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. Ginnie

    Made this for the first time last week turned out great, so easy, going to use them for gifts.
    Got 12 8 ounce canning jars at target for under nine dollars also at target sweetened condensed milk for a 1.50 a can.

  2. Nancy

    Made this, but my slow cooker doesn’t say low heat so I wasn’t sure what temp to put it at. I had it way too low for hours before I realized then turned it up to around 325 degrees. Then kept on cooking it. It ended up still turning out great. Very creamy and so yummy. But love it cause it is just fool proof. Can’t mess it up it seems. Trying my second experiment batch now. Can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

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  5. Elaine

    When I was growing up, my mom would make this regularly in a pot of water on the stove, with never a disaster. Afterwards, we would sit around the can with spoons and go to town on it. It was sooooooo delicious. My sister and I were just talking about it the other day, and then I find your post. My mom passed away unexpectedly 3 years ago, so I wasn’t able to get the particulars from her. So glad I found your post. Thank you.

    1. Ann

      I am so glad you found this recipe, too, Elaine and love the special memories. Thank you for taking the time to share them, and I hope the taste when you make it again is every bit as sweet as your memories!

  6. Michele

    It seems no one else has run into this, but I cooked mine on low for 9 hours because I wanted a thicker consistency. The top half of the jar tasted delicious, but the bottom half was very gritty from sugar and was inedible. Any suggestions?

    1. Ann

      Hi Michele,
      I wonder if your slow cooker cooks a little hotter than some? If you cooked on low, as directed, you could further mitigate the heat by placing the jars on a rack placed on the bottom of the cooker. This will keep them off the direct heat and may help. I have never needed to stir, but you could do this once or twice during the cooking process as an added precaution. Other than that, the only thing I can think of is to double-check the expiration date on the cans. I hope this helps!

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  9. Mary Lou Keller

    I am making more of this today Ann and plan to make the salted hot fudge sauce as well. They are great gifts!

  10. Debara

    I have made this using the both the stove-top and the slow-cooker. I make my own sweetened condenced milk (an un-cooked version) and it makes great dulche de leche. I had a jar get pushed to the back of the pantry and it was still good a year after it was made. I leave about 1 inch of space at the top of each jar. I hope this helps.

  11. Norah Ledermann

    Ann, This also makes perfect ‘Turtles’ simply coat bottom of mold with delicious chocolate add a spoonfull of the dulce la leche seal top with more delicious chocolate, chill and ENJOY!!!
    Have been making these for over 40 years and still get requests every year.

  12. Nina Mosley

    I am making this right Now! It sounds delish. Btw – I found the canning jars in Walmart for $4 each and in the dollar store for $1 each. If this comes out as good as it sounds, I’m going back for the rest of the dollar store’s supply of jars and making a huge batch. I am also using fat free sweetened condensed milk. *fingers crossed*

    1. Ann

      Great find on the dollar store canning jars, Nina! I have not used fat free sweetened condensed milk and am wondering whether it will set up the same way. I would love to know your results. If it doesn’t work perfectly, I assure you the regular milk does!

    2. Daniella

      I saw that you made the slow cooker caramel sauce using fat free sweetened condensed milk. Just wondering did it turn out for you as the full fat one shows? Please let me know.

  13. Deb

    Are you only supposed to fil the half pint jars halfway? My 14 oz can only fills 1 1/2 jars filling them to the bottom rim, not all the way to the top. Help?

    1. Ann

      For this recipe, I use 2 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk and that amount will just fill 3 8-ounce (half pint) jars. If you only have one can of milk, I would divide it evenly between 2 jars. It won’t fill them the whole way but the dulce de leche will still turn out fine. I hope this helps!

  14. Mary Lou Keller

    Ann, I now have 9 jars of this! I am giving a jar and apples in pretty cellophane bag to friends and family this year, along with some homemade cookies.

    1. Ann

      What a wonderful gift, Mary Lou, and I love your idea of giving them with apples! I am so glad you liked this as a gift idea and appreciate the feedback!