leche cake and ensaimada with dulce de leche filling.

    i’ve actually witnessed condensed milk exploding while being boiled during a class in a culinary school. it was scary and messy. sticky milk all over the ceiling and walls. but that’s because the assistant forgot about it so at some point, the cans not anymore submerged in water…

  4. jewel_minlorry says

    A few weeks ago, I tried cooking condensed milk in the pressure cooker. I used it for banana caramel pie. I simmered it for 50 minutes. My dulce de leche didn’t look anything like that of the photo. :( Yes, the color changed a LITTLE but it turned too watery (maybe because i did not refrigerate it?). My banana caramel pie turned to banana-sablay pie. I’ll give it a shot again but this time, with your method Ma’am Connie. And I’ll use Milkmaid. I used Carnation the first time. I’ll let you know! :) Happy Valentine!

    • Gaurav says

      Hi There,

      I have been making DDL, for quite some time, using the pressure cooker, and trust me it turns out great every time. Use Milkmaid, put it in a pressure cooker, with enough water so that it is submerged, no harm if there is more water. Put it on the stove, witout the weight on high flame. When you notice that the steam has formed, put the wight. As soon as the first whistle goes off, reduce the flame to minimum. Don’t cook for more that 30 minutes. Let the cooker cool off, remove the can from the hot water, allow it to cool to room temp, and then refrigerate.

  5. DJ says

    hi ms. connie — this brings me back to my childhood memories … my mom often “cook” that condensed milk and me, my siblings and my dad will devour on a HOT PANDESAL with this dulce de leche as fillin’ — yum! yum! talaga … but not me now, i have diabetes and i guess my love for dulce de leche and all other sweets made me a diabetic … waahhhhh

  6. says

    Wow, I have really never ever before heard anything about boiling a can of condensed milk! To think that something so decadent can be made so simply!! A must do for me! Thanks for post.

  7. natzsm says

    Canned “MILK” is really confusing to buy nowadays. There is evaporated vs evaporada, condensed vs condensada aside from filled milk variants and the ones that say they are “creamers” etc. At first I thought they were just the tagalog terms until I really got curious about the huge price difference so I took a look at the ingredient list of each. I was surprised to find that the cheaper variant would have coconut milk as their primary ingredient with added coconut/vegetable oil in it while the more expensive variant is the “real” milk.

    In a way, this is false advertising because when one buys milk, one assumes that they are buying cow’s milk or at the very least animal milk and not coconut milk.

    No, I have nothing against coconut milk in fact I do use it for many many recipes but there are simply some recipes that really need cow’s (animal) milk and Dulce de Leche is one of these recipes.

    Additional tip:

    Even the Nestle Cream in carton and can are different. At first I thought it was merely packaging and the amount (240 ml and 300 ml respectively) of contents that made the difference so I called the Nestle hotline and inquired about the two products.

    The one in can contains a higher percentage of milk solids and fats and is ideal for whipping while the one in carton which they call All Purpose Cream is ideal for sauces, fruit salads and lighter desserts.

  8. says

    hi, miss connie, i make dulce de leche, too and i use alaska condensed milk. the only difference is, i use the pressure cooker. forty-five minutes cooking time. yields the same consistency as milkmaid. i’ve used carnation, too, but it tasted weird. alaska’s the best for me–not too sweet.

  9. marilyn says

    Hej Ms. Connie! I am wondering if I can use this dulce de leche as a filling for cake (just like of Estrel´s)? thanks!

  10. Mila says

    I use the three hour cooking process and if I cook two to three cans at a time, I am stocked up for a month. Although I just saw your recipe for dulce de leche cheesecakes and that might just wipe out my stores, a worthwhile endeavor!

    • says

      After the cheesecakes, we had to boil two more cans for the ice cream and brownie projects. And, yes, we boil two at a time too. More economical in terms of power consumption. :)

  11. tin says

    Thanks for this! I made one yesterday, sarap! :) We all loved it! Kids and I ate it just like that. Hubby used it as a spread on white bread. It is almost wiped out, so I’ll have to make another one soon. This time, I’ll boil more cans para sulit ang gas, haha!

  12. Lerker says

    I made this and I sell it sa work. I repackage it para di obvious. Salamat po Tita Connie at nakakatulong ka sa money-making schemes ko. Hehehe. Pero ang sarap swear.

    Magbenta na rin kaya ako ng insurance. Mamamatay yata sa diabetes mga tao samen.

  13. melissa says

    Hi Ms. Connie,

    Im planning to make this – just want to ask if the 1 and a half boiling time would yield a thick consistency — just like in your photo? Or was it thick because it came from the fridge? If stored at room temp, would it still be thick? Thanks!

  14. says

    Hi, Connie, May i ask.. does it mean alaska can’t be use for this already? I have alaska in my cupboard kasi.. hehe.. if okay siya, i will use it.. if not, then i have to settle for milkmaid. Will buy.. i found a site that use microwave and did it within few mins instead of hours and teaches to punch a small hole so as not to burst the can daw and water reach near top of the can. Pero , baka magleak out siya ano? thanks for sharing. I hope i can experiment with this dulce de leche soon,…

    • says

      Babes, I can’t recommend procedures I have not tried. I can’t even comment on whether they will work. One thing I do know — I couldn’t make dulce de leche with Alaska. :)

  15. tania says

    hi ms. connie. I tried making dulce de leche for the first time. i boiled/simmered 2 cans of carnation condensed milk for 1.5 hours pero nung inalog ko yung can parang very liquid pa rin. what have a done wrong? i haven’t even opened the can out of frustration. should i re-boil it in the hope na mag-work out s’ya on the second try?

  16. Kay says

    Super simple and nothing to be afraid of! I simmered two tins for two hours. The result, after cooling, is exactly like your photos. Next time I will try simmering longer to see if the color gets noticeably darker. Thanks!

  17. christina says

    Sorry if this was already answered, if you boil several cans do you have to refrigerate them, or can you keep the unopened can out, and if so how long will it keep? Thanks

  18. Carrie Ann says

    My brother & I thought this as a delicacy growing up. I now wonder if there are recipes to incorporate this into, such as cake. Do you have any suggestions?

  19. Marie says

    I used this method put i puncture the can before cooking it so it wont explode an it works wonderfully. Also when im in a hurry i just use the microwave. I have the exact same results in just 30 min.

    • Java Jane says

      Isn’t it unsafe to use metal utensils or dishes in the microwave? It will cause arcing and the microwave may explode.

  20. BagLady says

    There are those who claim it is dangerous to boil your tins without first puncturing them and keeping the boiling water from bubbling over the top.

      • BagLady says

        I was wafting around the net, asking if non-dairy creamer would work as well since I can’t buy condensed milk where I live. If you take the time to look, you will see many entries on the subject that urge you to puncture the top of the tin in case it explodes during the cooking. They provide no evidence of accidents. Still not much wiser on whether I can boil my tin of ‘Best Cows’ creamer.

        • says

          Yes, I have seen those claims. Even right here in this thread.

          And I have to ask, “When boiling jars for fruit or vegetable preservation, do you puncture the tin caps as well?” You DON’T. Same principle.

          Bottomline, I have never punctured my milk cans ever (re-read the first paragraph of the post), I have never had any accident, and those who have experienced exploding cans made the mistake of NOT keeping the cans totally submerged in water throughout the entire process.

  21. Raine says

    hi! found your recipe (thank u!) and tried it with alaska (the one with the yellow label, coz milkmaid is not readily available in our area) and pressure cooked it for an hour. I was hesitant at first but tried it anyway. Surprisingly, when i opened the can, it came out just like that in the photo (after cooling it down,of course) but a little darker in color. I wanted a much syrupy consistency but maybe i can just add a little cream or milk to achieve that? thanks! =)

  22. Sandra Flemming says

    Hi, I know this is way after original posting, however just wanted to share. We have always used the caramel in homemade chocolates. Made at Christmas to have when guests visit and for a treat left for Santa. Along with the caramel there are 6 other kinds we make too.
    As for a can exploding I can verify that it could happen. My grandmother was boiling a can once and got involved in a TV program. The pot boiled dry and bam! There was almost done caramel everywhere including hanging off the ceiling. Now I think I need to go make some to eat…. Soooo yummy!!

    • says

      Thank you for the confirmation. It’s allowing the water to evaporate without replenishing that causes the can to explode — not the boiling of the milk in the can per se.

  23. says

    Ah, thank you! THANK you! I’ve been searching for way too long in order to find out if I should be simmering or boiling the can I have on the oven right now. You are right! Everyone’s claiming hours and hours and also ‘BOILING’ which I take to mean “hard boil.” Thank you. We are currently simmering with a lid on and are at the 35 minute mark. My future dulce de leche thanks you.

  24. kat says

    Amazing! Akala ko hindi pwedeng i-boil yung can kasi sabi nila baka daw magkaroon ng kalawang sa loob, deadly daw ‘yon. I should try this sometime. Thank you Ms. Connie!

  25. Suzy says

    Hi, Ms. Connie! You think this will work if I boil the can using rice cooker? (I live in a place where stoves are prohibited so i use rice cooker to cook almost everything!) Thanks! Love your blog! :)

  26. Connie says

    Can’t say. So long as it’s simmering and submerged… But can you keep a rice cooker on for that long without danger? We’re talking hours here.

  27. cats says

    How long can dulce de leche keep in the refrigerator without opening the can? Would you recommend transferring the dulce de leche to another container instead if it will be kept for a long time?

  28. Connie says

    Once a can is opened — any can — it is always safest to transfer the content to avoid a chemical reaction as oxidation sets in.

    The longest we’ve kept an unopened can of dulce de leche in the fridge is about two weeks.

  29. maya valderrama says

    hello ms connie, i’m new to your site but i think i will be addicted and become a “comebacking cook” ;) thanks for sharing this, just like the rest, remindsme of home and my mother, Belen Marquez, a great homemaker. When I was 10 years old, this is what she told me “use only Milkmaid, place the unopened can on a saucer like its place mat in the cooking pan so that the bottom part of milk wont get burnt, and (just like what you said) boil in water in high temperature for about 15minutes then the rest of the 105 minutes at low heat.” she would usually put it in a pan of cold water after cooking, then place it a freezer. yum.

  30. says

    I recommend that you research on the nature of creamer.

    Points to ponder: 1) Is creamer milk? 2) Is creamer even real cream?

    Once you get that, you’ll know whether your proposed substitution will work. :)

  31. Elsie says

    I have been boiling my tinned condensed milk and turning it into a lovely dark caramel, for years. I am now in my 70’s.
    Pressure cooker method:-
    Just be certain that the tin is covered with water in the pressure cooker – allow pressure to commence slowly – and allow to cook SLOWLY for 1 to 1 and half hours. If it is done slowly the water won’t evaporate. Allow to cool in the pressure cooker and then use or store.
    Other Method:-
    My mother used to boil her sheets and towels in a copper boiler and this would go on for 3 hours. She would throw in 2 or 3 cans of condensed milk, and hey presto! Caramel – and that would be our treat for the week. Caramel on biscuits (with a dollop of fresh cream on top).
    Enjoy. Elsie

  32. ming says

    i did use a pressure cooker when my recipe calls to simmer the can for 2 hours and with the pressure cooker i did only it for less than an hour

  33. Sand says

    I have found Nestle La Lechera 50% Less sugar! Less sugar and it has even more caramel taste, straight from the store shelf, than any other brand or version I’ve found. It probably can not be cooked quite to what you are used to but it could be close. If you are a purely diet-controlled diabetic and are allowed sparse amounts of sugar then maybe you can occasionally have just a bit of this alternative. I have loved ones who can and others who can’t. I hope you are one who can. Good luck finding alternatives. Happy hunting, DJ !

  34. lisa says

    Thank you for this post, I wanted to know if I could do a couple of cans at a time to save time. Been on the pc for 30 mins looking for the answer, thank you, I was about to give up and go ahead anyway. XX