Mexican Burnt Milk Candy (Leche Quemada)
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Unique and addictive Mexican Burnt Milk Candy (Leche Quemada) perfect for edible gifts this season!
Not all my recipes have a back-story. Sometimes they are just things we come up with in our kitchen that we feel are worth sharing.
However, today’s recipe is connected to one of my very earliest food memories, and is therefore near and dear to my heart.
When I was a very little girl, my parents would sometimes take us to a family owned Mexican restaurant, after church on Sundays. We always looked forward to these Sunday lunches out. Growing up in a family with five kids, we didn’t eat out that often.
Honestly, I don’t remember what I ordered or even the quality of the food. What is permanently etched in my mind from these early family meals, is the candy the restaurant owners tucked in the bottom of the chip basket.
That’s right, under the tortilla chips (that were served before the meal with salsa) were little brown roughly cut pieces of heaven.
I never knew what they were called… These firm yet crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth, dark caramel squares, with a delightful slightly burnt flavor.
They weren’t fudge, exactly. The texture was too grainy (in a good way.)
They weren’t purely caramels, although they had a lovely caramel-like taste. They were too firm and crumbly to be caramels.
They weren’t quite pralines. Sometimes they had nuts, sometimes not.
They were entirely their own out of the ordinary thing.
For years, I looked for these candies in the bottom of other Mexican restaurant chip baskets, and I have yet to find them again. I also hunted around for a recipe, or at the very least, a name for these strangely alluring candies.
It wasn’t until I was an adult, and was traveling in Mexico, that I discovered they were a variety of Mexican Milk Fudge, called Mexican Burnt Milk Candy or Leche Quemada.
Now let me state immediately… There are many forms of Mexican Burnt Milk Candy out there, and they range vastly in look and texture.
This recipe is as close to my original Mexican Burnt Milk Candy memories as I could possibly make them.
They are hard to the touch, yet crumbly, and immediately melt on your tongue. They taste of dark dark gently burnt caramel, yet don’t leave a harsh aftertaste.
Mexican Burnt Milk Candy is wonderful. Truly wonderful. In fact, they bring a tear to my eye every time I taste them.
If you are looking for a unique treat to give as gifts to friends and family this year, my vote goes to Mexican Burnt Milk Candy!
Mexican Burnt Milk Candy (Leche Quemada)
- 3 cans sweetened condensed milk (14-ounce cans)
- 2 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Line a 9 X 13 inch baking dish with foil or parchment paper. Spray well with nonstick cooking spray.
- Place the sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, and salt in a large 6-8 quart sauce pot and set over medium-high heat. Secure a candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Stir well and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low. Stir continually until the candy thermometer reaches “soft ball” temperature, or 240 degrees F. It’s okay if the bottom browns and little burnt sugar pieces are floating around the mixture. Just make sure to keep stirring!
- At 240 degrees F, remove from heat and immediately stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Once smooth, carefully pour the mixture into the prepared dish and allow the mixture to cool.
- When the Mexican Burnt Milk Candy is firm, but still warm, cut into small squares. Do not wait to cut the candy when it's all the way cool. It becomes hard to cut. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.
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This is an AWESOME recipe! It tastes just like the candy I remember from the Monterrey House! Easy Breezy!
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I have the sam memory except it was a chain, Casa Ole. They were delicious! Thanks for sharing!
What is on top?? Powdered sugar?
Yes, you can sprinkle to tops with powdered sugar if you like, but it is not necessary.
I’ve made many versions of leche quemada, Scottish tablet, dulce se leche, jamoncillo… this was my least favorite recipe 😫 I’ve never made it without whole milk, and thought it looked interesting to try a recipe without milk in it… but it didn’t turn out at all. Way to chewy and the flavor wasn’t my preference, either! I grew up on the border and was hoping this would a fun twist on a classic chihuahuan candy. Maybe some more details in your methodology specifically would be helpful!
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I intend to make this candy this week and give to family. It will remind them too of our many family outings to the Monterey House in Houston and the friendly fights as to who would get the last piece as there was always one piece left for some reason. Relatives on my husband’s side were affiliated with the restaurant. I never thought to ask them for the recipe, but am absolutely delighted to have found this. I can’t wait to make it and am hopeful that it is a success for me.
So excited to try this – and may even try making a keto friendly version! I, too, grew up on the wonderful Monterrey House mystery candy hidden in the chip basket – and even found the originator at a farmer’s market in The Woodlands a few years ago. :)
Alvin, Texas here and Monterey House was our favorite growing up! My grandpa used to save the little candies for me. We still have a Monterey’s in Alvin, it’s called Little Mexico now and every once in a while they’ll have a similar but not quite the same candy near the register.
Oh my God! Are you from Port Arthur Texas??? There was a restaurant when I was a kid called Monterey House and the Leche Quemada was wrapped in w@x paper at the bottom of the chips! I just thought ALL Mexican restaurants did that, unfortunately growing up it was a one shop deal. I can’t find any leche queamada in Kentucky so I have friends stock me up when they go back to Texas. I’m trying this recipe! Thank you sooooo much!
I grew up in Oklahoma, but I’ve since learned Monterey House restaurants were all over Oklahoma and Texas at that time! They left an impact, didn’t they?! :)
I too, have been lucky enough to eat the delicious Monterrey House Leche Quemada candies. Our family used to go there every week as well, for years. Since then, I have lived in several different states and locations, and travelled the world but that candy taste has remained allusive to me. I can’t wait to try this recipe! It was serendipitous, looking up recipes that had the ingredients I remembered and to see your similar shared experiences, thrilled me. I have talked about those candies for decades now, because they were that good! To find someone else sharing similar memories was a wonderful Christmas gift of nostalgia ! Thank You! Happy Holidays!
LOL!! I love hearing I’m not the only one so affected by these little treats!
Well, mine didn’t turn out as lovely as hoped. I have a nice batch of gooey caramel, any thoughts?
Sorry about that. Did you use a candy thermometer?
I am having the same problem 3 times ,yes I said 3 times and all 3 failed . I used a candy thermometer twice and used softball water method the third time. It’s like a very soft caramel tasting fail.I LOVE THIS CANDY and must figure it out.Please please help me figure this out. Its making making me nutso. .lol
Sorry you’re having trouble. Honestly, it sound like you might need to buy a new candy thermometer. Are you sure yours is accurate?
Seems like this recipe is missing an ingredient. Like milk. 144 peices with just 3 14oz can of condensed milk?
YES. i’m another monterrey house kid :)) i grew up in a southeast houston suburb called clear lake and monterrey house was peppered throughout south houston and galveston. my family only took us once in a while, but the leech quemada made by this ONE person who supplied to several area restaurants is absolutely etched in my mind. that man is still alive and his granddaughter now occasionally makes his recipe leche quemada and sells them in one houston farmer’s market. however, since the last hurricane their operations were damaged and they haven’t picked up again. unfortunately, i figured all this out AFTER they stopped operations and so i haven’t gotten my hands on that heavenly candy. THANK YOU for your recipe. i’ve tried a few without recreating that original magic, but i’ll give yours a shot. i will say that the color of your candy looks quite a bit darker so i’ll try it with light brown sugar, as another poster commented. i think it’s incredible that so many of us remember that candy and its unique placement at the bottom of the chip basket. sometimes a very simple memory lasts for years :))
Thanks so much for sharing your story! Please let me know how it turns out with light brown sugar. :)
Carmen – So, have they gotten back into operation at the farmer’s market yet? I’m planning a trip to Houston and would LOVE to be able to get my hands on some of that candy for me, my siblings, and my cousins. In the mean time, I’m going to try this recipe today.
Hi Carmen, would you mind sharing the name of the people who make them at the local farmer’s markets? I’m in Pasadena, so really close, and my mom and I LOVE this candy, although we got ours at Casa Ole back in the day!
I have been trying recipes claiming to duplicate the Monterrey House candy for years, and none of them have come close. This is the stuff! It has that perfect grainy/sugary texture. I have to admit, though that in my house, it never even cooled completely before it was gone! I made mine with light brown sugar, and it had the same color as that from the restaurant. I wonder if the candy in your photos is made with the darker brown sugar? Either way, I will be making this again soon.
I have been looking for a recipe that compares with the Monterrey House candy for years. Yours sounds close as far as the texture description, but the picture makes it look a little too dark. Have you tried the recipe with white sugar? Also, some of the recent recipes I have come across call for baking soda. Have you tried that? I am wondering what effect it would have.
How long do these keep do you think? Wondering how far in advance i could make them for a fiesta party.
You could make them up to a week ahead with no issue. Just place them in an airtight container and keep them at room temperature.
The Mexican candy I’ve been buying at every Mexican market or restaurant selling it has never matched that which I used to so look forward to whenever I visited Houston as a child. Today’s is always too smooth & shiny, more like our Louisiana pralines. Good but not the same. Your photo looks more like the type I used to so enjoy. When I read “grainy texture” and hard but crumbly I knew I had to try your recipe. I look forward to a trip down memory lane.
Ahhh, I remember the Monterey Mexican Food restaurant in Waco, Texas, where I discovered that sacred basket of chips containing little morsels of heavenly sweetness. In fact, reading this post was like reading my own personal experience. I can’t wait to try your recipe. Just in time for my birthday this week. Who needs cake????
Hello Sommer! My 83 yr old father was the original supplier of the Monterey House candy from the 1950s – 1970s.
Here is a blog post I recently published that outlines the history of our candy: https://thegigistory.com/the-monterey-house-candy-where-it-began-and-where-we-are-now/
Here is our business facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LaColmenaMexicanCandy
OH MY GOODNESS! That is amazing. Thank you so much for sharing!!
I come from Northeast Texas and I could’ve written this! The restaurant we went to was called The Monterrey House. The taste of these candies make me remember being 5 with my hand plunged into a bowl of hot chips fishing for a little prize wrapped in wax paper.
Yes!!!! And we always hoped there was one extra piece, but alas, they only gave us one per person.
These look simply incredible! Definitely have to add this to my must try list!
These look out of this world, Sommer! I would love to have some of these!
This looks amazing!
Made these today. They are so good!
YAY! Thanks so much for reporting back. You just made my day. :)
I haven’t heard of this before but boy does it sound delicious!
My kind of candies ! I’m so into condensed milk sweets !!! Happy holidays !
Caramels that melt in your mouth…sign me up!
Love the sound of these!
These look fantastic!!!