1 dulcedelecheThis week, I made chocolate dulce de leche cupcakes. When I told my friends and family about it, the most common response was, “Huh? What is dulce de leche?”

What is Dulce de Leche?

According to the Wikipedia article on dulce de leche:

“Dulce de leche in Spanish or doce de leite in Portuguese (‘milk candy’), is a milk-based syrup. Found as both a sauce and a caramel-like candy, it is popular across Latin America.”

How is Dulce de Leche Different from Caramel?

Everyone, myself included, has been tempted to call my dulce de leche caramel. However, dulce de leche is different from caramel. Caramel is simply sugar that has been heated. It becomes really sticky and very sweet and, of course, caramel colored. Dulce de leche is made from mostly milk with some sugar. It is also very sweet and caramel colored from the heated sugar in it, but it is not quite as sticky and has more of a soft, smooth flavor.

What are the Origins of Dulce de Leche?

My favorite part of the dulce de leche Wikipedia article talks about dulce de leche’s origins.

“One story involves the 19th century Argentinian caudillo Juan Manuel de Rosas. The story goes that in a winter afternoon at the Rosas house, the maid was making some lechada—a drink made with milk and sugar boiled until it starts to caramelize—and she heard someone knocking at the door. She left the lechada on the stove and went to answer the door; and when she came back, the lechada was burnt and had turned into a brown jam: dulce de leche.

It is, however, more likely to have its origins in Europe, possibly as the French confiture de lait: a popular similar legend dating back from the 14th century exists in the region of Normandy, involving a cook from the military troops who had the same culinary accident when making sweetened milk for breakfast. Variations of this legend refer to a cook in Napoleon’s army.”

When I goof up in the kitchen, things end up burnt. These people must have been in such shock to find a winning dessert rather than a burnt up mess.

Two Ways to Make Dulce de Leche

There are two ways to make dulce de leche.

Dulce de Leche Recipe One

I made my dulce de leche using a method I found out about from The Clumsy Cook. I also have to credit her for my whole interest in dulce de leche. It looked so tasty in her picture!


  • 1/2 gallon of milk
  • 2 cups sugar (I used vanilla sugar to make it extra vanilla flavored. You can also put vanilla beans into the pot if you have some.)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Pour milk, vanilla, and sugar into a pot over medium-high heat (make sure the pot is big enough so that milk won’t spill over the sides when it boils). Bring to a boil, whisking constantly.
  2. Turn heat down and slightly simmer over very low heat for about 2.5 to 3 hours. Check the mixture every once in a while to make sure it isn’t simmering too much. When done, stir until smooth and pour dulce de leche into jars. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Note: I had mine on the stove for 5 hours! It is possible that this was because I didn’t whisk it enough at the beginning. I have a metal whisk and I didn’t want to scratch the pot. I know, pots are meant to be scratched. However, my husband likes our pots to stay looking brand new and I didn’t want to mess it up. It still came out perfectly; it just took longer. Just be sure to keep an eye on it. You’ll know it’s done when it starts sticking to the spoon. It won’t really get thick until it gets off the stove and cools down.

Dulce de Leche Recipe Two

The second way to make dulce de leche is heat up a can of sweetened condensed milk in boiling water.  I like to do this in a crockpot (get the details in my post on crockpot dulce de leche).

The Dulce de Leche Cocktail in Guys and Dolls

My first introduction to dulce de leche was in the Guys and Dolls musical.

The interesting thing is that no one seems to know exactly what the drink is they are referring to in this scene. If it tastes at all like the dulce de leche I made, I could see how Sara Brown kept downing them.

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