Dulce De Leche Chocolate Chip Cookies

My dulce de leche cookie is the most flavorful chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever tasted. By mixing dulce de leche directly into the cookie dough and along with browned butter, this creates a cookie that is deeply nutty and toasted through every bite. And because of the high protein content of dulce de leche, no eggs are needed in this recipe. This is a uniquely flavored, thinner style of chocolate chip cookie with a super chewy texture. This is, by far, my favorite cookie I've come up with.

What is the flavor and texture of the dulce de leche chocolate chip cookie?

I want you to think about the flavors of a chocolate chip cookie dough. It may be hard to pinpoint, but the very essence of cookie dough is that it's sweet in a toffee-butterscotch way, with maybe a bit of molasses. Using dulce de leche (which is just condensed milk that has been toasted) is almost like the essence of cookie dough.

The weird thing is, this cookie doesn't taste like eating straight up dulce de leche. When mixed with all the other ingredients, it just tastes like a super intense version of what a chocolate chip cookie could be.

Texturally, this cookie is very chewy. There are no crispy tops or edges on this one. Once it comes out of the oven, its super soft and as it cools, it gets this awesome chewy texture. I love it.

You’ll want to make these if you prefer a cookie that:

  • is intensely nutty and toasted flavored with dulce de leche and browned butter; 
  • is ultra chewy throughout the whole cookie; and 
  • tastes sweet from the caramel notes of the dulce de leche and dark brown sugar. 

What is dulce de leche?

A direct translation from Spanish reads that dulce de leche is: "candy [made] of milk" or "sweet [made] of milk." It’s sometimes also referred to as a caramel, but the process by which dulce de leche gets its flavor is predominantly from the Maillard reaction, not caramelization. Though I can understand the term, because it does have a caramel-like texture and flavor. 

To make it, sweetened condensed milk (usually just milk plus white sugar) is heated for a prolonged period. This cooking process changes many characteristics of the condensed milk in terms of color, texture and flavor. 

What kind of dulce de leche can you use in this recipe?

So far, I’ve tested 5 types of dulce de leche that are available to me here in the US. They are:

  1. Homemade dulce de leche (using canned sweetened condensed milk from Kirkland Signature or Eagle brands)
  2. Nestle La Lechera (from a squeeze bottle)
  3. Nestle La Lechera (from a can)
  4. La Serenísima Dulce de Leche (I had to order from Amazon)
  5. Amorcito Corazón - Cajeta 

So which one should you use?

All of these dulce de leches worked in my recipe except for the cajeta. (I was really bummed about that too… I was really fascinated by the goat milk flavor in this one.)

For the remaining 4 types that did work, all created excellent flavorful cookies that had slight color differences and flavors.

You honestly can’t go wrong with picking any of these; all yield a fantastically flavorful cookie. My notes are that homemade dulce de leche tastes the best when eaten plain, but baked in a cookie, it only had a slight increase in flavor compared to the commercial brands. And of those, La Serenísima is a notch ahead in terms of flavor and texture (super creamy!) However, I can buy Nestle dulce de leche products at my local Target, so that’s the one I’ll probably grab anytime I need to make these cookies quickly. And, out of my taste tests, my husband loved the canned dulce de leche cookies.

If you do decide to make homemade dulce de leche from condensed milk, it has to be a method where the moisture content remains the same throughout the cooking process. I use a jar in a pressure cooker, and some bakers like to boil cans, or use that in a pressure cooker. The oven method won’t work. I don’t yet have a dedicated post on that subject, but I will try soon.

What ingredients do you need for dulce de leche chocolate chip cookies?

Unsalted butter is the primary source of fat in this recipe. It’s also browned, which is a process that heats the butterfat to a high enough temperature to toast the milk solids. Butter is a magical ingredient that contains all the necessary components for the Maillard reaction, which requires proteins and sugars to produce these toasty aromatic compounds. Also, it’s not just the toasted milk solids that are the flavor bombs, but during the Maillard reaction, many aromatic compounds are created, and some only dissolve in fats. So cooking these milk proteins in the butterfat creates a flavorful liquid that coats every bite of this cookie with roasty toasty goodness.

I also tend to use unsalted butter in most baking applications because salted butters vary in their salt concentration and used in large quantities, can make your recipes overly salty.

Dulce de leche is sweetened condensed milk that has been cooked over a prolonged period, which toasts the sugars and milk proteins. This changes the flavor, color, and texture of the condensed milk. The flavor is deeply complex with notes of caramel, nuttiness, and toasted goodness coming from both the Maillard and caramelization reactions. This changes the color, which can vary from a tan to a deep brown. 

Brown sugar supplements the dulce de leche sugar, which is the primary source in this recipe. The brown sugar adds a bit of molasses to the cookie, giving it a deeper flavor and darker color. I initially wrote this recipe to use dark brown sugar, but it seems as though different brands vary in their molasses concentrations, which can cause the cookies to spread a tad too much. Use light brown sugar in this recipe unless you have C&H sugar, in which case you can use either light or dark.

Water is added to replace the water lost during the browning process. Without adding this small amount into the cookie dough, the final cookie ends up being a little too dry. 

Vanilla extract and salt are the flavoring enhancers.

Baking soda is an alkaline powder, which does a couple of things. It reacts with acidic ingredients in recipes (in this case, brown sugar) to create carbon dioxide gas, which expands tiny air bubbles and gives a slightly aerated texture. It has a greater effect, however, on the browned exterior of the cookie. Baking soda increases the rate of the Mailliard reaction, which is the browning and toasting that occurs between sugars and proteins when exposed to heat. 

All-purpose (or plain) flour is the starch in this recipe and gives the cookie structure. You can use either bleached or unbleached flour, but I tend to use unbleached in all my recipes as I prefer the flavor. 

Add-ins, such as chocolate chips, add bulk and flavor to the finished cookie. This is an elevated chocolate chip cookie and really benefits from at least one other type of add-in combined with the chocolate. 

For this cookie, I like to do as follows: 113g/4oz of chocolate, which is about half semi-sweet chocolate chips and half chopped chocolate from a dark chocolate bar. (Please note that if you use all chips in this cookie, you will get a more compact, smaller, and taller cookie than mine.)

Chocolate chips come in many varieties, but for the most part, these chocolates are manufactured with a special formulation of fats (instead of just pure cocoa butter) that helps the chips retain a classic “drop” shape even after high baking temperatures. This also makes them slightly cheaper than real chocolate products. I like to use semi-sweet chips from Costco in my cookies.

For chocolate chunks, you’ll need a bar that will be chopped into ¼-inch chunks. Because of its cocoa butter content, this type of chocolate melts more easily at baking temperatures. This melts into irregular globs within the cookie dough, but upon cooling, these globs will solidify, creating delicious creamy pockets of chocolatey goodness. The type of chocolate is purely your preference, but I usually do a combination of milk and dark chocolates. My favorite type of chocolate bar comes from Trader Joe’s.

I also add 113g or 4oz of one of these add-ins:

From left to right: caramelized white chocolate, chopped Heath toffee bar, roasted nuts, pretzels, salted caramel chips from Trader Joe’s.

All of these ingredients have undergone the Maillard reaction or caramelization already and is a super easy way to create flavor complexity that aligns with the triple browned butter flavor in this cookie. 

  1. Caramelized white chocolate: I use Cupcake Jemma’s microwave method (her YouTube video is here) and chop the set chocolate into chunks.
  2. Toffee chunks: You can either make your own toffee or use chopped up Heath bars, like I show above.
  3. Pecans: Be sure to roast them to get the full flavors from the Maillard reaction, then chop them into pieces.
  4. Pretzels: The signature brown crust on a pretzel is from the Maillard reaction, usually from dipping the pretzels in an alkaline bath prior to baking. Chop them up before adding to the batter. 
  5. Caramel chips: These are hard to source nowadays, but worth it if you can find them. I get mine at Trader Joe’s during the holiday season and buy several bags to last me throughout the next year.

Is this an egg-free chocolate chip cookie recipe?

This recipe does not require eggs. In most chocolate chip cookies, eggs generally provide two major functions: structure (via proteins) and moisture (via water). This recipe contains a high ratio of dulce de leche, which contains various things, including a good amount of milk-based protein. And we’ll add a tiny bit of water for what the eggs usually provide.

My current understanding of how this works is that during dulce de leche heating, there is some gelation (proteins sticking together) of the milk proteins. (That’s why sometimes when you make the homemade versions, they seem curdled right after baking.) I believe this is able to hold the cookies together in a way that may be similar to egg proteins. It’s a little different, which is why these cookies have a chewier texture. But I’m learning more every day about the applicability of this process and it’s enough structure for the final baked cookie. So yeah, egg-free cookies!  


Optional Step 1: Make dulce de leche. 

I don’t yet have a tutorial on this, but coming soon! Just be sure that whatever method you choose uses a method that heats the condensed milk in an airtight container so that no water evaporates. The oven method or any other method where the condensed milk is open to evaporation will likely give you a denser cookie.

Otherwise, if you’re using one of the store-bought ones I’ve listed earlier, let’s confirm what kind first. 

Are you using the Nestle version that comes in a can? Does your label include “agar”? If so, you will need to use slightly less flour. I’ll remind you again in the recipe card, but keep that in mind. 

If you’re using the other types of dulce de leche, you can move onto the next step.

Step 2: Prep the pans, oven, and the chocolate.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and line a baking sheet with parchment (2a). Chop the chocolate bar into chunks - about 1/2" or 1 cm sized is good (2b).

Step 3: Brown the butter.

Grab your (heatproof) mixing bowl for either your stand or hand mixer and set that aside for now. Add the butter to a light-colored pan and melt on medium-low heat (3a). Once the butter has melted, and started foaming, and use a heat-proof spatula and stir and scrape the sides and bottom of the pan (3b).

Once you start to see the milk proteins turn light brown, turn off the heat and continue to stir until the proteins turn medium brown (3c). Immediately pour the melted butter, scraping the milk solids from the pan and into the bowl (3d).

Step 4: Add dulce de leche and brown sugar to browned butter and mix.

Add the dulce de leche (4a) and brown sugar (4b) to the melted butter and stir with a spatula to cool down a bit (4c). The will be a separation of oil with the mixture for this step.

Step 5: Add the flavoring ingredients

Add the water, vanilla, salt, and baking soda (5a). With a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix on medium-high speed for 4-5 minutes (5b). The mixture should be brown and slightly granulated. Do not undermix here otherwise you'll get oil leaking out of your oookies while baking; it should be thick and fully combined, with no separation of oil (5c). 

Step 6: Add the flour and chocolate pieces.

Using a spatula, stir in the flour (6a). Gently fold in the chocolate pieces and add-ins, if using (6b/c). Allow the batter to sit for about 10 minutes at room temperature to thicken up. During this time the sugar will dissolve a little more into the batter, and the temperature of the butter will lower a bit. This solidifies the fats so that your dough will be easier to scoop.

Step 7: Scoop and bake.

Scoop out 2 tablespoon portions onto a tray about 2-3 inches apart (7a). This dough also benefits from that trick where you break the dough ball apart in half and stick it back together. This causes an irregular surface, which some bakers like. Otherwise the cookies will bake flat, which is also pretty. Bake for 11-15 minutes. 

The final color of your cookies will depend on the brand and type of your dulce de leche as some are much darker than others. You’ll know the cookies are done when they have spread, puffed up in the middle and have developed a slightly dry surface with a few cracks atop the cookies. They may also start to deflate, which is also an indication to remove them from the oven. Otherwise, they will deflate as they cool. 

Allow to rest on the sheet for a minute. While they’re hot and soft from the oven, you can use a small bowl or round cookie cutter to gently nudge the cookie into a more circular shape (7b). Allow them to sit for 1-2 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack (7c).

Please check out my video on chocolate chip cookie science here:

Please bake by weight if you can. 

I research and develop everything on this site using weights (in grams), so they are listed first in the recipe card. Measuring by weight is the best way to replicate my recipes. This is particularly important with fluffy ingredients such as flour, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar.

For measurements under 5 grams, I will typically only list the volumetric measurements (teaspoons, etc.) as most home scales are not precise enough under that weight.

I have converted grams to volumes (cups, teaspoons, etc.) for American bakers who prefer it. These are not as precise and may have awkward proportions (such as ½ cup + 1 tablespoon). However, they still work. 

This is the OXO scale I use daily. I also purchased this budget version of a good scale, which I keep at my Mom’s house for baking. If you’re interested in other tools I use for my baking, I’ve compiled a list here.

Hi! I'm Adriana.

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