Learn how to make the traditional Mexican cajeta recipe. This slow-cooked recipe is worth every minute, you love drizzling it over all your favorite desserts.
What is Cajeta
Cajeta is one of my favorite things in the world! Cajeta, also known as dulce de leche, is a Hispanic sweet thick milk caramel sauce or syrup. In Mexico, this sweet confection is known as cajeta and in other Spanish speaking countries, it is called dulce de leche. I grew up calling it cajeta so that’s the name I prefer, but I do realize that in some other Spanish speaking Latin American countries the word cajeta is considered to be a not so nice word.
Who Invented Cajeta
The word cajeta can also mean little wood boxes, and traditionally the cajeta was packaged and stored in wood boxes. So as you can see it has many different meanings and uses depending on the region or dialect of Spanish. There are several areas in Mexico that claim they invented or that cajeta originated there. But since the indigenous people did not really consume dairy products, most likely the sweet originated in Spain and brought to Mexico or introduced by the conquistadores.
Different Types of Cajeta
My family’s hometown in Mexico is known for its cajeta, there it’s sold throughout the town’s many confectionery shops. The shops there all compete with each other by offering different varieties and flavors of cajeta. Some shops even carry cajeta boracha or drunk cajeta, which can be prepared with a number of different alcohols. The shops set up extensions of their stores on the sidewalks, where they have their employees offering small taste samples of their cajetas to passers-by. When I was a little girl, and living in or visiting my town, my sisters, cousins and I (shamelessly) took advantage of the shop’s offerings. We would keep walking up and down the street or switching to other streets just to get a free sample. It was a silly thing to do but we were silly kids. I have great memories of eating cajeta in Mexico while visiting our family during our summer holidays.
Ways to Use Cajeta
My family uses cajeta as a topping on almost anything we want, there are even popsicles made with it. My personal favorite is to eat it right off the spoon like peanut butter or Nutella. One of the most popular ways of eating cajeta, in Mexico, is by spreading it on a piece of bolillo, a Mexican bread, just like you would spread jelly on a piece of toast. Another of my favorite ways of eating it is on “hot cakes” or pancakes, it’s like an American-Mexican fusion treat. In my family, it was a special treat and the kids went crazy for it. We were lucky too because, after we moved to the States, my mother would buy and bring back plastic tubs from her trips to our hometown.
Some other ways to use cajeta
• cajeta on crepes (or crepas) is another favorite of mine, though I didn’t discover it until I was older, it’s such a great dessert.
• You can drizzle cajeta over ice cream
• you can make a milkshake with it
• use it as a cookie or empanada filling
• use it on tamales, • add a tablespoon to your coffee
• drizzle over waffles and pancakes
• stir into rice pudding or even oatmeal
• dip your favorite fruits into
There are many different uses for cajeta and it’s pretty much something to use as you’d like.
How to Make Cajeta
The traditional Mexican recipe for cajeta uses a mix of goat milk and cow milk. And while you may be put off by the goat milk, don’t be. Really don’t be. It’s very similar to cow milk and actually just has a slightly more savory, bit saltier, taste to it than “regular” milk. You won’t be able to differentiate between the two kinds of milk once the cajeta is prepared — but if you skip it and only use regular milk then it becomes dulce de leche and tastes different than the traditional Mexican cajeta recipe.
Below is my recipe, I make the small portion for the two of us but if you have a larger family you could try the larger version. Either way, these are standard recipes that are used by many people.
How To Make Authentic Mexican Cajeta (milk caramel sauce)
- 2 cups or 16 oz. or 500 ml goat milk*
- ⅓ cup or up to ½ cup white sugar
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract or ¼ tsp bourbon vanilla powder
- one cinnamon stick
- pinch of salt
- ¼ tsp. baking soda
- 2 tbsp whole fat cow milk
- 1 large heavy pot
- 1 wooden spoon
- 1 8 oz clean jar
- Pour the goat milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon (if using) into a large heavy pot and bring to a light boil over medium heat. Stir to make sure all of the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat.
- In a separate bowl mix the cow milk and baking soda until the baking soda has dissolved. Remove pot from burner, pour baking soda mixture into the goat milk, stirring fast, be careful because the liquid will quickly froth and overflow. Stir until the bubbles have subsided then turn the heat to medium and bring the pot back to the heat.
- Continue to cook the goat milk mixture, stirring very frequently because the mixture may bubble and pour over the pot. After another 20-30 minutes the mixture should begin to a darken and start thickening into a thick sauce consistency. Continue simmering and stirring frequently until the mixture turns a dark caramel color and coats the wood spoon, this may take another 20-40 minutes depending on liquid left in the pot. The cajeta should the same consistency as maple syrup.
- Pour into a jar and allow to cool completely. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. The cajeta will keep fresh in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.
- The cajeta taste best if warmed up a little bit before using as desired.
Large Portion Ingredients:
2 quarts or 1.90-liter goat milk
2 cups white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract or ¾ tsp bourbon vanilla powder
one Mexican cinnamon stick (ceylon cinnamon)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tbsp whole fat cow milk ***The process is the same whether making the small or large version. The only difference is that it may take a bit longer for the larger version. (P.S. I forgot to include the cinnamon stick in the ingredients photo. Oops!)
As you can see, though it will give your arms a workout and you must be patient, making cajeta at home really isn’t complicated at all. It’s so worth the effort and way better than the stuff available at the grocery store. Now if you live in a place where you can get it locally made, then maybe just make cajeta once so you say you’ve done it, then support the local artisans.