Made with sweetened condensed milk, this Instant Pot Dulce de Leche recipe is quick, easy, safe, and makes for an utterly decadent tasting caramel sauce.
The first time I made dulce de leche I was quite stunned. Literally. It was one of the very first “recipes” I tried in my Instant Pot. I simply put a can of sweetened condensed milk in the pot, covered it with water, cooked under high pressure for 40 minutes and then waited for it to cool.
When I removed the lid from the can of sweetened condensed milk, I couldn’t believe that the condensed milk had been completely transformed. It was no longer a creamy off-white color or even easily pourable. Instead, it was a golden sort of caramel color and much thicker. So thick that I had to spoon it out of the can.
At first glance, this seemed so totally wrong to me. I mean, what happened to my creamy white sweetened condensed milk? I was kind of afraid to taste it, but I did and I was stunned yet again. Stunned! It tasted like a little piece of creamy dreamy caramel heaven.
The Maillard Reaction
And the best part? It was totally hands-off. I didn’t have to stand over the stove hoping my sugar didn’t crystalize and it took a lot less time. A lot! But, in the back of my mind, I kept wondering “why”. Why did my creamy sweetened condensed milk that I could easily pour from the can turn into a dark, rich, dreamy caramel-like substance?
So, I did some research so I could better understand what was happening to the sweetened condensed milk in the pressure cooker. I found several mentions of the Maillard reaction. It is essentially a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars. It’s where a lot of flavors originate – think seared steak or slightly toasted bread.
Okay, so to put it simply, it’s a chemical reaction that when exposed to the correct temperature causes the amazing transformation with just the right amount of nutty caramel taste and the deepening of the color of the sweetened condensed milk.
By the way, here’s a great article from Serious Eats called “Skip Dulce de Leche: Cajeta Is All You Need” and it explains in further detail how dulce de leche and cajeta both are made and get their amazing flavors. Definitely worth the read if you want to learn more! And you’ll find more info on dulce de leche on Wikipedia, too.
Instant Pot Dulce de Leche – The Can Method
You can make dulce de leche right in the can of your sweetened condensed milk. I’ve done it a few times and it turned out perfectly every time. I would recommend this method if you just want to experiment or you simply need one can of decadent caramel sauce (aka dulce de leche).
I was a little concerned about the can exploding; but, fortunately, I never had that happen nor do I know of anyone else who has. Here’s how:
- Place a trivet in the stainless steel pot of your Instant Pot electric pressure cooker.
- Place a can of sweetened condensed milk in the middle of the pot on top of the trivet.
- Cover the can with cold water.
- Secure the lid and cook under high pressure for 40 minutes. (It will probably take 30 minutes for the pressure cooker to come up to pressure.)
- Allow a natural release. Carefully remove can from pressure cooker and allow to completely cool to room temperature before removing lid.
Instant Pot Dulce de Leche – The Jar Method
This is my preferred method for making dulce de leche in the electric pressure cooker. For one, I don’t have to worry about the can exploding. Secondly, it allows me to prepare three half-pint jars at once. And thirdly, I like being able to actually watch the dulce de leche dance and bubble around in the glass jars as it cools.
I also prefer the jar method because once the dulce de leche has cooled, it’s ready for eating, gifting or storing right away. Not that it seems to keep for very long in our house. I know it’s just February, but I plan on gifting this homemade delight this year for Christmas.
With the jar method, I find I can prepare three half pint jars from two 14 oz cans of sweetened condensed milk. The perfect amount for keeping, eating and gifting.
How to Make Dulce de Leche in the Instant Pot
Here is the recipe for my preferred method of preparing dulce de leche in the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker.
1. Fill Jars
Simply take 2 cans of Sweetened Condensed Milk and 3 half-pint jars and fill each jar with the sweetened condensed milk.
2. Place Jars in Instant Pot
With your trivet in the bottom of the inner pot, place your three half-pint sealed jars in the Instant Pot. Make sure they are not touching the side of the pot or one another.
3. Add Water
Pour enough water into the pot to come to the bottom edge of the band on the jars.
Secure the lid and cook on high pressure for 40 minutes.
5. Let Cool
After the 40 minutes, quick release the pressure and carefully remove the jars from the water. Allow to cool completely before removing lids. As you will notice, the sauce will be boiling in the jars!
I also noticed as soon as I removed the jars from the pressure cooker, they started “pinging”, which is an indicator that the jars were sealing. And, according to my friend Juanita who does a lot of canning, it’s “music to my ears.”
Instant Pot Dulce de Leche Recipe
Instant Pot Dulce de Leche (Caramel Sauce)
- 2 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
- 3 half-pint canning jars
- 6-8 cups water
- Fill each pint jar with sweetened condensed milk. Seal the jar with the lid and band so that it’s finger tight.
- Place rack or trivet inside pressure cooker. Arrange 3 pint jars on top of the trivet, making sure the jars aren’t touching one another or the sides of the pot. Fill with cold tap water just so the water is below the bands on the jars.
- Cook on high pressure for 35-40 minutes, with a quick release of pressure. (35 minutes will produce a golden brown dulce de leche, while 40 minutes will produce a deeper golden brown)
- Remove from pot and allow to cool completely to touch before attempting to remove lid.
- Store opened jars in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
- Store unopened (sealed) jars for up to 1 year.
Dulce de Leche Printable Labels
Of course, you know I couldn’t share a recipe in a jar without also creating some printable labels!
These free printable labels are available to subscribers to The Birch Cottage newsletter. You can sign up below:
Once you confirm your subscription by clicking on the link in your confirmation email, you will be redirected to the download in the Subscribers Resource Library. The Library is really a shared Google Drive folder and is full of free printable documents, cut files, patterns and more that are available exclusively to subscribers – just like you!
Once you’ve signed up, you’ll have access to the Subscribers Resource Library where you will find these printable labels under Miscellaneous Printables.
The labels are designed for use with Avery’s 22807 2″ round labels. There are actually a number of Avery labels that these Dulce de Leche labels are compatible with, including:
22205, 22817, 22825, 22877, 22921, 22923, 22933, 22961, 41464, 41494, 80510, 92807
How to Use Dulce de Leche
You can pretty much use Dulce de leche anywhere you’d normally use caramel sauce. Here are a few pairing ideas and links to some recipes:
- ice cream topping
- dipping sauce for apples or pears
- bananas foster
- paired with pretzels
- Dulce de Leche Cake
- Black Bottom Dulce de Leche Pie
- Dulce de Leche Banana Cream Pie
- Brown Butter Dulce de Leche Cookie Cups
- Dulce de Leche Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies
- Caramel Pie
I haven’t tried all of the above mentioned recipes, but I’d love to! The Dulce de Leche Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies just might be the next recipe I try. What do you think?
More Instant Pot Recipes
If you’re looking for or considering purchasing an Instant Pot or other brand of an electric pressure cooker, you might also be interested in these Instant Pot ideas:
- What’s an Instant Pot? – 12 Things to Know!
- My Favorite Instant Pot Accessories
- Potato Salad Recipe for the Instant Pot
- Instant Pot Keto Cheesecake (absolutely amazing!)
- Ham Bone and Bean Soup (amazing!)
- 12 of My Favorite Instant Pot Recipes (to date)
If you ever needed a reason to purchase an Instant Pot, Dulce de Leche is it! You’ll be amazed. It will save you hours. You’ll be amazed. And the canned Dulce de Leche with the pretty printable labels would make great gifts any time of the year!
If you give this recipe a try, please let me know in the comments below!
Til next time…