Does Dulce de Leche Go Bad?

Originating from South America, dulce de leche is sweetened milk that is cooked and reduced until it reaches a similar look, consistency, and flavor of caramel.

However, because the confectionary uses milk as a base, cooking enthusiasts may be wondering if it goes bad quickly—or if it expires at all. 

Dulce de leche can be stored at room temperature for one to three months if it remains airtight and sealed. Once opened, it can stay fresh in the fridge for about two weeks. In addition, dulce de leche can be frozen after use and will keep for several months as long as it is sealed correctly. 

How long dulce de leche will keep depends on a few factors, such as its specific ingredients, how it’s stored, and the environment it’s stored in.

In the remainder of this article, we’ll discuss how these factors influence the sweet confectionary’s expiration date, as well as storage tips to ensure your dulce de leche lasts for as long as possible. 

Does Dulce de Leche Go Bad?

In short, yes, dulce de leche does go bad; just like any food, there are ways to keep it fresh, but it will always go bad eventually.

However, if you follow a few simple storage tips, there are ways you can elongate the amount of time it has before that point.  

How Long Will Dulce de Leche Keep?

In an airtight container, dulce de leche can last for as long as one to three months when left unopened.

As previously mentioned, the exact time frame will depend on how the dulce de leche was made, and the environment it’s stored in. 

Dulce de leche goes bad much faster after the airtight container has been opened.

This exposes the desert to the air, which then causes it to spoil faster due to chemical reactions. Once opened, if you do not plan to eat it within the next day or two, it is recommended to store the dulce de leche in the fridge.

Once in the fridge, it will only be good for about two weeks at most. 

What Affects Dulce de Leche’s Expiration Date?

Again, a dulce de leche’s ingredients, how it’s stored, and the climate it’s stored in will have an equal effect on how long the treat will stay fresh and safe to eat. 

Ingredients

The most basic homemade dulce de leche recipe uses milk and sugar, which is simmered to create a wonderfully creamy caramel-like substance; this is the traditional version of dulce de leche that we’re referring to when we talk about standard expiration dates.

As mentioned, when sealed closed, it can last for up to three months, and up to two weeks when opened and refrigerated. 

Other homemade variations of the treat involve leaving out a gallon of milk for 24 hours before simmering it with sugar.

Since a good amount of milk is forced to spoil to create this dulce de leche recipe, this can reduce how long the result can stay fresh. 

It is suggested that you only keep this variation of dulce de leche unopened in a cool, dry place for up to a maximum of one month.

If you open and refrigerate it, then it should keep for two weeks like the traditional recipe. 

Finally, if you buy dulce de leche from the store, then depending on the ingredients it may keep shorter or longer, but will usually keep for three months unopened, and a couple of weeks in the fridge after opening.   

Storage

If you make a batch of dulce de leche, making sure to put it into airtight containers will help it keep much, much longer.

This way, outside contaminants and air cannot get in, and it will be that much fresher when you open it. If you do this, then it should keep for up to three months. 

If you are using a container that is not as airtight as many cooks suggest, then you will want to consume or use it within three weeks so that you do not eat spoiled dulce de leche. 

If you had your dessert in an airtight container for a while and just opened it, then a few things change.

You will want to keep it refrigerated after you open it, and it should be finished within two weeks.

This may seem like a very short time for a refrigerated dessert, but it is best to go by this suggestion to stay safe. 

Finally, other than when making dulce de leche, it is best to make sure it does not get too hot.

Keeping the dulce de leche in an environment warmer than room temperature (72 degrees Fahrenheit) could cause it to spoil faster. 

Do You Have to Refrigerate Dulce De Leche? 

Of course, there is always the option to refrigerate dulce de leche from the start. This is generally a good idea for those who live in a warmer climate.

If your home is not generally a room temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit, but warmer, then it may be best for you to keep it in the refrigerator since it is a cooler and dry place. 

If you are storing your dulce de leche in an airtight container and you are not in a warm climate, then there is no need to keep it in the refrigerator at first.

It should be fine in a pantry or other cool, dry place. 

However, as soon as you open your container of dulce de leche, it is necessary to refrigerate it if you do not plan to finish it within a day or two.

If you do not put it in the refrigerator, then it could get a sour taste, create a weird texture, and even possibly give you food poisoning if you’re not careful.

Alternatively, after opening, you can freeze leftover dulce de leche if you don’t plan on using it again for a while.

Make sure to cover the opening with saran wrap first. With this method, dulce de leche can last several months. 

Tips for Storing Dulce de Leche

  • After simmering the milk and sugar in a pan and making the dulce de leche, many cooking sites suggest placing the pan in a bowl of ice water. This will help the caramel to cool faster and thus keep its thickness during storage.
  • After it cools completely, be sure to have airtight containers ready. Putting the dulce de leche into airtight containers rather than others will help it keep far longer. If you use another container, it is suggested that you eat it within a month; otherwise, it may not be fresh enough.
  • The most recommended storage container for dulce de leche is a leftover, clean, jelly container. These containers are made of glass, so warm dulce de leche will not damage them. They also, most often, already have an airtight top so that you don’t have to find another way to seal them. 
  • Canning jars, such as mason jars, are also a good option for storing. There are also modifications you can make to the jars to make them more airtight if you please. 
  • It is always suggested to keep dulce de leche refrigerated after opening so that it stays fresh enough to consume at a later point in time. 

Final Thoughts

Dulce de leche filled pastries
Dulce de leche filled pastries

Dulce de leche is a delicious Latin American treat and addition to any dessert—as long as it’s fresh.

On average, it can stay good for up to three months when left in an airtight, sealed container.

However, you can lengthen its life by keeping it in the fridge or freezer after it has been opened. 

If you follow the above tips, you’ll be able to keep dulce de leche fresher, longer.

Please Share & Spread the Love of Latin Foods!