Every time my husband Arie and I go from Argentina to Texas to see our families, we bring them special treats: boxes of alfajores, bottles of malbec, and jars of dulce de leche. For Arie’s family, the gifts are old, familiar favorites; for my family, they are new, interesting treats to be tried tentatively. While Arie’ parents went through the jar of dulce de leche in a week or two, my parent’s jar is probably still full. It’s not that they don’t like dulce de leche; they just don’t know what to do with it.
If you are Argentinian, you are probably laughing at this; I mean, who thinks about what to do with dulce de leche! You eat it! On everything! Nonetheless, imagine being handed a jar of peanut butter for the first time. What would you do with it? Taste a small spoonful? Think it’s tasty? Maybe. But would you automatically know to add it to cookie dough batter to make peanut butter cookies? Or to spread it with jelly between two pieces of bread for a pb&j? Or that it makes for a tasty ice cream flavor? Probably not.
Tasting a bit and liking something is just the start. Learning how to use and appreciate a new ingredient takes more time. It takes experimentation. It takes being exposed to new recipes. And sometimes it takes a bit of guidance on the part of an expert. My husband is one such dulce de leche expert. Since moving to Argentina, we now have an all-access pass to dulce de leche. Together, we’ve come up with our favorite ways to eat dulce de leche, as well as the best places in Argentina to try it.
If you’re about to visit Argentina, use this article as a check-list of all the tasty things you must try before leaving the country. Then, when you buy a jar of dulce de leche to take home, you can try out some of the recipes I’ve linked to for a delicious reminder of Argentina.
1. Panqueques con Dulce de Leche
The Goodness: A freshly made panqueque (crepe), spread with a generous layer dulce de leche, rolled up, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Warm, gooey, and rich; this is the perfect breakfast/dessert/any-time-of-the-day treat.
Where to try it: You can find this item at most restaurants in the dessert section of the menu, but also at weekend fairs and outdoor markets (specifically at Feria de Mataderos and San Isidro Feria Artesanal).
Recipe: Panqueques con Dulce de Leche
2. Alfajores con Dulce de Leche
The Goodness: Two delicate cookies sandwiched with a thick layer of dulce de leche repostero, which may be rolled in coconut shavings, sprinkled with powdered sugar, or coated in chocolate. There are as many varieties of alfajores as there are cookies, with different fillings and coatings.
Where to try it: You can find alfajores at every bakery, café, kiosko, and supermarket. While fresh alfajores can’t be beat, two favorite packaged brands are Havanna and Cachafaz.
3. Churros con Dulce de Leche
The Goodness: A long stick made of crispy, fried donut-like batter, filled with dulce de leche, and sprinkled with sugar; sometimes they are coated with chocolate and then sprinkled with sugar. Both kinds are perfection.
Where to try it: For some of the best churros, visit Kentucky in Buenos Aires, a local chain of pizzerias dating back to 1942. Be sure to go to Kentucky before noon when they stop selling them; also, they make the churros fresh each morning, so the earlier you go, the tastier they are. Another favorite place to find churros is the churro vendor at Feria Plaza Francia. He has both kinds of churros (chocolate coated and non) and freshly squeezed orange juice–breakfast of champions.
Recipe: Churros Caseros
4. Cubanitos con Dulce de Leche
The Goodness: A crunchy, cylindrical wafer, coated with chocolate, nuts, or sprinkles, and filled with a ridiculously wonderful amount of dulce de leche.
Where to try it: The best cubanitos are freshly made, filled with dulce de leche on the spot, and found at fairs such as the Feria de Mataderos.
5. Helado de Dulce de Leche
The Goodness: Rich and creamy helado de dulce de leche (dulce de leche ice cream), sometimes with added bits of chocolate (granizado) or a variety of nuts, is alone worth the trip to Argentina.
Where to try it: You can find a whole range of dulce de leche helado flavors at every heladeria (ice cream shop) in Argentina, available by the cup, cone, or giant container. While you really can’t go wrong, some favorites shops are Freddo, Un’Altra Volta, and Chungo.
Recipe: Helado de dulce de leche casero
6. Flan & Mousse de Chocolate con Dulce de Leche
The Goodness: Delicious desserts made even tastier by adding a dollop of dulce de leche.
Where to try it: Flan and chocolate mousse are Argentine dessert staples; you can find one or the other (or both) at most restaurants. My favorite restaurants for chocolate mousse are La Mulita in Mar del Plata and Don Julio in Buenos Aires.
7. Medialunas & Pastries con Dulce de Leche
The Goodness: A soft and flaky medialuna or pastry filled or topped with dulce de leche.
Where to try it: Paired with coffee, this is the perfect breakfast, dessert, or mid-afternoon treat and can be found at every bakery and café in Argentina. Try Café Martinez (nationwide), La Fonte D’Oro (Mar del Plata), or Confitería Boston (Mar del Plata) for exemplary examples of dulce de leche filled medialunas and pastries.
8. Tostadas con Dulce de Leche
The Goodness: Sometimes all you need is a hot slice of toast with a thick layer of dulce de leche on top. Found in your kitchen. No recipe required.
Here are a few other ways to try dulce de leche: between meringue, between walnuts, between layers of chocolate cake, as a candy, and as a liquor.
What is your favorite way to eat dulce de leche?