Dulce de Leche is sweetened condensed milk which has been caramelized in its own can. Usually simmered for up to three hours, the pressure cooker can do it in just 15 minutes- plus a wholly unsupervised overnight natural release.
Although we usually stay away from cans and packets on this website dulce de leche is the exception to every rule! I had already detailed my procedure for pressure cooking condensed milk in a foodie forum, about a year ago but figured it was time to share the mysteries and caveats of pressure cooking a can to all.
Now that dulce de leche is so easy to make, you’ll be looking for lots of ways to use it. It can be…
- Spread it on toast, bread or crackers as you would a fruit jam
- Mix it into your coffee or tea
- Drizzle it on ice-cream
- Spread it on top of a Cheese Cake
- Dribble it on Muffins
- Dip Banana Slices into it
- Make a Banoffie Pie
- Fill pastries or tarts
- Flavor flans, carmels and Brulee’s -any custard
- Coat the pan for making chocoflan
- Make Ice Cream
- Substitute caramelized sugar in a flan
How will you use it? Leave your answer at the bottom of the post!
A few safety considerations when pressure cooking a can or other sealed container:
|Pressure Cooker||Accessories||Pr. Cook Time||Pr. Level||Open|
|5 L or larger||steamer basket||15-20 min.||High(2)|| Natural
- one 8-10oz (300-400ml) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
- water to cover
- Prepare the pressure cooker by adding the trivet and steamer basket. Place the can on the steamer basket, being careful that it does not touch the sides or base of the pressure cooker. Do not skip this step. The can not
- be in direct contact with the super-heated base or sides of the pressure cooker.
- Fill the pressure cooker with enough water to cover the can. Put the can on its side to make sure it is fully submerged while not exceeding the "maximum capacity" of the pressure cooker
- Close the lid and set the valve to pressure cooking position.
- Electric pressure cookers: Cook for 15 minutes at high pressure.
Stovetop pressure cookers: Lock the lid and cook for 20 minutes at high pressure.When time is up, open the pressure cooker with the Natural release method - move the cooker off the burner and wait for the pressure to come down on its own. For electric pressure cookers, disengage the “keep warm” mode or unplug the cooker to initiate the natural release.
- When the pressure cooker unlocks, do not remove the lid. Delicately set the pressure cooker aside and let it cool overnight - do not remove the can from the cooker or attempt to open it while it is warm.
- The next day, when completely cool, the can can be stored as-is or opened to used in your favorite recipe. Transfer to a plastic container and freeze any un-used portion for up to three months.
- If the dulce de leche is too stiff, simply warm the desired amount in a small pan with a spoon or two of milk to soften it to the desired consistency.
Yeilds 1 can
Note: Should the can of condensed milk be larger than the pressure cooker, come in a tube, or be home-made, the contents can be poured into a glass jar suitable for pressure canning. The procedure is almost the same except that the water in the cooker should reach the level of the contents of the jar (you will not be able to submerge it because of the air in the jar). Do not store as-is. Refrigerate or transfer to a plastic container to freeze until ready to use.
Follow the rest of the procedure and precautions as written.
I finally got around to trying this recipe out. Unfortunately, it was very late and I was super tired, and I neglected to turn off the keep warm function, and when I got up, the pot was still on. I turned it off immediately of course, but I’m not sure how long that means the pot was keeping it warm. It had been 6 hours and some minutes since the cooking cycle was done.
Have you heard of anyone doing this before? Do you think if I let the whole thing cool down completely now, the cans will be usable?
I think the only way to find out is to let the can cool and open. The “keep-warm” would essentially keep cooking it so…. no way to know what happened until you open the can.
Come back to post a pic of what you find!
I suspected you’d say that, but I hoped you or one of your readers had experienced this. I will definitely let you know.
Shouldn’t be a problem. There is no risk of spoilage since the can remained vacuum sealed. In terms of texture, the Keep Warm temperature for the Instant Pot is 145F-172F, which shouldn’t affect milk or sugar, the main ingredients in sweetened condensed milk. Milk doesn’t curdle until about 175F and sugar doesn’t caramelize until about 240F. Both those temperatures were already reached during the cooking process, so the contents had already curdled and caramelized. The lower Keep Warm temperature has no effect as far as I know.
BTW, some pressure cookers limit their Keep Warm function to about 2 hours (the Instant Pot’s automatic limit is 10 hrs but you can manually set it to 99 hrs 50 mins). Maybe your pressure cooker automatically turned off by the time you checked.
I was so happy to see this post! My mother used to make this when I was a child. We put it on toast. Recently, I’ve been making it on the stove in a pot of low boil water for 2-3 hrs. I dip cut up fruit in it as I am on weight watchers. I will definitely try making it in my instant pot now. Thank you!
Weight Watchers allows Dulce de Leche?! Wow, I’m surprised given the high sugar contents and added fat for creaminess (usually cream or oil). I guess Weight Watchers is not as restrictive as it used to be. Good luck!
has anyone tried to actually make the Sweetened condensed milk in the instantpot? Here are the regular instructions…
4 cups (32 oz.) whole milk
3/4 cup (6 oz.) heavy cream
1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
Combine the milk, cream, sugar, and salt in a 5-quart stainless-steel saucepan. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a heat-resistant spatula, until the milk begins to simmer, about 12 minutes. Continue cooking, scraping continuously to prevent a milky buildup from forming around the sides of the pan, 30 to 45 minutes. When the thickened milk begins to foam, it’s almost done. Keep simmering
and stirring until the foam subsides and the milk has condensed to exactly 2 cups or 19 oz
You couldn’t/shouldn’t make condensed milk in most pressure cookers for many reasons (with exception being the temperature-adjustable Bluetooth Instant Pot).
1) There is no advantage to pressure cooking it. The main advantage to pressure cooking is the higher temperatures, around 250°F at 15psi, or 230°F-ish at the 10psi used by most electric models. That’s about 20-40°F higher (with water-based recipes) than what you can achieve at normal atmospheric pressure. That’s great for cooking most meats but you certainly don’t want to cook milk at 250°F. In fact, you don’t even want to boil milk at 212°F for extended periods.
2) If you want to pressure cook, the lid must be on. That means you can’t stir, scrape or monitor the milk. All are crucial when cooking with milk as the main ingredient.
3) Condensing the milk is similar to doing a reduction for sauces. You want to evaporate much of the water so that the solids become more concentrated. That not only intensifies the flavor, but also thickens it. Keep in mind that milk is a colloidal suspension (solid milk particles suspended in liquid). The whole secret to pressure cooking is trapping the steam so that water can’t evaporate, thus increasing pressure. In other words, the airtight lid defeats the whole process of condensing. As an aside, the lack of evaporation is why you need much less water when pressure cooking rice.
4) Even if you leave the lid off, there’s another problem. You can’t adjust the cooking temperatures in most pressure cookers. There are usually just two heating modes: Saute (aka full power, which is identical to Steaming, Boiling and Browning) and Keep Warm, neither of which are adjustable. Milk curdles and burns easily. Add sugar and it becomes even more finicky. That’s why there are candy thermometers.
Pressure cookers are wonderful, but they’re not a culinary panacea. For example, I would never cook a steak in one. In fact, I’d sooner briefly microwave a steak and then brown in a pan than pressure cook it at 230°F. But my favorite method is the opposite of pressure cooking. Instead of fast cooking with high heat, steak is incredible with the slow low heat of Sous Vide (1 hr at 130°F).
Bryan, the high temperatures of the pressure cooker will caramelize the sugars in the milk – so there is a benefit to using the pressure cooker. However, I agree that reduction is an issue, so I recommend making dulce de leche in the pressure cooker with (already) condensed milk. ; )
I followed your recipe to the letter. I sound so dedicated, don’t I? But the truth is of course, that you’ve given the easiest recipe EVER, and I am so happy to say that this method will be the only way I make this treat from here on in. The quality is the best I have ever had. Thank you so much for sharing!
Marie, try rubbing off the adhesive with cooking oil. It’s what we tell patients to do when they have adhesive residue on the skin from medicinal patches. If that doesn’t work, try the Mr. Clean melamine scrubbers.
I used my stovetop pressure cooker to heat up the can of condensed milk, and left in cooker for 15 hours to cool. However, after opening the lid, found that the can had rusted on outside. On opening the can, found the texture solid, so I could’ve heated it for less time for this pressure cooker. Only tried the caramel from the centre of the can and discarded rest, as concerned rust may have leaked into can, as has flip-top lid.
The can didn’t rust because of the cooking time. It sounds like the water in it had either salts or acids that corroded the metal.
Dulce de leche is solid when cold, creamy when warm.
Thanks Laura, will use filtered water next time.
The recipe worked perfectly. If I make an extra can of Dulce with your method, can I store it unopened either back in the pantry or in the fridge or do I need to open it (break the seal) and transfer it to another container first? Thanks!
Technically, you never “broke the seal” so it should still be OK (without bacterial contamination)= – but I don’t really know for sure. I know a few readers have done this ahead of time to have a can on-hand. But I haven’t really heard back to hear how the “reserve” can of dulce de leche faired after a few weeks or months of storage.
I’ve had extra cans made and stored in the pantry for up to a year. Always tried it before offering it to anybody else and never got sick. Since it’s unopened I would use the expiration date for the original condensed milk as a guide. Shouldn’t go bad before that date and doesn’t require refrigeration until opened, just like the original can. Afterall, you didn’t expose it to air or add anything to it. Just heated it.
I just pour the sweetened condensed milk into small mason jars, put on the lids and rings, and cook for 15 minutes as you would the cans. Works every time and no adhesive to worry about!
Do you need to sterilize the jars first?
There is no reason to sterilize like you would in canning or yogurt making. In canning, your goal is to preserve food long term at room temperature so you want to make sure there are no living microbes inside the jar that would multiply at room temperature. In yogurt making, you’d sterilize so that there are no microbes to compete with the live yogurt culture necessary to change milk to yogurt.
You don’t have to worry about either issue when making dulce de leche. There is no fermentation/incubation so you don’t have to worry about competing microbes. And since the dulce de leche is kept in the fridge, spoilage is not much of a problem. Obviously, you should clean the Mason jars and other utensils with soap and water but there is no need to pre-sterilize.
Deann, the jars are being used as a cooking utensil. The result will not be shelf-stable or storable without refrigeration or freezing. Once the Dulce de Leche is made in the jar you would store it in the fridge. There is no need to sterilize them.
When cooking the Dulce de Leche in canning jars, do you immerse them fully in the water you are cooking in? I have seen so many recipes, suggesting not to cover the jar with water when cooking in a pressure cooker, but I do not understand why this would be. Thanks in advance!
Do you think 6 hrs cooling time is enough? (vs overnight)
I recommend doing it overnight. Make them just after dinner and in the morning it will be ready. : )
Can two cans be done at one time?
Yes, you can do two cans. You don’t want them to bump into each other so weave a cloth napkin or small towel between, under and around the cans to keep them from bumping into each other. There are no other modifications to be made – same pressure cooking time. ; )
Laura, I have some spoiled milk and was wondering if I could pressure cook it with sugar on my reacently bought mini instant pot. I used to make dulce de leche in the past in a saucepan, but it takes too long… and it makes me feel sad to discart the milk…
Unfortunately, although boiling spoiled milk will kill any live bacteria, it will not kill any toxins or spores they produced while they were active. These toxins and spores are resistant to boiling and even pressure cooking – though technically it could be “canned” under pressure but you would need to know the specific processing time to exact 100% toxin and spore lethality.
Throw it out.
I tried this with a can of condensed milk and it worked great! 15 mins on the instant pot. (Normally I would do it the stovetop method which was taught to me by my mother & grandmother, but that took about 2 1/2 hrs)
Eagle brand bought today (2018) has peel back (metal) closure. Don’t know what pressure would do to these. I put them in 1/2 pint jars.
I have always used the 2.5 hour stovetop method all my life since learning it as a child with my mom. But when Eagle Brand changed to a metal peel back lid years ago I stopped, fearing the pressure would be too great. I noticed the picture you have is of a peel back variety. Just to confirm…it still works with those?
Yes, peel-back lids will work with this technique. When the condensed milk-making company made and filled the can originally they had to sterilize it in an industrial pressure cooker. If it can withstand that… it can withstand your home pressure cooker.