This Mexican caramel (cajeta) is so creamy, soft, and amazingly delicious. It has a deep and slightly smoky flavor, and is made with only 4 ingredients!
What Is Cajeta?
Cajeta is a traditional recipe known in English as Mexican caramel. It consists of a sweet and thick sauce made of goat’s milk and sugar.
Its origin comes from the colonial era of New Spain in Mexico. At that time, milk-based sweets were already made using cow’s milk.
However, the Bajío zone was known for its abundance of goat cattle, so it was easier to produce this dessert using that type of milk.
Cajeta has a sweet and smoky taste with hints of cinnamon and vanilla. The texture is smooth, dense, and somehow creamy, very suitable for spreading on bread or cookies.
Its name comes from cajete, a type of box (in Spanish, caja) made of tejamanil which is a very thin and malleable wood. Those little boxes were used to store and sell the dessert, giving the name dulce de cajeta de Tejamanil.
To this day, the dessert is still sold in similar round or long boxes, making them a perfect gift for family and friends.
Difference between Cajeta and Dulce de Leche
Even though this traditional dessert is often misrepresented as Mexican Dulce the Leche, the truth is that they’re not the same thing.
The main difference between those two desserts is that the former is made with goat’s milk while dulce de leche is prepared with cow’s milk.
Another big difference is the taste. Dulce de Leche has a caramel-like flavor, while the Mexican dessert has a deeper taste, often because some other ingredients are added and because the preparation is a bit longer.
- MILK: The traditional recipe is prepared with goat’s milk, sometimes using only this and sometimes using a mixture of goat and cow’s milk. In this recipe, we have used goat milk because is very easy to find where we live.
- SUGAR: Regular white sugar. Sometimes I also use a combination of white and brown sugar.
- BAKING SODA: Bicarbonate of soda helps to give it that golden and deeper color.
- VANILLA EXTRACT: This is an optional ingredient but it surely adds a deep flavor to the recipe.
How To Make Cajeta (Mexican Caramel)
In a medium saucepan, pour the milk, and add sugar, baking soda, and vanilla extract. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
When the milk comes to a boil, low the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the milk from spilling out.
Use a slotted spoon or a fine strainer to remove some of the foam that forms on top.
As it simmers, the milk will reduce and change its color to a deeper hue. You should play with the heat, if needed raise it a bit, but then lower it again or it will spill out.
After an hour, the milk will have completely changed color, taking the classic brown color and texture of cajeta.
Keep cooking for 5-10 more minutes over high heat to achieve a dense texture.
Once ready, let it rest for about 10 minutes and then transfer it into a container and let it cool completely.
When the preparation has completely cooled down, it will have a thicker consistency, similar to Nutella and perfect for spreading.
- It is important to not stop stirring, otherwise, the milk will stick to the pot’s bottom and burn, leaving a slightly unpleasant smell and taste.
- You need to “play” with the heat, raising it and lowering it from time to time to allow the water from the milk to evaporate slowly.
- You can let the caramel cook for more than an hour, it will acquire a darker color and a thicker consistency.
- To make Cajeta Envinada you can add 2 tablespoons of Cognac or Brandy at the end of the preparation.
- You can also adjust the cooking time to less and make it saucier if you want.
- QUEMADA – Meaning “burned cajeta”, this flavor is one of the most popular around the country. It’s deeper and as the name indicates, it tastes a little burnt and has a darker color.
- ENVINADA – This type has a light liquor aftertaste. Originally, the recipe was prepared with wine (vino), but now many artisanal producers have experimented with other forms of alcohol like Brandy, Cognac, and even Tequila.
- DE VAINILLA – Adding vanilla to the preparations makes Cajeta de Vainilla or Avainillada. The taste has a subtle flavor with a delicious aroma.
How To Eat
In Mexican cuisine, this preparation is often used to make other recipes such as atole de cajeta, empanadas, or as filling for Coyotas cookies.
How To Store
Mexican Caramel sauce lasts for up to 2 months in the fridge nicely stored in a glass container with an airtight lid.
If you notice the consistency gets too hard, place the jar in a bowl with hot water for a few minutes and it will become spreadable again.
Watch How To Make It
Did you know? – The state of Guanajuato is known for being the place where the Mexican War of Independence began, so in September 2010 the Cajeta recipe was declared “Dessert of the Mexican Bicentennial”.
Mexican Caramel Sauce (Cajeta)
- 4 ¼ cups Goat's milk (or cow's milk)
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp vanilla extract (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, put the milk, sugar, baking soda, and vanilla extract.
- Place the pan over high heat and bring it to a boil.
- When the milk comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring constantly for about an hour.
- As it simmers, the milk will reduce and change its color to a deeper hue.
- After one hour, the milk will have completely changed color, taking the classic brown color of the cajeta.
- Let cajeta rest for about 10 minutes and then transfer it to a container and allow it to cool completely.
- When the cajeta has cooled down it will have a thicker consistency, perfect for spreading on cookies or bread.
- You can now store it or enjoy it right away.
- It is important not to stop stirring, otherwise, the milk could stick to the bottom of the pot and burn only there, leaving a slightly unpleasant smell and taste.
- You can let the cajeta cook for more than an hour, it will acquire a darker color and a thicker consistency.
- If you want to make Cajeta Envinada (with alcohol) you can add 2 tbsp of Cognac or Brandy at the end of the preparation.
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