Is Your Dulce de Leche Too Hard? Here’s What to Do

Dulce de Leche translates to “sweet or candy milk” in Spanish. This deliciously sweet dessert from Argentina can be commonly found in stores or bakeries in the United States. With a little bit of practice and careful attention, you can even make this decadent treat in your own kitchen. But how to get it just right?

Dulce de leche that is too hard has too much sugar in it. When the proportion of sugar to milk isn’t right, the mixture can become too thick. Dulce de leche can be thinned out so that it isn’t hard, tough, or lumpy by adding more milk while stirring on low or medium heat. The key to making proper dulce de leche is stirring. If the mix isn’t stirred enough, it can settle and burn or not mix properly and become hard.

If your dulce de leche isn’t a caramel-like consistency or color, then you may have missed a step while making the treat. As always, there is going to be trial and error when creating something new for the first time.

Why Dulce de Leche Hardens

Plain and simple, you have either added too much sugar, not enough water, or overcooked your dulce de leche.

Mistake 1: Using the Wrong Amount of Sugar

This is a common mistake: when you think that you are adding just the right amount of sugar you may be adding too much or too little. As long as you are following the recipe, you shouldn’t have to worry about adding too much sugar.

Mistake 2: Not Using Enough Liquid

Another reason for your dulce de leche hardening is due to there not being enough water when boiling, thus resulting in it becoming overcooked. It will become stiff and non-spreadable. Keep in mind that your dulce de leche will harden and stiffen up as it cools down, if you want it to become pliable again then all you need to do is carefully reheat it again with boiling water.

Mistake 3: Overcooking Your Dulce de Leche

Hand in hand with the first two mistakes is overcooking your dulce de leche. As you continue to cook, the water will evaporate and the ratio of water to sugar with lose balance. So, stop when you’ve reached the desired color and consistency. In addition to this, if you are paying attention to your water level and making sure to stir the mixture, then it won’t become hard.

As a whole, it depends on which recipe you are using to make the dulce de leche. Different types of recipes can yield different results and outcomes. For the oven recipe, you can add too much sugar, and then the dulce de leche will become hard, likewise for the stovetop if you are adding in ingredients from scratch. If you are using condensed milk on the stove, then you want to make sure that you have enough water to boil the milk so that it doesn’t burn properly.

How to Avoid Runny Dulce de Leche

With all that in mind, you also want to be careful not to have too much milk and not enough sugar, or else the dulce de leche won’t be sweet enough, nor will it be thick enough for use. It will end up thin and runny. Like everything when it comes to cooking, make sure to follow the recipe to the letter, so that you don’t ruin your creation.

How to Make Dulce de Leche the Right Way

There are a wide variety of recipes that you can look up on how to make dulce de leche if you are not already familiar with the recipe. Or, maybe you grew up making the candied milk as a child and want your children to learn or share with friends. This is a relatively easy dessert to make in a few different ways. You will need time and a lot of stirring, depending on the way you decide to make it.

Ingredients and Tools Needed

Depending on how you want to make it, you are going to need a large saucepan, a bowl, and a spoon to stir. You will make the dessert using your stovetop. Here are two different recipes that you can follow so that you can make dulce de leche the right way.

Recipe 1: Canned Sweetened Condensed Milk

Can of Condensed Milk
Can of Condensed Milk for Making Dulce de Leche

This is a simple and easy way to make dulce de leche that will require your time, but not a lot of ingredients.

You are going to need:

  1. You will need a large saucepan or pot filled with the 3 cups or more water.
      2. Take your condensed milk can and puncture two holes into the top of the can.
      3. Set the can into the saucepan or pot with the water in it. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to low heat. The milk will  simmer in the can for 3-4 hours.
      4. Add more water to the saucepan or pot as it boils out.
     5. Check the milk every so often to prevent it from burning. Watch as the liquid turns a light-medium brown and thickens as it cools.
     6. Carefully remove the lid from the can, and you can pour your dulce de leche into a bowl. Take your whisk or spoon and mix the caramelly confection to break up lumps. Enjoy!

Recipe 2: Classic Method

Making Dulce de Leche in Sauce Pan
Making Dulce de Leche in Sauce Pan

This is the classic method that requires not only your time but also a lot of stirring and constant attention to your milk and sugar so that it doesn’t burn.

You will need:

  • ~ 4 cups of milk
  • 1¼ cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon of baking soda
  1. Stir the milk, sugar, and baking soda together in your saucepan.
      2. Once thoroughly mixed, bring the sugary concoction to a boil, then reduce the heat, and uncover the saucepan. Make sure to stir the dulce de leche constantly.
      3. This will take about an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes. You will start to notice that the dulce de leche has become a caramelized color and thickness.
      4. Stir in the vanilla. Once thoroughly mixed in, pour the dulce de leche into another bowl to cool, and you are done.

How to Enjoy Dulce de Leche

There are a variety of ways to eat and enjoy your homemade dulce de leche. Here are a few ideas that you can try at home.

  • If your dulce de leche was made the right way, then it can be used as a spreadable sauce for pancakes, waffles, or as icing for alfajor cookies and cake.
  • Drizzle it on to your favorite ice cream or warmed up chocolate brownies for a late-night snack.
  • If you want to sweeten your morning coffee, then why not use some of your dulce de leche? After warming it up on low heat or for a few seconds in the microwave, it becomes the perfect syrup-like additive.
  • Try adding cinnamon powder when making your dulce de leche. Then you will have a sweet cinnamon flavor for your coffee or icing on a cake.
Drizzling Dulce de Leche on Pancakes
Dulce de Leche Pancakes

If you do make your dulce de leche too thick or hard, don’t throw it out. The thickened dulce de leche can still be of use.

  • Mold it into fun shapes and animals as candy art with your children.
  • Freeze the dulce de leche in chunks, and you can use it in warm milk or in hot coffee.
  • Make lollipops out of the hardened caramelized sweet.
Bowl of Dulce de Leche and Dulce de Leche Hard Candies
Dulce de Leche Hard Candies

If you made a mistake while cooking your dulce de leche and it becomes hard, don’t worry. There are still ways that you can fix your error, or you can take the stiffened dulce de leche and find a different way to use it. As always, have fun when making desserts. Once you have completed your sweet treat, enjoy it how you want.

Now that you know the correct way to make dulce de leche, learn about it’s history and the different names other countries have for it.

And if this all sounds like too much work, you can simply shop our online store and buy dulce de leche freshly imported from Argentina!

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