This utterly irresistible dulce de leche tastes like the real Argentinian sweet and it’s low-carb and sugar-free! It’s perfect to spread on slices of fluffy keto bread, use as topping for cakes or waffles and filling cookies!
This creamy dulce de leche caramel recipe is so easy to make: with only 4 ingredients and ready in 20 minutes, I bet that after you make your first batch you’ll never let it run out!
Why this is the best dulce de leche recipe
I grew up in Latin America, the magical land of dulce de leche, and since starting keto it has been a mission for me to find a low-carb alternative that tastes like the real thing! I never did – so I came up with this recipe.
And I must say, I’m really happy with it! My LikeHotKeto recipe is the only low-carb recipe that tastes exactly like true dulce de leche, and not just caramel, because it has real milk in it (not just cream!)
After all, how can you expect to have a sweet made from milk without milk?
But don’t worry, this is still low-carb: only 2 net carbs per tablespoon, as opposed to the original dulce de leche, which has about 12!
What’s dulce de leche and where you can find it
Dulce de leche (from Spanish, “sweet made from milk”) is a Latin American style of caramel, made from a base of sweetened condensed milk, or milk and sugar, cooked for a long time until it thickens and turns a golden brown color.
For me, the best dulce de leche comes from Argentina, and the Argentinians are (rightly!) proud of their national product, and their huge alfajores industry.
Dulce de leche is also easy to find and an important component of many traditional dessert recipes in Uruguay, Brazil (doce de leite in Portuguese), and even further in France (where is known as confiture de lait) and Poland: kajmak is the Polish dulce de leche.
How is dulce de leche different from caramel
Dulce de leche and caramel sauce may look the same at first glance, with similar color and even taste. You can, in a pinch, substitute one for the other. But they are not the same thing!
Caramel in itself is made by simply heating sugar (or allulose, for a keto version) until it’s browned by caramelization. For a caramel sauce, butter is added, together with milk or cream.
Caramel sauce is runnier than dulce de leche, ideal for pouring over desserts. The butter gives it a richer taste, and it’s less sweet than dulce de leche. Caramel can sometimes show slight bitter notes, if the sugar has overheated.
Dulce de leche is made by cooking milk and sugar, or sweetened condensed milk. It gets its golden brown color not from the caramelization of sugar, but from the Maillard browning reaction of the lactose and milk proteins.
The taste of dulce de leche is mellower and creamier than caramel, and it really works just by itself, as a sweet treat.
The creamy, spreadable texture of dulce de leche makes it perfect to eat on bread, top cakes, and to use as filling for churros and alfajores.
Dulce de leche vs condensed milk
Condensed milk and dulce de leche are nearly the same thing. The difference between them is only one: the amount of time the milk and sugar (or keto sweetener) are cooked.
Dulce de leche is simply sweetened condensed milk that has been further cooked. A popular way of making dulce de leche is putting a sealed can of condensed milk inside a pressure cooker or instant pot and cooking it until it turns into dulce de leche. This was, by the way, my favorite!
The color of dulce de leche deepens to a light brown, and the consistency is much thicker than the original condensed milk. You can easily eat dulce de leche out of a spoon, like you’d do Nutella, for example. Condensed milk has more of a drizzling quality, unless you leave it on the fridge to harden.
The 4 ingredients
You’ll need only 4 ingredients for this low-carb dulce de leche recipe:
Keto sweetener: Use allulose or xylitol pure sweeteners or blends with stevia or monk fruit for the smoothest possible low-carb dulce the leche. If you have dogs are want to try xylitol, please be very careful as it is deadly poisonous to them!
I don’t recommend using erythritol in any shape or form for this keto dulce de leche recipe. Erythritol crystallization is a big issue here, making the dulce de leche feel grainy and crunchy.
Evaporated milk: Evaporated milk is like sweetened condensed milk, but without the sweet (added sugar) part – it’s just pure milk, that has been concentrated… by evaporating the water!
I wanted this sugar-free dulce de leche to taste like proper dulce de leche – not caramel – so real milk is an essential ingredient. After much recipe testing, I managed to find the perfect balance to get the true milky flavor with the least possible carbs!
Heavy cream or whipping cream: The thicker the cream (I use at least 35% fat), the less moisture it has and the less time it needs to evaporate – so your sugar-free dulce de leche gets ready quicker!
Sugar-free vanilla extract: This can be skipped if you’d like, but I think it really elevates the flavor! Use a high quality, pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
How to make
Choose a large non-stick casserole, or a sauté pan or skillet with tall sides. It’s important that it’s non-stick and that it’s flat at the bottom. The dulce de leche needs less cooking time if it’s spread over a larger surface.
Add the evaporated milk, heavy cream or whipping cream, vanilla extract and the keto sweetener you prefer (xylitol or allulose) to the pan, and place it over medium-high heat to bring it to a boil.
Stir as the mixture gently boils, or vigorously simmers. It will slowly thicken, and reach the condensed milk stage before turning into dulce de leche.
You don’t need to stir 100% of the time in the beginning, but as the dulce the leche starts darkening and thickening it’s best to keep stirring to avoid getting bits sticking to the bottom and getting burnt. So just keep stirring, as you would a custard.
It will take about 15 minutes for the dulce de leche to be ready (in a 12″pan).
It will first thicken a bit and become like condensed milk, and as you continue simmering you’ll notice the irresistible caramel aroma, and that the color deepens from creamy white to a light brown.
Overcooked dulce de leche
I’ll say that, it does require some practice to find the perfect moment to switch off the stove. It isn’t easy because you’ll just find out how hard the dulce de leche will set after it’s completely cooled down.
But don’t fret. Even if you go way beyond the cooking time – which I’ve done – the worst is gonna happen is ending up with something very similar to dulce de leche fudge. So, I’d say there’s no way to go wrong!
How to eat dulce de leche
Dulce de leche is good in everything, with everything, at any time of the day!
No, I’m not exaggerating.. I wish I were. In Latin America, dulce de leche takes the place of both peanut butter AND caramel. You see how I suffered from lack of dulce de leche in my life… until I created this sugar-free recipe!
Here are some ideas of how to use your dulce de leche:
- Spread on a slice of keto bread or crackers. A perfect sweet snack!
- Use as filling or topping for cakes, cupcakes and waffles.
- Add as topping to ice cream, to Greek yogurt bowls, to keto protein pudding.
- In South America, dulce de leche is the traditional filling for churros.
- Make alfajores, Argentina’s most loved sandwich cookie!
- Want pure pleasure? Just eat by the spoon… it really doesn’t need anything else!
After the dulce de leche cools down, transfer it to a sealable jar. It will keep refrigerated for at least a week. The dulce de leche consistency hardens in the fridge, to a nearly fudge like texture. Leaving at room temperature for some time it will soften it.
I have kept mine outside the fridge for a couple of days, when I want it to stay creamy and easily spreadable, and it has never gone bad. Still, it’s a homemade milk product, so be mindful.
Keep the jar tightly closed and always use clean spoons to serve to keep it fresh for as long as possible.
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