Today I'm sharing this fantastic recipe for my Dulce De Leche Cookies. They are buttery shortbread-style cookies filled with the most luscious dulce de leche filling. These make the perfect addition to your cookie platter this Holiday season.
Now that Halloween has passed, we can think about Thanksgiving and cookies. I mean, that's what Holiday baking is all about, right?! We'll be making my Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies and Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies on repeat!
I love cookie season, and so does my family!! These cookies with dulce de leche will fit perfectly on my list of cookies to bake. Take note, they're a crowd favourite, so you may need to make a double batch!
❓ What are Dulce De Leche Cookies?
Dulce de Leche Cookies are sandwich cookies made up of a buttery shortbread style cookie that's filled with a luxurious Dulce de Leche filling. They make the most perfect snack or dessert.
Traditionally called Alfajores, this style of cookies is popular throughout Spain, Andalusia and South America. In Venezuela, Dulce de Leche Basito Cookies shape the dough into a teardrop and fill it with caramel.
The cookies are made of enriched shortbread dough. What do I mean by enriched? Unlike my Classic Shortbread, which is made primarily with butter, sugar and flour, this recipe uses egg yolks, icing sugar and cornflour. The results a super tender, melt-in-your-mouth cookies!
The Dulce De Leche Filling
But what is Dulce De Leche?! Pronounced 'dool-say-de-le-chey', it's a caramel-like filling originating from Latin America. In English, it translates as 'sweetened caramelised milk'.
It's made by heating milk and sugar over a long period until it caramelises and becomes thick, creamy and delicious. It makes the perfect filling for my Dulce de Leche Shortbread Cookies.
🌟 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Uses basic ingredients. All the ingredients are basic pantry or fridge staples. If you can't buy store-bought dulce de leche, I teach you how to make your own.
- The recipe steps are simple. Even if you do make homemade dulce de leche, none of the steps is difficult to achieve. Yes, it takes time, but it's super simple to do. The cookies are also incredibly easy cookies to make.
- Tastes fantastic. The cookies are tender and refined with a firm edge but a soft crumbly interior. The caramel filling teams so well with these making them the perfect sandwich cookies.
- They make a perfect gift. Pop some in a cellophane bag tied with a ribbon, and the recipient will think you bought them from a bakery - they look that good!
- Christmas Sandwich Cookies. And these to your festive cookie platter- they'll be crowd-pleaser favourites.
🧾 Ingredients Needed
The ingredient list isn't long, but I've noted a few important points below regarding certain ingredients that are worth reading. These little pointers will help you make the most incredible Spanish cookies.
Dulce De Leche Filling
- Homemade Dulce de Leche: Sweetened Condensed Milk - is the only ingredient you need to make dulce de leche. By cooking it, the sugars in the milk thicken and caramelise to form the thick luscious filling that is dulce de leche.
In the UK, the most common brand available is Nestle Carnation. Whilst it doesn't say 'sweetened' condensed milk on the tin, it is, in fact, sweetened.
In the US, the Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk is a common and popular brand readily available at most supermarkets.
Store-bought Dulce De Leche - I find it hard to find good quality dulce de leche, so I make my own. It takes time but is super simple to do. It's a perfect backup option if you can't find store-bought.
However, if you can find a jar of good quality Dulce De Leche, then, by all means, save time and effort and use that.
- Butter - I prefer to use unsalted butter so that I can control the level of salt in the cookies. If using salted butter, then omit the extra salt in the recipe. The main thing is to use room-temperature butter so that it can cream easily.
- Egg yolks - The yolks add richness to the dough and helps bind the ingredients together.
- Powdered Icing Sugar (confectioners') - This is better for its ease of dissolving into the butter. You can make your own by processing regular sugar into a powder. Or you can use granulated sugar but beat it into the butter well.
- Cornflour (cornstarch) - The secret ingredient to super tender cookies. If you don't have any, then substitute 1:1 with regular plain flour.
- Baking powder - Not normally added to shortbread, just a little powder helps the cookies puff ever so slightly, making them less dense.
- Traditional Alfajores: Once the sandwich cookies have been made, roll them in unsweetened shredded or desiccated coconut.
- Citrus Dulce de Leche Cookies: Add the zest of 1 orange or lemon into the cookies for a citrus twist.
- Chocolate Dulce de Leche Cookies: Add in 100g melted dark (bittersweet) chocolate into the dulce de leche for a tasty twist on the original.
- Dulce de Leche Thumbprint Cookies: Roll the dough into balls, then push your thumb into the cookie to create an indent. Refrigerate the dough, bake and then spoon or pipe filling into each indent.
👩🏻🍳 How to Make
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
Make the Dulce De Leche
As mentioned earlier- if you prefer to use store-bought, then go for that option. You can skip this step and jump straight to making the cookies.
STEP 1. Pour the condensed milk into a baking pan and cover it with foil. A ceramic, metal or glass dish will all work (Image 1).
Wrap the foil all around the edge of the pan so that no steam or heat will escape (Images 2 &3). Make sure the foil doesn't go underneath the pan, though.
STEP 2. Make a water bath. Place your covered dish into a baking tray. Fill the dish with boiling water so that the water reaches halfway up the side of the condensed milk dish (Image 4).
TIP: You can place the baking tray on the oven shelf and pour the water in there if you find it easier.
STEP 3. Bake in a preheated 180C/350F oven for 2 hours. Every 30 minutes, remove the foil, stir the condensed milk, replace the foil, top up the boiling water and put it back in the oven to cook further.
You'll notice that each time you take it out to stir, it gets darker in colour, starting pale (Image 5, after 30 minutes) and ending up with a deep tan hue (Image 6, after 2 hours). ou could add on another 30 minutes if you want an even deeper colour.
The dulce de leche will have thickened and look quite lumpy. Remove the dish from the water bath and set it aside to cool. Once cooled, whisk until it's smooth.
Then transfer it to a jar, and you're good to go with your homemade dulce de leche.
Make the Cookies
STEP 1. Cream the butter and sugar. Use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or handheld electric beaters. You want to cream the butter and sugar together for a min of 3 minutes until pale and creamy (Images 9 & 10)
STEP 2. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the yolks one at a time, mixing well between each addition (Images 11 & 12). Also, add in the vanilla extract and mix well. Make sure to scrape the base and sides of the bowl.
STEP 3. Add the dry ingredients. Sift directly into the mixing bowl the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt (Image 13). Then mix on low speed until starts to clump and form a dough (Image 14).
Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and use your hands to bring it together to form it into a round disc (Images 15 & 16). Try not to knead it as this activates the gluten.
STEP 4. Roll out the shortbread dough and stamp out cookie rounds. On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough with a floured rolling pin (Image 17).
TIP: If the dough is too soft to roll out, then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until it is a better consistency to roll.
Use a 5cm (2-inches) diameter cookie cutter to stamp out as many rounds as possible (Image 18). Use an offset spatula to lift them onto a lined cookie tray (Image 19). You can bring the scraps of dough together, re-roll and stamp out more cookies.
STEP 5. Refrigerate, then bake. Once all the cookies are on baking trays, pop the trays in the fridge for 30 minutes whilst the oven comes up to temperature. The butter needs to re-solidify, which will prevent the cookies from spreading.
Then bake for 8 to 10 minutes (Image 20). The underside of the cookies needs to be just set and dried with a slight golden tinge. If you prefer them crisper, then bake them for a couple of minutes longer.
STEP 6. Fill with dulce de leche. Dollop a heaped teaspoon onto the underside of half the cookies (Image 21), then press the remaining cookie onto the filling gently. Dust one side of the cookies with icing sugar and serve (Image 22).
TIP: For an easy, mess-free alternative, You can spoon the dulce de leche filling into a piping bag, snip the end off and pipe the filling onto the cookies.
💭 Recipe Pro Tips
- When making the dulce de leche, if the oven temperature is too high, the condensed milk may scorch the bottom of your dish. It's better to have the filling in the oven slightly longer than turning up the temp.
- Whisk the cooled dulce de leche for a couple of minutes to get rid of the lumps and to make it smooth.
- When making these Spanish cookies, the butter and egg yolks should be at room temperature. This is so the butter can cream and aerate, and the yolks emulsify into the butter.
- Don't over-mix the cookie dough, as this activates the gluten and makes tough cookies. Gently press the dough together rather than kneading it.
- Refrigerate, refrigerate, refrigerate. This is essential to solidify the butter in the stamped-out cookie rounds before baking. It ensures no flat pancakes!!
📋 Recipe FAQs
Absolutely. If you can source a good quality store-bought dulce de leche, then, by all means, go for it. Search down the Latin food aisle if in doubt.
No - they are a little different. Caramel is made with sugar, butter and cream and has smoky, slightly bitter notes to its sweetness. Dulce de leche is made with just milk and sugar and once caramelised as a different mouth feel. Smoother, creamier and more subtle in flavour, I would say.
Yes, they are. However, Alfajores often have lemon zest in the cookies and, once sandwiched together, are rolled in desiccated coconut.
❄️ Storage and Freezer Instructions
To store: Store the Dulce de Leche Cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. The surface touching the dulce de leche will soften slightly as the days roll by, but this makes them more melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
🎄 More Christmas Cookie Recipes
If you tried this Dulce De Leche Cookies Recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating or a comment below. I love hearing from you!
Dulce De Leche Cookies
Dulce de Leche
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14oz/ 307ml), or 350g/14oz dulce de leche
- 200 g unsalted butter
- 150 g powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
- 3 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 190 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- 255 g cornflour (corn starch)
- 1½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
To make the Dulce de Leche
- Pour the condensed milk into a baking pan and cover with foil. A ceramic, metal or glass dish will all work. Wrap the foil all around the edge of the pan so that no steam or heat will escape. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
- Make a water bath. Place your covered dish into a baking tray. Fill the dish with boiling water so that the water reaches half way up the side of the condensed milk dish.
- Bake in the preheated oven, for 2 hours. Every 30 minutes, remove the foil, give the condensed milk a stir, replace the foil, top up the boiling water and put back in the oven to cook further.You'll notice that each time you take it out to stir, it gets darker in colour starting off pale and ending up a deep tan. Add on another 30 minutes if you wanter an even deeper colour. The dulce de leche will have thickened and look quite lumpy. Remover the dish from the water bath and set it aside to cool. Once cooled whisk until it's smooth. Then transfer to jar and you'r good to go with your homemade dulce de leche.
Make the Cookies
- Cream the butter and sugar. Use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium to high for no less than 3 minutes until pale and creamy.
- Add in the eggs and vanilla extract. Add the yolks one at a time mixing well between each addition. Also add in the vanilla extract and mix well. Make sure to scrape the base and sides of the bowl.
- Add the dry ingredients. Sift directly into the mixing bowl the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt. Then mix on low speed until it starts to clump and form a dough. Tip the dough onto a floured work surface and use your hands to bring it together to form it into a round disc.
- Roll out the shortbread dough and stamp out cookie rounds. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a ½cm (¼in) thickness. If the dough is too soft to roll out, then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until it is a better consistency to roll.Use a 5cm (2-inches) diameter cookie cutter to stamp out as many rounds as possible. Use an offset spatula to lift them onto a lined cookie tray. You can bring the scraps of dough together, re-roll and stamp out more cookies.
- Refrigerate, then bake. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Once all the cookies are on baking trays, pop the trays in the fridge for 30 minutes whilst the oven comes up to temperature. The butter needs to re-solidify, which will prevent the cookies from spreading. Then bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The underside of the cookies needs to be just set and dried with a slight golden tinge. If you prefer them crisper, then bake them for a couple of minutes longer.
- Fill with dulce de leche. Dollop a heaped teaspoon onto the underside of half the cookies, then press the remaining cookie onto the filling gently. Dust one side of the cookies with icing sugar and serve.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.