This cajeta recipe is an easy caramel sauce made with goat milk that’s traditional in Mexico and has a rich, complex flavor much like dulce de leche.
Cajeta is how you say “obscenely indulgent, ridiculously easy, and gosh darn good caramel sauce” in Latin America. Although you can dribble it over almost anything and you won’t be disappointed, it’s also quite nice simply licked off the spoon.–Renee Schettler
Got Goat Milk?
Got goat milk? If yes, good. Cajeta is traditionally made with goat milk, although we also made it with cow milk and it was still incredibly, intensely good. Just don’t try this with soy milk. Or almond milk. Or any other nondairy milk. Trust us.
- 4 cups (2 pints) goat or cow milk
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch kosher salt
- Place all the ingredients in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan and whisk over medium heat to dissolve the sugar and honey. Carefully bring to a boil, keeping an eye on the pan so the milk doesn’t overflow, and then immediately reduce the heat to as low as possible. Keep the cajeta at a very gentle simmer until the color changes to a dark brown and the mixture is syrupy and luscious and it reaches 225°F (107°C) on a candy thermometer. This will take place at some point between 60 and 120 minutes, depending on the size of your pan and the specific heat of your burner. Be patient and keep an almost constant eye on the mixture as it may boil over if left unattended. If you see the cajeta foaming and rising up the sides of the pan, simply remove the pan from the heat for a few seconds until the cajeta subsides and then return it to the burner. Stir the cajeta infrequently as it tends to foam the more it is stirred. Don’t try to rush the cajeta.
- When the cajeta reaches the proper temperature, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. The cajeta will thicken as it cools. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Cajeta can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This caramel is FABULOUS! Milk, sugar, salt, and heat. BRILLIANT! I was unable to locate goat milk so I substituted organic whole cow’s milk. When the recipe says to simmer on low, make certain that the entire surface is bubbling, not just a few areas. I simmered it for about an hour, but it seems that the heat wasn’t high enough as it didn’t thicken properly. I simply put it back in the pot. I must also note that when the caramel has cooked down enough, there will be but a few ounces more than enough to fill an average-size Ball canning jar.
This cajeta is a good sauce to know how to make. It takes a slightly different caramel flavor from the goat milk. It did make exactly 2 1/2 cups. Even with pricey goat milk, this is more economical than purchasing the finished product at the store. I think next time I may add some vanilla or a little expresso powder for a deeper flavor—not much, just a hint.
This was a tricky recipe. Maybe tricky is not the right word. SCARY! My milk of choice was cow milk, but only because that’s what I had in my fridge. I am rather thankful that the recipe mentioned that it’s necessary to keep a watchful eye over the cajeta. It nearly boiled over on me several times, even while on my stove’s lowest setting. Whenever it would get extremely frothy and appeared to be getting ready to boil over, I’d lift the pot off the heat for a second, which would calm things down immediately. I’m not sure if it was all this lifting that stretched my cook time to a whopping 90 minutes, but that’s how long it took to reach (what I believe) was the desired color (dark amber) and texture (almost taffy-like). Even though I did use a thermometer, my cajeta never reached the appropriate temperature of 225°F (107°C). I think it might have burned had I kept it on any longer. Nonetheless, I’ve been enjoying this stuff straight off the spoon, on the moon, in any room, and I’ll probably need to make more SOON!
I should start by saying I don’t own a candy thermometer—I started to use my meat thermometer but ended up just watching it closely. I used fresh-from-the-goat, still-warm milk a friend was nice enough to give to me. I tried to watch closely for the color change, but kept wondering if it should be a little darker—she says let it reach a dark brown, so I ended up cooking mine a little over an hour. I had to stir somewhat frequently to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When it had only cooled partway, we tried some on ice cream, and it had a wonderful, rich caramel flavor with a little more tang than dulce de leche. After cooling, the cajeta was so thick it was spreadable (maybe from cooking longer?). I kept catching my husband and sons sticking a spoon in it to eat directly to eat or dipping a Biscoff cookie in it. It was even good on toast. I don’t have access to goat milk often, but when I do, I will make this again.
This cajeta tastes good. You can really taste the honey. You really do need to keep an eye on it because it threatened to boil over several times. The advantage of the candy thermometer is that you can hook it to the side of the pot, but you can use a regular cooking thermometer. It really does become solid after it cools. This was easy to make, with ingredients that are generally on hand, and it tasted quite good.
I expected the cajeta to be a thick caramel sauce, but it’s really quite syrupy. The long cooking—mine took 2 hours to reach 225°F (107°C)—helps develop a rich, complex flavor. The recipe is straightforward, but you do have to watch it, as I had to keep adjusting my gas burner to be sure the milk was simmering but not boiling over. Even after 2 hours, it was still on the thin side—about the thickness of heavy cream—while warm, but after being chilled it thickened up a bit. I added a tablespoon or two to my morning soy latte, which was quite lovely. I also served it drizzled over Mocha Brownies and it was so rich and delicious. I would also like to try it with fresh strawberries or with plain pound cake or with triple-creme goat cheese. But it really doesn’t need anything else. Just hand me a spoon and I’m happy.
Originally published June 12, 2016