Crockpot Caramel Sauce Cooked in a Can

Crockpot-Dulce-de-LecheMy goal was to make dulce de leche, a South American sweet spread. Traditional recipes boil milk, sugar, vanilla bean for some time, then strain, lots of sticky work. People also boil or bake sealed cans of sweetened condensed milk immersed in water, bringing to mind the thought of potential explosions. Then I discovered blogger Mangio da Sola’s crockpot technique – can, water, crockpot for 8 hours.

Crockpot-Dulce-de-Leche-and-appleIn a crockpot, the temperature gently rises and holds, cooking gently, unattended. But it turns out my β€˜70s appliance only hits 180 degrees on the LOW setting. Not hot enough to produce dark, thick dulce de leche. When I opened my cooled can, it was a creamy caramel sauce, somewhat darker than what it started as but a whole lot more CARAMEL-Y in flavor. Not what I expected but still worthy of apple slices. The rest is in the fridge, it will be great over ice cream.

Crockpot Caramel Sauce

  1. One 14 oz. can Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT evaporated milk). Don’t use the can with the pop-top, either.
  2. Remove the paper label.
  3. Place on a saucer in the bottom of a crockpot (the can leaves a rust ring).
  4. Add water to fully submerge the can.
  5. Cover the crockpot, set on LOW for 8 hours. Go to bed.
  6. In the morning, turn crockpot to OFF and let cool on its own, at least 3 hours. Then retrieve your can, open and mmmmm.
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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Worth The Whisk December 16, 2013 at 4:12 am

Kathy, golly i am not sure. Usually gritty means sugar is crystalizing.

2 Kathy December 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm

My texture and taste is fine, but is gritty. Did I cook too long or not long enough. Thank you, Kathy

3 Worth The Whisk September 30, 2013 at 8:55 am

Annette, NO to the pop-top can. The metal thickness that makes those tabs easy to open is thin and will definitely POP during cooking, which means your sauce and your water become one big pool of bleck.

4 Annette September 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm

What if all you have is the pop top cans? Is it still safe? That’s all I can find any more…

5 Worth The Whisk September 12, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Good to hear from you Pirate Queen. Having worked for corporate food companies for 30+ years, I know there is always that side, too.

6 PirateQueen September 12, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Suit yourselves, but the Eagle Brand label says “Do not heat in can” for a reason. It has had some version of that warning on the label for 50 years, I can vouch for 1980-2001 myself when I worked in customer service. Sure, it’ll never blow up for YOU. It’s your funeral. Or at least your kitchen ceiling covered with goo.

7 Worth The Whisk September 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I wouldn’t, Jessica. That is not very much sauce, it might fill just an inch at the bottom of your crock pot. Better to just put it in a microwave-proof bowl and heat it a few seconds at a time to the warmth you desire.

8 Jessica September 4, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Quick question….. Once the caramel sauce has cooked and cooled to handling temps, can you pour the caramel sauce back into the crock pot (after you’ve cleaned it obviously!) to keep it warm? Thanks in advance!

9 Cindy March 1, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Thanks for this recipe! I did explode a can of sweetened condensed milk on the stove! My ceiling was a lovely marbled color for years!

10 Worth The Whisk February 17, 2013 at 7:28 am

Appreciate the safety cautions, thank you for this.

11 Back To My Roots February 17, 2013 at 5:24 am

What a great idea! I had never thought of making this myself. I have shared it on my facebook blog page (with full credit/link back to here). I think everyone should know how to do this! I hope you dont mind the extra traffic im sending your way. I love your blog so much!

12 johnycakes February 15, 2013 at 10:50 am

One hugely important factor everyone seems to be ignoring is that cans are lined with plastic. This is a plastic that contains B.P.A. This chemical has been linked to endocrine disruption, autism, cancer, I.B.S. and crohns. These cans are not tested as cooking containers. Please please please stop doing this. If you have nothing but a fire to cook with, heating something in it’s can makes sense but all of you have good kitchens. All you need to do is empty the cans of cond. milk into lidded glass canning jars and proceed with the long slow cooking as normal. Fill jars leaving at least three inches of headspace for expansion while cooking. This is easy and almost as convenient. After they are done they will be sealed and shelf stable for several months.

13 Worth The Whisk November 21, 2012 at 9:18 am

Brenda, I would refrigerate any leftovers after enjoying it, yes.

14 Brenda November 21, 2012 at 6:54 am

Does this have to be refrigerated after it cools?

15 Lara July 9, 2012 at 11:09 am

If you put it on the stove keeping it covered with water, and boil it for 5 hours you will come out with a caramel similar (but better) than the caramel apple dip you can buy in the store, it tons cheaper and better tasting.

16 Worth The Whisk July 8, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Patty, no you don’t have to open it right away. But to be honest, you won’t know how it came out without opening, so maybe make it once to get the hang of it.

17 Patty July 8, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Do you have to open the cans and use it right away or can the cans be kept unopened after cooking?
I have never tried making this?

18 Shelby Jean Rose July 7, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I use to cook it on the stove. Only bring it to a boil the simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hr. it is great. DO NOT OVER COOK IT.

19 Worth The Whisk April 16, 2012 at 11:07 am

Hi Kelly, so sorry for that experience. Kind of a dumb question from me… did you check the Best If Used By date on your cans? Old milk in a can is going to turn into Old Cooked Milk in a can. And just to confirm, it needs to be sweetened condensed milk, not evaporated milk. Just a thought. The photo you see in my post is from that day’s crockpot recipe.

20 Kelly April 16, 2012 at 10:37 am

So I’ve tried this in the slow cooker. On low for TEN hours and when I let it cool completely in the morning I opened the can to find an almost rotten runny smelly condensed milk. I then proceded to spend the day with another brand on the stovetop with continually boiling water for six hours and the same thing. The water line covers the can at all times, too. SOOO frustrated!

21 Ray Chapman March 8, 2012 at 2:23 pm

You can also do this on top of the stove in a pan of simmering water. Again you would remove the paper. Place the can in water to cover the top and bring to a boil after pring to a boil lower to simmering and cook for 45 min to 1 hour. This will give you the same result in much less the time. I know because I do this when making mine.

22 Worth The Whisk February 23, 2012 at 9:31 am

Angie, thanks for pointing out that I wasn’t clear. I fixed it.

23 angie February 23, 2012 at 9:15 am

how do you cover a can

24 Kathy Schroeder January 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm

I think the only time it explodes is when it is left unattended on the stove, and the water level drops below the top of the can. (Also when one tries to open a can that has not cooled completely. It acts almost like a pressure cooker that someone tries to take the lid off of before releasing the pressure. Hot caramel can go every where. In this time of sue happy people, Eagle Brand felt saying don’t do it was better than getting sued because someone got hurt not following the directions properly.

25 mommylovesix November 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm

…the only fear of the can exploding is when the can is not completely cooled off before opening…lol…I had this happen when I was in home economic class in school and tried to duplicate a recipe later at home…but left out the step to cool off the can first!! ooopppsss!! needless to say we were cleaning caramel off our ceiling…lol…ALWAY COOL CAN COMPLETELY before opening!!

26 Karen September 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm

My husband is a truck driver. He came home one night talking about making caramel out of cans of sweetened condensed milk. It sounded hard to believe, but we gave it a try. What a surprise!! It turned out better than we ever pictured in our minds it could be. Two years later, we’re still cooking caramels.

27 Grapefruit April 14, 2010 at 3:51 am

I make mine in the oven by baking it for about an hour in a water bath. Always comes out thick and wonderful. I made it & blogged about it a couple of months back.

The crockpot method sounds really easy (and safe). Thanks for sharing. Will have to give it a try some time!

28 cheryl March 20, 2010 at 12:14 pm

I grew up in South America and loved having ducle de leche. I would eat it by the spoonfuls!!! I was excited to try making it in the crockpot, since I experienced disasters trying to make over the stovetop. I followed the directions, except one minor detail. . . .I forgot about it and let it cook on low for almost 20 hours (oops!). Actually the oops was perfect . . . when I opened the cans, they were nice and thick and caramelly, just like the dulce de leche in South America. So, the longer you cook it, the better is works. FYI: I cooked one can of regular sweetened condensed milk and one can of Fat-Free sweetened condensed milk and they both worked great.

29 Cristina @TeenieCakes March 19, 2010 at 12:06 pm

My mom always made dulce de leche (we called it cajeta) when I was growing up, but I too have been leery to try it myself fearing the can explosion. I’ll give this method a try. Thanks for sharing! =)

30 Marina March 17, 2010 at 3:06 pm

I have been boiling canned condensed milk in a pressure cooker (cuts the cooking time in half if not less) all my life, and never once had an explosion or anything close to that πŸ™‚
Basically you put the cans in a pot and cover with water, boil for about 2 hours on medium-low. OR if you’re using a pressure cooker, just do the same thing, only cook it for 40 minutes from the time the water starts boiling πŸ˜€

31 Mandy March 17, 2010 at 5:45 am

This is awesome!! I had no idea you could do this! I’m definitely going to try it…maybe the next time we have a party I’ll put together an dessert bar to include this! Thanks!

32 Jason March 17, 2010 at 3:55 am

Have you ever heard of a case where the can has exploded? I have not. I have made this by boiling many times without any problems. I’d think if there was even a chance of explosion that the can would bulge or something during the simmering time. Give it a shot! It’s ok πŸ™‚

33 Memoria March 16, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Oh no!! I’m sorry it didn’t come out perfectly, but it still looks insanely good! I guess you could put it on high next time. I need to try it again and cook it for half the time to try out this flavor. I love the color. Wow!

34 Denise@There's a Newf in My Soup! March 16, 2010 at 8:26 pm

I first tried David Lebovitz’ method, but this looks even more interesting! Looking forward to Camp!

35 sippitysup March 16, 2010 at 1:42 pm

It’s so funny you posted this. I came to the web looking for this technique and was so pleased to see it offered from a friend! Thanks GREG

36 Jenny March 15, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I knew of the boiled can technique, but it also frightened me. I’ve practically set the house on fire (more than once) because I forgot the rice was on the stove. This sounds like the method I’ve been looking for – thanks! I’ve got to try it.

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