If you remember, last week I wrote a post entitled Essential Ingredients of the Chilean Kitchen. I am going to tell you now, I left one out. I felt that this ingredient deserved more than just a measly paragraph. It deserves its own post, a recipe book even.

That ingredient is called Manjar, pronounced Mawn-har.

If you are thinking that you haven’t ever heard of such a thing in any of your Spanish classes, it is because it is really only available in Chile. There isn’t even a direct translation as to what it is. Dulce de leche is the next closest thing, but it is prepared differently. Manjar in general is used like a spread, however it can be used in just about anything. It is an absolute necessity for the dessert course. From alfajores (a cross between a cookie and cake, really tasty), cookies, cake, ice cream, you’ve got to have manjar. To me, it reminds me of a dulce de leche/caramel version of Nutella.

My favorite store-brand manjar, about $3 per kilo

Most sites will debate me on the fact that dulce de leche and manjar are different. Some will even call it Chilean dulce de leche (as you can see in the photo above). However, I have tasted Argentinian dulce de leche in contrast, and I am going to say: I didn’t like it. It was too sweet and the consistency was weird…slimy even. The coloring is different too. Manjar is a thick, rich substance that is typically a darker, richer caramel brown. Meanwhile dulce de leche is more sweet, more liquid and the color is a lighter, coffee with milk sort of brown. The week I was in Buenos Aires, I ate what was supposedly the “best” dulce de leche, but I found myself missing manjar more than a little. While the two might be related in the cooking world, I refuse to say that they are the same.

You better believe that spoonful was gone about 5 seconds after taking this picture. Yum!

Personally, I love manjar to pieces. One of my favorite snacks that I make with it is a toasted manjar and banana sandwich. Even the Chileans think I am a little crazy for doing this (why would you eat bananas on a sandwich, they ask me). It isn’t exactly the healthiest thing that I could eat, but it is oh, so, worth it.

Manjar was also one of the highlights of my wedding dessert buffet in at least 5 different forms. Even my wedding cake had some in it. The flavor was coconut sponge cake with a filling of white chocolate and manjar. It was so good; I think I might have eaten a whole layer of the cake alone.

That may have also had to do with the fact that it had flowers and edible glitter, but I digress...
That may have also had to do with the fact that it had flowers and edible glitter, but I digress…

I am also fortunate enough to live only 30 minutes away from a factory that makes homemade manjar from scratch! They even make different flavors that have nuts, fruits, or (my personal favorite) coconut. They also produce honey, syrups and jams. The price isn’t too bad either. Only about $3-5 for a kilo of whatever you choose. Considering it is fresh and incredibly delicious, it is worth a trip to buy some. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, the place is called Fábrica de Mermeladas Carolina in Olmhue, Chile.

If your taste buds are watering right now, I have some good news for you. You don’t have to travel all the way to Chile to get a little taste of manjar! I have a recipe for you right here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

  • DO NOT OPEN CAN
  • Place entire can (remove labels first!) in a pot of water so that it is covered entirely
  • Boil can of sweetened condensed milk for 2 1/2 hours. Ensure that the can is covered the entire time with water, adding more as it evaporates. The can will expand as the milk cooks inside.
  • Cool can entirely in fridge (I recommend overnight), open can, and magically you have manjar!

This is not the “from scratch” version, but it is really simple and produces a delicious result. Also, this recipe has been floating around pinterest and the interwebs as a dulce de leche or caramel recipe…I am here to tell you it is not.

Courtesy of Pinot & Dita on Flickr
Courtesy of Pinot & Dita on Flickr

It is better than dulce de leche, it is manjar. Enjoy!

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