Monday, April 13, 2009

Got Your Goat? Making Mexican Cajeta

Cajeta is a very fun word to say on account of the jota in the middle. It gives the word the same guttural punch as a boisterous Hebrew LeChaim!

Cajeta is a Mexican caramel sauce, made by slowly cooking sweetened goat's milk. I've been wanting to make it since buying a small tub of it's South American counterpart, Argentinian dulce de leche. I'm a big fan of caramel, and a big fan of goat's milk. As far as I know, goat's milk is the more traditional foundation for cajeta, where dulce de leche exclusively uses cow's milk. My standard caramel sauce is made much more quickly (by caramelizing the sugar which takes 5-10 minutes), but relies on cream and butter. Standard caramel is a lovely sauce, but I like the intrigue of goat's milk on the tongue.

I followed a recipe from Rick Bayless and had no trouble locating goat's milk at my local Trader Joes. I used to buy from my little grocer in Telluride when my children were small and having trouble digesting cow's milk. (Try adding goat's milk to Annie's mac and cheese sometime for a lovely two-cheese flavor.) There's an alternate preparation which involves a can of condesed milk, a vat of boiling water and a degree of danger of explosion that sounded too risky. Plus, I like the idea of using fresh milk, adding my own sugar, and stirring as the the milk caramelized.

And what am I going to do with it? Put it in crepes this weekend, along with banana and coconut, for one. Or add a spoonful to vanilla ice cream, or pour it over a Kentucky Butter cake. My children are enjoying it by the spoonful.

Print recipe only here

Makes about 1 cup


1 quart goat milk (available at Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and many other grocers)
1 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split open lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan combine the milk, sugar and vanilla bean and place over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until it comes to a simmer and sugar is dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and add dissolved baking soda. It will bubble up. When the bubbles have subsided, return the pot to the heat.

Adjust heat so that the milk is simmering briskly. Cook, stirring regularly, until the it turns pale golden, about one hour.

You will now need to stir the milk more frequently as it thickens and turns a caramel-brown color. Don’t allow the milk to stick to the bottom of the pot. It will probably cook for another 30-45 minutes, depending on how hot you simmer it. It is done when it reaches the soft ball stage, or a deep caramel color.

Strain the cajeta through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl or pyrex measuring cup to cool. When the cajeta is cool, it should be a medium-thick sauce. If it’s too thick, add hot water, one tablespoon at a time, until it is the proper consistency. If it is too thin, return to the heat until it thickens.

Refrigerate until ready to use. But reheat before serving; cajeta is best served warm.


Yvonne said...

Hello Katie,

i found your post on cajeta interesting and because my husband is mexican i am always obliged to buy it whenever we find a good one!
thanks for sharing the recipe!!

i found you on, but we're actually both in chicago (small world). If you'd like to visit my food blog it's at:
I'd love and appreciate your feeback.

Katie Fairbank said...

Thanks for visiting, Yvonne. I hope your husband loves your cajeta, assuming you've already tried it. :)

Thanks, also, for the heads up on your food blog. I'm bookmarking it. The Viking school and classes sound fabulous! I had no clue either!