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Cooking Tips

Yes, You Can Make Dulce de Leche in Minutes

Hours waiting by the stove or oven? No thanks.
By Published Apr. 15, 2022

Dulce de leche—even the sound of this butterscotch-like Latin American sauce can have your mouth watering. The traditional method of making it requires multiple hours of cooking time (and if you’ve got time, it’s worth it!), but there’s nothing wrong with catering to a craving in a fraction of the time. 

Whether you’re smearing it over toast or filling cookies (such as alfajores!) with it, this rich, toasty sauce always hits the spot. Dulce de leche is made by slowly cooking sweetened condensed milk until it’s jammy, and variations on cooking methods yield different textures—it’s sometimes pourable, occasionally scoopable, and always delicious. 

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The only downside of this seemingly perfect sauce? The time it takes to make it. We’ve made dulce de leche in the oven and multicooker (and even sous vide), but these methods all have one thing in common: There’s a long time between the time you start to make this sauce and when you get to enjoy it.

That’s where ATK’s Just Add Sauce cookbook comes in, with a recipe that doesn’t even have you preheat the oven, let alone wait by the stove for hours. Instead, you turn to your microwave.

Once you’ve opened your can of condensed milk and poured it into a microwave-safe bowl, Just Add Sauce recommends popping it into the microwave for 12 to 15 minutes and whisking it occasionally.

The idea that you can use your microwave for anything beyond 3 minutes may surprise you—or have you checking the user manual to see if it’s safe—but to ensure successful cooking and no caramelly explosions in the appliance, the cookbook recommends setting the microwave to 50 percent power. It’s also important to note that you should never heat condensed milk in the can; always pour it into a heatproof bowl.

Once the condensed milk has turned a rich brown color and thickened slightly, you simply remove it from the microwave (at this point it may look curdled, but never fear, it will recombine) and slowly whisk in cream and vanilla.

Voilà! The results are dulce de-licious!

This sauce can be refrigerated for up to one week and requires one last spin in the microwave for only a few seconds to reach a pourable consistency. If you would prefer to make dulce de leche in a more traditional way, check out this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.