It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I have a very sweet tooth. So imagine my delight at every hostel I stayed at in Argentina and Uruguay when each breakfast came complete with dulce de leche, the classic spreadable caramel that is liberally dolloped on desserts, cakes and even toast. No matter how dodgy the coffee, how tepid the ‘orange fruit drink’ or how stale the bread, there was always dulce de leche to smother it and more than compensate. My favourite way to eat it was as ‘Flan con dulce’, basically a crème caramel slathered in the stuff. Heaven.

It’s quite the trendy condiment these days and I’ve gotta say I’m glad of it. If you’re craving alfajores de maicena, those delicious cornflour-based biscuits sandwiched together with thick dulce de leche and rolled sparingly in caramel, you could make them yourself, and no doubt I will at some point. But if you can’t be bothered, don’t worry as Argentinian cake shops are popping up all over Sydney, from La Paula in Kingsford to Baker Street in Ultimo to Sugarloaf Patisserie in Kogarah.

You’ve probably heard of this cheat’s version of dulce de leche, and I have to admit it’s not quite as good as the real thing, either homemade or mass produced. The traditional way of making it involves boiling and stirring a litre of milk with sugar until you reach the point of thick caramel deliciousness. However, the cheat’s version yields an acceptable result, and when you consider how little effort goes into it.

Cheat’s Dulce de Leche

As many tins of sweetened condensed milk as you want dulce de leche
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract per tin (if desired)

Put the tins of sweetened condensed milk into a large pot. Boil enough water to more than cover the tins. Place the pot on the stove and pour the boiling water over the cans. Bring to the boil.

Once the water is boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 2-3 hours, making sure the tins are completely covered with water at all times as there is a chance they could explode.

Leave the tins to cool in the pot for an hour or more. Empty each tin into an airtight container and stir through the vanilla if using. Serve on everything!

So, do you have a food that you’re craving from overseas?

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13 Responses to Cheat’s Dulce de Leche

  1. mmm sweet sweet dulce. i usually boil about 5 cans in one go but leave them unopened so i can grab from the cupboard when a craving hits yum!

    • Lau says:

      That is a grand idea. I will boil a bunch of cans soon but I still feel that the recipe lacks something…butter? There’s something about the flavour that isn’t quite right.

  2. Gaby says:

    Every country in Latin America has its version of dulce de leche (and in most cases under different names). If you haven’t tried it yet, try cajeta quemada (the Mexican one), it’s one of my favourites.

    • Lau says:

      I have been wanting to try that! And I nearly wrote that comment in bad Spanish, but will not subject you to it… Do you know where to buy some? Or do I have to make it myself?

  3. Lauren, that opening photo is awesome! You should submit that to some photographic competitions! :D And isn’t DDL amazing stuff. I personally think it could stop wars ;)

  4. You have got to love things that are so sweet and are so easy to make. Now after making all these cans of the stuff I will need to make some recipes to consume it all.

  5. Natalie says:

    Wow those photos are amazing! I want some…We used to make Banoffee Pie Ice Cream with Dulce. I’m craving that now!

  6. Denis says:

    You call it Cheat’s Dulce de leche, but when you think a little bit about that, you will realise that it have nothing to do with dulce de leche.

    In 400g of final mass is only 150ml of milk, what can be concluded when you read ingredients list and qty, and for 400g of Dulce de leche you need 800ml of milk.

    You have interesting website. I liked to reading that.

  7. Jane says:

    My cheats version is to head on over to and purchase their dulce de leche caramel spread… its the real thing, no mess, no fuss :) yuuuuummmmmm!!

  8. Nia says:

    Best dulce de leche I’ve tried is from La Torre cake shop in Fairfield…smooth with that classic latin caramel flavour :)

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