Skip to Content

Does Dulce de Leche Need To Be Refrigerated?

Dulce de Leche is an amazing treat that millions of people enjoy daily. However, it can be confusing on how it needs to be stored. Hopefully, I can help clear up the matter.

An unopened and tightly sealed dulce de Leche can doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It can be stored at standard ambient temperature for up to three months. Leftovers stored in airtight containers can last for two weeks in a refrigerator and longer in a freezer.

I use silicone covers, like these found on Amazon, to cover my cans of dulce de leche after opening them. They do a great job of maintaining and extending freshness.

These work great on dulce de leche and even soda cans.

The rest of the article will cover the right way to store dulce de Leche, how to freeze and defrost it correctly, and how to identify if it has gone bad. 

How Long Can Dulce de Leche Stay Out of the Fridge?

Opened cans of dulce de Leche cannot stay out of the fridge. Once the can is opened, the dulce de leche doesn’t take long to start going bad due to exposure to air and a different temperature. 

Canned dulce de Leche has a shelf life of three months and doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge. The cans are sealed tightly to prevent the product from going bad. Be sure to check the expiry date on your dulce de Leche can to know its precise shelf life. 

Homemade dulce de Leche lasts two weeks in airtight containers in the refrigerator. You can also keep it in a sealed mason jar. Frozen dulce de Leche can last for several months.

Dulce De Leche Being Dipped Out of a Can With a Wooden Spoon

Does Dulce de Leche Harden in the Fridge?

Dulce de Leche does harden in the fridge. Typically, the consistency of dulce de Leche changes from smooth to hard as temperatures decrease. The lower the temperature, the harder it will get.

The original consistency of dulce de Leche at normal temperature is similar to that of caramel sauce. It is not too thick or too watery. The consistency is smooth, and you can pour and spread it. If you store it in the fridge, it will harden. 

To bring back the original consistency, bring it to room temperature by removing it from the fridge. You can then microwave it for thirty seconds so it is smooth. You can also use a stovetop to warm it until it reaches the consistency you want.

Related What to Do if Tamales Are Soggy (And How to Avoid It).

Can You Freeze Dulce de Leche?

You can freeze dulce de Leche. Frozen dulce de leche can last between three months to about half a year without going bad. The period your dulce de leche lasts in the freezer will depend on how tightly you seal its container.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you can safely freeze dulce de Leche:

  1. Cool the dulce de leche if it’s homemade. If you’re freezing a can that you’ve already opened, cooling isn’t necessary as long as it hasn’t been exposed to temperatures higher than normal.
  2. Divide the dulce de leche into small portions and pour each portion into freezer-safe containers. This is purely a convenience measure. With the smaller portions, you avoid defrosting more dulce de leche than you need in the future, which would mean having to go through the freezing process all over again to store the leftovers.
  3. Seal the containers tightly. You want to make these as airtight as possible. You can even take it a notch higher by sealing the containers in freezer bags such that even if the container lids aren’t 100% airtight, your dulce de leche gets extra protection against air from the bags.
  4. Label the bags or containers (depending on whether you use bags) and place them in the freezer. Labeling helps with two things. First, it ensures you don’t end up forgetting the contents of the container, which is possible if dulce de leche isn’t the only tasty treat in your freezer. Second, it makes it easier to know how long each batch of frozen dulce de leche has been in the freezer.

When you need to use your frozen dulce de leche, the first thing you’ll need to do is defrost it. This is a pretty straightforward process: take the container out of the freezer and let it thaw on an appropriate surface at room temperature.

If you want to avoid the hassle of freezing and defrosting dulce de Leche, you can repurpose the leftovers. Here are some ideas on how to do that:

  • Drizzle it on top of ice cream or milkshake. 
  • Use it as a spread on top of cookies.
  • Add a dab of it into brownies or spread it on top of the brownies. 
  • Use it as a spread on toast. 
  • Drizzle it on top of fruits. 
  • Drizzle some in your coffee. 
  • Use it as a dip with apple slices. 
  • Use it as a crepe filling.

Is Dulce de Leche Shelf Stable?

Dulce de leche is fairly shelf-stable. As long as the cans remain unopened, dulce de leche can be safely stored for several months without freezing or refrigeration.

The amount of time your dulce de leche maintains its “shelf stable” status will depend on its expiration date. This doesn’t apply to just dulce de leche; it’s the general rule for all shelf-stable canned foods.

How To Know if Dulce de Leche Is Bad?

Spoiled dulce de leche tastes sour, mainly due to the milk in it. Depending on how long it has been stored incorrectly, dulce de leche that has gone bad can also cause food poisoning.

The main ingredients in dulce de Leche are condensed milk and sugar. Dairy products are bound to go bad. Consuming rotten milk products can cause food poisoning and digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, so be sure to check the condition of your dulce de Leche before consuming. 

Here are three ways to identify if a condensed milk product has gone bad: 

  • Examine the texture. If there’s discoloration and mold growth, it’s time to discard your dulce le Leche. Improperly storing dulce de Leche can cause mold growth. This is why it is essential to store it in an airtight container, so no air gets in. 
  • Do a taste test. Dulce le Leche has a sweet caramel-like taste. If it tastes sour or unpleasant, it has most definitely gone bad. 
  • Smell it. Dulce le Leche has a pleasant and warm smell. If your dulce de Leche doesn’t smell pleasant, throw it out.

If you have unopened dulce de Leche and the can is swollen or bulging, it is an indication that the contents inside it have gone bad. When condensed milk is improperly canned or past its expiry date and goes bad, the milk releases gases, causing the can to bulge. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends throwing away store-bought canned food and home-canned food that is leaking, bulging, or swollen as it can lead to botulism, a serious illness that impacts the body’s nerves. 

Why Is My Dulce de Leche Lumpy?

Slightly lumpy dulce de leche on a pink spoon

Dulce de Leche gets lumpy when the proportion of sugar and milk isn’t right. Too much sugar can cause the dulce de Leche to become chunky and thick.  Making your dulce le Leche in the oven can also make it lumpy, although this isn’t always the case.

Here are some ways to fix lumpy dulce de Leche: 

  • Use a food processor. Pour your dulce le Leche into a food processor and keep pulsing it until smooth. You can also use a blender for this. Ensure that your dulce de Leche is at normal temperature before putting it in the food processor. 
  • Whisk it. Sometimes, simply whisking dulce le Leche can cause the lumps to go away. Try whisking it for about fifteen seconds. 
  • Add more milk. Too much sugar can cause dulce le Leche to become lumpy. To balance it out, slowly pour in milk while stirring it on low or medium heat until it reaches a smooth consistency. Alternatively, microwave the milk to make it warm and then pour the warm milk into your dulce le Leche while stirring until the lumps go away. Be careful not to pour too much milk as it can make the consistency runny. 

The Takeaway

Dulce le Leche needs to be refrigerated only if you have opened the original sealed can it came in. Otherwise, canned dulce le Leche is good to go for three months. Leftovers from the dulce le Leche can can be stored in the refrigerator in airtight containers for two weeks.

For more, don’t miss What Dessert Goes With Lasagna? | 13 Yummy Options.