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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!

Karla Kahler

Tuesday 6th of September 2022

Can i use 3 larger canning jars instead of 5 smaller jelly jars?

Tara Kuczykowski

Wednesday 7th of September 2022

Hi Karla! I've never tried it, but I don't think it would work unless you have a very large crockpot. The water needs to completely cover the lid, and my crockpot is definitely not deep enough to do so.

Mary

Friday 17th of June 2022

Tara, if I put this in a slow cooker for 8 hours would it be fine for it to stay in the pot for a couple of hours while it is cooling?

Tara Kuczykowski

Monday 20th of June 2022

Hi Mary! Yes, leaving the jars in the pot to cool is fine.

Rita Blatt

Sunday 22nd of May 2022

I’ve not tried this yet. But I had my water heating and put 2 cans of condensed milk in and covered it. Then I searched google and come across this other recipe for caramel in a crockpot, but with a water bath. So, I turned off my crockpot and decided to wait, considering the comments about doing it with the unopened cans. This water bath recipe seems easy enough. Tell me what you think of this one. https://www.babysavers.com/crockpot-caramel-recipe/

Tara Kuczykowski

Monday 23rd of May 2022

Hi Rita! Yes, I'd be very cautious of heating the condensed milk in unopened cans. The recipe you linked sounds good! I think the caramel/dulce de leche is delicious without all the additions, but I wouldn't mind trying this sometime. I'd probably still use the canning jar method instead of a loaf pan, though. Just because I'd be worried about condensation from the crockpot lid running into the mixture while it's cooking.

Vicky

Tuesday 12th of October 2021

is there a way to make this shelf stable?

Jimmie-Fay

Tuesday 12th of October 2021

Is there an alternative stove-top way to do this recipe without slow cooker? Thank you. JF Beal

Tara Kuczykowski

Tuesday 12th of October 2021

Yes, you could follow the same instructions for preparing the jars, and then place them in a stockpot or Dutch oven lined with a small dishcloth. Fill with water to 1" above the jars. Simmer on low for 2.5-3 hours, making sure to check the water level every 20 minutes or so, adding more as necessary.

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