The Deliciously Sweet History of Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche has a long and storied history dating back as far as 1829. It has even been the cause of international tensions, with Argentina and Uruguay fighting over the right to call it their own.

The Dulce de leche origin story varies, depending on who’s telling it, but the end result of this “sweet milk” is the same everywhere – people can’t get enough of it.

Let’s take a look at where this sweet treat comes from.

Dulce de Leche Origin Story

The origin story for dulce de leche is the same no matter who is claiming to have “invented” it. The story always goes that a cook was making a drink from milk and sugar and somehow forgot to watch it close enough. By the time they came back to it, the mixture had cooked down into the thick, caramel-like concoction we now know as dulce de leche.

Of all the countries that claim ownership of dulce de leche Argentina is generally thought to be its home. Their dulce de leche history claims that an Argentine maid was cooking Lechada, a drink make from milk and sugar, for the political leader Juan Manuel de Rosa when she was called away. When she returned, she found that her inattention had accidentally created what has become a staple of the Argentine diet.

The first historical reference to dulce de leche is from 1829, at a peace meeting between Juan Manuel de Rosa and his opponent Juan Lavalle.

How to Make Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche recipes vary slightly from one country to another. It’s always based on milk and sugar but different regions have their own take.

  • Puerto Rico makes it with unsweetened coconut milk.
  • The Dominican Republic uses milk, sugar, and vanilla but they cook it until it’s almost as thick as fudge.
  • Uruguay only uses milk and sugar, no vanilla.

In Argentina dulce de leche is made from four ingredients – milk, sugar, vanilla bean, and baking soda. The following recipe will make the traditional Argentine version.

  • 4 cups of milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and the seeds scraped
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Combine the milk, sugar, and vanilla bean in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Be sure to stir the mixture or it will burn on the bottom of the pot.
  • Stir in the baking soda.
  • Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove the vanilla bean and let simmer for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours, again stirring occasionally.
  • When done, the dulce de leche will be a dark caramel color. You’ll end up with about a cup’s worth.

Simple but Time-Consuming

Dulce de leche is one of the most popular Argentine foods. It isn’t difficult to make but it is a bit time-consuming. You need to be careful not to let it go too long without stirring or you’ll end up burning it. Ironic, given how it was discovered in the first place!

If you don’t have the time to make your own, check out Amigo Foods’ wide range of dulce de leche products. Our authentic brands are freshly imported so you know you’re getting the authentic taste going back to the dulce de leche origin.

By the way, if you love dulce de leche then it’s a sure bet you’ll love Argentina’s infamous cookie

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