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Homemade Caramel Sauce in Your Slow Cooker (AKA Dulce de Leche)

Creamy and dreamy homemade caramel sauce made from sweetened condensed milk in your crockpot! A truly simple and easy caramel sauce recipe made with just ONE ingredient, AKA dulce de leche…

Homemade Caramel Sauce

You are simply not going to believe how simple this caramel sauce recipe is! Granted it’s not as simple as opening a bottle of store-bought caramel sauce… But I took a look at the ingredients on one of those bottles recently and found no less than 20 ingredients, including more high fructose corn syrup and sugar than milk + a myriad of dyes and preservatives. Blech!

In contrast, this homemade caramel sauce (also known as dulce de leche) requires just one ingredient — sweetened condensed milk! I was happy to see that the brand that I chose contains only milk and sugar, so that’s a far cry from any store-bought caramel sauce I’ve seen.

Homemade Caramel Sauce Recipe

Slow Cooker Caramel Sauce

But the very best part about this easy caramel sauce recipe is that it doesn’t require you to stand over the stove for long periods of time. I make it right in my slow cooker, which allows it to cook at a low temperature for a long period of time — meaning there’s virtually no chance of burning it.

Some of you may have made homemade caramel sauce in the past using a similar method where you boiled an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk on the stovetop. Please, I beg you, don’t do this again! Not only is it very difficult to tell when the caramel is finished cooking, but it’s also extremely dangerous because the cans can explode. Not to mention there are surely numerous chemicals leaching from the can into your cooked caramel…

Homemade Caramel Recipe

Easy Caramel Sauce

Instead, transfer the sweetened condensed milk into several clean jelly jars, place a lid on them, and tighten the bands down well. I filled my jars up to the 6-oz. line to allow for expansion during cooking. As these jars are made to withstand the home canning process, they’re much safer, and they allow you to visually check the caramel for doneness.

Place the jars in your slow cooker and then fill the slow cooker up with water to about one inch above the top of the lids. Place the lid on your slow cooker and cook on low for 7.5-8 hours, making sure not to let the water drop below the lid level. I didn’t need to add water at any point, but I’d still recommend checking for safety’s sake.

Easy Caramel Sauce

After the caramel sauce has cooked for about 7 hours, you’ll want to check it periodically to see if its reached your desired doneness. You should be able to do this just by looking through the slow cooker lid so that you don’t let the heat escape. When it’s done, remove the jars from the water and allow them to cool for about 20 minutes.

Note that you may hear the lids sealing themselves as the caramel cools, but they are not sufficiently processed for long term shelf storage. The refrigerator is the safest place to store them. For best consistency, you’ll want to bring the caramel to room temperature before serving. Or you can microwave it for about 30 seconds at a time, whisking between each interval, until it’s warm.

Caramel Sauce Recipe

Homemade Caramel Sauce Recipe

You may notice that the caramel seems a little chunky when you first open a jar. No worries — it’s absolutely delicious and I have NO problem scarfing it down with some of the beautiful seasonal apples available right now. But if you want a silky smooth homemade caramel sauce, simply whisk it briskly until any lumps are gone.

Caramel Recipe

Homemade Caramel Sauce

Yield: 5 (6-oz.) jars
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 (14-oz.) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 5 (8-oz.) jelly jars
  • water

Instructions

  1. Fill each jelly jar up to the 6-oz. line with the sweetened condensed milk. Three cans of sweetened condensed milk should fill about 5 jars. Place a lid on each jar and tighten the band down well.
  2. Place the jars inside the slow cooker and pour water in to about 1" above the top of the jars.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 7.5-8 hours, checking occasionally to see if more water needs to be added. Do not let the water drop below the lid level.
  4. Carefully remove the jars from the slow cooker and enjoy! The caramel may be a tad chunky and is perfectly delicious as is, but if you prefer a creamier caramel, simple whisk it until it's silky smooth.
  5. Store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature or heat until warm before serving.

Have you tried this recipe?

Leave a comment below and share a photo on Instagram. Tag it @unsophisticook and hashtag it #unsophisticook!

Caramel Recipe

Another option for using this caramel sauce up is this to-die-for caramel frosting. Spread over a fresh apple cake, it’s totally decadent and amazing!

I’d love to see how your homemade caramel sauce turns out… Tag me @Unsophisticook on Instagram or use the hashtag #Unsophisticook so I can check it out. Enjoy!

Dorothy

Saturday 11th of November 2023

How long do these jars of carmel sauce last in the refrigerator

Tara Kuczykowski

Monday 13th of November 2023

Hi Dorothy! Unopened jars should keep in the fridge for about a month. If you want to store them longer, freezing them is another option.

Bonnie Lowry

Tuesday 7th of November 2023

If my jars seal and I keep them in the refrigerator, how long will it be safe to eat?

Tara Kuczykowski

Friday 10th of November 2023

Hi Bonnie! Even though the jars may seal during the cooking process, they are not sufficiently processed for long term shelf storage. Unopened, they should keep in the fridge for about a month. Or you can press a piece of plastic wrap down on the surface, then tighten the lid back on and freeze the jars for up to a year.

Liz

Monday 6th of November 2023

This is SO good! My pints all sealed, but I’m concerned. How long is the shelf life? Like regular canned food ? Or should I freeze the jars until I’m ready to use.

Tara Kuczykowski

Friday 10th of November 2023

Hi Liz! The jars are not processed enough to be adequate for long-term storage at room temperature. Unopened jars should keep in the fridge for about a month. Or you can freeze them for up to a year. If you're freezing them, I'd recommend pressing a piece of plastic wrap down on the surface before doing so.

Ann

Sunday 5th of November 2023

When this cools, does it get chewy? I want to make turtles and didn’t know if I could use this instead of Kraft caramels.

Tara Kuczykowski

Sunday 5th of November 2023

Hi Ann! It’s pretty thick - spoonable when chilled or at room temp, drizzle-able when warmed. I wouldn’t say it’s same texture as Kraft caramels at room temp though. If they’re refrigerated and then pulled out to warm slightly before serving, I think it would be good though!

JAK

Friday 23rd of December 2022

I used to do the “boil in the can” thing. Scary!! This is so much easier and the result is even better.

For an easy dessert using this (you can make your caramel a day or two before and keep in fridge):

Take a Graham Cracker pie crust, layer with sliced bananas, top with your delicious caramel once at room temp, gently spread out over bananas, then the final layer of a container of whipped cream and you have the most delicious, no bake dessert ever! Make close to serving time for the best result. Refrigerate if needed until serving. Best to serve same day. So easy and so good! Might sprinkle the top with some chopped pecans and cherries for a little something extra!

*To keep the bananas fresh longer, brush with lemon juice prior to placing in pie crust.

Tara Kuczykowski

Friday 23rd of December 2022

Sounds amazing -- thanks for sharing!

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