On the Cheap: DIY Dulce de Leche

By Anonymous Paul on 26 September, 2013

10 minute cooking time

There are many ways to make dulce de leche; a rich, very sweet, thick milk candy or jam. Essentially fresh milk and a ton of sugar. Then cooked and stirred for hours till the mixture browns and caramelizes.

There are certain cheats to make this though. With most versions using sweetened condensed milk as a base, which cuts a lot of cooking time. It can be poured in a saucepan and then cooked and stirred over low heat. A lot of work still. Some nuke condensed milk (out of the can, of course) in a microwave; pulling out and stirring every few minutes. Some boil the whole unopened can in a pot of water for about 3 or 4 hours. For me I find the pressure cooker method the most convenient. And easiest.

You’ll need:

An unopened can of sweetened condensed milk. Which brand to get? Anything will work just as long as it’s made of 100% full cream milk. Do not get cans labeled so ambiguously as “sweetened condensed creamer” or “sweetened condensed filled milk”. Palm/vegetable oil is mixed into these as an extender and will probably yield a different end product. Also not very healthy (not that a ton of sugar is). I use Milkmaid. If you can get Eagle Brand that’s great as well. Peel the label off.

A colander or steamer basket or anything that will keep the can from touching the sides or bottom of the pressure cooker. Contact will transfer too much heat and could cause the can to explode. It won’t leave a crater in your kitchen but you’ll just end up making a mess. I make use of about a meter long aluminium foil and roll it into a loose log. Then roll the log in to a spiral. I place this disc at the bottom of the cooker and it works all the time.

Of course, a pressure cooker.


Place the unopened can of condensed milk on the colander/basket/coiled foil. You can put in as many cans depending on how large your pressure cooker is.

Fill till a third or halfway with water. The cans don’t need to be submerged, there just has to be enough liquid for the duration of the cooking process.

Close the lid and lock. Turn on the stove and use high heat.

When the pressure cooker starts whistling vigorously or emitting a jet of steam, turn down the heat source till it just maintains pressure.  This is when one should start timing. Cook in between 10 and 40 minutes.

After your preferred cooking time turn off the heat and let things cool on their own. Best to do this in the evening so there’s time to cool overnight. Not a good idea to open a pressurized container filled with molten sugary milk. If processing multiple cans, it’s good to know that left unopened these will pretty much last forever.

30 minute cooking time

On the 10 minute end you get a looser, slightly spreadable consistency. A milky flavor is still evident but there is that caramelization. On the 30 minute end you get a denser, fudge-like consistency. A mellower sweetness as the sugars have cooked further and a deeper complexity due to it’s browning. Which one’s better? I guess it’s a matter of preference. Both have their own merits.

The applications are endless though. You can sandwich it between shortbread cookies to make alfajor, top flapjacks or cupcakes or even toast, or swirl it in ice cream. I mix it in my coffee. To tell you the truth, I just dig with a spoon most times and have it as is.

And at just around P55 for a can of condensed milk (and minimal work), it’s a definite cheap and cheerful treat.

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  • SEPTEMBER 26, 2013 3:16 PM

    Ana5678 said...

    Is there no end to your myriad talents, Paul?!

  • MAY 27, 2014 9:34 AM

    derdo said...

    I'm scared of using the pressure cooker so I gave mine away. I regret it now, after reading your post. :(

  • FEBRUARY 1, 2016 2:57 AM

    Ali said...

    Pressure cooker cuts the cooking time,I use just the regular pot, but takes more time, and the results are the same. For many years I have used this method, nothing between the pot and cans. I learned from my Mom and her Mom, and never had a can exploded. But just in case, do not leave your pot unattended make sure to add more water when the water level is low.