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How to Make Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk

If you’re looking for the world’s simplest caramel, a foolproof version you can make at home with only one ingredient, you’ve come to the right place! In this post I’m going to show you how I make caramel out of a can of sweetened condensed milk. 

I love when I find a simple way to make something yummy and I was especially excited to learn that I could make my own caramel and dulce de leche. 

In this post I’m going to break down two different ways you can used a can of sweetened condense milk—to make delicious caramel and to make a darker, richer dulce de leche. 

What is Caramel? 

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk (a recipe from Out of the Box Baking).

Caramel is a type of confectionery substance made by heating sugar at high temperatures until it melts and turns into a smooth, brown liquid. Often, butter and cream are added to create a rich, creamy texture, and sometimes vanilla or other flavorings are included for added taste.

Caramel can vary in consistency from soft and gooey to hard and brittle, depending on how long it is cooked. It’s commonly used as a flavoring in candies, desserts, sauces, and other sweet treats.

Looking for a thin homemade caramel sauce? Cook it for less time. Like a gooey caramel, thicker than honey? Cook a bit longer. It’s really that simple.

What is Sweetened Condensed Milk? 

Sweetened condensed milk is a thick, sweet, and creamy dairy product made by evaporating most of the water content from cow’s milk and adding sugar. The process involves heating the milk until about 60% of its water content evaporates, resulting in a thick and concentrated liquid. Sugar is then added to sweeten the condensed milk further, creating a rich and indulgent flavor.

Sweetened condensed milk is commonly used in baking and dessert recipes to add sweetness, moisture, and richness. It’s a key ingredient in many desserts such as fudge, caramel sauce, pies, ice creams, and various types of candies. Additionally, it can be used as a coffee creamer or as a topping for fruits and other dishes.

Simple Caramel Ingredients

You will find a full printable recipe card at the bottom of this post but here’s a quick look at how you’re going to make this yummy condensed milk caramel.

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk (a recipe from Out of the Box Baking).
  • 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

That’s it! Just one simple ingredient. You’ll also need a large, heavy saucepan filled with water to cover the can of milk. 

How to Make Caramel

This one ingredient caramel sauce is so easily! (I honestly can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post this recipe! I’ve been making caramel this way for a while now and it’s super simple!) 

Start by filling a large saucepan with water. 

Remove the paper from the outside of the can of sweetened condensed milk. (You can make more than one can at a time, if you like.) 

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk (a recipe from Out of the Box Baking).

Make sure the seal isn’t broken on the can. (Note: I’ve never had a can explode on me, though I’ve read of others who have.) 

Place unopened cans into the cold water, resting on their sides. Make sure the cans are completely submerged with an additional inch or two of water on top. (Water level is key to this recipe working out.)

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk (a recipe from Out of the Box Baking).

Bring the water to a boil. 

Lower the temperature to medium and continue to boil. 

Set the timer for two hours. The goal here is to use steady heat.

You’ll want to check the pan every 30 minutes to make sure the cans are still covered in water, because it cooks down. Top off with more water if necessary. You can rotate the cans (using tongs) if you’re concerned about it cooking unevenly. Just remember you’re dealing with hot water and extremely hot pans, so use tongs carefully!

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk (a recipe from Out of the Box Baking).

At the two hour mark use tongs to remove the cans from the water. 

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk (a recipe from Out of the Box Baking).

Allow to cool at room temperature until the can is completely cooled. 

Gently open the can. 

Spoon the cooked caramel into a serving bowl. 

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk (a recipe from Out of the Box Baking).

This caramel is perfect on an ice cream sundae or used as an ingredient in a recipe like my Pecan Toffee Cookies with Caramel Drizzle. Check out this video to see how smooth it is!

Cover leftover caramel with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. I store mine in the refrigerator. It stays good for several week. 

How to Make Dulce De Leche

For best results you will use the exact same method as before, but allow the milk to cook for three hours instead of two. 

You will end up with a thicker, richer, darker caramel, perfect for all kinds of things. In the photo below, the dulce de leche is the one on the right. You can’t tell right away that it’s different, but. . .

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk (a recipe from Out of the Box Baking).

Check out the difference in texture!

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk (a recipe from Out of the Box Baking).

Here is more about Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche is a sweet, caramel-like spread or sauce made from sweetened condensed milk or milk and sugar that has been cooked until it thickens and caramelizes. It’s a versatile ingredient used in various recipes to add a rich, caramel flavor.

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk (a recipe from Out of the Box Baking).

Here are some popular recipes that use dulce de leche.

As your caramel cools, check out this list below! Next time, I might have to bake up one of these decadent desserts.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake: Incorporate dulce de leche into the cheesecake batter or use it as a topping for a decadent caramel cheesecake.

Alfajores: Traditional South American cookies made with two buttery cookies sandwiched together with dulce de leche in the middle. They’re often dusted with powdered sugar.

Dulce de Leche Thumbprint Cookies: Make thumbprint cookies by pressing your thumb into cookie dough balls and filling the indentation with dulce de leche before baking.

Dulce de Leche Brownies: Swirl dulce de leche into your favorite brownie batter for a gooey and indulgent treat.

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream: Make homemade ice cream by swirling dulce de leche into a base of cream, milk, and sugar before freezing.

Dulce de Leche Cake: Use dulce de leche as a filling between cake layers or drizzle it over the top of a cake for added flavor.

Dulce de Leche Flan: Add dulce de leche to the custard mixture for a caramel-flavored twist on the classic flan dessert.

Dulce de Leche Tart: Fill a pre-baked tart shell with dulce de leche and top with whipped cream or chocolate shavings for an elegant dessert.

Dulce de Leche Milkshake: Blend dulce de leche with vanilla ice cream and milk for a creamy and indulgent milkshake.

What to Expect from this Recipe: 

If you have a sweet tooth, this is the recipe for you!

As I mentioned above, I’m thrilled to have a simple way to make caramel. I use it so frequently in my baking—in my caramel pecan banana bread. I also use it between the layers of my Ultimate Chocolate Cake

I love this version especially, because it’s hard to get caramel that’s just the right texture.

If you’re a cake baker like me, you’ve probably tried to buy caramel at the store to use as a filling, only to have it run down the sides of the cake. Or, maybe you’e purchased caramel chips and melted them in the microwave, only to have them clump up on you. Maybe you’ve made it from scratch, using milk, butter, and sugar. That’s yummy, but I’m notorious for burning mine on bottom. 

 With this method, you can cook it less time to make a sauce or more time to make a filling. And trust me when I saw that the level of sweetness is just perfect! It’s also great if you’re wanting a salted caramel. Just sprinkle a bit of ground sea salt on top. Delicious! 

All in all, I’d say this is my favorite method for caramel. It’s going to be yours, too! 

Questions People are Asking:

Can I cook this in my slow cooker instead of a heavy-duty saucepan?

Absolutely, but you’ll probably have to double the time if the water isn’t at a gentle boil.

Can I made this in my instant pot/pressure cooker?

I haven’t tried it because I have a healthy fear of explosion. But I have a friend who says it’s possible. Do your homework first!

I want a thin caramel sauce for ice cream sundaes. How long should I cook my caramel?

I would probably cook it for 90 minutes if I wanted a thinner sauce. Remember, sweetened condensed milk (even uncooked) is relatively thick. So it might not thin out much. But you can always put it into the microwave for a few seconds before serving if you want to thin it down.

Is this as good as homemade caramel?

Yes, and so much easier! No candy thermometer necessary. And it’s so much better than store-bought caramel sauce!

Can I store this caramel in a mason jar?

Absolutely! I always refrigerate mine but I definitely use a sealed container.

Can I add salt to make this salted caramel?

You can, (salted caramel is always a good idea), but I recommend sprinkling sea salt onto the finished product, not stirring it directly into the caramel.

Do I have to use Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk?

No. I used the Great Value brand and it turned out great!

What will happen if the water level gets too low? Do I have to toss the cans?

No, just refill the pan with enough water to cover them again and turn on medium-high heat until it comes to a low simmer, then rotate the cans in the water so they cook evenly.

Caramel Recipes to Enjoy

Butterscotch Pound Cake: This is a simple recipe, but it’s an unforgettable one, filled with flavor and texture.

Easy Caramel Apple Bars: If you love the luscious flavors of apple and caramel, this is the recipe for you. These bars are delicious and simple. Best of all, they start with a box of cake mix. 

Peach Cake with Caramel Glaze: If you love the flavor of fresh peaches and caramel you will love this easy bundt cake! It comes together in minutes and starts with a box of cake mix. 

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies: If you enjoy the combination of salted caramel and chocolate, you’re going to love this amazing new recipe. It’s rich and decadent, loaded with sweetness and an added pinch of salt. It’s also soft and gooey, coated with sticky deliciousness!

Easy Caramel Banana Cake: Warm, buttery, caramelly, sweet. . .and loaded with rich banana flavor. This Easy Caramel Banana Cake is absolutely perfect all year ’round!


That’s it for this post, friends! I hope you enjoyed this delicious recipe. 

If you make this recipe and love it, don’t forget to leave a review and a comment below. And while you’re at it, go ahead and pin some photos to your Pinterest boards!

See this recipe at  

About the Author

Janice Thompson is an author, baker, and all-around mischief maker! She has overcome a host of baking catastrophes, including a toppled wedding cake, to learn more about the baking process. Janice has published over 165 books for the Christian market but particularly enjoys writing recipes and baking devotions. To learn more about Janice or to drop her a note, visit her About the Author page. 

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk

Caramel from Sweetened Condensed Milk

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 3 hours 5 minutes

If you’re looking for the world’s simplest caramel, a foolproof version you can make at home with only one ingredient, you’ve come to the right place! In this post I’m going to show you how I make caramel out of a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Ingredients

  • 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

Instructions

    Start by filling a large saucepan with water.

    Remove the paper from the outside of the can of sweetened condensed milk. (You can make more than one can at a time, if you like.)

    Make sure the seal isn’t broken on the can. (Note: I’ve never had a can explode on me, though I’ve read of others who have.)

    Place the cans into the cold water, resting on their sides. Make sure the cans are completely submerged with an additional inch or two of water on top.

    Bring the water to a boil.

    Lower the temperature to medium and continue to boil.

    Set the timer for two hours.

    You’ll want to check the pan every 30 minutes to make sure the cans are still covered in water. If not, top it off with more water. You can rotate the cans (using tongs) if you’re concerned about it cooking unevenly.

    At the two hour mark use tongs to remove the cans from the water.

    Allow to cool at room temperature until the can is completely cooled.

    Gently open the can.

    Spoon the caramel into a serving bowl.

    Cover leftovers with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. I store mine in the refrigerator. It stays good for several week.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 143Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 57mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 0gSugar: 24gProtein: 4g

The nutrition information is a product of online calculators. I try to provide true and accurate information, but these numbers are estimates.

Janetta

Tuesday 23rd of April 2024

Thank you. I didn't know this. I'll give it a try!

Anne

Wednesday 10th of April 2024

Pie! I cannot believe my eyes but I dont see a recipe for caramel pie! Is there a reason you didnt include it? I just pour the whole can of cooked, cooled sweetened condensed milk into a baked pie shell! It can be a little thinner consistency for a cream pie, but who cares? After the first bite you dont care how thick it is!!

booksbyjanice

Wednesday 10th of April 2024

Good to know! Thank you so much for the idea!

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