Does the dulce de leche go bad?

So you’ve bought a big piece of dulce de leche at a fair or candy store. Or you have even ordered it online, since that is something normal now. And after a few days you begin to wonder: does the dulce de leche go bad?

Or maybe you’ve used a recipe you found on the internet, and you’re wondering how long dulce de leche will last. Or if you can store it on the counter, or refrigerate it right away.

And there’s also the question of whether or not you can freeze dulce de leche, and how well it freezes.

If you want to know a little more about any of these topics, this article is for you. In it, we discuss the storage, shelf life, and spoilage of dulce de leche. If you find it interesting, keep reading.

Homemade dark chocolate fudge

How to store dulce de leche

When it comes to storing dulce de leche, there are three options. They are room temperature, fridge and freezer. And each option has its pros and cons, and may be the best option based on your situation.

Store dulce de leche at room temperature

This method is best for short-term storage of dulce de leche, both homemade and store-bought.

Storing dulce de leche at room temperature means it’s in the pantry or kitchen. Choose a cool place, away from sunlight and heat sources. Either one can make the candy melt, and we don’t want that.

To prevent the dulce de leche from drying out and hardening, transfer it to an airtight container, especially if the original carton cannot be closed tightly.

You can store several layers in the same container, you just have to put a sheet of waxed paper between each one.

Dulce de leche caramel in baking paper and in a glass jar

Store the dulce de leche in the fridge

Storing dulce de leche in the fridge works great if you want to keep your homemade or store-bought dulce de leche for a few weeks. Or if you live in a hot climate and it is summer, so you are afraid that the candy will melt.

But if you’re thinking of refrigerating the dulce de leche you’ve bought, be sure to read the label first. Some confectioners specifically mention that their product should not be refrigerated. When it comes to the homemade variety, check the recipe to see if refrigeration is okay.

If your sweet is authorized for refrigeration, you have to pack it well, so that it does not pick up moisture or odors from the fridge. Again, an airtight container or freezer bag are two good options.

A cup of caramel dulce de leche

Can dulce de leche be frozen?

Freezing candy works great for both homemade candy and candy store-bought. Almost everyone agrees that dulce de leche can be frozen and that it works quite well.

To preserve the best possible quality, double wrap your iron and then put it in a freezer bag or an airtight container. When finalizing, use waxed paper for the first layer and aluminum or plastic foil for the second.

As for defrosting, a few hours in the fridge should be more than enough. You can also easily cut frozen dulce de leche into cubes, so if you’re in a hurry, you can cut it right out of the freezer and serve it to your guests.

A stack of dulce de leche cubes

How long does dulce de leche last?

Dulce de leche is basically made up of sugar, butter, and condensed or evaporated milk. Butter doesn’t keep very long at room temperature, and the same goes for the shelf life of evaporated milk once opened. But thanks to the sugar and the heat, the dulce de leche lasts several days even if it is not refrigerated.

Homemade dulce de leche usually lasts in good quality between a week and two weeks at room temperature, and about 3 or 4 weeks if refrigerated. For prolonged storage, it should be frozen.

If you’re making dulce de leche at home and you’re worried about having leftover condensed or evaporated milk, use a recipe that calls for the former. You can freeze condensed milk and it is one of the few dairy products that freezes well. You can also freeze evaporated milk, and it should work fine for another dulce de leche, but its quality won’t be as good after thawing.

For store-bought dulce de leche, look for the date on the label and use that as a guide.

It’s virtually impossible to tell how long the candy you’ve bought will last. This is because there are hundreds of varieties, some confectioners use preservatives and others do not, etc.

If the dulce de leche is similar to the homemade one in terms of ingredients, it will last between 10 and 14 days. But you can also find dulce de leche that should retain its quality even for a couple of months. In other words, check the label and respect the date.

As for refrigeration, if the manufacturer recommends it, the candy should last another week or two. If the shelf life is too short for your needs, you can always freeze the candy.

Pantry Fridge
homemade sweet 12 weeks 3 – 4 weeks
commercial candy Expiration + 1 week Expiration + 2-3 weeks

Please note that the periods above are estimates only.

Dulce de leche cut into squares

How do you know if the dulce de leche has gone bad?

Properly stored dulce de leche usually takes a long time to show the typical signs of spoilage, such as mold or an unpleasant odor. So it’s more about its quality than about its spoiling in the usual sense of the word.

And when it comes to dulce de leche, quality is all about texture. If the caramel dries up and hardens, it’s past its prime and should be disposed of. Same thing if it melts and becomes slimy.

If everything about the caramel in terms of texture, look, and smell seems fine, chances are it’s perfectly fine. That, of course, if you don’t keep it much longer than recommended.

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