Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche

By Ann Fulton

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Over the years, I read several times that simmering a can of sweetened condensed milk on the stovetop for several hours would magically transform the contents into dulce de leche.  This sort of made sense.  After all, dulce de leche, translated, means sweet milk.  Yet the claim seemed too good to be true.

Recently, I posed the question on The Fountain Avenue Kitchen Facebook page and the comments amazed me.   Scores of people—interestingly, many from South America and England–told of doing this regularly and raved about how delicious it is.  Some also shared stories of the can exploding, resulting in a major mess on the ceiling.  Others were concerned that the coating on the inside of the can would leech into the milk.

Curious, but wanting to avoid a kitchen disaster, I transferred the condensed milk into Mason jars and used my slow cooker.

The result was exactly what was claimed, without the mess.  After 10 hours on low, the condensed milk turned the color of caramel and was the consistency of a thick pudding.  My kids love using it as a dip for apple slices or a spread on toast.

Mason jars are not only perfect for cooking and storing; they make a jar of this dulce de leche into a wonderful gift as well.  Simply tie with a bow.

Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche
When finished cooking, the dulce de leche will be set like custard. Stirring with a spoon will soften to a spreadable consistency similar to that of a thick caramel...perfect for dipping apples! For a consistency similar to caramel sauce, cook for the shorter timeframe mentioned.
  • 2 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 half pint (8-ounce) canning jars
  1. Open cans of sweetened condensed milk and pour into three half pint jars, dividing evenly. Put on lids and rings.
  2. Place jars in crock pot and add water to just reach the bands of the jars.
  3. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours (for caramel sauce consistency) or 10 hours (for a consistency more like pudding; see notes).
  4. Carefully, remove jars from the crock pot and enjoy!
  • Initially, I cooked this for 10 hours and savored the pudding-like dessert that was magically created. Then, the thought occurred to me that cooking for a slightly shorter amount of time might create a consistency that could be drizzled over ice cream or my favorite apple cake. I made another batch and checked at six and at eight hours. The dulce de leche was a syrupy consistency both times. (This led to my new favorite use for this sweet treat: a make-at-home dulce de leche latte! The recipes for this as well as the apple cake are available on my website.) Select a cooking time based on the consistency you desire, and don’t hesitate to open the lid and check it as slow cookers vary based on size, model, etc.
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  1. Doreen Ball

    Do you add enough water to fully cover the mason jars? I know when using the cans on the stove keeping the cans underwater is important – not sure how it might differ with the jars and slower cook time. I’m also curious if you know the right cook time for getting it thick enough for cake filling. Thanks

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Doreen, I describe the method in the instructions, but you will want to add water to just reach the bands of the jars. Then cook on low heat for 6-8 hours for caramel sauce consistency or 10 hours for a consistency more like pudding. I’ve included a few extra details in the recipe notes. I hope this helps!

    1. Ann Post author

      Hi Maureen, I always store these in the refrigerator to ensure safety and longterm storage since a slow cooker is not a reliable canning method.

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  4. Cyndi Ott

    Our favorite dessert is from Chevy’s Mexican Restaurant, the Cajeta Ice Cream Sundae. This caramel w/b perfect for that: toasted coconut, rich vanilla ice cream & lotsa your homemade dulce de Leches. Can’t wait to make it at home!

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  7. Marisol

    WOW! How exciting to see Dulce de leche in a mason jar! Thanks Ann. I will be trying it with some Nutella for a twist, and another one with sea salt.

    1. Ann

      Thanks, Marisol, and I love your idea of the dulce de leche-Nutella mix. Let us know how it works out and, if you like, what proportions you use!

  8. Lena

    Thank you, Ann. This came out perfectly. I agree with the drizzle consistency. I gift along with your latte recipe. Thank God for Ann Fulton & her grandmother!!

  9. Erika

    Ann, why mason jars? I’m not a canner, so I don’t know if these lids have special properties. I save glass jars/lids for other reasons, can I just use a sanitized small mustard jar or other type of jar, or is there something about the mason jar lid that is necessary for this process, like, might it burst, etc.?

    1. Ann

      Great question, Erika. I recommend Mason jars because they will withstand the heat and the proportions work well in this recipe, but any food-grade jar (like a mustard jar) should work well. The Mason jars do seal, but I suggest storing in the refrigerator where the dulce de leche will keep for many weeks. Hope you enjoy!