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
2cups 10minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
2cups 10minutes
Cook Time
  • 28oz. condensed milk(2 cans)
  • 24oz. evaporated milk(2 cans)
  • 1tsp. baking soda
  • 1tsp. vanilla extract
  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.