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.
Ingredients
  • 2 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 half pint (8-ounce) canning jars
Instructions
  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!
Notes
  • 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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Comments

  1. gayle

    This is even better when made with homemade sweetened condensed milk. As good as it is, much healthier and tastes fantastic.

    Reply
  2. Katrin

    wicked! I boil mine and havent had any issues (other than having to add more water – therefore making it something you need to keep your eye on)
    I;ll try this out soon Ann!!
    xo
    Katrin @Running With the Deviled Eggs

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thanks, Katrin! The neat thing about this option is that you can see when it hits different stages and stop cooking when it reaches a consistency you like. Hope you like!

      Reply
  3. Terry L. Novack

    I am making Banoffee Pie which requires dulce de leche and since this is my first attempt I think I messed up. I “boiled” this in the oven as required for 1.25 hours and it never got thick. I wasn’t sure what I was doing I guess so I took it out and actually poured it into the crust of the pie. I was thinking that perhaps it would firm up once refrigerated? Now I am not sure what will happen? I am going to refrigerate it overnight. Next time I should bake it longer? Idk.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Hi Terry,
      I have never baked the dulce de leche and would recommend the slow cooker method as I describe here. If you have any questions, let me know. I hope your Banoffee Pie turned out!

      Reply
  4. Kimby

    Oh my goodness! Thank you for sharing this recipe/method. I’ve always been afraid of the “exploding can,” too, but now I can enjoy Dulce Le Leche at will. Mercy.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      I know…I would have been one of those people who would have been cleaning the ceiling after the can exploded!! I was thrilled that this method worked so well and with such ease. Enjoy!

      Reply
  5. Keita

    Thank you so much for sharing -this sounds fantastic! Did you put a cloth in the bottom to cushion the glass jars? Or, doesn’t it need anything? Can’t wait to try it.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      I did not, Keita. I actually didn’t think of it, but the heat is low enough that there is no burning or boiling to make them jiggle in the slow cooker. Hope you love it!

      Reply
  6. Diane

    and they don’t need stirring – and the bottom of the jars don’t have burned product in them? Sounds like a challenge I must take!

    Reply
    1. Ann

      I know…it seems too good to be true! The only thing I can suggest is to decide if you want the dulce de leche firmer or more syrupy. It won’t hurt to open the lid and stick a spoon in to check. The first time, I just let them cook for 10 hours–no checking or stirring. The second time, I opened at various stages. Thick or thin, they taste great and no burned bottoms! Let me know if you try!

      Reply
  7. Mary Lou Keller

    Had in for 8 hours, so crockpot stopped at about 4:40, went to warm mode. It is pretty thick, but still good! Next time I will try on a weekend when I am home and will cook for just 6 hours.

    It was heavenly on the baked apple oatmeal! I put some on top and then heated in microwave at work.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      That sounds wonderful, Mary Lou! It is definitely something to experiment with as the consistency can be almost any way you like it. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  8. Mary Lou Keller

    Found the 8 oz mason jars yesterday.. Going to put this in crockpot overnight. Thinking some might be good on the baked apple oatmeal tomorrow.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      That sounds like a great combination, Mary Lou! If you want the consistency to be thinner–to drizzle like caramel sauce, for example–take the jars out on the shorter end of the time frame. You could also take one out after 7-8 hours, leave the others in for 10 and see which way your prefer it. Either way, it tastes great!

      Reply
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  11. ally

    Annnneee girl!! I’m totally in!! This is awesome! I will try….thank you for bringing quick easy and unique creations to our foodie universe! xo Ally

    Reply
  12. cindy uffelman

    How long will this keep?… would you have to refrigerated since its sealed…I am thinking Christmas gifts!…. thank you

    Reply
    1. Ann

      I have one jar that I have been keeping as a test, Cindy, and it still tastes great after three weeks. Given the shelf life of sweetened condensed milk, I think they should last pretty long. The jars do seal in the slow cooker but, to be safe, I store in the refrigerator. I was thinking they would make wonderful Christmas gifts: )

      Reply
  13. Mary Lou Keller

    I have heard of this as well, actually on Pinterest and it looks fabulous! Think I am going to try this, I really need to get some mason jars too.

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Hi Carol,
      I tightened them firmly but not REALLY tight. I wanted them to be tight enough that the lid wouldn’t slip and cause leakage. Nothing came out and the cans sealed as they would with normal canning. I do store in the refrigerator though, just to be safe.

      Reply
  14. Joan@Chocolate and More

    Ann, you are my hero! I’ve been dying to try this but had so many fears of the unopened can on the stove. Can’t wait to try your way! And just beautiful gifts! I can already picture my gift cards! Pinned, tweeted and shared on FB! You rock!

    Reply
    1. Ann

      Thank you very much, Joan! I am smiling from ear to ear and look forward to seeing how you take this deliciousness to the next level of dessert perfection!

      Reply