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Sweetened condensed milk (Recipe: microwave dulce de leche)


Native Americans, when introducing themselves to each other, identify by their clan name.

In that tradition, I am Salt Craver, married to Sweet Tooth.

Put a bag of potato chips in front of me, and you can kiss that bag goodbye. Except for chocolate, though, most things sweet -- a box of candy, sugar-coated cereal, leftover cake -- could sit untouched for years.

So, not being a natural-born sweets person, and growing up in a house where Weight Watchers was the dominant culinary influence, I didn't add sweetened condensed milk to my pantry until I met my husband. Ted defines Sweet Tooth; he'll leave all of the salty chips to me, but he goes for anything with sugar.

Sweetened condensed milk

Sweetened condensed milk (also known as sweet and condensed milk, or just condensed milk) is cow's milk from which 60 percent of the water has been removed by a heating process, and to which sugar is then added. It's viscous, and not the bright white color of fresh milk.

Sweetened condensed milk

Don't confuse this product with evaporated milk, which is not sweetened, but which comes in almost identical packaging (same size can, same colors on the label -- why do manufacturers do that?).

Sweetened condensed milk can be stored, unopened, in your pantry cupboard for up to one year. Its long shelf life made it a popular field ration in the American Civil War, nearly 150 years ago.

To substitute for one 14-ounce can, heat 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp evaporated milk with 1 cup sugar and 3 Tbsp margarine.

If you are Sweet Tooth, you probably keep sweetened condensed milk on hand to make key lime pie, fudge, candies and flan. In Asia, you'll find it in Vietnamese coffee, Thai iced tea, and halo-halo, a dessert popular in The Philippines.

Microwave dulce de leche: just one ingredient!

Microwave dulce de leche

When Sweet Tooth makes this on the stovetop, it seems to take forever. In the microwave, it takes less than 20 minutes. Makes one cup, which serves one Ted with one spoon.


1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk


Empty the can into a large (2-1/2 quart or larger) glass bowl, and cover with plastic wrap (cling film), keeping a tiny bit uncovered to prevent excess steam build-up.

Microwave on medium power (I used level 5 on a 10-level appliance) for 2 minutes. Remove, stir with a wire whisk, and recover. Cook on medium for 2 more minutes. Remove, stir with a whisk, recover.

Then, in increments of 2-1/2 minutes, cook (on medium power) for another 10 minutes, stirring between each interval. After the first two stirs, you'll notice that the milk bubbles and foams up as it expels moisture. Then, with each stirring, the milk will be thicker and more caramel colored.

If after the 10 minutes, you like the color and consistency, stop! If you'd like a thicker sauce, continue cooking in 1-minute increments for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the microwave, and let cool before packing in a glass jar, or use right away as a topping for ice cream.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Outrageous brownies
Thai iced tea
Teeny tiny lime tarts
Coconut flan

Other recipes that use this pantry ingredient:
Lime cake with sweetened condensed milk frosting, from My Colombian Recipes
Magic cookie bars, from All Day I Dream About Food
Malted condensed milk ice cream, from Savory Simple
Korean shaved ice dessert, from The Kitchn
Gooey cookies and cream double chocolate cake bars, from Picky Palate

Make dulce de leche in the microwave!

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Love condensed milk!

Paz ;-)

We must be from the same lineage... I'm totally a salt-head. But I have a weakness for dulce de leche...

Also a salt person, but how I love dulce de leche (and also penuche, which seems to hit the same place on mt palate). Nice to see a short-cut way of making it!

my indian name would be:

Eats It All

I'm another from the Eats It All tribe.

Though I love the process of making homemade DDL, I'll definitely be filing this shortcut away for those days that I don't have the time or the inclination to spend a couple of hours standing over the stove! :)

Does he eat brown sugar right out of the bag? I do. Do you eat salt on the tip of your finger when no one is looking? I won't name names...

That dulce sounds like a delicious snack.

Every time I think you've written what appears to be my favorite Perfect Pantry post, you go and top yourself again. How do you keep doing that?! ;-)

When I first began cooking, I would go to the grocery store and not be able to remember if a recipe called for sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk and the similar look of the cans was no help!

While I can finally keep the 2 products straight, I rarely use sweetened condensed milk only because it's so darn sweet. But this recipe I will have to try. My husband would LOVE this as an ice cream topping.

I am definitely going to try this. I tend to go back and forth between salty and sweet - not a good thing - but this looks so easy, I can't wait to try.
Also, I just posted a picture of my spice drawer on my blog. It's so fun to see inside peoples pantries and try new recipes. Thanks!

Oh my goodness. I really didn't need to know how easy it was to make this!

Yay a shortcut I can get behind!

Yummy! Another reason to have my microwave reinstated.

Yes I was confused in the past too - condensed milk vs evaporated milk! Heee heee...

My mom used to make cook the tins of condensed milk in her pressure cooker...Thank Goodness, these days we can by cans of the stuff in the supermarkets.

Paz, Julia, Ann: welcome to my clan!

Jaden, Michelle: you crack me up. And for me, the shortcut is the only way I'll make dulce de leche, though I'm happy for Ted to make it the slow stove-top way too.

Mae, he's not quite at that point, but he does love things like chocolate sauce and lemon curd right from the jar.

Sandie, thank you. If you're making this as an ice cream topping, definitely stop at the 10-minute mark so it stays more liquid. I can't believe how easy it was to control the consistency in the microwave.

Michelle, I pretty much stay on the salty end of the spectrum. I'll head over to your blog to take a look at your spice drawer.

Pam, Peabody, Veron: truly, this is easy as anything. Almost the best thing I've made in my micro in a long time.

Tigerfish, always glad to know I'm not the only one who's confused about things like this!

Nina, I think I'd be terrified to cook the tin in the pressure cooker. But my feelings about pressure cookers date to the days when my grandmother used one, the old-fashioned kind of course, and every now and then the lid would explode off and the contents would spray all over the kitchen. I've steered clear of pressure cookers ever since.

I don't believe it...a recipe with only one ingredient! Never thought I'd see the day. Reckon I'm in your clan too, love savoury things much more than sweet.

I am a salt fiend as well. My mother just gave me some more salt for my birthday. Truffle salt and Himalayan Crystals that come with a rasp for grating at the table.
She has also ordered the book Salt for me so you can see that I have been typecast!

I have been meaning to try this and this has given me the inspiration and reminder that I needed! Thanks Lydia!

Love this short cut DDL! Great recipe. I like my sweet to be a bit salty. I love to mix things like m&m's with popcorn. I guess I'm an undecided:)

Oh, my friend... This is something I don't keep around the house because I would attack it in the middle of a sweet crave! :)
And I never knew one could make dulce de leche on the microwave... That is dangerous info. :)

Wow Lydia, the Dulche De Leche looks gorgeous. It's such a wonderful caramelly colour! I've never tried this before because it's something quite unusual here. I've read about it all over but such a simple recipe is definitely going to be bookmarked.

I love this stuff!!! I also love that the mercado by my apt sells premade dulce de leche in cans (for when I'm too lazy to microwave) AND they have tins of dulce de leche cake!

Really? That's all it takes? Wow. I need to make this, because I didn't think I had any sort of sweet tooth until my visit to Argentina where dulce de leche was all around!

Neil, I didn't even think about that -- one ingredient!

Natashya, welcome to my clan. You can see we'll have quite a nice group of people! I absolutely understand how the notion of salted caramels got so popular, as it's the meeting of the two fundamentals, sweet and salty.

Judy, this is too easy not to try. Hope you like it.

Paula, M&Ms and popcorn is new to me-- but we love M&Ms in our trail mix.

Patricia, dangerous, yes, but oh so good to know! The only thing that will save Ted and me is if I don't have a can of sweetened condensed milk in the pantry -- then we have to drive 10 miles round trip to get it. And sometimes that's just enough to make us say no.

Coco, you know I am not a sweets person, or a candy maker, which is why there aren't many recipes for sweets on this site. But this version of dulce de leche is really so easy that even I could do it!

EB, maybe I will get rid of the microwave and move in with you....

Hillary, really, that's it. One can, one bowl, one microwave.

Oh....pass the salty pretzels for dipping in that dulce! Delicious, Lydia, and deliciously simple, too.

My only weak point when it comes to sweet things would be ice cream. That's why I will never buy an ice cream maker. Ever!
Dulce de leche is way too sweet for me.

Marilyn, I do love how easy this is to make. And Ted loves it more than I do!

Warda, same here -- too sweet for me, but luckily my husband is Sweet Tooth, and he loves it. (I'm partial to ice cream, too -- chocolate, and more chocolate.)

now, salt craver, here's an idea. add some salt to that luscious dulce de leche. it'll taste like my favourite cheese - gjetost.

fellow salt craver.

I'm a sweet tooth...you'll often find me eatting dulce de leche out of the can...delicious!!!

Sounds like my husband & me! This is his idea of cooking, I should show him this . . . noooooo he might try it.

same here... I've only recently just started to develop a liking for sweet things ;) I am always confused about the difference between evaporated milk & condensed milk, hee

I love condensed milk. I buy them in the smallest size available tins and stock em, that way everytime i have a sweet craving i just drizzle some on toast and have it.
Also i used to always boil the tins for 2 hrs to make Dulce De Leche, but the microwave option seems so much easier .. ! Thanks for the info :)

Stove-top dulce de leche can be such a drag - especially since I'm not really a sweet-tooth either, but I do crave it every once in a while.

Does the microwaved version taste the same? How's the texture?

Bee, welcome to my clan! And thanks for the tip about salt.

Ginny, if you come to my house, bring your own spoon. Sweet Tooth will be dipping his into the jar, too!

MyKitchen, you know, this is one of those recipes that anyone with a whisk and a microwave can pull off. Maybe hubby would enjoy it.

Noobcook, I still get confused, too. Evaporated milk doesn't have sugar -- that's the main difference.

Kate, I've always been afraid to try the boil-the-can method. Maybe I have visions of the top blowing off, just like my grandmother's pressure cooker!

Robin, this version does taste just about the same. The texture is controllable by the amount of time you cook it. In my photo, the batch I made went a minute too long (the top photo is perfect) and got slightly grainy, but Sweet Tooth ate every drop of it anyway. For use as a sauce for ice cream, I would have stopped it a bit earlier.

Thanks for this microwave recipe! As a child I ate condensed milk by the spoonfuls :-)

Nora, I never ate this as a child, but when I watch Ted eat it with a spoon right from the jar, I certainly understand the appeal.

In the microwave?!

You. Are. A genius!!

You certainly are a genius, I am now 15 minutes away from my favourite sweet....yep, I would be that feminine version of Ted Sweet Tooth. Thank goodness we didnt get together. Can you imagine the fighting over the dulce de leche??? Hehe!! My 27yr old son has inherited my craving for this stuff, no tin of condensed milk is safe from him once it's opened and in the fridge...and he doesn't even live at home any more!!! Each year he asks me for a vanilla sponge cake with caramel in the middle for his birthday and an extra can of it as a gift. We can get it in the stores readymade in the can now but it does not taste the same as if you do it at home. I have always done it in a deep saucepan on the stovetop covered with boiling water for about 2 hours (or 1/12 if you want it more sauce like. The water must not be allowed to boil down too low so you just have to check every 20 min or so and fill up with more boiling water from the kettle if the water starts getting low. It should always cover the tin during cooking. I do 4 tins at a time :o)Thanx so much for this real quick n easy method. Much appreciated xxx

YUM! I looooooove Dulce de Leche but I didn't want to boil it for three hours and its so expensive to buy it..(in my world it is...) I'll definitly try this!
PS I am from the Eats it All tribe so.....better watch where the food goes! ^-^

Colleen, I think you'll really like this microwave method -- so quick and easy. Please give it a try and let me know.

Lily, your tribe is always welcome in The Perfect Pantry! Hope you'll give the microwave dulce de leche a try.

I just love when you say "it serves one Ted with one spoon" It just cracks me up!

Lori, next time I'll take a photo of him. So cute, spoon to jar to mouth to jar to mouth....

Even on a power level of "3" out of ten, this just ended up boiling over and making a huge mess - even uncovered!

I guess there are no shortcuts...

Total mess!! Overflow repeatedly. Recipe fail.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I made a tres leches cake last night that has been chilling in the fridge for tonight's dessert, and I knew I wanted dulce de leche as a swirly drizzle over the cake, but I didn't account for the time it would take to cool the can, had I boiled it as I normally do. Dinner is 3 hours away and I was beginning to panic! I am going to try this *right now*... you have saved my life, or at least saved dessert!

Up to a year on the shelf? Way, way longer than that. The cans that have been on my shelf for a year or two are stamped with a date in 2017.

Hi! I'm mexican and I grew up with dulce de leche! I just tried doing it in the microwave and it didn't work at all! Believe me, the best way is to boil de can. I've been boiling it for more than 30 years! When I cook beans (dry beans) I add one or two condensed milk cans without the label and very well washed. They stay as long as the beans cook (2 or 3 hours; it doesn't matter. They will always be completely covered with the water you use for your beans, and the cans have never "exploted" on me!)
Same thing when I cook my beans in the Crock Pot. I Just drop the closed condensed milk can (without the label). As long as they are covered with the water for the beans, there's no risk.
The texture you get is very spreadable, something like nutella. With the microwave way I got a very sticky "candy" I couldn't spread. It was a mess!
Any way... I must try new things to learn and decide if they work! Sometimes I win, sometimes I don't!
Next time you cook beans, drop a closed condensed milk can (no holes in the can...it must be completly covered with the water)... and you will have it handy in your pantry whenever you want it!
By the way, in México you can get dulce de leche right by the condensed milk in any supermarket. It costs 1.50 instead of the buck you pay for the condensed milk. I guess you can get it also in the south of the US. Check on walmart, HEB, etc. Believe me, if you can, just get it in your supermarket.

I make it by boiling the cans of condensed milk for 4 hours!!! I usually make 4 cans at a time, and keep in the cupboard for banoffee pie....
but I was searching the web for a quicker way...
this looks so easy.... and you dont have to wait 4 hours for caramel!
thank you for the recipe!!

I'm attempting this delicious recipe right now, for my kids to use as a dip for their apples!

As far as confusing "sweetened condensed" and "evaporated" milks, my husband learned the hard way when he inadvertantly used a can of sweetened instead of evaporated in a sausage gravy recipe he found. Needless to say, he never made THAT mistake again (it was also more than a year before he would even LOOK at a plate of sausage & bisquits again! lol).

Thanks for sharing this!


Me again. I just attempted this recipe and I wanted to let others know to make SURE the bowl you use is not just large, but deep. On the 3rd of the 2 minute cycles my microwave ended up COVERED in a thick, gooey mess due to overflow. Will try it again at a later time.

hi I just wanted to thank you so much for putting this up some times I sit there and wonder what else I can do with condensed then I search on the internet and BAM first thing I see so happy I'm trying it right now your amazing...

This recipe was a bit of a disaster for me. I wish I'd read all the comments and used a larger bowl. I didn't lose too much when it spilled over, so I transferred to another bowl. At the end of the first 2.5min cycle I had a thick brown mess speckled with burnt bits :( It tastes okay, but isn't really suitable for my purposes. Maybe good things just take time.

Thankxx sooo ssooo much for the recipe going to be helpful

Oh ha ha. You got me. I fell for it and tried this "recipe."
First two minutes, stir, all is fine... second two minutes, inside of microwave SPLATTERED-Condensed milk EVERYWHERE.
Wonderful prank-you got me, but I was actually looking for a serious method.
No hard feelings, though-I was a bit amused... =)

:( Followed instructions to a t and babied the microwave. Grainy mess. Similar to what happens to chocolate when microwaved too long or water gets in it

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