These crisp and buttery spiced dulce de leche cookies are pure fall coziness, from the pumpkin spice in the cookies to the homemade dulce de leche filling.
Why make this recipe?
These spiced dulce de leche cookies are easy to make, look very pretty and the sweet, warm and comforting flavors make them the perfect fall or holiday season treat.
What is dulce de leche?
Dulce de leche (which translates to “candy made from milk”) is a thick, sweet, caramel-like sauce that originated in Latin America and was apparently invented as a way to preserve milk.
In its simplest form, dulce de leche consists of just milk and sugar, cooked until all the water in the milk has evaporated and the sugar has caramelized.
How to make dulce de leche:
You can make dulce de leche in several different ways. What I like to do is pour a can of sweetened condensed milk into a pie pan and bake it in the oven.
The process takes about 1 ½ hours and is very simple and almost entirely hands-off:
- Pour sweetened condensed milk into a deep dish pie pan.
- Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and set into a water bath.
- Bake in a 425-degree oven until the milk has a light brown color.
Dulce de leche looks like a light caramel but has a much more complex flavor and a sweetness that’s much less harsh than that of caramel.
How to make the cookies:
See full ingredients & instructions in the recipe card below!
These dulce de leche cookies are made with an easy pumpkin spiced shortbread cookie dough. Here are the steps:
Step 1. Whisk together the dry ingredients.
Step 2. Add butter and sugar to a mixing bowl.
Step 3. Cream butter and sugar.
Step 4. Whip in vanilla extract and the dry ingredients.
Step 5. Transfer the dough into a large bowl.
Step 6. Bring the dough together by hand and form into a ball.
Step 7. Cut the dough ball into two halves. Form each half into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill.
Step 8. Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap.
Step 9. Cut out the cookies with a Linzer cookie cutter.
Step 10. Bake the cookies, then let cool completely. Sift powdered sugar onto the top cookies. Spread dulce de leche onto the bottom cookies, then top them with the top cookies.
Recipe notes & tips:
- The reason why you want to roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap is because that allows you to roll it without adding any additional flour. Rolling the dough on a floured surface would make it brittle.
- You can use a regular cookie cutter if you don’t have a Linzer cookie cutter set.
Frequently asked questions:
You can let the finished (dusted and filled) cookies sit out for several hours. If you want to store them longer, transfer the cookies into a freezer bag and freeze them. To thaw, let them sit out on the kitchen counter for about 15 minutes.
You will likely have a little bit of dulce de leche leftover. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge and stir it into espresso drinks, drizzle it over ice cream or on cheesecake or indeed eat it with a spoon.
Yes, you can make the dough up to a week ahead and keep in the fridge. When you’re ready to use it, let it warm up on the kitchen counter until it’s pliable enough to be rolled out (30 to 40 minutes).
More delicious fall cookies:
See all cookie recipes →
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Full Printable Recipe
Spiced Dulce de Leche Cookies
- ceramic deep dish pie pan
- aluminum foil
- roasting pan
- mixing bowls
- measuring cups and spoons
- standing mixer or handheld mixer
- plastic wrap
- rolling pin
- linzer cookie cutter
- cookie sheets
- parchment paper
For the dulce de leche (makes 1 scant cup):
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
For the cookies:
- 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- powdered sugar
For the dulce de leche:
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch deep dish ceramic pie pan.
- Cover tightly with aluminum foil and set into a roasting pan.
- Bring a kettle of water to boil and pour the water into the roasting pan so that it comes halfway up the pie plate.
- Bake until the milk has turned a caramel color, 1 ½ to 2 hours (check the water level after about 45 minutes and refill the hot water if necessary).
- Let cool, then strain into a glass bowl.
For the cookies:
- Whisk flour, salt and spice together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Whip butter and sugar until well combined and creamy.
- Whip in the vanilla extract.
- Whip in the dry ingredients and keep whipping until the dough starts to clump together.
- Bring the dough together into a ball by hand, cut the ball in half and form each half into a disk.
- Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.*
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Take the disks out of the fridge, roll them out between two sheets of plastic wrap, then cut out the cookies.**
- Bake the cookies on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper until they are lightly browned (12 – 15 minutes).
- Let the cookies cool completely.
- Sift powdered sugar onto the top cookies.
- Spoon a dollop of dulce de leche onto the bottom cookies (about 1 teaspoon per cookie) and top with a cut-out center cookie.