Alfajores (Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies)
These melt-in-your mouth Alfajores are a South American sandwich cookie made from two shortbread cookies and a creamy dulce de leche center. You can make these delicious dulce de leche sandwich cookies to go with a warm cup of coffee or for after your dinner. Roll them in shredded coconut, dust them with powdered sugar, or both; no matter how you serve them up they are sure to go fast!
My first experience with Alfajores came through a monthly subscription box, which was basically a foodie gift basket full of new and fun food items. Inside my box was a package of two Alfajores cookies. They looked innocent enough. They weren’t covered in chocolate, so I didn’t attack them immediately. When I finally opened the package, I was prepared to eat what I assumed would be a very average cookie. I couldn’t believe how wrong I was.
They tasted so utterly amazing that first time, that like many other packaged foods, it seemed impossible to recreate them from scratch. But if my experience with homemade Twinkies, Oreos, and Oatmeal Cream Pies has taught me anything, it’s that not only is it totally possible, but it’s ridiculously easy.
What are Alfajores?
If you have never had alfajores, they are a South American dessert made from two, round shortbread cookies sandwiched with creamy dulce de leche often dusted with powdered sugar and rolled in shredded coconut. These delicious cookies vary regionally.
- Argentina’s alfajores feature two cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche and rolled in shredded coconut (much like the ones in this recipe)
- Chile uses a filling made with unrefined cane sugar instead of dulce de leche.
- Mexico features spices in the filling such as cinnamon and anise.
- Peru actually has many varieties within the country!
Dulce de Leche vs. Caramel
Dulce de leche and caramel have many things in common. They are both sweet, sticky, and a rich amber-brown color, not to mention totally addictive. But these two sauces actually are not the same thing and differ in a few ways:
- Caramel – You can make caramel sauce by slowly cooking down sugar. It gets its color from the sugar caramelizing as it cooks.
- Dulce de leche – This sweet treat is made with sugar and milk and gets its color from the lactose browning during the low heat cooking process.
Making Alfajores from Scratch
Ingredients for Alfajores
- Flour + Cornstarch – All-purpose flour mixed with the cornstarch makes the shortbread cookies incredibly tender, light, and airy.
- Powdered Sugar – Sweetens the cookie and is also used for dusting the alfajores at the end.
- Salt – Adds flavor while also balancing out the sweetness in the cookies.
- Butter – Use unsalted, chilled butter to get the flakiest, melt-in-your-mouth cookies.
- Egg yolk – Binds the cookie dough together.
- Vanilla – Flavor, flavor, flavor.
- Dulce de Leche – Sweet creamy goodness holding the alfajores together.
- Shredded Coconut – Optional but highly recommended. The finished alfajores take a roll in unsweetened shredded coconut.
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche is caramelized sweetened condensed milk and can be purchased in the Hispanic/Mexican section of the grocery store, or you can order online. You can also easily make your own at home! Here’s how to do it:
- Pour into double boiler: Pour 2 (14-ounce) cans of sweetened condensed milk into the top of a double boiler or in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water.
- Cook the milk: Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes, until the milk is thick and amber in color, about 5 hours.
- Beat the dulce de leche: Remove from the heat and beat with a wooden spoon to smooth out.
- Refrigerate: Transfer to a clean bowl, and refrigerate for several hours or up to 3 days.
- Storing longer: If you are making this in advance you can transfer the dulce de leche to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
I use the same process to make these as I do for my all-time favorite cut-out sugar cookies – no softening the butter and no chilling the dough. It works perfectly with this recipe, as well, even though the texture of the cookie is different!
- Pre-baking: Preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Sift dry ingredients: In a medium bowl sift together flour, powdered sugar, and cornstarch; set aside.
- Beat the butter: Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add liquid ingredients: Add the egg yolk, vanilla extract, and salt. Mix until fully combined and smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Make the cookie dough: Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture. Mix until the dough just comes together. This may take a few minutes, as the mixture will go from looking sandy to seeing small clumps, and then eventually come back to form a dough.
- Roll out the dough: Separate the dough in half and work with one piece at a time. Roll the dough 1/4-inch thick on a well-floured surface.
- Cut the cookies: Using a plain round or fluted round 2-inch cutter, cut the cookies and place them on the prepared baking sheets leaving at least 1 inch of space between the cookies. Re-roll any scraps and continue cutting rounds.
- Bake the cookies: Bake until slightly firm and set, 11-14 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Assemble the Alfajores: Spread about 1½ teaspoons of dulce de leche on the bottom half of the cookies, then top with remaining cookies. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. You can also roll the sides in shredded coconut if desired.
Make-ahead, Storing, and Freezing Instructions
- Make-Ahead Cookies: If you are planning to make these in advance I would break it down by making the cookies up to 3 days ahead of time. Store them in an airtight container, then fill them within 1 day of serving.
- Dulce de Leche Prep: If you are making the dulce de leche you can prep it up to 3 weeks in advance and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator!
- Storing + Shelf-life: You can keep these cookies stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. They will get a bit soggy towards the end as the cookies absorb the dulce de leche.
- Freezing: Keep these dulce de leche cookies stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Roll with It!
If you are not a fan of shredded coconut you can also try rolling your cookies in:
- Chopped nuts
- Powdered sugar
- Shaved chocolate
- Or try dipping the Aflajores in melted chocolate!
Other Delicious South American Recipes to Try
- Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)
- Beef Enchiladas
- Creamy Mexican Corn Salad
- Caramel Tres Leches Cake
- Dulce de Leche Brownies
Traditional alfajores made with delicate shortbread cookies and a gooey dulce de leche center are easy to make and even easier to enjoy. Dusted with powdered sugar or rolled in shredded coconut these cookies will have you coming back for more!
If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️
- 1¾ cups (210 g) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
- ½ cup (57 g) powdered sugar
- ½ cup (56 g) cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) salt
- 1 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Dulce de Leche, chilled
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- Shredded coconut, for rolling
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, powdered sugar, and cornstarch; set aside.
- Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add the egg yolk, vanilla extract, and salt, and mix until combined and smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until the dough just comes together. This may take a few minutes, as the mixture will go from looking sandy to seeing small clumps, and then it will eventually come together into a dough.
- Separate the dough in half and work with one piece at a time. Roll the dough ¼-inch thick on a well-floured surface. Using a plain round or fluted round 2-inch cutter, cut out the cookies and place them on the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1 inch of space between cookies. Reroll any scraps and continue cutting rounds.
- Bake until slightly firm and set, 11 to 14 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Assemble the Alfajores: Spread about 1½ teaspoons of dulce de leche on the bottom of half of the cookies, then top with the remaining cookies. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. You can also roll the sides in shredded coconut, if desired.
- Equipment: Round cutters (plain or fluted)
- Specialty Ingredient: Dulce de Leche (purchase at a grocery store, online, or use instructions in the post above to make your own)
- Shredded Coconut Alternatives: You can also roll the cookies in the following: sprinkles, chopped nuts, shaved chocolate, or dip in melted chocolate.
- Make-Ahead: If you are planning to make these in advance I would break it down by making the cookies up to 3 days ahead of time
- Dulce de Leche Prep: If you are making the dulce de leche you can prep it up to 3 weeks in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. They will get a bit soggy towards the end as the cookies absorb the dulce de leche.
- Freezing: Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Did you make this recipe?
Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!
Photography by Dee Frances
Small error: Ingredient list says 1 cup butter, 113 gr.
However, 113 gr is 1/2 cup, or 1 stick.
I noticed the dough was not coming together at all after few minutes in my standing kitchenaid mixer, I added a second stick and it worked out perfectly.
I am from Argentina and ate these as a child, the alfajores came out great, and I am giving it 5 stars, and I made a note to myself for the next time I make them.
Unfortunately, cookies turn out to be crumbly. Very difficult to apply with dulce de leche without breakage. I think maybe there is too much butter and the egg yolk makes it too rich. Will be looking for another recipe.
These sandwich cookies look similar to the “Dulce de Leche Besito” cookies I ordered frozen from Portos Bakery & Cafe in California. The only difference is that the filling is baked inside the cookie dough. I can’t wait to try your recipe!
Já ouvi falar muito de Alfajores mas não tinha ideia de como fazer, que bom que encontrei aqui a receita, vou segui-la e preparar, acredito que seja muito bom pois já ouvi muito comentários positivos a respeito.
Thanks for sharing!
Michelle yum yum I forgotten alfajores I grew up with them in uruguay mum made so did I since been in the land down under (australia) made it once we used to roll in dulce de leche the coconut but the batch I made didn’t check coconut it was off never made them again been 28 years thanks will get my act together and make them your recipes are great and dulce de leche all my family made it it a long process I use the chocolate dulce de leche for some desserts. Thanks again for your website
Alfajores are amazing! I lived in Chile for 5 months and this was one of my favorite Chilean foods. There are actually many different variations of alfajores – it’s kind of a catch-all phrase for sandwich cake/cookie treats :)
Thank you so much for this recipe!! I had these at a party my peruvian friend hosted many many years ago and I’ve wondered what they’re called ever since. And now I just happen to stumble across them while browsing your website for the first time!
Alfajores are a great treat from Peru. I now make it for my kids on special occasions.
I love alfajores!!! i was born and grew up in Argentina, where alfajores are an everyday snack!
I just got back from a trip to Peru, where one of our hotels had these at their breakfast buffet. I had the same thought (not chocolate), but I figured how could you go wrong with cookies at breakfast. Needless to say, after tasting them, I went back for seconds!! At the airport, I used up the last of my Peruvian money on a box of them to bring home. I was thinking “I bet the Brown-Eyed Baker ahs a recipe for these,” and sure enough! Looking forward to trying out your recipe.
My family is from Peru and I’ve eaten and baked alfajores all my life. They are not alfajores if you do not add some anise and/or clove to the dulce de leche. Just a teaspoon of ground clove makes a big difference. Some South American bakers add anise to the shortbread.
I had these for the first time at a cafe in Costa Rica, and I too, thought they looked mediocre at best. Then I had my first bite and was instantly OBSESSED! So excited to try to make them at home. Fingers crossed I do them justice. Thank you for finding and posting a recipe!
omgness I looooooooooooooove alfajores and grew up eating them!!! I was born and raised in Argentina so this was always a staple “food group” for me, haha! Looks delicious!
Hello–just returned yesterday from a 9-day vacation in Peru–Hoteles Royal Inca in Cusco served these from their front reception desk. They were a perfect 1″ size of heaven. I asked what they were and looked up a recipe as soon as I got home for the best Peruvian taste souvenir. Peruvian friends served them for a dinner when in Lima–they were a larger 3″ size, but I prefer the smaller. We are planning a potluck with the same group that travelled in Peru–I will be making these for sure. Thanks for recipe, Peru was unbelievable!
Hello! I just made your cookies last night; they turned out fabulous!
Those alfajores are from Argentina. The ones from Spain have the same name, but they are something completely different.
In the spanish version of wikipedia, you can see the difference (it’s in spanish but it has pictures):
they look so good!
I made these on Saturday and they turned out great! The dulce de leche is excellent and definitely necessary since the butter cookies are not very sugary. Thanks for an excellent recipe!
I absolutely LOVE alfajores! Not sure if it’s just a Northern California thing, but I get my alfajores fix from Whole Foods. They carry locally made alfajores in the bakery section that have thick almost caramel like dulce du leche and crumbly, powdery shortbread. So good!
Boy do they look good. I have never heard of them but I think I will make them when I get a jar of the magical dulce.
I made them this weekend. They turned out perfect. For anyone wondering what they are like, they are sand cookies. They are crumbly and buttery and delicous. I didn’t have sweetened condensed milk so I made my own carmel and it worked out great. Will post soon.
Alfajores are one of my favorites. My sister used to buy them from a store here in the SF Bay Area, but got homesick for them when she went to grad school on the east coast. I made a whole batch and sent them to her good ol’ USPS. The thank you phone call I got was terrific! ;-)
I am making them tonight.. mmmm
I’m from Chile and I grow up eating this kind of alfajores, they are out of this world delicious. This one is my family recipe:
The other alfajores are the more common in Argentina, like the Havanas, is a different dough and usually covered in chocolate. Like this recipe.
Here in Houston they sell alfajores de maicena (cornstarch) at Central Market.
I just made these, thanks to your recipe! They were delicious!! I didn’t have dulce de leche on hand and the grocery store closest to me doesn’t carry it, so I made it with the condensed milk, following your instructions above. They still turned out great! Thanks for yet another delicious recipe!!!
Oh my deliciousness! We made these last year for my son’s Spanish project – and let me just say that they were the most amazing cookie (maybe because I LOVE dulce de leche). My son and his friends still ask if I can make these. YUM!
Oooh, I discovered these recently too and fell in love! Then again, what’s not to love about shortbread and dulce de leche? Match made in heaven!
These look great! How cool is it, that you get so many responses from all over the world! Amazing!! I love your blog!
Shortbread cookies are ones that I cannot find any self control over and anything with a carmel flavor uh oh…hello sugar overdose!!!
This is really my ideal kind of cookie. These are beautiful!
I am studying abroad in Argentina right now, and alfajores are everywhere! Pretty sure i have one just about every day… I’m glad i have a recipe to make them when i return!
Anything with dulce de leche in it is a winner in my book! These alfajores look amazing =)
Alfajores sound incredible. I’ve never heard of them before. I also would have set them aside for a few days and eaten all the chocolate covered treats first!
Looks delicious and so easy!
WOW! I’m bookmarking this one…sounds right up my alley. Never heard of them but I’m guessing your homemade version had to be better than the packaged ones!
I have neved had any in my life, but seeing all that Dulce de Leche makes me want to run into the kitchen and start baking some right now!!
hiii, I am from South America, from Chile, and Alfajores are everywhere here. they are better if you cover them with chocolate!! could be white chocolate as well!!
For the dulce de leche, we don’t open the can of condensed milk to cook it, we just put the cans (closed) inside a pan over heat with boiling water for about 5 hours.
I love your blog!
Hi. I’m from Brazil (I live in the south, very close to Argentina) where alfajores are very popular. A very famous brand is Havanna (http://www.havanna.com.ar/). And they are very popular here as well. We even have Havanna’s stores in our malls. Andrea
So glad you posted this recipe. A friend of mine from Peru who lives in the US has shared these delicious cookies with me before. I for sure can’t stop at just one.
YAY! I’ve grown up with alfajores! My parents were both born in South America, so we are very familiar with these little bites of heavenly deliciousness.
These are some perfect looking cookies! Thanks for sharing so much yumminess!
I was unfamiliar with these until the other day when a Peruvian coworker brought them in. He now is requesting I make them!
Alfajores are very popular in Peru where I’ve been living and baking for the past 5 years. I recommend accidentally-on-purpose using half granulated sugar and half powdered sugar for a pleasing crunch in th midst of all that powdery heaven!
I never heard of these cookies, but now I want one, no I want two or three. They look so yummy!!
Never heard of these before, but they look and sound amazing!
I’ve never heard of Alfajores but I do love shortbread and having them sandwiched between Dulce de Leche, what’s not to love?!
Yes! A friend of mine studied in Argentina for 6 months a few years ago and brought me back a jar of dulce de leche and told me about those cookies! Then we went on a dulce de leche spree, making a bunch of it and putting it on everything…I still dream about tasting these cookies though, so I’m so glad you did this!
I’ve never had these, but I do love shortbread. Sounds yummy!
Hahah I did the exact same thing as you. I looked at this recipe and saw they weren’t covered in chocolate so I almost passed it by, but I didn’t know what Alfajores were so I figured I’d read a little about them. As soon as I heard what they actually ARE, I immediately bookmarked the recipe. Thanks for sharing!!
These look and sound so delicious! Yum!
Do you have a recipe for the Dulce de Leche or can you buy it in the Spanish/Latin section of the supermarket. Thanks for posting…looks irrestible!
You make dulce de leche from sweetened condensed milk, actually. You can: stick cans of sweetened condensed milk in a slow cooker filled with water for 5 or so hours, or you can use the same method in a dutch oven filled with water in your oven or stove top (lid on), or you can open the cans and pour them into a very clean skillet and slowly caramelize the condensed milk while stirring on the stove top. Hope this helps!
Hi Lori, You can buy it in the supermarket, but I also updated the recipe with a note at the end about how to make your own.
Actually, I’m from Costa Rica, and we’ve always basically “boiled the can” for a few hours. Just stick it in there for a while, to make sure it’s cooked. Then wait for it to cool off a bit and open the can :)
Hi, I’m from Uruguay and here alfajores are VERY common.
We have thousands of brands and many different kinds.
You should search them all! Chocolate, maicena, coconut… alll filled with dulce de leche (the thicker, the better).
For us, dulce de leche is kind of what peanut butter is for you. We use it in everything
Love the site! U’re an amazing chef!!
They look great! Thanks for sharing : ) I have never heard of them and love discovering new treats!
I made those for xmas cookies the past 2 years!
Oh, thes elook wonderful! I can just imagine how they melt on your tongue. Mmm dulce de leche :)
I love alfajores!! My Argentinean friends were bringing them all the time and I was always picking the chocolate covered ones, but these ones are also delicious!
Originally from Spain, it is now very popular in Latin America.
Tried many in many countries; best in the world (in my experience!) Havanna from Argentina. If you want to go MEGA, look for a recipe for “torta rogel”, an alfajor in steroids!. [Sweet] Life don’t get much better than that !
I love mega cookies, so I will definitely check out that recipe! Thanks for the recommendation, Willie!
These look great (I’m all for easy shortbread and anything caramel-based)!
These sounds yummy!
No way! I adored these while studying in Spain and traveling in Latin America, but it never dawned on me to look for a recipe. I’m SO excited to try them. Thanks!
What am I missing? How do you make the Dulce de Leche and what is it? There are no instructions. :(
Hi Nanci, You can purchase it at the supermarket in the Hispanic/Latin/Mexican section, or you can make your own. I have since added a note to the end of the recipe with instructions on how to make it.
Never heard of them until now! I would have thought they were like a taco, lol. They look incredibly delicious, though.
Never heard of these cookies before but they sound like something I’d love. I’m a huge fan of shortbread cookies. These seriously look amazing!
Never heard of these before but I am intrigued. Thx.
These cookies have been on my radar for a while, not sure why I never made them. Yours definitely look delicious!
Oh no! I thought I was a cookie expert, but it seems I have failed as I have never heard of Alfajones. Don’t tell anyone, okay? :)
These look amazing and the world could really use a macaron-alternative sandwich cookie. Yummy!
These sound yummy. I wonder if they would work by rolling the dough into a long roll, refrigerating it and then slicing the dough instead of rolling out the dough. I do not like to roll out dough for cookies. Thanks.
Hi Peggy, I have not tried doing that, but I’m not sure you could get it thin enough by making a slice and bake type of roll.