Why buy it when you can make thick, flavorful dulce de leche at home with just 3 ingredients — sugar, milk and time? The name may sound fancy, but this South American caramel sauce is shockingly simple to make, whether you choose to cook it on the stove top or take a shortcut by using your slow cooker.

Things You'll Need

Stovetop Dulce de Leche

Grab a heavy-bottomed saucepan. The dulce de leche cooks for a long time on the stove top and a heavy-bottomed pan helps minimize scorching.

Add whole milk, granulated sugar and a pinch of salt to the pan. For every 1 cup of dulce de leche, you need 4 cups of milk and approximately 1 cup of sugar. Adjust the sweetness of the mixture according to personal preference by adding more or less sugar.

Split a vanilla bean and stir it into the milk and sugar. Although this isn’t strictly necessary, the flavor of the vanilla plays nicely with the caramel notes of the dulce de leche.

Allow the mixture to cook for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring it every 20 minutes or so.

Begin watching the mixture closely after it cooks for about 1 hour. Once the color turns tan, it can darken quickly. Stir the mixture frequently as it continues to caramelize and thicken.

Remove the dulce de leche from the heat once it reaches the desired color. Allow it to cool.

Pour the mixture into a mesh strainer or fine sieve and strain into a bowl or container to make it extra smooth. Transfer it to an airtight container. Keep it refrigerated and store it for up to 4 weeks.

Slow Cooker Dulce de Leche

Place 1 or more unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in the slow cooker. You can just make 1 can, or as many as your slow cooker can accommodate as long as you allow some space between the cans so water circulates freely.

Add enough hot tap water to the slow cooker to cover the can by 1 inch or more. If you’re leaving the slow cooker unattended, add more water so that the can is consistently covered throughout the cooking process.

Cover and cook the canned milk on low for 8 to 10 hours. Top the water level off with boiling water if necessary as the dulce de leche cooks.

Turn the slow cooker off and allow the can to cool in the water. Once it is cool enough to touch, place the can in cold water to speed the cooling further.