Making Dulce de Leche: Dulce de Leche Made in a Pressure Cooker

Dulce de Leche Made in a Pressure Cooker

Remember what I told you about dulce de leche in my post on 10-Minute Dulce de Leche Cheat Sauce? That dulce de leche is typically one of those things that just need time to cook, otherwise you will end up with an entirely different end product?

Well, this is the fastest way to make proper dulce de leche. Thick, pudding-like dulce de leche that has a complex but oh-so-delicious flavor and a gorgeously golden color. That kind of dulce de leche! My kind of dulce de leche! The stuff I enjoy eating straight out of the can!

This is dulce de leche made in a pressure cooker!

Oh, and when I say ‘this is the fastest way to make this’ I don’t mean that making dulce de leche this way won’t take a lot of time. I know, very confusing, but like I said: making dulce de leche fast is impossible!

É impossível. Entendido?

Dulce de Leche Made in a Pressure Cooker

That was just a little Google Translate Portuguese for ‘It’s impossible. Understood?’, for those of you who were wondering what I was blabbing about…

Anyway, this dulce de leche is delicious. Like the dulce de leche made in the can, in the oven or in a double boiler, it is cooked in a water bath. This means that the Maillard reaction takes control over the depth of flavor and the amazing creamy texture of this dulce de leche.

Remember about the Maillard reaction? It is what makes dulce de leche dreamy. In fact, it’s what makes dulce de leche possible!

Just to recap: caramelization refers to the caramelizing of sugars in the absence of protein. When you’re making caramel, you’re caramelizing. In most cases, caramelization requires a temperature of 160°C/320°F. The Maillard reaction refers to the caramelization/browning of sugars in the presence of protein, such as milk. When you’re toasting bread, you’re Maillard-ing. When you’re baking cookies, you’re Maillard-ingAnd when you’re making dulce de leche – you guessed it – you’re also Maillard-ing. The Maillard reaction requires a lot less heat than actual caramelization, and when it comes to dulce de leche, this is where the brown color and deepened flavor come from.

For more info, check out my post on the 10-Minute Dulce de Leche Cheat Sauce

Dulce de Leche Made in a Pressure Cooker

Anyway, the reason why cooking dulce de leche takes such a long time, is because of the Maillard reaction, which is considerably slower than actual caramelization.

Cooking dulce de leche in the can takes 4 hours, cooking it in a double boiler about the same and cooking it in the oven, well, also takes about that much time. Of course, how long the dulce de leche needs to be cooked depends on how dark you want your dulce de leche to be. I’ve seen people raving about ridiculously pale – as in: sweetened-condensed-milk-kind-of-pale – dulce de leche on youtube, but I like mine dark. Very dark! And this takes time.

But you can speed things up in a pressure cooker!

About a week ago, I received a few comments from different readers who had read early posts of my ‘Making Dulce de Leche’ series and who advised me to use a pressure cooker to make it. They told me that cooking dulce de leche in a pressure cooker may take only 20 minutes of cooking time, depending on how dark you want your dulce de leche to be.

I was intrigued!

The only problem was, I didn’t have a pressure cooker. Nor did anyone I know have one. Luckily, there are these great online ‘Borrow from Your Neighbor’ sites these days that enable you to borrow stuff from neighbors you didn’t even know you had! Within 15 minutes, the site I registered with linked me to a friendly neighbor who was kind enough to entrust me with her pressure cooker. I could pick it up straight away!

Talking about fast!

Dulce de Leche Made in a Pressure Cooker

It smelled a little of beets (she had warned me about that!) but it did  a great job! The dulce de leche was perfectly puddingy, gorgeously golden and ridiculously delicious and it only took 40 minutes to cook! Sounds fast, right? Well, that’s because it is! If I had cooked the can in a normal pan, it would have taken me 6 times longer!

However, it is important that you start with cold water and allow the water – and the can – to slowly come to temperature. This takes time, but when I tried plunging the can in boiling water to speeds things up, the sweetened, condensed milk in the center of the can hadn’t colored at all. It’s also important to allow the can to cool to room temperature, as it continues to cook/brown as it cools. Again, this takes time, but no matter how you want to make dulce de leche, there’s no way to speed up the cooling process without negatively affecting the taste/texture/color of the dulce de leche!

So is this method faster?

Absolutely! And very economical too!

Does it take a lot of time to make dulce de leche this way?

Well, yes. That too…

Anyway, when I returned the pressure cooker to my neighbor the following day, I made sure I thanked her with a can of dulce de leche, still a little warm from the cooker…


4.8 from 6 reviews
Dulce de Leche Made in a Pressure Cooker
This is one of the fastest ways of making dulce de leche. Only 40 minutes of cooking time for beautiful dark dulce de leche. It does take some time for the pressure cooker to build up pressure and for the can to cool afterwards, though...
  • 1 can of sweetened, condensed milk
  1. Place the can of sweetened, condensed milk directly onto the bottom of the pressure cooker and add cold water, enough for the water level to come about 2½-cm (or 1-inch) over the top of the can (not exceeding the 'maximum capacity level' of the pressure cooker). Make sure the can is on its side, otherwise it will start bouncing up and down once the water comes to a boil.
  2. Lock on the lid and heat over high heat until the cooker starts to whistle to let you know it has reached pressure. Lower the heat, making sure the heat is still high enough for the pressure cooker to maintain the pressure.
  3. Cook for 40 minutes at high pressure (according to the manufacturer of my pressure cooker, the water in my pressure cooker reaches temperatures of 118°C/244°F under pressure).
  4. After 40 minutes, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and open the valve to allow the steam to escape and the pressure to come down. I placed the pressure cooker on the balcony for this because I like my kitchen wallpaper to stay on the walls...
  5. Once the pressure cooker unlocks, carefully pluck the hot can out of the (also very hot) water with some handy kitchen utensil, such as a fork or a slotted spoon. Place the can on a heatproof surface and allow to cool to room temperature before opening (or leave the can in the cooker and allow the water in the pressure cooker and the hot can to cool down together).
  6. Dulce de leche can be kept in the fridge for about 3 weeks, stored in an airtight container. Don't keep the dulce de leche in the can (once opened), as this can negatively affect the color of the dulce de leche. I've heard that you can keep closed cans of dulce de leche for years and years, but I haven't tried this and - honestly - I wouldn't be able to keep my hands off the stuff for that long!
  7. Dulce de leche can be softened in the bowl of a double boiler if its too stiff.



  1. Tali says

    From your recipe, it’s obvious that you used a stove top pressure cooker. Do you know which settings you would use for an electric one? Can you make more than one can at a time? Did the pressure escaping your pressure cooker scare you like mine does? It’s hissing like an angry snake.

    • says

      Hi Tali, nice to meet you! Yes, my pressure cooker scared me a lot the first time I released the pressure! Like yours, it sounded indeed like an angry snake. I actually put it on the balcony to ‘blow off some steam’ :)

      Anyway, to answer your questions: you can definitely make more than 1 can at the time. I’ve successfully made 3 cans of dulce de leche at once. The only thing I try to avoid (although I don’t know if this is really an issue) is overcrowding the pan by placing the cans on top of each other. My pressure cooker is big enough to loosely fit 3 cans (on the bottom of the pan). Yours may fit more, or less, but you can definitely make several cans of dulce de leche at once.

      I don’t know much about electric pressure cookers, but one of my readers once told me that she likes to make dulce de leche by placing a can of sweetened, condensed milk inside a pressure cooker and cooking it at 15 lbs for 12-17 minutes. I’m not sure this is the kind of information you’re looking for (again: I don’t know anything about electric pressure cookers) but I hope it helps!

      Let me know how it turns out!

  2. Amanda says

    Thank you for all your detailed posts on how to make dulce de leche and how NOT to, also. :) I made some in my pressure cooker for the first time ever last night and left it overnight to cool. I was so scared of the rattling and the steam escaping from the cooker. But I kept calm and went to bed. First thing this morning, I opened the can to find beautifully smooth and silky dulce de leche. It was like some magic pudding! I couldn’t stop eating it right out of the can. I’m never using another method ever again! This was perfection.

    • says

      Hi Amanda, nice to meet you! I’m so glad you liked the method! Dulce de leche is the best, isn’t it? And it’s totally irresistible straight out of the can 😉

  3. momina says

    Hi dear. …I want to know how to store it on the fridge? In a glass bowl or bottle? Or on plastic airtight container ??

    • says

      Hi Momina, nice to meet you :) I usually store dulce de leche in a bowl in the fridge, tightly covered with plastic wrap. But I bet you could also store it in a plastic airtight container!

  4. JV says

    just tried it now..and im cooling the cans right now..thanks for the info btw..i was looking for an easy way to this than boiling for 3-4 hours which is the traditional way making this because this is the perfect match for local dessert we have here called kutsinta (brown rice cakes) thanks again

    • says

      Glad you liked the method JV! I’d never heard of kutsinta, but it looks interesting! Let me know if it paired well 😉

  5. Kaylie says

    I’ve never. Been on your site before, and I’m in another country and I was wondering if you could tell me the total time? Is it 40 minutes or 80 minutes? You don’t specify and I’m confused…

    • says

      Hi Kaylie! Nice to meet you 😉 Where are you from?
      When you’re making dulce de leche in a pressure cooker, the first thing you need to do is allow the pressure cooker to come up to pressure (with the can inside). This takes time, about 20 minutes depending on the size of your cooker. Once the pressure has build up, cook the can for 40 minutes. Not 80 minutes! Just 40 minutes. Once the 40 minutes are up, take the pressure cooker off the heat and open the valve to release the steam and to bring the pressure down again. Finally, allow the hot can to cool to room temperature before opening. That’s it! Hope this helps :)

  6. says

    Just as it is important for the can to heat-up slowly for even cooking it should also cool down slowly. I recommend NOT taking the can out of the pressure cooker and, instead, letting the whole pressure cooker (with can and water inside) cool overnight.

    This ensures no one is handling a hot can – which has no safety features like a pressure cooker. A can does not have a pressure signal and will not prevent the cook from opening it while the contents are still under pressure.

    You can find my whole recipe, along with additional safety tips here:

    I strongly recommend updating your pressure cooker dulce de leche instructions with these important safety precautions.


    Laura Pazzaglia
    Pressure Cooker Expert and founder of Hip Pressure Cooking

    • says

      Hi Laura, thanks for sharing! Personally, I think I still prefer to cool cans of cooked dulce de leche on the counter. I think it slows down the cooking process faster. Furthermore, in my recipes I make it very clear to first allow the can to cool completely before opening it. Once cool, there’s no danger of hot dulce de leche oozing out of the pressurized can, because the can is no longer under pressure. You can easily tell if a can is pressurized without the necessity of a pressure signal: if it’s hot, it’s pressurized. Sure, handling a hot can can be tricky, but if you wear oven mitts it shouldn’t be a problem.
      However, I guess you could allow the can to cool in the water if you want to be extra careful, so thanks :)

  7. DG says

    Hi .. your post has been do great help in understanding the science behind it .. have made dulce de leche also always by the pressure cooker method .. but the query I have now is related to the number of cans we can pressure cook at a time .. I know I’m being greedy but is it ok to sink in 2 to 3 cans together at a time … ? Hoping uve tried it before

  8. Michael Shorr says

    Unbelievably easy to do. I bought one of those metal vegetable steamers (looks like a UFO that unfolds). I was a little nervous to put the can in direct contact with the bottom of the cooker. Not sure my fears were grounded in fact though. I used my electric pressure cooker. I just used the default setting and cooked for 40 minutes. Could not be easier and it’s so good. Quite inexpensive as well!!


  9. Elizabeth says

    I loved the recipe! I did the boiling one and it worked amazing! I’m originally from Ecuador where we eat dulce de Leche by the buckets and I have not been able to find it abroad… and it tastes the same! I’m a happy woman :) thank you! I also noticed you used a Dutch can of condensed milk, do you live in the Netherlands by the way?

  10. Charlie says

    I made this in my Power XL pressure cooker. Chicken/Meat setting until it says 40 mins. It came out awesome!

  11. Cgirl says

    I did it, but the pressure cooker got stained (like a dark stain). I don’t know if it was because of the can or the water (I used tap water)
    How can I clean those stains and avoid them in other time? This was so delicious I’ll like to try it again, but my mom is gonna kill me if I don’t clean those stains :(

  12. adkerratic (@adkerratic) says

    Just to let you know, there is a safe and easy way to release the pressure. Put the pot in the sink and trickle cool water over the top. The pressure valve will unlock in 30 seconds or so. You can the remove the lid and let the contents cool at your preferred rate.

  13. Chris says

    Hi Nila,

    Quick question, I want to make the Dulce de Leche using a 4kg bag of condensed milk (unfortunately the supplier for my bakery doesn’t deal in smaller quantities) and was wondering do you happen to know the cooking time for this? I have searched the net and the manual of my pressure cooker and there is no information on weight vs cooking time for this kind of product or a similar one?

    Thanks for the post to.



  14. Neeta says

    Dear Nila,
    Thank you so much for this, last night tried your way of making dulche de leche with not 1 but 4 cans in one go :)
    Let the cans cool off in the pressure cooker till the next morning….and voila I have this lovely brown goodness staring back at me.
    It seems a bit too dense to be piped or spread on a pipe as it is. What is the best way to get it to the right spreadable consistency.
    Many thanks

  15. Anna says

    May I know if i can lessen the 40minute cooking tIme if prefer my dulce de leche a little lighter in color? Thanks!

  16. Aiman says

    Hi, I came by way of google looking for recipes in pressure cooker. I have a question, bit stupid, but I hope you can help me out. Once I fill the required amount of water in the cooker and start cooking, during the 40 minute cooking time do I need to worry about the level of water in the cooker? Will it stay 1 inch above the can at all times? Can I cook with water all the way to maximum since I’m worried about it evaporating?

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