Discovering the Sweet World of Arequipe: A Beloved Latin American Dessert

Indulge in the Rich Caramel Flavor of Arequipe, the Iconic Dulce de Leche Dessert

Arequipe (Dulce de Leche)
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Arequipe, also known as Dulce de Leche, is a beloved dessert in Latin America. It is prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk to create a substance that derives its flavor from the Maillard reaction, also changing color. Dulce de leche is Spanish for “candy made of milk”. This delicious treat is a staple in many Colombian households, where it is known as Arequipe, particularly in the region of Antioquia.

The recipe for Arequipe requires only four simple ingredients: fresh milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and baking soda. The milk and sugar are heated together in a pot until the sugar is dissolved. The heat is then reduced to low and the mixture is cooked for approximately 2 1/2 to 3 hours until it has thickened and changed color from a creamy beige to a caramel hue. During the cooking process, the mixture needs to be stirred constantly during the final hour to ensure it does not burn. Once ready, the dulce de leche can be served hot or cold and should be kept refrigerated.

Dulce de leche has become increasingly popular around the world and is often used as a filling in cakes, pastries, and candies. In Colombia, Arequipe is frequently used as a spread on bread, as a filling for pastries, and as a topping for desserts. The sweet, caramel-like flavor of Arequipe is versatile and pairs well with a variety of other flavors, making it a staple in Colombian cuisine.

The Sweet History of Arequipe (Dulce de Leche) in Latin America

While Arequipe is widely enjoyed throughout Latin America, its origins are somewhat disputed. Some believe it originated in Argentina, while others suggest it was created in Uruguay. However, there is evidence that the dessert may have originated in Chile or Peru during the colonial period. Regardless of its origins, dulce de leche has become a staple dessert throughout Latin America and has even gained popularity in other parts of the world.

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The history of Arequipe can be traced back to the early 19th century when it was commonly made in households throughout Latin America. Prior to the widespread availability of commercial refrigeration, making dulce de leche was a way to preserve milk. The caramelization process helped to break down the lactose in milk, which extended its shelf life. Over time, the dessert became a beloved treat and is now considered a cultural icon in many Latin American countries.

Today, Arequipe is enjoyed in a variety of forms, from simple spreads to elaborate desserts. It is frequently used as a topping for ice cream, cheesecake, and other desserts. In Colombia, Arequipe is also used as a filling for pastries like empanadas, pandebonos, and buñuelos. Some variations of the dessert include adding cocoa powder, coffee, or other flavorings to the recipe.

In recent years, Arequipe has gained popularity in other parts of the world and can now be found in many specialty food stores and supermarkets. Its unique flavor and versatility have made it a popular ingredient in baking and confectionery. The rich, caramel flavor of Arequipe pairs well with chocolate, nuts, and other flavors, making it a delicious addition to a wide range of desserts.

Overall, Arequipe is a simple yet delicious dessert that has become a cultural icon in Latin America. Its versatility and rich, caramel flavor have made it a beloved treat that is enjoyed in many forms. Whether used as a spread, filling, or topping, Arequipe is a delicious addition to any dessert.


Arequipe (Dulce de Leche)

This delicious and traditional Colombian dessert is called Arequipe in the region of Antioquia, Colombia
Course Dessert
Cuisine Colombian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Servings 2 cups
Author Mike Gonzalez


  • 8 cups fresh milk
  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp baking soda


  • Put all the ingredients in a pot over medium heat, stir until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to low.
  • Continue cooking until the milk has reduced and begins to thicken, the color will begin to change from a creamy beige to a caramel hue – it will take between 2 ½ hours and 3 hours for the dulce de leche to be ready.
  • During the first hour and a half, you will have to stir from time to time to prevent the milk from overflowing and sticking. During the last hour, you have to stir constantly and be careful so that it does not burn.
  • Dulce de leche can be served hot or cold and should be kept refrigerated.


It thickens more when it cools.

In Colombia they call dulce de leche “arequipe”. In Mexico, it’s called “cajeta”, and in Perú, Chile and Bolivia it is called “manjar blanco”. But it really doesn’t matter what you call it; arequipe is one of those amazing sweet treats that not only goes with almost everything, it is also really easy to make.

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