One Ingredient Caramel

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One Ingredient Caramel is a simple and decadent treat you can make in minutes!

This is one of our favorite caramel sauces for topping desserts, dipping apples and eating with almost everything!

Once you give this easy recipe a try, you may never purchase store bought caramel again!



Ok, ok I know… its not technically “CARAMEL”.. maybe more along the lines of a dulce de leche.. but it is dang delicious with that sweet caramely goodness!

In this recipe, sweetened condensed milk is cooked until it creates a deliciously rich caramel sauce! The best part is this recipe has ONE ingredient! Just one!  Easy huh?

I personally LOVE sweetened condensed milk in any dessert and this has to be one of my favorites!


You’re going to simply pour condensed milk into a pie pan or casserole dish.  Cover it with foil and place it in a larger pan of water and bake.  SO easy!  I put my water level about 1/2″ to 3/4″ (depending on your pan) so just check the oven every now and then to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated.

One more thing, you may get a little crust on the top once your caramel bakes (which is delicious).  You can either just serve it as it, just eat the caramel underneath or blend it with an immersion blender.

In the image below my caramel has been blended with an immersion blender while warm.  Any little crusty bits on the top just melt right into the caramel.


Please note that this recipe has been adapted from the original recipe which included cooking a can of unopened sweetened condensed milk fully submerged in a large pot (1″ above the can) and boiled for 3 hours.  There has been some question as to the safety of the original method (although, like many of you, I’ve been doing it for years and years).  I’ve decided to err on the side of caution and try another method.

I’m more than happy to report that not only was it easy, it was quicker than the original method and it tastes just as amazing.  You won’t be disappointed.

4.5 from 6 votes
Review Recipe

Sweetened Condensed Milk Caramel!

Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 1 minute
Servings 8 servings
Author Holly N.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Sweetened Condensed Milk Caramel is one of our favorite caramel sauces for topping desserts, dipping apples and eating with almost everything!


  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk (regular or low fat)

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  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a casserole dish or pie plate. Cover with foil.
  3. Place in a larger pan and fill to 3/4" with water. (Fill water as needed while baking)
  4. Bake 60-90 minutes or until condensed milk has reached a golden brown color.
  5. Cool completely.

Recipe Notes

Note: If you caramel forms a thin crust on top, you can either just use the caramel underneath or blend using an immersion blender for a minute to mix it in.
Nutritional information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 158, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 16mg, Sodium: 62mg, Potassium: 183mg, Carbohydrates: 26g, Sugar: 26g, Protein: 3g, Vitamin A: 2.6%, Vitamin C: 1.6%, Calcium: 14.1%, Iron: 0.5%

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Keyword sweetened condensed milk


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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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  1. Leave it in the can, lay can on side, submerse in cool water by 2-3 inches, simmer for 2 or even 3 hours or more (add water if needed). Cool. This eliminates all the nonsense in this recipe as published.

    1. Yes you can certainly cook it in the can if you’d like. There is a safety risk (as you can read in the post just above the recipe) so I’ve opted to include another method for those who choose not to boil the can.

  2. I am an expat living in Mongolia. Sweetened condensed milk is very popular here along with several versions mainly imported from Russia. They sell an already boiled and caramelized can of condensed milk!! It is already done for you and is great! Even has some crystalized bits. They also have a cocoa version and a coffee flavored version.

  3. Mom always cooked her sweetened condensed milk right in the can. She would cook at least 8 cans at once, submerged in water for 2-4 hours on the stove. 4 hours gives it a darker spreadable consistency that will be perfect for european water cakes. Its so good!

    She would use the number of cans she needs and leave the rest ready in her pantry for whenever she would need it again. Always ready and handy.

  4. Mine is only at 35 mins and looks burnt already. Poured milk into glass pie plate, put our plate in aluminum pan with water and then put the pan on a cookie sheet for support while putting into and taking out of the oven. I’ll let the hour finish but this looks like a huge waste of product, time and effort. Loved the idea of faster but somethings can’t be rushed I guess 

    1. How disappointing, this is an old recipe that’s been around for many years and I’ve always had great success with it. What temperature was your oven set at?

  5. Holly, loved this recipe!!!    I melted Carmels for a group to serve with apples, but the Carmels stuck to everyone’s teeth.  Lol.     Thank you, I’ve boiled it a few times & always afraid it will explode.   You can just eat in from the can.    However this is great & I feel a lot safer.

  6. Works great! I let it cook about 1h and 45m, nice color and a bit on the thick side! Faster and safer then the traditional way.

  7. Ours turned out amazing! We used a regular circular cake pan. It took only 1 hour too compared to 8 hours in the crock pot. This was perfect for drizzling and this is now my go to caramel recipe. Thanks a bunch!

  8. I was going to use this for caramel filled brownies. Will it harden into the consistency of a caramel candy or will it stay runny?

  9. Holly you are awesome. It’s so great to have the help to live lavish for less. Looking forward to to keeping up with your ideas

  10. I know this is an old recipe but I wanted to add that I make this all the time but I pour it into little 8oz ball jars, close them up and put them in a large soup pot. Fill with water well above the jars. Bring to boil, reduce heat a bit and boil for at least 3 hours, you will see the color change. Check on it frequently and add more water as it boils off. Last time I made it I cooked it for 3-1/2 and that was well received. The longer you cook the darker and thicker it will become. Remove them and let them cool before opening. I have used these for gifts before and people love them.

  11. Thank you for this. I have always wondered what would be the easiest way to make caramel sauce when you may not have all ingredients.

  12. I look forward to trying this. There is no question that the method of heating the milk in an unopened isn’t safe. We know a mother and daughter who were using that method to make caramel and the can exploded in the daughter’s face. After a trip to the burn center and a long recuperation she is much better, but please do not heat any unopened canned item.

    1. Did they allow the water level to go below the can? All recipes state that the water level must remain above the can so it is fully submerged at all times during the cooking process or you risk it exploding. I am so sorry this happened to this young lady, but I do wonder if it’s because they allowed the water to get too low.

  13. I’m going to try your method of sweetened condensed milk caramel, I too have been boiling the unopened can! I love the caramel on crepes!

  14. Just made this condensed milk caramel for the first time, followed the recipe exactly. It turned out great and was perfect sauce with some apple slices. So decided to play repeat but this time wicked in two tablespoons of brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon to the condensed milk before baking…Husband and 80yr old Dad loved it over vanilla ice cream.

  15. Thank you for the tutorial, it’s great! I don’t have oven so I can make caramel from condensed milk by “cooking a can of unopened sweetened condensed milk fully submerged in a large pot (1″ above the can) and boiled for 3 hours”. Thank you for the information.

  16. I’ve heard that you can leave the milk in the can. put the can in a pan of water that covers the can and bring to a boil, reduce to slow boil, But I don’t remember how long you boil it. Have you ever heard of doing it that way?

    1. Yes I’ve done it that way several times. I boil it for about 3 hour ensuring that the can is completely submerged at all times. You may need to top up the water.

  17. I find if the can is left in the same position when boiling it will burn or else some of it will be thicker than the rest of it. I normally turn the can, with a thongs, so it would cook more even. I find it easier to spread if it’s still warm, if it was cold I would stand it in hot water so it would come out of the can and I could spread it.

  18. Questions:
    Will cooking this sauce for 10 hours make it darker?
    How long will the unopened cooked caramel last unrefrigerated?
    Once opened, how long will the sauce stay fresh in the refrigerator?
    I’ve had this sauce before and it’s wonderful! I’m so glad I can make it myself.
    Looking forward to making as gifts for the holidays!

    1. I haven’t tried cooking it longer so I’m not sure what effect it would have.
      I’ve kept it unopened for a month or so as it’s still sealed. Once opened I would suggest using it within about a week.


  19. Sweetened Condensed Milk Caramel!
    I was raised with “Sweet Stuff”. My Grandma made this in the 1920’s. My Mom spread this on toast and used it as a sandwich filling. Instead of PB&J you can have PB&C! Or just “C”!

    I only boil it about 1 hour, no more than 1.5 hours if I had to add more water and it wasn’t hot enough and I thought I lost time. If you stand it in your pan try to turn it over about half-way through because it gets a thicker, sugary layer on the bottom where stove heat is more intense. I often lay it on it’s side and move it occasionally. Since you need to keep an eye on the water level it is easy to turn it then too. It takes a long time to cool, so plan ahead.

    Scrape it into a ZipLock or similar covered container and keep it in the refrigerator. It will last several weeks but we usually use it up way before that! LOL

    You’ll want to pull it out of the refrigerator at the beginning of your breakfast or lunch prep to just take a bit of the chill off so it doesn’t tear the bread. Probably good as a dip too – warmed up or cold.

    For other who have asked – this is not a hardened caramel. It is fluid and will leak out of a sandwich so don’t send it in a school lunch. I can see it as an excellent glaze, flavoring ingredient, dip. Think of it as a thick ice cream topping that is thinner than Hershey’s Fudge but thicker that Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup.

    Thanks for bringing back memories.

  20. I have caramelized sweetened condensed as far back as I can remember. I learned to caramelized this milk from my mother. I always put the cans in my fridge after they cool. I have never had sugar crystals in the caramel. I always boil the water at medium. The cans must be covered with the water the entire time it boils; 8 hours.

  21. I’m going to try this for a community fall party this Sunday! How much does one can of sweetened condensed milk serve with apples? Looking to make quite a bit. And does it stay pretty creamy if not eaten right away?? For example, if I cook it on Saturday, will it still be creamy Sunday, or does it harden like caramel does?

      1. Can this be stored in cupboard instead of fridge. That would be wonderful if so! I wanted to make as gifts and do not have a place to refrigerate.

        1. Originally this recipe featured the can being boiled unopened to make the caramel sauce. As the can was unopened, I would store it in the refrigerator.

          There were concernts about the saftey of boiling a can so the recipe was retested and updated with the new method. Using this methough, I would store this in the refrigerator.

  22. I just tried this (as in i just pulled it out of the crockpot). Its been on low since 11 am and it turned almost the consistency of flan. Did i let it go too long?

  23. Take a pound cake and cut in half horizontally
    Spread caramel over bottom half and return the top half
    Drizzle with rum
    Absolutely amazing!

    1. Absolutely! This would be amazing on cakes… it would not be thick enough to be a frosting but would be fabulous as a poke cake!

  24. A friend introduced this to me as it was her favorite dessert growing up. I’ve done it several times on the stove with success every time. I make brownies and use it as the filling and sprinkle sea salt on it before adding the last layer of brownie mix. They don’t last long.

    1. Come on Shari,
      Lighten up. People have been doing this for 50 plus years. I ate this all the time as a child. People think they are so much smarter now. And much sicker than they were back then.

        1. It has been said for many years that smoking cigarettes was not harmful, even recommended from doctors for some troubles. I think we can learn from new informations.

    1. It’s a much softer type of caramel, more like a dip so it probably wouldn’t work for caramel apples. It is delicious to dip apples into it!

      1. It actually gets really thick if you cook it longer, 3 hours or over and it is spreadable, over 4 and it is like a pudding but thicker.

    1. Hi Ericka,
      This is late, but I have it is delicious. It does work in the crock pot needs to be cook longer.
      I like this method, I also put mine in a jar.

      Hope this helps

  25. A friend served this in a stack on a small plate for each diner, starting with a slice of lettuce, a slice of canned pineapple, a section of the caramel, topped with whipped cream. (By the way, watch the incorrect use of apostrophe. It’s the possessive “its,” not “it’s.”)

    1. Calm down Richard. This isn’t a website about the proper use of the English language. Before you correct peoples us of apostrophes try learning the difference between “diner” and “dinner”.

      1. I make this all the time. Once I made extra to keep on hand, like you recommend. It actually doesn’t keep. I mean, it doesn’t go bad, but sugar crystals start to form and it has a crunchy, sugary texture to it. I was able to salvage it some by heating it in a saucepan, but it wasn’t the same.

  26. WARNING! This stuff can and will explode if you let the water boil off. Our family calls this Blow Up Pudding because our Grandmother blew up a can of this all over her kitchen. Fortunately no one was in the kitchen when it happened.

    Deliciously Dangerous stuff.

    1. It’s delicious as a caramel topping on ice cream or to dip fruit in. We’ve drizzled in on cake too! I have a recipe for Banoffee Pie (banana/caramel) which I am hoping to post today! (You will find it posted here once it’s up)

    2. If you let it go for 4 hours it becomes more stiff and you can use it for pie. Scoop it out into a graham cracker crust and top with cool whip. Yummy!

      1. I’ve been making this for years, but I’ve never cooked it for more than 90 minutes. Any longer and it will burn! I use it to make caramel tart. I make my own shortcrust base, top it with the caramel, then top with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Delicious.