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.
It’s going into the frosting for a Samoa bundt cake — the milk is ‘cooked’ and cooling now in my pressure cooker. I can hardly wait to see what it looks like!
Wow – what a success – And so much fun to open the can! 20 minutes in my Breville electric PC. I thought it was a little dark when we first opened it, but it was delicious! My son is ecstatic and in a tizzy trying to decide what to put it on.
Laura, In looking for another pressure cooker recipe I found the following.
Can’t give credit because I had torn out a bunch of recipes from a looseleaf
type of cookbook. It was obviously for people with boats…..Anyway here goes:
Fudge: 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 16- oz. pkg of chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp. vanilla
2 C. water
Combine milk and chocolate chips in a bowl that will fit loosely in cooker.
Cover bowl with aluminum foil. Place water, cooking rack and bowl in pressure cooker. Close cover securely. Cook 5 minutes. Cool cooker all at once. Remove
bowl. Stir mixture until evenly blended. Do not beat. Add nuts and vanilla.
Turn into a cool bowl and let stand without beating until the fudge is cold. Drop by teaspoonful onto waxed paper.
I did this over the weekend and it was so easy. Thanks for the great instructions!
About to give this a try, sounds delish! Probably a silly question…I’m just wondering though if there is any reason why I can’t cook more than one can at a time? I mean, they wouldn’t bump around against each other in there and explode or anything would they? I can easily fit two cans on their sides in my Fagor Duo 8qt PC steamer basket. Hope I’m not asking something already answered…I did scroll through all the comments first and couldn’t see where anyone else had asked. Thanks :)
^ please disregard, I’ve just spotted where this question has already been asked, don’t know how I missed it! Thanks :)
No problem, come back to let us know how it turned out!
I tried this using my recipe and it worked perfectly! My jar was a bit big so there was a bit of air space at the top, which meant it was floating when I put it in the pressure cooker, and when I opened it at the end, it was standing upright, but the level of the water was higher than the level of the milk mixture, so it cooked no problems. I’m going to make another one tonight with some cocoa to get chocolate caramel! Sorry Laura, I’m not able to post a pic atm, but will give it a go once I have a techno savvy child handy!
Making a chocolate carmel sounds like a DELICIOUS idea. I definitely want to SEE that!!!
I have been looking for canned cajeta for my Mexican friend and been unable to find it. I followed your recipe and made her 3 cans. She tasted and said, “That’s cajeta.” We will do it again!
Thanks for sharing feedback from an expert!
I’m from Mexico and there’s also a cajeta made with goat’s milk that is delicious. Wonder if it would be possible to make some in the pressure cooker.
Made this last night and opened it this morning – perfect! Gave it 20mins in my EPC (Aldi Multicooker on meat setting). I used a silicone strainer with built in trivet (also from Aldi) to keep the can off the bottom. The tin only just fitted, so does anyone know where I can get canning jars in the UK (or are they called something else?).
So glad it turned out well! How will you use it? I found some canning jars on amazon’s UK site. Click on the obnoxiously long link, below:
Thanks for that link, I know what I’m looking for now! Haven’t used it for anything in particular yet, mainly just eaten it by the spoonful. I have been experimenting mixing it with melted chocolate though. I wondered if it would be like chocolate fudge, but it’s a bit soft. Would make a great frosting!
This recipe is a childhood favorite of mine that I was dying to try again in the pressure cooker. I am making it in a Fagor 6 qt. with the steamer basket and trivet that came with the cooker. However, I do find the trivet to be slightly unstable by itself with the can in it so I used two canning lids side by side as trivets and then used the wire trivet inside the basket to stabilize the can while cooking.
Ginger, next time please use the trivet under the steamer basket as intended. If the steamer basket was in contact with the base of the cooker, and the can in contact with the steamer basket, you may find that when you open the can of dulce de leche one side (the side in contact with the base of the cooker) is more caramelized than the other!
The steamer basket was elevated by a couple of canning lids, but the can did seem to be a little more caramelized around the edges of the can. I am thinking of using a silicone steamer basket with legs next time instead of the steamer basket or should I just stay with the steamer basket and trivet even if it gets lopsided with the can in it?
I made this in the WMF Perfect Plus using the included steamer basket, which has tiny half-inch out-dentations to raise it off the bottom of the pan. It came out perfectly, with no excess carmelization on the bottom of the can. It was delicious! One thing to note is that the can jumps around quite a bit in the pot under pressure, which is a bit disconcerting.
Thanks for the site – it’s incredibly useful and has helped me appreciate my Perfect Plus even more!
I didn’t have a steamer basket at my disposal tonight and I wanted my Dulce de Leche ASAP, so I improvised. I put an upside down, metal BALL Mason Jar Lid (just the metal ring part) on top of the trivet inside the cooker and rested the the can on its side and a little bit tilted, so it didn’t roll around.
It worked perfectly well.
And I love to spread Dulce de Leche on top of Fuji apple, Pink lady or Gala apple slices or use it as the perfect filling for crepes, as it is done in South America.
And I love your website!
Thank you so much for the excellent content and beautiful photography!
Sounds like a great solution, thanks for sharing it.
Wow. This worked like a charm and the result is delicious. It’s better than the last jar of commercial dulce de leche that I bought.
I went the canning jar route. I used 2 1-pint/16 oz. jars and tried 2 different brands of sweetened condensed milk,Eagle Brand and Magnolia, to see if there was a flavor difference. A 14 oz. can contains 10 fluid ounces. I cooked them for 20 minutes. The flavor is almost identical, however, the Eagle Brand had a denser, more solid consistency. I suspect that cooking it 5 minutes less would yield a softer product, but the denser consistency is probably better for the project I have in mind.
I am going to use this to fill oreshki and alfajores. Oreshki are crisp, filled, walnut-shaped Russian cookies. (No, you can’t make them in a pressure cooker….darn it!)
Yipes! I meant to say that it is the MAGNOLIA brand that had a denser consistency. My apologies for the error.
C.J. Thanks for sharing your findings and comparisons between condensed milk brands. If you want a runnier product, simply put the dulce de leche in a small pan with a little milk and heat while mixing until melted.
O.K. How did this originate? Who in the heck would put a can in a pressure cooker in the first place without knowing if it would explode?
Teresa, I don’t know who originated it, but I remember seeing it on a Brazillian blog years ago – they put the can in the cooker with water using an old-style pressure cooker and pressure cooked it for 30-40 minutes.
I refined the process by matching the timing to 15psi pressure cookers; ensuring the can cooks evenly by requiring a steamer basket and complete submersion; using an overnight natural release to ensure the can cools slowly and it is COMPLETELY cold when you open it; and, adding a few more safety precautions (staying under the max limit, removing the label, ensuring the can is undamaged, etc.).
I’ve never experienced it myself, but I don’t think the can explodes. A hot can will have it’s contents under pressure, and if you open a hot can it would be like opening a pressure cooker while it’s at full pressure (except without the pressure signal or safety systems). The pressure difference between the contents of the pressurized can and an a kitchen with no pressure will spray the (hot molten) contents everywhere and on everyone with an explosive force.
My Home Economics teacher told us about this 50 years ago, so it’s been around for a long time. I was always fascinated by the idea but never did it. Will have to try it now that I’ve been reminded. :)
So is who the heck would….
… Think that meat might taste better if it was thrown on a fire
… Try layering butter and dough and end up with puff pastry
… Drink grape juice that had gone off to the point it was bubbling
Answer: Who cares. I’m just glad they did.
O.K. i did it, nothing exploded…..none of the kids would eat it. Taste is not caramel, taste is exactly like what original form was…sweetened condensed milk, however, now it is thicker and caramel colour.
I do not see what the fuss is about really. Not my cup of tea eiher. I will not make it again!
Kudos to those who love it.
Fair enough. But it’s not just “caramel colour”, it IS caramelised, thanks to the Maillard reaction that has taken place. You may perhaps be comparing it to commercial products like caramel ice cream topping and the like, and if you are, then absolutely: it won’t have that particular caramel flavour. If your palate is attuned to natural caramelisation – whether it’s in sugar or onions – then it definitely tastes of caramel.
Vibey, it’s unlikely to be the Maillard Reaction or true caramelization. The sugar in sweetened condensed milk is sucrose. The Maillard Reaction occurs at 280 to 330°F, and caramelization of sucrose occurs at 380°F. At 15 psi, a pressure cooker only reaches 250°F, and most electric models only get to about 11psi, or 240F. That’s not hot enough to start the Maillard Reaction, much less caramelize sucrose. Add an aside, fructose, which is the sugar in onions and fruits, caramelizes at a much lower temperature.
I should’ve specified that my comment only applies to this pressure cooker method. The Maillard Reaction and caramelization are indeed responsible when making this the traditional way, by simmering milk. Sugar has a higher boiling/burning point than water so it can reach the temperatures necessary for Maillard and caramelization. But a non-exothermic substance can never be hotter than its surrounding medium, which in this case, is water at 10-15 psi or 240F-250F. On the stovetop, one of the surrounding media in contact with the milk is the stove’s fire, which can easily surpass several hundred degrees. Hence the need to keep stirring to prevent scorching. It’s also the reason Laura says to isolate the can from the bottom and walls of the pressure cooker. So while Maillard and caramelization happens on a stovetop, it can’t happen under a pressurized water bath (or any water bath). So what exactly is going on in this method to turn the milk brown??? Gotta do some research…!
I have been doing a little experimenting to try to get it closer to Argentine dulce de leche, and here are the results! (Note: to do it my way, you will need to use a jar rather than leaving it in the tin.)
– Mix 1 tsp. vanilla into the condensed milk. (You can also stick in a whole vanilla bean if you want to be fanceh. After the dulce de leche is done, wash, dry, and reuse it.)
– Mix in 1 pinch bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) into the milk. This will give it an even more intense colour without needing to cook the dulce de leche longer. (If you do, it will become fudge – not necessarily a tragedy, but not dulce de leche, either.)
Pour doctored milk into jar, and then drop in a glass marble (yes, a glass marble) into the jar before sealing. Why? Because the marble will do the stirring for you. All those caramelier spots where the jar or tin has been sitting against a hot spot? Gone. Just make sure you remove the marble when serving!
Hope this helps, guys.
And thank you once again Laura for your brilliant blog.
Great tips Vibey, thanks for sharing them here!
What pressure (high or low) in an Instant Pot and how many minutes?
Hi, I read a lot of the comments and sorry if this has already been answered. I have a stove top pressure cooker that does not have a trivet or steamer basket. I’m still confused as to how long to cook it in this type of pressure cooker. I know you mentioned using a metal or silicone colander but what is this trivet? Please explain what I would need to use and if the time is different. Thanks Pat S
Welcome Pat, here is an article that tells you everything you wanted to know about pressure cooker trivets:
I do not recommend doing this without either a trivet or a steamer basket – for the reasons explained in the Safety section.
Thanks so much for answering my questions. I assume the time is still 15 minutes and let it cool in the cooker overnight. Pat S
Absolutely, whether you use a steamer basket, trivet or any other accessory the cooking time does not change.
I’d like to try this, but I’m not sure how I’d turn down the pressure on my electric pressure cooker once it comes to pressure without turning it off and starting over. I have a Cook’s Essential 6qt. Is it ok to just stop and reset at the lower setting without releasing the pressure? Also, my pot has 3 settings. Once it has reached 15psi, should I turn it down to the lowest, which I think is 8psi or should I use the middle setting which I think is 12 or 13 psi? Lots of questions, I know!
I love this site and all the great recipes. Can’t wait to purchase the book.
Don’t worry, that part of the directions if for stove-top pressure cookers. All you need to do is set your electric pressure cooker to the highest setting and set the cooking time to 20 minutes. Then, when cooking time is up, disable the “keep warm mode” (if any) and un-plug the cooker from the electric socket. Lastly, don’t open until the next morning!
Leave your electric pressure cooker on high. When you are using a stovetop pressure cooking, when you pressure cooker indicates that you have reached the desired pressure, you turn the heat down just enough to keep it at the desired pressure; in this case, high.
Thanks so much! Can’t wait to try this.
I’ve used the stove top or slow cooker method many, many times and make O’Charley’s Caramel Pie. I always cook more than one at a time and I’ve tried storing cans that were already cooked in the pantry but had issues with the caramel having sugar granules in it. This stuff is awesome with apple slices or eating it right out of the can with a spoon! LOL!