What’s The Difference: Dulce De Leche Vs. Caramel

These two sauces are both sticky, sweet, and addictive.

Caramel sauce and dulce de leche are two sauces that are both sticky, sweet, and addictive. It’s the sauce that you either drizzle over cupcakes or the kind that sandwiches shortbread cookies to make into alfajores.

The difference in how each is made can make one better than the other. Here are the differences between these two sweet sauces: 

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1 Caramel sauce is made with sugar and cream. Dulce de leche is made with sweetened condensed milk. 

Either of these sauces can be used in any number of ways in desserts. Both are basically made from sugar that has been simmered until browned. However, there is one big difference in how these two sauces are made: the ingredients. To make caramel, sugar is caramelized to an amber brown-gold before all-purpose or heavy cream is added. This immediately cools down the ripping hot sugar syrup. 

This is the caramel sauce. You can add salt to make it into salted caramel. If you want a butterscotch flavor and not just caramel, you can either stir in some butter or replace the cream with butter. 


Dulce de leche is completely different from caramel. This is because it’s commonly made from a preexisting ingredient: sweetened condensed milk. Basically, this is milk simmered with sugar until thickened. To make dulce de leche, condensed milk is simmered even more until even thicker in texture and the color of the sweetened milk has darkened. This is usually done in the can in a pressure cooker or even simmered in a pot until the mixture inside has undergone changes.  

Since it is made with condensed milk, dulce de leche is creamier in taste than caramel which has a more straightforward sweetness. 

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2 Caramel sauce is pourable. Dulce de leche is spreadable. 

When made the usual way, the two sauces are texturally different as well. Caramel sauce is usually smooth, silky, and loose enough that it can be drizzled onto desserts. It can be cooked a little longer so that it can be stiffer when it cools, enough that it can be cut into squares as in the case of making caramel candies. To make candy, you normally have to simmer the sugar syrup to the hard-crack stage than the soft-crack stage of the candy-making stage before adding the cream. 


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Dulce de leche meanwhile is usually much thicker in texture than caramel sauce. It’s so thick that it is hard to pour. Instead, it’s commonly spread instead of being drizzled or poured onto desserts. 

What is your favorite kind of sauce for your desserts? Are you Team Caramel or Team Dulce de Leche?  


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