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Canned condensed milk morphs into Dulce de Leche

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I saw a great version on the food network recently... drop a can of condensed milk in a pot of boiling water, and boil for 90 minutes. Make sure the can is always completely submerged, and after boiling, don't open the can until it has cooled. When served warm, it's fantastic!

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  1. What a nice and easy recipe. I found some recipes online too, but they seemed more complicated. :)

    8 Replies
    1. re: katkoupai

      Katkoupai - a typo in my recipe - the can should be boiled for 3 hours, not 90 minutes. But you're right - pretty easy!

      1. re: meganw

        Sounds great! Thanks for posting it. :)

        1. re: katkoupai

          I think I read that recipe, too. Be careful, it mentioned the can could explode.

          1. re: 212

            Yep, that's why ensuring that the can is always completely submerged in the water is so critical - if the pot boiled dry, the can would explode. I use my pasta pot to make sure there's no chance of there NOT being enough water.

            1. re: meganw

              Absolutely make sure the can is covered in the water! When I was in high school my mother, who was a great affectionado of Eagle Brand cooked in the can, put one in a pot of water to do it's thing and forgot to turn the stove burner down before she took a nap! Result - brown deliciousness dripping from the dented kitchen ceiling and a big mess everywhere!

              1. re: meganw

                thanx for the sientific answer!!!

              2. re: 212

                No, it didn't, @212 (if that is your real name;P). If it did, that wasn't the recipe you read. The Food Network mentions nothing about exploding cans.

                In fact, this is really safe if you just deep- boil the can (stovetop or crock pot), or follow your pressure cooker's instructions.

                Seriously, the urban legends I've read here about "exploding cans" of sweetened condensed milk are embarrassing. They're all based on unrelated stories of idiots applying bare cans of other goods (beans, corn, etc) to dry heat (stove tops, camp fires, ovens, etc).

                @megnaw and @OCEllen had it right. But the Science is: submerge it so the bottom of the can doesn't rest hard on the bottom of the pot
                (give it a little room to float when the water's boiling). Then the burner won't conduct heat directly to the can's contents!

                Sweetened condensed milk boils at a *higher* temperature than water. It has both sugar and fat, which both raise the boiling point above plain water.

                Cooking manjar in a pressure cooker (with water) is also harmless *if you're using the cooker right*! It will also cut your time into a third.

                The pressure in the cooker will ALWAYS be greater than the pressure within the can as long as the seal is maintained. Remember, the stuff your cooking can only be a LOWER OR EQUAL TO temperature than what you're boiling it *IN*! When that stuff has a lower boiling point than water, you're pretty safe.

                THAT BEING SAID:
                Don't blow a pressure cooker's seal before it's cooled off! Just as in any pressure-cooking operation! If you mess this up, it's your fault, not the exploding can's. You screw up a pressure cooker, might as well blame the "exploding chicken" you tried to cook in it, too.

                Seriously, the urban legends I've read here about "exploding cans" of sweetened condensed milk are embarrassing. They're all based on unrelated stories of idiots applying bare cans of other goods (beans, corn, etc) to dry heat (stove tops, camp fires, ovens, etc).

                I've yet to find one single REAL account of someone deep-boiling ANY canned good, let alone manjar, having a can "explode." If the can is fully submerged in water, you're safe!

                Also, for everyone who says the "pressure" is compensated for when the can is fully submerged, I admit I believed that was true as well, for a long time. It just "feels" right.
                But, it's true because the bottom of the can isn't resting on the bottom of the pot! Otherwise, if that happens the heating element/flame can directly conduct heat to the can's contents, bringing it above the boiling point, similar to the other "idiots who heated a can directly on a burning heat source" stories.

            2. re: meganw

              It all depends on how thick you want it to be.

          2. My mom used to this in the pressure cooker! I don't recall how long. But this was at 9000 ft.

            Or you can let Nestle do it for you. The can I have is from Chile.

            1 Reply
            1. re: paulj

              Pressure cook for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how thick you like the caramel. 20-minutes results in a caramel that will pour, 30-minutes results in a thick caramel that will not pour.

            2. My mother and grandmother have done it this way for decades (for use as filling in a sponge cake roll). I have a dedicated old pot for it (used another once and it dislcored the pot). I boil for 3 hours. If when you open the can, it doesn't seem quite done, put it back in the pot with the water almost to the top of the can at a simmer. Give it a stir every 10 minutes until you get the desired color.

              1. I've done this often, I learned the trick from the mom of my best friend in high school, who was a caterer. There is no danger, just make sure the water always covers the can. I boil it for 90 minutes and usually do three cans at a time so there is always a can in the cupboard. It makes very good caramel.

                If you want a great, easy pie to make with this, try Caramel Banana Pie:

                - Take one purchased Graham Cracker Pie Crust (or make your own)
                - Slice three fresh bananas in the pie crust
                - Pour the contents of 1 can all over the bananas
                - Top with fresh whipped cream


                3 Replies
                  1. re: Tom P

                    There is a restaurant in Alabama called The Boar's Butt Cafe, they make the same type of pie and call it "Boar's Butt Pie" Delish!!!

                    1. re: Tom P

                      They call that bannofee pie in the uk- it has a cult following.

                    2. CAn you store the "transformed" can indefinitely in the cupboard as long as it isn't opened?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: alex8alot

                        I am not sure I would go over a year. I once used one just under a year and all was well.

                      2. Didn't the FN version use a hot dog cart's steam table? At least that's what 'Ham on the street' used. He's from Venezuela, so could have picked up the technique from his homeland.


                        1. in the south, this is called 'cooked can' and is trailer trash delicacy...

                          1 Reply
                          1. I want to go out and buy a can of condensed milk to do this now. What else can it be used for? Ice cream topping? Pies? I would love to know. :)

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: katkoupai

                              Alfajores! Make butter cookies and spread the dulce de leche on the bottom of one -- attach the bottom of the other to it, let cool and harden a bit, and you have Argentina's finest junk food.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                Okay, this sounds so good. I am gaining weight just reading about it. Sounds delicious!

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  Oh man, those were the dessert at an event that I went to this summer, and the caterer was being chased for the recipe. They were incredible.

                                2. re: katkoupai

                                  You can use it for anything you like with caramel. Just try it, and open it and see what it there. Pretty creamy, lush caramel. Not quite as smooth and refined as if you made it on the stove. But I often find that caramel you make on the stove has a tendency to harden easily if you don’t do it just right. This is always creamy.

                                3. I made one can the first time and it was so good I did 5 the next time and gave a couple out to my coworkers. Great on vanilla ice cream.

                                  1. it's great on toast. a graham cracker. a SPOON. you name it.

                                    1. You can also make the Dulce de Leche in a crock pot. Pour a can of sweetened condensed milk in, set to low, stir every 45 minutes or so. In about 7 hours you should have rich, brown Carmel.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mary0201

                                        Ok, this seems a little less scary (no fear of the exploding can). My dad loves his crock pot. Maybe I'll ask him to experiment with this some day.

                                      2. My ex's stepmom told me about this, and she says the key to not exploding the can is to do the boiling the evening before you use the caramelized condensed milk. She put it on after dinner, using a soup pot so she didn't have to check the water level, and turned off the heat before going to bed. This way the can cools down with the water, and since you don't remove it while hot, there's no chance of an accident. In the morning, you have dulce de leche!

                                        1. My mother makes this into a pie. Simply pour the results into a graham cracker crust and put whipped cream on top.

                                          The whipped cream helps cut the "oh so sweet" taste.

                                          1. Despite being a Southerner (well, ok, a Texan to be exact), I'd never heard of this until I read the Sweet Potato Queen books. I still have to try it. I really like the sound of the overnight method....maybe I'll try it tonight!

                                            1. I lived in Chile for a while. They do it this way down there. They call it "manjar", but it's the same thing. A good friend told the story of how he lived in Kansas as a high school exchange student, and had a real craving for some manjar, and wanted to boil a can of condensed milk to make some, but his host parents were convinced it would blow up and wouldn't let him do it, so he never got his manjar.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: johnb

                                                Some cans of condensed milk warn you not to do this.

                                                At a local shop that carries some 'crash and dent' items I bought of a couple of jars of Argentine Dulce de Leche - flavored with banana.

                                                1. re: johnb

                                                  The Chilean can is labeled:
                                                  Dulce de Leche
                                                  Cajeta, Arequipe, Fanguito, Manjar, Caramel

                                                  Cajeta probably refers to the wood boxes that this was traditionally sold in in Mexico
                                                  Arequipe - I wonder if that derives from a town in Peru?


                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    I don't know the origin, but "cajeta" is the Mexican word for any caramel, including dulce de leche.

                                                  2. re: johnb

                                                    I lived in Argentina as a girl. This method is SOP there for making dulce de leche at home. You use it anywhere you'd use jam---spread on toast, to fill cake or cookies, on pancakes etc. I don't happen to like dulce de leche so I haven't experimented but I wonder how it would work in a crock pot, say, overnight, with the can well-covered with water so it couldn't possibly uncover itself.

                                                    1. re: Querencia

                                                      I lived in Paraguay as an exchange student in the early 1980s. There dulce de leche was also used between cake layers, sometimes with dulce de guayaba and others between other layers of the same cake. And y host mother always put fresh flowers on top of the cake (for decoration, not to be eaten).

                                                  3. Does evaporated milk work the same way?

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: agalarneau

                                                      No -- it doesn't contain nearly the sugar that sweetened condensed milk does, so it won't caramelise.

                                                    2. Is this sweetened or unsweetened condensed milk?
                                                      I presume it's sweetened but just want to be sure.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: hagar4316

                                                        Unsweetened condensed milk is usually called evaporated milk. It's the sweetened condensed milk that is caramelized. In Mexico, goats milk is preferred, but even that needs extra sweetening.

                                                      2. If you are afraid of the can exploding, the following link has three cooking methods for Dulce de Leche (stovetop, oven and microwave):


                                                        1. We used this method in HS Spanish class when making alfajores. The foreign language classes (Spanish & French) shared a small kitchen in the (then new, 1970-something) HS!

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: lgss

                                                            I will not take the risk of it exploding - and I (and you) don't have to. I just take a regular bottle opener and poke two holes in the top, just like you would for a juice that comes in a can, and I usually try to poke the end of the can with no ink on it (the ink you'd have with an expiration date or batch code or whatever) and put it in a pot to boil (obviously don't cover the holes). I stir it every once in a while with a long poker or toothpick, let it go for a few hours (this time I did it for about 4 hours I think? look up the times online depending on how deep you want it, and you'll be able to figure it out), and when you take it out of the can (opening the whole lid), it will be darker on the bottom, but you just blend it and you're good. I just finished making a can tonight. So good, and no risk!

                                                            I'm going to try to do it with soy condensed milk next, 'cause I'm about to go mostly vegan, if not completely.

                                                            1. re: purplepeppereater

                                                              What's the carbon footprint of boiling a can 4 hours? With a pressure cooker you can have Dulce de Leche in 30 minutes.

                                                              1. re: Antilope

                                                                The carbon footprint? Please, I'm very environmental, and always have been. I cook stuff on the stove for myself out of whole ingredients and don't go out and get styrofoam to-go containers...

                                                                I don't have the money to be able to afford a pressure cooker right now, maybe one day - but I'm certainly not going to purchase one JUST for DDL -- besides, I wasn't talking about a pressure cooker, I was talking about people who were using a regular pot and boiling the whole can with no poke-holes, which isn't safe.

                                                                How do you cook your DDL in the pressure cooker - loose milk? in a can? Man, if you PRESSURE cooked a can with no holes, I would not like to see that explosion!!

                                                                1. re: purplepeppereater

                                                                  Exploding cans may be less of a problem in a pressure cooker. The PC applies an extra 15psi to the can. Pressure cookers are commonly used in home canning.

                                                                  However if you are uncomfortable with making Dulce yourself, it isn't that hard to find it. Nestle sells cans that they have already 'cooked' - usually from Chile. They are not that much more expensive. I've also bought jars of Dulce from Argentina, and even squirt bottles of Mexican 'cajeta' (their goat milk version).

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    Nestle "La Lechera" dulce de leche comes in squirt bottles now too.

                                                                    I"ve never had a can explode, though.

                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                      i really don't think the risk is less in a pressure cooker - in fact, i think it is more - because if it does explode, it's a pressure cooker (the can) within a real pressure cooker, and you could really REALLY hurt someone (though you could also hurt someone with just the exploded can).

                                                                      ...and like I said, why take the risk when there is really no reason to, you can make it just as easily with poked holes in the top.

                                                                      Plus, there is a HUGE difference between canning food and using a can in this respect...

                                                                      1. re: purplepeppereater

                                                                        Cans explode when they poke out of the water because the pressure on top is less than the pressure on the bottom and the liquid wants to move from higher pressure to lower pressure.

                                                                        In a pressure cooker under pressure, the pressure is relatively stable throughout the device, though I would still ensure that there was plenty of water up top.

                                                                        I have to say, though, the stuff that's pre-made in the can is not so much worse that I think either your method or mine is worth it anymore, especially since the price has dropped so significantly.

                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                          I haven't ever bought it pre-made... so I don't know what that tastes like. I like making my own, I can make it whatever darkness I choose.

                                                          2. I pour mine in a glass pie plate, cover with foil, and put in a water bath. Bake at 350 for 90 min. I like it better this way because I can peek at it as it cooks to check the colour. Last time I did it for a full two hours (I was using my Mum's over) and it was perfect. No fear of explosions and I get to watch the colour.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                              1. re: purplepeppereater

                                                                I didn't read this entire thread....so apologies if this was already suggested.

                                                                You can make dulce de leche using canned condensed milk in a slow cooker:


                                                                I have done this and it works very well.

                                                            1. I too didn't read the entire thread, but just to clarify, I don't think you 'boil' (ie. rolling boil) the sweetened condensed milk, it should be simmered for about three hours. I've done this many times and never had one blow yet.

                                                              1. this was a very popular dessert back inthe 40's 50's according to my late mother-in-law. Served in thin slices and topped with whipped fresh cream. I remember back in those hazy 70's, being "turned on" to boiled condensed milk. A midnight muncher's dream. Told my MIL about it and she laughed and said, "we served that as a 'posh' dessert during the post-war years."

                                                                1. I've also made this with the little La Lecherita cans for smaller portions. It takes about 90 minutes for 3 cans to get to a light golden but semi-solid candy. You can try and calculate less or more according to your tastes.

                                                                  Obviously the little pull tab pouring opening no longer works but if you have a can opener that separates the lid from the can (instead of cutting into it) that will pop the top right off.

                                                                  A small can and some apple wedges make a wonderful snack for 2 (or 1 if you're greedy :) ).

                                                                  1. slightly off topic, but here's a simple, and ridiculously easy and delicious, recipe for vanilla ice cream using condensed milk..

                                                                    beat 2 cups heavy cream until soft peaks form. continue beating while adding 1 can of cold condensed milk and and pinch of salt. continue beating until still peaks form. fold in 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract. transfer to a plastic container and freeze overnight (at least 4 hours).

                                                                    1. Here are some notes for those using a pressure cooker:

                                                                      * 45 minutes at 15 PSI (natural release) results in a thick peanut butter consistency at room temperature.

                                                                      * not too sweet, very tasty. If I wanted a pour-able sauce, I would still cook it this long, and thin it out with whole milk and sugar over a double boiler or very low heat -- *more sauce!

                                                                      * steam, don't boil. Add 2 cups of water for Fagor (you should know how much water your pressure cooker takes to steam for 45 minutes), and place can(s) of condensed milk on a trivet. Cans should not touch water.

                                                                      * after pressure has been released, open the cooker lid and let it cool for 10 minutes. So the can should still be warmish to the touch.

                                                                      * open the can with a can opener. DON'T USE the pull tab.

                                                                      * scoop into mixing bowl and stir vigorously with a whisk to break and milk lumps, and spreadthe burnt sugar evenly.

                                                                      The fact that the pressure cooker is applying 15 PSI of pressure to the can during cooking time means a can is more likely to explode in the pressure cooker. However, modern pressure cookers are so safe that it doesn't really matter. If it blows up, the whole sh-bang is still contained in the pressure cooker. The only way for the pressure cooker itself to blow up is an uncontrolled build-up of pressure, and my Fagor has at least 3 levels of redundancy to avoid that.

                                                                      So the easy and safe way to do this is in the pressure cooker. But don't boil it. Steam it.

                                                                      1. A slow cooker gets reaches about 200 degrees F. It appears that method, mentioned above, is the easiest way of making Dulce de Leche from sealed cans of sweetened condensed milk. If set on low the slow cooker wouldn't boil (mine slightly simmers on high), so no chance of going dry while heating the cans.

                                                                        1. It is absolutely sweet, and unctuous, and delicious. It is GREAT spooned over grilled stone fruits, with some crisp cookies. But CAVEAT: The nickname for this one is Suicide Pudding, and there's a good reason for it. Keep the can COVERED> :) At all time. I speak from experience, though I'm here to tell the tale.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: mamachef

                                                                            Make it in a pressure cooker or slow cooker, one is contained and the other keeps it covered with water.

                                                                          2. I bought some cans of sweetened, condensed mild to do this with and I noticed the cans I have are the pull top style like this - http://image.shutterstock.com/display...

                                                                            I plan on doing mine in a pressure cooker. Does this type of can matter? Is it weaker than the ones where a can opener is needed?

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: RIKIL

                                                                              I've never tried them in the pressure cooker but if all else fails they do hold up in a normal pot or slow cooker.

                                                                            2. Try this and use a spoonful in your morning coffee.

                                                                              1. I made this is my crock pot found a recipe that says put an old rag at bottom of crackpot put cans on top fill to the top with water completely submerge them. Cook on low for 8 hours turn off let cool. Waiting for them to cool right now to see results.
                                                                                Question: what is the self life of the cans?

                                                                                1. Cooking time determines how thick and dark it becomes. If ya want a KILLER caramel sauce to top ice cream... an hour or so will give you thickened and amber colored results. If you simmer 3 hours or so, it'll be REALLY dark and REALLY thick. TIP: if can has paper lable, remove first... or it just makes a mess in pot. And I don't really "boil"... more like a gentle simmer in PLENTY of water.

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: kseiverd

                                                                                    The last couple of cans I simmered turned out grainy. Is that because I didn't simmer it long enough?

                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                      Do you mean there were identifiable sugar crystals? What was the color? How soon did you open the can?

                                                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                                                        There were crystals that you could feel when eating the caramel. The color was about like peanut butter as I recall. I think the can was in the refrigerator for several weeks before it was opened.

                                                                                        I'm intrigued about using the slow cooker and mason jar technique.

                                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                                          I think the crystals formed during storage. I don't know if the cold storage promoted this or not. Some of the cans that my mom made (many years ago) had this problem.

                                                                                          Crystals in homemade caramels are a common problem.

                                                                                  2. We make batches of dulce de leche using the mason jars in a crockpot method. We like the idea of being able to see the condensed milk change color as it cooks low and slow and we like the idea of taking the milk out of the can rather than cooking inside one. A fast pick blog for details lists the steps.

                                                                                    During the holiday season, we hand out mason jars of the stuff with a few ideas for enjoying it. Our favorite use is in black coffee rather than using light cream. Zig zagged into brownie batter a close second.

                                                                                    1. how long do you have to wait until opening? I heard over night 8 hours? surely that is too long I want to make banoffee pie today its my brothers birtday!

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: trays

                                                                                        I'd wait at least till I could comfortably hold the unopened can in my hand.

                                                                                        1. re: trays

                                                                                          Like an hour. If you need it faster drop the can in some cold water to cool it down.

                                                                                        2. Crockpot Dulce de Leche; Cooked Condensed Milk (double-boil it on a stove-top):
                                                                                          http://natashaskitchen.com/2012/03/02... If use a sealed canning jar, be careful to not overheat glass or it can burst.

                                                                                          Heat low and slow in a double boiler or crock pot - something with indirect heat. Not sure if my crock pot has hot spots so double-boiled. Sealed vessels fail in a catastrophic way with heat. Avoid water in a stove-top pan on a burner (where must be careful to not get the bottom too hot). Find a metal bowl with lid to almost fill with water to heat submerged container(s) that fits on a pan of just barely boiling water. Available at the local second hand store cheap if do not already have.

                                                                                          NOTE: Consuming extra can coating material when heated or burn from spray when a closed can eventually bursts from heat expansion are possible recipe hazards. Please see second link picture where can is clearly marked, "CAUTION - NEVER HEAT IN THE CAN". Coatings in cans were added 40 years ago and most contain Bisphenol A (BPA) we consume in a small quantity with 'standard' can use. Heating coated cans then eating out of them needs better study. Hypothesis: BPA, a key building block of epoxy resins that coat cans could fail with heat and / or long re-heating. Is applying heat completely harmless to a canned food without leached chemical elevation over 'normal' in contents? When not sure, consider cooking methods proven safe over generations.

                                                                                          Warning: This recipe can be dangerous to health or burn so not for beginners in the kitchen.

                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: smaki

                                                                                            I've done it dozens of times with no obvious issues.

                                                                                            Beyond the obvious (i.e. I've not been burned or maimed) I do not believe that my own heating of the can for a couple of hours is going to leech out significantly more dangerous compounds than are leeched from the heating the can already goes through during production plus sitting in hot trucks, hot warehouses, etc, and then potentially months of sitting around on a shelf...

                                                                                            1. re: smaki

                                                                                              TIP: Don't overly tighten glass canning lid. Like water canning bath for pickles in glass. As jar tries to build pressure it releases bubbles into the water. Yet lid tight enough no water goes in the submerged jar.

                                                                                              1. re: smaki

                                                                                                What glass lid? I would use the ring and lid just like I do for salsa.

                                                                                              2. re: smaki

                                                                                                Nestle makes this caramel in the can


                                                                                                It is sold in the UK as Carnation Caramel

                                                                                                By all appearances the same can as regular sweetened condensed milk - just caramelized and a different label.