Dulce de leche has a long and storied history dating back as far as 1829. It has even been the cause of international tensions, with Argentina and Uruguay fighting over the right to call it their own. The Dulce de leche origin story varies, depending on who is telling it, but the end result of the Dulce de leche, known as “sweet milk,” is the same everywhere. Read ahead for the interesting origin story of the sweet dish as well as a simplified recipe that'll help you get it right every time.
The first historical reference to dulce de leche is from 1829, at a peace meeting between Juan Manuel de Rosa and his opponent Juan Lavalle. The origin story always goes that a cook was making a drink from milk and sugar and somehow forgot to watch it close enough. By the time they came back to it, the mixture had cooked down into the thick, caramel-like concoction we now know as dulce de leche. Of all the countries that claim ownership of dulce de leche,
Argentina is generally thought to be its home. Argentina’s dulce de leche history claims that an Argentine maid was cooking Lechada, a drink made from milk and sugar, for the political leader Juan Manuel de Rosa when she was called away. When she returned, she found that her inattention had accidentally created what has become a staple of the Argentine diet.
Dulce de leche recipes vary slightly from one country to another. It’s always based on milk and sugar, but different regions have their own take.
Puerto Rico makes it with unsweetened coconut milk.
The Dominican Republic uses milk, sugar, and vanilla, but they cook it until it’s almost as thick as fudge.
Uruguay only uses milk and sugar, no vanilla.
In Argentina, dulce de leche is made from four ingredients; milk, sugar, vanilla bean, and baking soda.
The ingredients and their measurements are provided below:
The classic Argentina Recipe steps go as follows:
The Dulce de leche requires simple steps but it can be time-consuming. The popular Argentine foods must be continuously stirred, or you’ll end up burning it, which is ironic, given how it was discovered in the first place.