dulce de leche (dool say deh leh-chay)
Also milk jam, milk candy, manjar, manjar blanco and/or arequipe. A thick sauce, spread-like confection or soft candy made from slowly heating sweetened milk until it has thickened and caramelized. Dulce de leche is very popular in South America. Its origin is not confirmed, but the sauce may have been created in Argentina1. Mexican cajeta is similar but typically made from goat’s milk, while dulce de leche is usually made from cow’s milk.
You can find dulce de leche in many supermarkets, often displayed near the sweetened condensed milk, or you can make your own at home. Some recipes suggest cooking a sealed can of sweetened condensed milk in a water bath, but the can has been known to explode. We don’t recommend this.
Other recipes begin with sweetened condensed milk poured into a covered pan and baked in a water bath in the oven, or they begin with a combination of milk and sugar, sometimes with baking soda added and/or vanilla extract, cooked over low heat on the stovetop. Either way, the preparation time is short and the cooking time long, often several hours, and it must be monitored to prevent scorching. Our recipe for dulce de leche (link) uses purchased sweetened condensed milk and the oven technique.
Those looking for vegan or gluten-free options can make dulce de leche with coconut milk.
1. Life is Sweeter with Dulce de Leche
Kijac, Maria, The South American Table, The Flavor and Soul of Authentic Home Cooking from Patagonia to Rio de Janeiro, Harvard Common Press, 2003
Image: Dédé Wilson