14 Instant Pot Dulce de Leche -Pressure Cooker Caramel

Dulce de Leche.

Can you pronounce it?  I can't.

All I can tell you is this.

It is sweet, brown, deliciousness. Many folks call it a caramel.

Literally translated, it means "candy milk."

I'll take that!

It is traditionally prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk, changing its flavor and color, resulting in a thick, sweet caramelly sauce. It can be made in the oven, stove or microwave. 

What do you use this stuff for?  Well, just about anything. Over ice cream, on a cake, in a crepe, sandwiched between cookies, dip pretzel sticks, apple slices or just dipping a plain 'ole spoon will do.

I have heard that this glorious stuff can be made in a pressure cooker.

Wait a minute.  Put a sealed can in a pressure cooker?  Won't it explode?

Is is Safe to use the unopened can in the pressure cooker?

Sweetened condensed milk labels now have the warning: "Do not heat in the can."
I searched high and low to find the reason, and this is the only conclusion I can come up with:  Sweetened condensed milk has been heated in a can for years. However, some anxious folks out there have tried to move or open a HOT can, and guess what? Hot caramel lava went everywhere.

The takeaway for me is to leave the cans alone and don't move or open them until they are completely cooled. 

Here's a video, with 5 cans of sweetened condensed milk, cooked for 15 minutes and a full natural release. All the cans are intact! Now, it's time to let them cool.

But wait.... is it safe to EAT the dulce de leche cooked in the can?

Some people have mentioned that BPA (bisphenol A) that is used to line the cans can leach into the caramel under high heat. Did you know that as of 2018, at least 90% of cans no longer contain BPA

1.  Remove the paper from the can. Remove ALL the glue from the can. Use a cotton ball soaked with rubbing alcohol to remove the glue.

Inspect the can for nicks, dents, or bulges. 

If there is any glue left on the can from the label, it will melt, stick onto the liner of your pot, and be really, really hard to remove.

2.  Put the trivet in your pressure cooker.

3. Place can (or cans) on its side and fill pot with water. 

 Make sure you do NOT exceed the MAX fill line. 

4. Close and lock your pressure cooker. Select HIGH for 15-20 min. (The longer you cook the milk, the darker it will be). My cooker came to pressure at 33 minutes, then cooked for 15 minutes.

5. Turn pressure cooker OFF, allow to naturally release the steam on its own.

6. When the pressure valve drops, you can open the lid, but DO NOT REMOVE THE CAN.

7. Let pressure cooker sit, undisturbed, for a couple of hours or over night.  You want the cans to be cool enough to handle, so let it sit.   For curious kids and hubby, I made a sign:

8. Next day, remove the can, dry it off and write on the can, "Dulce de Leche." Store unopened can on the shelf. 

Open, indulge, and if there is any left over, transfer to an air tight container and put in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

If opened and you need it to last longer, put in a freezer safe container and freeze for up to 3 months.

If the dulce de leche is too stiff, you can warm it in a pan/double boiler with a little bit of milk...

Mmmmmmm..... don't think this can will last long.... 

Thanks to all those who went before me and made this possible:

print recipe

Dulce de Leche - Pressure Cook
Caramelized sweet milk is now even easier, using your pressure cooker. What used to take 3-4 hours on the stove and even longer in your slow cooker, now takes 20 minutes under pressure. If you want a lighter color, cook it for less time. This sweet spread can be enjoyed over ice cream, cake, in a crepe, sandwiched between cookies....
  • 1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • Water
  • Trivet or steamer basket
1. Remove the label from the can.2. Remove ALL the glue from the can; otherwise the residual glue can make a mess in your pot that is difficult to remove. If you can't remove all the glue, wrap the outside of the can in aluminum foil.3. Put the trivet or steamer basket in the pressure cooker.4. Place the can(s) on the trivet/steamer basket.5. Fill the pressure cooker with water, to the MAX line or at least 1" above the can. It is important that the water completely covers the can.6. Close the lid, close the pressure valve, and set if for HIGH pressure.7. Set the time for 15-20 minutes. The longer cook time produces a darker color. 8. At the end of the cook time, turn the pressure cooker OFF and allow a full natural release. 9. When the float valve drops, you can remove the lid, but DO NOT REMOVE THE HOT CAN. 10. Allow the the water to cool completely for a few hours (I let it cool over night). Remove cooled can from pressure cooker, label and store on the shelf.Open, use, or transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge for 3 weeks or freezer for up to 3 months.If the dulce de leche is too stiff, warm it over a double boiler on the stove with a little milk to desired consistency.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 14 ounces


  1. Hi there! Don't know if there is anyone who can respond to this question - but when you unfreeze the dulce de leche did you ever have a problem with it being too runny? Do you have any suggestions?

    1. I have not tried freezing dulce de leche. It is possible that ice crystals may be forming during freezing and contributing to the thinner texture while defrosting.

  2. I just got an eight quart Instant Pot, and am trying to figure out what I can do with that monster. So far I have only used the air fryer for toast. BTW, it works fine.

    I wanted to see if I could make Dulce de Leche in the Instant Pot and read your well written step by step instructions. Thank you it is very clear.

    I just made some Dulce de Leche the other day. I bought a plastic-wrapped six-pack from Costco. I left the cans in the wrap, put it into a large plastic bag and put the whole thing into a Cambro container. I did not use the Instant Pot. I used my Anova Sous Vide. 185°F for twelve hours. When it was done, all six cans were still in the plastic wrap, the contents were, well, Dulce de Leche good. Right now I am testing if it is also shelf stable. I can't imagine it isn't as I never unsealed any of the cans, and they were shelf stable before I started the test.

    I hope no one was offended because I offered an alternative method to make the heavenly deliciousness. I was just looking for a faster way to get to the same result. The Instant Pot certainly is much faster, but the prep time plus the cool down makes it less attractive for me.

    1. Thank you for sharing your sous vide method with me! There are many folks who still believe that the sealed cans will explode under pressure, so providing an alternative shelf stable method is a great idea.
      I opened a sealed can of my dulce de leche that was three years old. It retained its color, but there were crystallized bits throughout. 🙂

  3. I have made Dulce de Leche by boiling sealed cans for many years. I did watch one explode when I was younger when my aunt left the pot unattended and the water level dropped below the top of the can. Needless to say, Dulce de Leche was everywhere!!! It is safe to boil as long as the water level is about an inch or two above the top of the can(s) for the duration of the boiling (about two hours). Once the time is up, let the water cool down a bit and carefully remove the cans and let sit overnight to cool before opening.

    1. Thank you for sharing - this can happen with the stove top or crock pot method when the water levels drop or completely evaporate.
      Fortunately, with the directions in my recipe, there is very little water evaporation (maybe 1/4 cup) and the levels never drop. I have loved using my pressure cooker to make dulce de leche for several years. :-)

  4. The cook time of 20 minutes seems really short compared to other recipes, which call for 40 minutes or more. Is there any value in continuing to cook beyond 20 minutes?

    1. It seems short because of it takes time for the cooker to come to pressure (more water means more time)and the recipe not only uses a full natural release, you are to wait about 2 hours until the cans are cool enough to handle.
      The dulce de leche is cooking while coming to pressure, natural releasing and cooling. The longer you cook this, the darker it will be and may taste bitter. The cook times in this recipe are perfect for the amount of water it calls for. 🙂

  5. made this dulce de leche tonight per this excellent recipe and it is perfection! so don't guess, follow frieda and go forth with confidence!

    1. Thank you for taking the time and share your experience with my recipe. Enjoy your holidays & dulce de leche!🙂

  6. Just made my first dulce de leche and it turned out perfect!!! Thank you! I would like to add vanilla, but do not know how much to add. Would love your thoughts. BTW, I absolutely LOVE this site! Thank you!

    1. I'm thrilled that you followed my recipe and had great results! Adding vanilla extract is totally optional. After stirring your can of dulce de leche, I would try 1/2 teaspoon. If you want a more stronger vanilla taste, feel free to add more to taste.
      Thank you for visiting and come back often for new recipes! :-)

  7. All I can find are the pop-top cans of sweetened condensed milk. Are these safe to use? Is that what everyone else is using? Just wanted to be sure!

    1. Yes, you can use the pull tab, pop top cans with no problems. 🙂


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