Ann Reardon

Dulce de Leche Recipe Thick Caramel

spoonful of dulce de leche thick caramel

Dulce de leche is a thick, caramel milk-based sauce. I have seen many recipes for it that involve simmering an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a big pot of water for several hours. I have tried this in the past, despite warnings that it might explode. It worked fine but still had that distinctive sweetened condensed milk taste. So try this recipe instead, its faster and is delectable.

Dulce de leche ingredients (makes 1 cup of thick dulce de leche)

4 cups or 1litre (0.26 gallons) milk (4% fat)
2 cups or 436g (15.38 ounces) sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

making dulce de leche caramel

Bring the milk to the boil, add the sugar, vanilla and baking soda. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Reduce the heat and wash down the sides of the pan using a wet pastry brush. Simmer over medium heat for about 1 hour scooping off any froth every fifteen minutes.

As you get closer to an hour monitor the syrup regularly to check it is not burning on the bottom of the pan.

Pour through a fine metal sieve into a bowl and allow to cool.  It will thicken more on cooling.

Use as a sauce or as a component for desserts like ‘gold bar’ or banoffee tart.

Excess can placed in a ziplock bag and stored in the freezer.

Troubleshooting: If on cooling it is not as thick as you need it has not been heated hot enough.  Pour into a clean saucepan and stir as it boils until a small teaspoonful placed on the bench cools to be thick.  WARNING: Caramel is extremely hot, any little splatters will burn, so wear protective gloves while stirring.

by Ann Reardon How To Cook That


I have been busy over the last year planning, writing and overseeing the photography and layout for my first ever cookbook! There are heaps of my favourite dessert recipes in there with a chapter on pastries, ice-cream, yummy cakes, artistic desserts and of course chocolate desserts. Each chapter has its own intro explaining the food science that you'll need to know for success every time. Booksellers where you can purchase your very own copy:

All recipe quantities in the book are in grams, ounces and cups.

291 Comments View Comments

  1. Hi! May i know how do i not burn it? am i suppose to stir the mixture when it starts to thicken? the first time i didnt stir, it started to stick to the bottom of the pan. i changed it to a new pot and continuously stir the mixture, it is as thick as yours but not as dark as yours. i’m a little confused here.

    • Hi Joey, Once the sugar is dissolved and the mix is simmering nicely you shouldn’t need to stir constantly. However as Ann suggests above,once it approaches the hour you need to check it regularly (every couple of minutes, to make sure it is not sticking or burning on the bottom of the pan.I do this by doing a a quick wipe of the bottom with a suitable implement. Ann’s is darker possibly because of the quality of sugar or she may have cooked it a little longer than yours.

  2. Hi. On your video you say bicarbonate of soda and didn’t mention the vanilla extract. I am confused what the actual recipe is. Please could you let me know

    • Hi Aesha, The recipe is correct as listed on the page. Vanilla can be added at the beginning if desired. It is not essential but Ann prefers the flavor of the vanilla when added.

  3. Could I use whole milk instead?

    • Hi Lily, Whole Milk in Australia has about 4% fat, so yes!

  4. I tried it but it turned into a crumbly solid thing. Why?

    • Hi Jasmine, from the sounds of it you may have taken the sugar too far ( over cooked) or it has crystallised out

  5. I was a bit nervous before attempting this since all the comments indicated people had trouble making it. But, I just made it and drizzled a little bit of it on my coconut cream pie! It worked out wonderfully and deliciously!!! I adjusted the heat so my bubbles match the bubbles I saw in Ann’s video for when I need to simmer it and that was a good indicator. It did take longer than an hour and I had to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn and for when the consistency matched what’s in the video. At some point it may seem like it’s gonna stay runny, but just keep it on the heat. You really need to be patient and careful with it. Every 5 mins or so I would take out a little and put it on the counter top to see if that’s the consistency I wanted. If it’s not the one I wanted I would still taste it to see if it had burned or if it’s close to burning. In just a couple minutes it turned to the consistency I wanted so it will happen in a split second. If I left it on a little bit longer it would have burned so just keep an eye on it. It’s absolutely delicious and really really sweet so you probably won’t need as much as you think if you’re using it as a sweetner. I still have about a cup in the fridge! Thanks Ann!!!

    • That is great to hear Layan and thanks for the great tips!

  6. Can you change baking soda for baking powder, also I can’t find milk with more than 3% fat, should I add some cream or is it fine?

    • Hi Annie, Baking soda is also bicarbonate of soda. Baking powder also has cream of tartar in it, so it wont be a great replacement. Standard whole milk (not skim) has enough fat.

  7. Hi Ann,
    I’m wondering if you might have a moment to give me a clue about where I may’ve gone wrong with the Dulce De Leche recipe. I gave it a craic but it didn’t turn out like yours.
    I think maybe i didn’t have the heat high enough for the first hour – it took about 2 hours to thicken, but it just went really dark, and even after left to cool (at room temp), it’s still very runny. Is it worth another go do you think? is there something obvious i did wrong that you can think of?

    • Hi Jacqui, it will be all about the temperature. See Ann’s troubleshooting tip at the bottom of the blog above. I always test mine by dropping a little into a glass of cold water or on to a heat proof surface, to see if it thickens up enough. Yours look likes it didn’t get hot enough for the sugar bonds to form. The colour does look a little dark, so it may be burnt to taste. If that is the case I would start again.

  8. can i eat this by the spoonful

    • Yes you can but it isn’t great fro the waistline!

  9. Hi Ann,
    Is there any reason why you used milk instead of cream? (I know cream is 35%, not 4%, but I’m a little curious)

    • Alyssa, I know yours is an old question, but I can’t help it… dulce de leche and caramel are actually two different things.
      The literal translation of “dulce de leche” is milk jam. Traditionally, it’s made with raw milk, pretty much straight from the cow (that’s how mum makes it, she gets her milk from a nearby farm). The amount of heat it goes through and the sugar content means almost nothing can live in it, so it’s safe to keep for VERY long periods (I just keep mine in the fridge, I prefer to put it in a jar, it’s been there for about a year and I still trust it).

  10. can i use 3.5% milk instead of 4%? thx

    • Hi Julie, I haven’t tried it but it should work okay. It may be a little less creamy.

      • k thx

  11. Hi Ann!
    I was wondering if there was a faster way of cooling the dulce de leche? Maybe if it could be put into the fridge? I’m making caramel filled chocolates for world chocolate day today, but I had something unexpected come up later in the day.
    Thanks so much!!

    • Hi Chloe, Yes you can cool it in the fridge.

  12. Hi Ann,
    I couldn’t seem to find the perfect temperature. When I push it slightly towards medium, it immediately bubbles up, but when I take it a tiny touch lower, it boils and doesn’t make foam. Is it because I used baking powder, or something else? What am I doing wrong?

    • Okay, it didn’t turn brown and that’s okay, but it instead turned into a kind of evaporated milk/ dulce de leche thing. Tastes amazing but doesn’t quite look like the picture. Even if there wasn’t any foam it turned out okay.
      Delicious! 🙂

      • Hi A, It sounds like you needed a better hotplate to cook on. It doesn’t sound like it cooked quite enough. Try a different hot plate that offers you more control or use a heavier based pan an see if that helps.

  13. Hello Anne. I was just wondering how do you make the spiced dark chocolate ganache? Since it is the only ganache not mentioned in the recipe, I was just curious.

  14. Does the milk need to be 4% fat – or is less than that OK

    • Hi Roma, close to 4% would be best.

  15. Can i use this caramel for hot chocolate or hot coffee?

    • Hi Sofia, are you thinking of adding a spoonful for flavour? It would be really sweet but you could melt it in. If you just want a caramel flavour you would be better to use a caramel syrup designed for that purpose.

  16. Hi Ann,
    I’ve tried this recipe 3 times and each time the dulche de leche doesn’t firm up. It gets very dark in colour but nothing happens at all. Please help!

    • Hi Marcus, if the mixture has cooked for long enough it should thicken as it cools. If it is not thickening, is sounds like it hasn’t cooked for long enough.

  17. Hi Ann, I normally make basic ganache truffle but thanks to your website I am being much more adventurous. I’ve made the dulce de leche and the raspberry fillings. They seem very very sweet. Do you think it would affect the consistency if I reduced the sugar content?

    • Hi Cheryl W, these are sweet fillings that you can use in small quantities or serve with something to cut the sweetness. Reducing sugar content will effect the stability of the mix.

  18. hello,can we use ready caramel syroup from the supermarket? thank you!!

    • Hi Anna, It depends on what you want to use it for, supermarket caramel will be made in different ways with different ingredients depending on the store.

  19. Hi, I just want to know, how much would this yield for the end product?

    • Hi Afra, results will vary but you will usually end up with around 1 and a half cups of the dulce du leche.

  20. Hi, i wanna known is this caramel can be saved in fridge to be used later ??please answers me as soon as possible. . Thanks

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