Manjar Blanco / Dulce de Leche

This rich, caramelly confection is known by many names: dulce de leche in much of South and Central America; cajeta in Mexico and Nicaragua; arequipe in Columbia; manjar in Chile, Ecuador and Panama; and manjar blanco in Peru. It possibly began as a Spanish/Moor-inspired recipe of cooked milk or almond milk, sugar, rice, and sometimes chicken or fish.

In French cuisine, its counterpart is blancmange, a milk gelatin dessert similar to pannacotta. But it evolved into a gelatinized, almond-based sweet in Spanish cuisine; and then was altered again by each Latin American cuisine it entered. Most Latin American versions have a similar theme: slow-cooked sweetened milk, reduced down to a thick caramel pudding consistency.

This is my favorite manjar blanco recipe – it’s simple and straightforward, and I’ve found it to be consistent. The key is low, steady heat and frequent stirring. Use it as a spread, a filling, or – if you don’t reduce it quite as much – a dessert sauce. Its primary use in Peruvian cuisine is as a filling for alfajores.

 

Manjar Blanco / Dulce de Leche
Servings Prep Time
about 2 cups 10 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour
Servings Prep Time
about 2 cups 10 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour
Manjar Blanco / Dulce de Leche
Servings Prep Time
about 2 cups 10 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour
Servings Prep Time
about 2 cups 10 minutes
Cook Time
1 hour
Ingredients
  • 28 oz. condensed milk (2 cans)
  • 24 oz. evaporated milk (2 cans)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Servings: cups
Instructions
  1. Combine milks and soda in a high, heavy copper-bottomed saucepot two to three larger than the amount of liquid.
  2. Bring to low boil over medium heat, whisking constantly (soda will foam over!).
  3. Reduce to very low heat; whisk until foaming ceases and volume falls.
  4. Continue to cook, stirring very frequently; watch for scorching. Reduce by at least one-third to one-half volume. Cook to a medium caramel color (about 45 minutes to 1 hour). Be careful when it begins to color, because it will turn very dark very quickly.
  5. Manjar blanco is ready when the mixture stays separated for a few seconds when a wooden spoon is dragged across bottom of the pan.Alternately, you can take a small spoonful out and allow it to cool, in order to determine if it has reached the desired thickness.
  6. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Cool completely in pot, stirring occasionally.
  7. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or use immediately.
Recipe Notes

Despite the baking soda, manjar blanco can re-crystallize easily; do not refrigerate or reheat.

Chocolate: stir in 1 oz. butter and ¼ cup sifted cocoa (or 1-2 ounces chopped dark chocolate) when removing from heat.

If making sauce: don't reduce quite as much; and add 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup with the vanilla.

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Copyright © 2011 la vida comida.
Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.

 

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  5 comments for “Manjar Blanco / Dulce de Leche

  1. Juan
    April 1, 2013 at 12:01 AM

    The origin of this great desert is not obscure. It was brought to Peru by the immigrants from Catalunya, Spain. They used to prepare a entree “Menjar Blanc” (white meal) made of milk of almonds. Once in Peru, this entree was customized to the region’s species and diverted in two: manjar blanco (Peruvian desert), and Aji de Gallina (Peruvian entree). Both still present in modern Peru, and the desert spread to other South America countries slightly changing its name.

    • March 16, 2015 at 8:15 PM

      Thank you Juan for your input. I am sorry I didn’t reply – your comment fell through the cracks! I have done a lot of research in the last few years, and you are correct about the believed evolution of probably Moor-inspired manjar blanco, except that variants of manjar blanco did exist as both sweet and savory recipes in Spain, as well as Europe, prior to its arrival in the Americas (also consider manjar blanco / blancmange / pannacotta similarities). It is always difficult to cite recipe origins with certainty – though it’s always fascinating to research and learn about! Thank you very much for your insight.

  2. April 16, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    I absolutely love these cookies and I would like to make them, but what do you mean by step 5?

    • April 16, 2014 at 6:27 PM

      Hi Trish – step 5: once the dough is formed, roll or pat the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and chill it until it’s firm. The dough is so soft that it needs to be cold when it’s rolled out. Hope that helps. Thank you for reading – hope you enjoy the cookies!

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