How to Make Butterscotch

Please welcome guest author pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater who shares with us the (almost) lost art of making butterscotch. ~Elise

When was the last time you tasted authentic butterscotch? Flavor, sauce, memory, aroma, era: butterscotch was an all but extinct, or out-of-date substance, and flavor until recently. Now it’s all the rage.

Wouldn’t you like to know exactly what butterscotch is and how to make it?

Historically, butterscotch was a hard candy made with unprocessed sugar. The suffix “scotch” means “to cut”. When sugar or candy is hot it’s difficult to get a clean break, so one must score it while warm to facilitate getting a clean edge later.

Today butterscotch is considered a flavor, much like caramel. Made famous at soda fountains by accompanying banana splits, butterscotch sauce has been an American favorite since the 1950′s.

Although most Americans are familiar with butterscotch pudding, in recent years what’s been readily available is an artificially flavored shadow real butterscotch flavor. My hope is that once you see how easy butterscotch is to make, you’ll never go back to the imposter.

How to Make Butterscotch

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of tightly packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup heavy whipping cream (not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Method

Butterscotch takes about a half an hour to make, from start to finish.

1 First, before you begin, make sure you have everything ready to go - the cream and the brown sugar next to the pan, measured and waiting. Making butterscotch is a fast process that cannot wait for hunting around for ingredients.

2 In a heavy bottomed stainless steel 2 quart saucepan, melt butter over low to medium heat. Just before butter is melted, add all dark brown sugar at once and stir with wooden spoon until sugar is uniformly wet.

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3 Stir infrequently until mixture goes from looking grainy to molten lava. Make sure to get into the corners of your pot, and watch closely to notice how the mixture changes. It will take about 3 to 5 minutes.

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4 Right before you add the cream, the caramelizing brown sugar will begin to look and feel more like liquid and less like thick wet sand.

5 At this point add all the cream at once and replace your spoon with a whisk. Lower heat a little and whisk cream into mixture. When liquid is uniform, turn heat back to medium and whisk every few minutes for a total of 10 minutes.

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6 After liquid has been boiling on the stove for its 10 minutes, turn heat off and let rest for a minute or two before transferring into a heatproof storage vessel. (I prefer a stainless steel or glass bowl.) Cool to room temperature.

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7 When butterscotch liquid is room temperature, take a small taste. It's important to know what cooked brown sugar and butter tastes like, and what happens when transforming that flat sweetness into real butterscotch flavor. Whisk in half the salt and vanilla extract. Taste again. Add more salt and vanilla extract until the marvelous taste of real butterscotch is achieved.

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Butterscotch makes a fantastic topping for ice cream.

Chill butterscotch sauce in a non-reactive container with a tightly fitting lid only after sauce has chilled completely. It will keep for one month refrigerated, that is if you can keep from eating it all the moment it has cooled down and been seasoned to your liking.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Links:

Historically: Wikipedia on butterscotch
Butterscotch Pudding: recipes from other food blogs and Shuna's recipe for butterscotch pudding
Flickrphoto set on the making of this butterscotch

smiling-shuna.jpg
Pastry chef, writer, poet, muse, Shuna Fish Lydon has worked in such notable kitchens as Gramercy Tavern and Verbena in Manhattan, The French Laundry and Bouchon in Yountville, California, and Citizen Cake, Aziza, and Sens in San Francisco. Shuna now makes her home in New York City. ~Elise

Photos for this recipe by Shuna Lydon.

55 Comments

  1. jonathan

    I’ll try to ask the obvious questions to get them out of the way…

    - Why not ultra-pasteurized heavy whipping cream?
    - Have all those recipes I’ve read over the years that call for adding actual Scotch (liquor) to the mix been lying?

    Shuna Fish Lydon, you’ve been associated with some really amazing places! Gramercy Tavern (a favorite) and French Laundry (on the “to go” list)?

    I’ve been on a toffee binge for a year or so now, so this fits right in. Thanks!

    Jonathan,
    Thank you for your query. I specify not to use ultra-pasteurized heavy whipping cream because the stabilizers in this dairy product have a bitter tasting edge. As is the case with recipes employing only a few ingredients, you really want the best tasting ones because all you are going to taste here is brown sugar, butter and cream.

    All those recipes that told you Scotch or some other spirit was the basis of butterscotch’s delicious flavor were wrong, yes. Or one could say they took their own poetic license as all of us do every day with our mix-and-match cookery.

    My intention here is not to point fingers but rather to illuminate a forgotten flavor. ~ Shuna

  2. lobstersquad

    mmm. how wonderful. I must make this. Normally I cheat and melt good butter toffees for pouring over ice cream.

  3. Alanna

    Just excellent, Shuna & Elise – so glad that you are evangelizing for butterscotch. My favorite version of American Apple Pie uses barely cooled butterscotch as a substitute for the brown sugar. (And then I lick the pot.) Butterscotch makes one great apple pie – as my favorite pie eaters will attest.

  4. Annalisa

    That looks delicious. A friend of ours has a dessert sauce company called Shootflying Hill Sauce Co. and they put out an unbelievably delicious “Salty Butterscotch sauce,” but we will try this recipe soon!

    Hello Annalisa,
    Thanks so much for the head’s up about Shootflying. I’ll have to order a jar and compare notes. ~ Shuna

  5. DtG

    Can you explain the New England habit of adding a dash of vinegar to butterscotch?

    Hello DtG,
    This is a great question. Because butterscotch began its life in the form of a hard candy there are a few “hold-over” ingredients from that particular recipe that can still sometimes be found in butterscotch sauce recipes and methods.

    I don’t have a degree in science, so explaining exactly why acidic liquid is added to sugar while sugar cooks and melts and reaches high temperatures is difficult in this format. Sugar loves to re-crystallize while it melts and one way of “insuring” that it will not re-crystallize is to add acidic liquid or an invert sugar (the most popular one now being corn syrup.)

    Although one source listed cider vinegar as a preservative in butterscotch hard candy making, I believe the addition of vinegar was first used to facilitate sugar’s smooth transition from granulated to liquid, and secondly the presence of acid in sweet cookery is like salt in savoury cooking– vinegar acts as a flavor enhancer.

    It should be noted: butterscotch making as we know it today, whether it be for hard candy or sauce, looks very different than the way it did in 1817 and the decades following. ~ Shuna

  6. Vicki Tunell

    I tried making butterscotch pudding the other day, using the same ingredients as here and on the link to your butterscotch pudding, but it was a different recipe.

    My pudding was really grainy, smooth, but with a grainy texture if that makes sense. What can I do to remedy this? The taste was just right, and it set up fine, no lumps, but the grainy texture was a huge detraction. Any tips?

    Hello Vicki,
    I second your emotions. In the kitchen we call what you’re describing as “broken.” This can happen for any number of reasons but from my own personal experience (and tears) I think this happens because sugar is acidic and most especially so in brown sugar because molasses is fairly unstable– both with acid and enzyme content.

    Dairy, especially from cows, has a hard time with acidic ingredients. Add lemon to your milk with hot black tea and you’ll see what I mean.

    In my own recipe I say, “Whisk continuously and violently. Try to whisk at all sorts of angles so that the whisk bottom makes it into the “corners” of the pot. If you are not breaking a sweat or getting sore, you may not be whisking hard enough.” And what I found to be true is that few people who do not whisk for a living can handle the kind of whisking this takes.

    In David Lebovitz’s recipe he reminds us all that the blender can be our friend for butterscotch pudding for this very reason. One of those nifty hand-blenders can also be helpful with small batches.

    The point here being that brown sugar is wont to “break” cream and milk but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying its delicious properties. Viva Butterscotch Pudding! ~ Shuna

  7. The Cooking Cardiologist

    Great recipe. I have made a similar sauce (actually more like a caramel sauce) with a can of PET evaporated milk. Just put the can in boiling water (cover about 3/4 of the can with water) and boil for 30 minutes. Let it cool, open the can…wow! caramel sauce. Cook well, live long!

  8. Liza

    Ooh yum, what you are talking about Cooking Cardio is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dulce_de_leche, and yes that is an equally yummy caramel sauce. I once saw it on tv and was so determined to try it I started it at 7:30 at night, not a good idea since it takes many hours to cook. Although I never did use it all up it was an exotic tasting caramel.

    But back to the point, what would you do if you wanted to make butterscotch candy? Heat it more?

    Thanks for the awesome recipe.

    Hello Liza,
    Thanks so much for your question about making butterscotch hard candy. I have little experience with making candy in general but I will say that it is a completely different process than making sauce. I would definitely say the technical level is a bit higher indeed.

    I found this and this recipe online with a quick search and both look good in terms of ingredients although for my taste I would always add a little more salt. ~ Shuna

  9. Sandy

    I remember making Butterscotch sauce with my grandmother over ** years ago. I was so astonished at the age of 10 that butter, brown sugar, and vanilla would combine into something that I had considered a ‘flavor’. Your comments made me clearly remember that ‘aha’ sensation that food was made not bought. Everyone should try this — it is pure cooking magic.

  10. Lauren

    I just LOVE butterscotch. Thank you so much for this recipe! I recently made caramel sauce from scratch, and now I’ll have to buy more ice cream to make this. Oh, darn!

    One question, though: Can I use light brown sugar? Or must it be dark brown?

    Hello Lauren,
    Light brown sugar, medium brown sugar, raw sugar, Muscovado sugar, dark brown sugar, demererra sugar– there are so many options these days! We are very lucky indeed.

    Realistically, and truthfully, not a single brown sugar is created equal, and what one country, what one state, considers dark brown another considers light or can not be found and bought the world over.

    Without going into an entire explanation of “brown sugars,” I will say that using light brown sugar will result in a much too light tasting butterscotch sauce. It’s important that the flavor of molasses be present, but not overwhelmingly so– or that it my taste preference at any rate. ~ Shuna

  11. Christine

    Thank you so much, Elise and Shuna, for giving us this great lesson for making a sauce that haunts my childhood dreams. Although I never buy butterscotch in a jar, so have nothing to give up, I have been without butterscotch for many years and now, happily, that will change. Thank you both again.

  12. LesterK

    I fear I must repeat a previously asked question, as I, too, want to know. What is the difference between butterscotch and caramel? Thanks.

    Hello LesterK,
    Thanks for your question. I fear the explanation will bring us into the sticky realm (pun intended) of the thick and murky nomenclature bog.

    Plainly, for the sake of brevity, caramel is made with white sugar and butterscotch is made of brown sugar.

    But caramel could also be seen as an umbrella term for a wide range of sugars that caramelize. See above comments– butterfat can caramelize from a number of animals which give milk, and depending on the region you could be eating Yak caramel or coconut sugar caramel, neither of which fit neatly into these two binary caramels.

    I fear your question has spurred in me a number of other questions, and possibly posts, to come. Thank you for your small but grand query! ~ Shuna

  13. Mark Boxshus

    When making butterscotch or caramel, I always add a splash of dark rum. This adds a nice buttery flavor highlight.

  14. Mar

    I have been making homemade butterscotch pudding since I was a kid. I have never made ACTUAL butterscotch, but this is making me crave it!!

  15. Robin

    Lester — as far as I know the difference between homemade caramel and homemade butterscotch is that with caramel you start with white sugar and brown it; with butterscotch you start with the brown sugar — which has a molasses component (the molasses is removed from the white sugar during processing). I imagine there’s a subtle difference in flavor, with the butterscotch being deeper. But I am not a food chemist…

  16. lynn

    This sounds great, but I have a hard time finding heavy cream that is not ultra-pasteurized in any local stores. Any ideas on where to look?

    Hello Lynn,
    Without knowing where you might be located, I’m not sure how to help you. Your best bet is to approach your local grocer. Grocery stores that don’t stock non-ultra pasteurized dairy make that choice because of spoilage issues– butterfat is really expensive. Another option might be that you approach a local cook, chef or restaurant owner. Sometimes they’ll let you buy a quart or a half gallon at cost. If no stabilizer is listed as an ingredient, you’re golden. Best of luck. ~ Shuna

  17. Alex

    I made this and it was sooooo tasty and I could have eaten it all my self.

  18. Jamie AZ

    This looks delicious and will be on the list to prepare next week. My dad is going to love it!

    Can I also “can” it in jars with a hot water bath? I’d love to give some as gifts around the holidays. Thanks!

    Hello JamieAZ,
    My first guess to your question about “putting up” this butterscotch sauce is yes, but I have never tried it myself so I don’t want to guarantee it.

    Please make sure that when you are cooling down the butterscotch, do so in a bowl set in another bowl of ice water. Season it when it has come to room temperature, but then cool it all the way to chilled and then “can” it.

    The truth is that I have been known to eat and use butterscotch I made last year but everyone’s refrigerator is different and I can not absolutely guarantee everyone’s butterscotch will last that long.

    If you do end up jarring it and it works out can you stop back in a few months and tell us? Thank you. ~ Shuna

  19. katy

    this looks so great — I was wondering about the difference between caramel and butterscotch too, but you cleared it up! i love them both far, far too much.

    one more quick question — did you strain it after it sits at room temperature? I presume yes but I’ve had mixed results with similar (caramel) recipes — sometimes there’s so much gunk (milk curds, I guess) to strain out, it’s a little gross! any tips on reducing that?

    Hello Katy,
    To strain or not to strain, this is a great question. My experience is that if you follow this method there is no reason to strain.

    The final 10 minutes of cooking– boiling and frothing and bubbling on the stove turn this sauce from a mixture to an emulsion. Meaning that in the last stage the cream binds with butter and brown sugar and what should come out of the pot is one cohesive body of butterscotch.

    When I was making this batch to test for Simply Recipes I scaled down quite a bit, as the batches I usually make for restaurants yield about 10 times the amount. I have found that if little bits of brown sugar do not dissolve once the cream has been whisked in thoroughly, straining at the end is necessary. ~ Shuna

  20. Rachelle

    Hi Shuna and Elise,

    Not to be redundant, but I’m wondering if you can clarify the comments about heavy cream? Where can one purchase non-ultra-pasteurized heavy cream in the Bay Area?

    Also, you mentioned to another commenter that if the ingredient list doesn’t contain any stabilizers, then its ok. However, my experience is that stabilizers and ultra-pasteurization do not necessarily go hand in hand. So, is it ok to use ultra-pasteurized heavy cream if it does not contain stabilizers?

    I’ve been looking for non-ultra-pasteurized heavy cream for quite some time but, even in Berkeley, have had a hard time finding it. Thanks in advance! I can’t wait to try this recipe!

    Hello Rachelle,
    Thanks for your query. My experience is that when cream is ultra pasteurized it is treated in this manner so as to extend shelf life. Oftentimes, but as you said, not always, ultra pasteurized cream also contains stabilizers because, in truth, it is quite difficult to guarantee that cream will remain shelf stable for long periods of time.

    In the Bay Area of Northern California we are lucky enough to have too many options for high quality cow dairy liquids. (Not too mention goat and “alternative” milks.) What I love to use, when I can afford it, is Clover’s Organic line. It’s what Chez Panisse uses. Strauss dairy, another option to us, is so unstable (it is not homogenized and it’s pasteurized at the lowest legal temperature to insure a fresh flavor) that it is best eaten out of the bottle and not used in baking purposes– the outcomes are so varied that it can prove to be an expensive experiment.

    There’s also a few brands of Raw cream and milk but those are quite difficult to get in bulk on a regular basis. None of these that I’ve mentioned are ultra pasteurized and none have stabilizers in them.

    Restaurants and large food service industries also have something else available to us, in major American cities, called Manufacturing Cream. My experience with this product is that some are full of stabilizers and some are not; some are ultra pasteurized and those are usually full of stabilizers. It is very hard to whip a cream that has stabilizers and is ultra pasteurized, for example, never mind that the taste is slightly bitter, and in my experience for desserts, off putting.

    Cream’s sweet and delicious taste comes from butterfat, pure and simple, and if that cow has eaten not so delicious foods (cows are actually very picky eaters and prefer greenery rich in the nutrients that give their milk it’s body and flavor) their cream will reflect this right away.

    Does this detailed information help or just confuse matters? Here in California look for cream from Berkeley Farms, Clover, or Strauss– I have found all of these creams to be delicious. In the rest of the country and outside of the USA I can only make suggestions about what not to buy, if you want that creamy body and taste of cream in a recipe where flavor and viscosity matters. ~ Shuna

  21. Susan

    I used to think I hated butterscotch as a child, but discovered I basically can’t stand those yellow Brach’s butterscotch candies! Butterscotch sauce is, of course, dreamy.

    My question is: Do you think the original hard Butterscotch candy mentioned in the intro (that had to be scored and broken) might have resembled the flavor and color of those Brach’s candies? (I imagine there’s also a candy shop out there practicing the old technique that could also answer this one.)
    PS: Thanks so much for all your time in answering these questions!

    Susan,
    I fear the ingredients, the way they use them and the recipes for hard candies are a much hidden secret. If you find a candy shop still making their candies from scratch that’s great but my experience is that there are very few of these left.

    Your best bet is to buy some of these candies because it appears that they are using a near 200 year old recipe. Perhaps the worst that can happen is you’ll make one of your neighbors happy if you don’t like the flavor yourself.

    If I were allowed a guess I would say that Brachs and most commercial companies are using artificial flavors of some sort. ~ Shuna

  22. Rachael

    Shuna, This is so fab!
    I love butterscotch, and recently found a recipe using it in a souffle…only, it comes out quite plain and not really “butterscotchy.” (The recipe is from The Dessert Bible) Do you think it is just too delicate a flavor for a souffle?

    Hello Rachael,
    This is a great question. And perhaps one I can not answer without looking at or even following the recipe you’re speaking of.

    Yes, some flavors are too subtle to translate over all those egg whites/ meringue in a souffle. My own personal experience with souffles is that they are light in texture, of course, but also in pin-down-able flavor.

    Perhaps you could make a vanilla souffle and pour butterscotch sauce into it? ~ Shuna

  23. Krista

    This is fantastic. Love butterscotch. Never knew it was so easy. Thank for your inspiring this non-cook to cook!

  24. terry

    Where did I go wrong?

    I made this last night – wanting to top it on some cinnamon rolls – but when cooled to room temperature, it became quite hard, almost fudge like. Any thoughts?

    Thank you.

    Hello Terry,
    I’m a little bit confused about what your issue is. Did it become hard while it was still hot or after being chilled?

    My own butterscotch gets thick as well, after it has been cooled. But a quick flash on the stove, in the microwave or dissolved into custard base quickly loosens it again.

    How much the butterscotch hardens depends on these factors:

    The lighter your cream is in viscosity and butterfat. The longer you boil everything together at the end. If your pot is much larger than the space the ingredients take up means heat distribution will happen at a faster rate. If your burners are gas and your BTU capacity is higher than most home stove tops. If you cooked the butter-brown sugar mixture a little too long.

    Does this help or make matters more confusing? Please do leave another comment-question if you have more. ~ Shuna

  25. Jody

    Thank you for sharing recipes for REAL butterscotch. I never really knew how that flavor came to be, but had a hunch it was brown sugar. I’m going to try this tonight for dessert over ice cream.

    Bless you!
    Jody

  26. Jody

    OMG!!! This was delish!!!
    I could’ve eaten the whole panful, but shared with the rest of my family.

    Thank YOU!
    Jody

  27. terry

    Thanks so much Shuna for responding.

    It does help. What happened was I made the butterscotch, cooled it down a bit, then when I added the salt, the whole thing separated and it was really oily. So I reheated it to see if it would form again. When I cooled it and it was at room temperature, it was hard. Totally hard like fudge. I could not stir it to add more vanilla and salt as instructed.

    It sounds as though I over heated. I will try it again.

    I’m like the person who is a terrible singer so only sings in the privacy of her own home but at the top of her lungs. I’m like that in the kitchen, but I keep trying and trying anyway because its so fun!

    Best.

  28. js

    Thank you for sharing.

    I’ve been in such a confusion about butterscotch sauce. We recently tried our hand at making butterscotch to go with a “warm toffee cake” (can be found here: http://eatingclubvancouver.blogspot.com/2008/04/warm-toffee-cake-la-rekados.html).

    I wanted to have a sauce that was smoother and thinner in consistency. I’ll try this recipe next time!

  29. Qwilleran

    I love butterscotch but I’m allergic to milk, would soy cream work?

    hello Qwilleran,

    This is an excellent question for which I do not have a definitive answer. I think you might be challenged in this recipe because cow’s milk dairy plays such a prominent role, both for flavor and also compostion/ binding of ingredients.

    The best I can say is try it and get back to us. Use the highest fat soy, oat or almond milk to replace the cream and also the same for the butter. I do hope you have time to test it and tell us all what you think. ~ Shuna

  30. janna

    I’ve tried making butterscotch and caramel before and this is the first time it actually turned out perfectly. Great instructions, great recipe and the photos were an excellent aid. I can’t wait to share my sauce with everyone. You are going to make me look really good! Thanks, Janna.

  31. cherry

    Can I use ordinary fresh cream instead of the said one coz we don’t get that kind of creams back home? thanks.

    Hello Cherry,

    Of course you may use fresh cream if you have it. Sounds delicious indeed. My point here is that ultra pasteurized creams have been cooked at such high temperatures, and often have added stabilizers, that the flavor of the cream is greatly compromised.

    If you are using fresh cream, be sure to eat butterscotch within the time frame of that cream’s “expiration date” though. Because fresh cream is not pasteurized, it is not stable– meaning it can go off much more easily. ~ Shuna

  32. caireann

    Hello,
    I found your very nice recipe for butterscotch.
    I found it works well with any salt.
    It doesn’t have to be with kosher salt.

  33. Tricia

    Today my mother said she wanted me to stop at the store & buy some ice-cream. I know how much she loves butterscotch so I looked for a jar at the local farm stand where I bought the icecream. I was more than a bit shocked when I found all they had available was caramel sauce at approximately $8.00 a jar! I bought some fresh berries & whipping cream & took her home. It occurred to me to look for a butterscotch recipe & found your site. Oh my word! So very easy & sooooo very tasty! Thank you very much for posting!

  34. Lynae

    Hi Shuna! I made this butterscotch tonight and it was delicious. However, when it cooled it got all grainy again, and once refrigerated, it started to separate. Is that supposed to happen? No big deal–I’m assuming that when I heat it up it’ll mix right up again–but I do want to know if I did something wrong so I won’t do it again! In case it’s important, I’m not sure whether the cream I used had stabilizers in it or not–it was labeled pasteurized but not ULTRA-pasteurized.

    Hello Lynae,

    If you are absolutely positive you followed all the instructions and you still have this result (people often do not spend enough time whisking and letting the mixture boil after cream has been added), feel free to heat it back up to boil, whisk about five minutes, then strain it through a fine meshed sieve.

    You may also try giving it whirring time in a food processer or a high powered bllender. But the separating is normal. Just give it a good stir before using. ~ Shuna

  35. Kylie

    This was absolutely delicious–we poured it over the blondies with some vanilla bean ice cream and it was heavenly. If you don’t have cream, vanilla soymilk was a perfectly good substitute in a pinch, so I imagine 2% or whole milk would be too. I have ruined many batches of caramel–who knew a sauce could be so simple and easy? Thank you!

  36. mamagotcha

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I read the pudding recipe too, and strongly agree with your chastening of the magazine re: artificial flavoring.

    My search for butterscotch recipes that led me here started because I’d tried an oatmeal cookie featuring butterscotch chips. I want to make them, and all the chips I can find are Nestle/Hershey abominations.

    I can get around the nasty chocolate chips by chopping up a good Scharffen Berger bar… but if you wanted to use real butterscotch chips in a cookie, how would you do that? Would you make the harder candy version and crack it up? Just add a dollop of what you describe in this post?

    Thanks! I can’t wait to make this!

    Hello Mamagotcha

    Butterscotch chips are basically artificially flavored cocoa butter sweetened with a lot of sugar. Butterscotch candy is something else as well and something you could make at home only if you were an experienced candy maker. The hard sugar candy we’re most familiar with has to be flavored with essences because the moisture content of brown sugar, butter and cream inhibits hard crunchiness.

    Butterscotch, as a sauce, has the most amazing flavor profile when you can hit it on the head with the right balance of all these ingredients. Most people never go back to the chips once they’ve tried this. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. ~ Shuna

  37. Terri Jean Talley

    What is the difference between caramel and butterscotch?

    Hi Terri, Shuna has answered this question earlier in the comments. “for the sake of brevity, caramel is made with white sugar and butterscotch is made of brown sugar.” You can see the difference by comparing Shuna’s recipe with my caramel sauce recipe posted elsewhere on the site. ~Elise

  38. Mark Shaw

    I think I have this figured out. The first time I made it I ended up with a panful of burnt sugar with some clarified butter floating in it. The second time, I kept the heat a lot lower and ended up with a nice butterscotch sauce, but with some graininess and a tendency to harden on ice cream. After refrigeration, it solidified. So I microwaved it to remelt and stirred some hot water into it. Now, it’s perfect – silky-smooth and liquid even after refrigeration. And very, very good.

    What we’re basically doing here is making candy, but not letting it get even to the thread stage. So keep the heat down!

  39. VentureSister

    Hey, I was thinking about making this for a Christmas gift and I was wondering how many ounces each batch makes. I’m thinking 13-oz jar for each person.
    BTW, I just wanted to say I LOVE your website! I’m using your vanilla extract recipe also for Christmas gifts. I’m going all homemade this year, thanks to you. :D

    This is actually Shuna’s recipe. Looking at the ingredients, I would guess that it makes about 1 cup or 1 1/4 cups. So you might want to go for an 8 ounce jar. Also remember that this recipe must be refrigerated, and it only keeps a month. ~Elise

  40. Rabia

    I have a bread pudding recipe that calls for butterscotch chips to be mixed in with the gruel just before baking. Do you suppose I could add the bs sauce instead of chips? The pudding recipe already calls for brown sugar, eggs, milk etc. Thanks for a great sauce recipe.

    Don’t know. If you try it, please let us know how it turns out. ~Elise

  41. Judy

    My daughter is considering making this sauce to give out as wedding favors in those little 4oz. canning jars. (We would need 250 of them = 125 cups.) Can the recipe be increased x 5 to do in large batches, or would that affect the outcome? Would it be possible to get your original recipe for the large volume quantity? I too would like to know if this sauce can be canned. I’m wondering if the previous poster tried it out. If you did – please post again with the results! Thank you so much for any information!

  42. Sharon Wee

    Thank you for this recipe, it was so simple but tasted so good! I could not stop eating it :)

  43. Regena

    Sugar is affected by humidity.

    In response to Lynae on October 23, 2008 4:36 AM: I made fudge on a snowy (humid) night for Christmas gifts and it NEVER set up. (I kept it for three weeks hoping, in vain, I was wrong). Here is the explanation my Grandmatoher gave me (she warned me while I was making it but I stubbornly soldiered on…) sugar is greatly affected by moisture; evidenced by it clumping in the sugar jar. When making any recipe involving a high percentage of sugar, as much as possible, choose to do it on a non-humid day.

    While I will never argue with my Grandmother again regarding culinary or child-raising issues, can someone provide me a more scientific reason than the one she gave me?

  44. Steve

    I had to check the fridge to see if my cream was ultra-pasturised, then I read the response to Cherry’s question. :D

    None of the other recipies I have found online have salt as an additive. Can you explain the importance of salt and what ‘kosher’ salt is?

    Also most other recipes I have seen involve putting all the increadients in the saucepan at once and bringing them to the boil. This way looks much more decadent. My thoughts is that waiting to add the cream will result in a richer sauce.

    Salt heightens the flavor of the butterscotch, much in the same way as it intensifies the flavor of caramel or chocolate. It is commonly added for such sauces. ~Elise

  45. Kanako

    I’m thinking about making butterscotch schnappes for a friend of mine as she really loves it – the thing is, we live in Japan and butterscotch extract is pretty much non-existent. Do you think it possible to replace the extract with this sauce?

    Probably not. But if you try it, please let us now how it turns out. ~Elise

  46. Megan

    I made this for the first time tonight–delicious! However, I cooked it too fast in a pan that was probably a little bit too large and evaporated too much of the moisture. When I let it sit for a few minutes to cool, it formed a thick, grainy sludge. I didn’t want to throw it out and start again, so I tried whisking some cold cream into it, and it worked wonders! I heated it over very low heat until it simmered just a bit to be sure everything was mixed in well, then followed the last few steps. Absolutely wonderful!

  47. Will

    The flavor of this was absolutely superb. Me and my three boys poured some over homemade vanilla icecream and we all could nto get enough. I agree with a few of the previous comments about the graininess. Not sure what to do about that or where i went slightly wrong. Regardless though it was superb!

  48. trudi

    so I didn’t have any milk but I had rice milk but it was bit thin so i added some cornflour and it worked out perfectly and tasted great. I had it over bread and butter pudding!

  49. Megan

    I am such a Harry Potter geek- and at 25 too… One of my friends sent me a link (above) for Butterbeer. Cold Sunday night, going through the latest fanfiction, I thought, why not? Looked through my fridge, but not butterscotch appeared, and being the brave 20-somthing woman I am, I decided to do it all from scratch. Turned out AMAZING!!! Definitely better than if I had used store bought. My boyfriend laughed but said it was suprisingly tasty. For those of you who like cream soda defintely check out the recipe.

  50. Anonymous

    If you are using fresh cream, be sure to eat butterscotch within the time frame of that cream’s “expiration date” though. Because fresh cream is not pasteurized, it is not stable– meaning it can go off much more easily. ~ Shuna

    The finished butterscotch sauce has been cooked at a much higher temperature and for a much longer time period than a dairy’s pasteurizing temperature of 161 degrees for only 15 seconds.

    Boiling the butterscotch sauce for 10 minutes (as per the recipe) would certainly render the fresh cream component absolutely safe and sterile.

  51. Jeremiah

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I am currently preparing for a barista competition in which I was thinking of adding this to espresso, along with a cayanne cinnamon. I was also thinking of melting semi-bitter or unsweetened bitter chocolate to this butterscotch in order to bring out a little of the bitter notes of espresso & partner it with a roasted brazil nut soaked heavy cream. I don’t know your experience with coffee, but do you think that butterscotch lends itself well to espresso?

  52. Lisa

    I just made this sauce and it is delicious! I was going to drizzle it over the pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese frosting I will be making for Thanksgiving but I don’t think it will last until Thursday. I just can’t stop tasting it! Oh well, it’s so easy to make I could just whip up another batch. Thanks for this recipe.

  53. Mia

    The Cooking Cardiologist – the recipe you describe of “cooking” a can of evoporated milk is for making Cajeta, a delicious Mexican caramel sauce. In the USA it’s usually called Dulce de Leche :)

    And what a delicious butterscotch recipe, I have been craving ice cream recently, so I have a perfect excuse to make some of this num-num sauce this weekend!

    Thanks Mia,
    For the sake of gastronomy it should be noted that cajeta is considered to be a caramel made most often with goat’s milk. It’s an amazing thing that the sugars in butterfat turn themselves immediately into caramel without all of the fuss we usually go to… ~ Shuna

  54. Maria

    I know this is an old thread, but I made this tonight as a topping for ice cream and kept the heat on the high side of med-low and had no problems. I have a electric glass top stove. I think the heat may be a bit more intense if you are using gas, therefore I can see how some had separation issues. Added homegrown toasted walnuts from my parents Oregon farm. Yum! All I had on hand was coarse kosher salt, which did not totally dissolve in the sauce. However, I love the crunchy texture of the salt in the sauce and the savory explosion in the midst of the butterscotch! Thanks for sharing the very clear instructions!

  55. Aaron

    Just made this too.
    It came out great. You certainly want to whisk it a lot for sure. I have not had any separation. I followed the instructions to the T. (except I used a regular stainless steel pan and used a little lower heat (paying attention to heat) because its not thick bottom)
    I just used the ultra-pasteurized since there wasn’t any non ultra-pasturized in the 2 stores I went to. I can certainly taste the bitterness that was talked about, but I kinda like it.
    I never drink alcohol, but I do know why they call it butterscotch now. The vanilla gives it a scotch kind of feel.
    I suggest don’t even add salt!!!
    I used unsalted butter and I think the salt is what ruined it for me. I added half the vanilla and half the salt as suggested and right away it was too salty. I added the rest of the vanilla just to see, but I actually liked it better before the vanilla and salt.
    Be very careful adding salt, and add just a little bit of vanilla at a time until it’s strong enough for your taste, otherwise stick with the butter sugar and cream ingredients maybe.

    Also I noticed, if you are looking for hard candy. (I read almost every comment on this page) Don’t add the cream. It turned into really good toffee without the cream.
    I am also not a cook and rarely cook things, so you may know this, but be careful adding the cream to the hot sugar and butter. It turned the sugar instantly into this super hard stuff that luckly whipped all back out into liquid, but any part that didn’t mix with cream turned into hard toffee (which was just a tiny bit on the spoon and side of pan).

    I try to eat sugar-free super healthy, but this is something I always wanted to try since the words butterscotch stuck with me from my childhood. I may just throw out most of this batch and try it again with the non-ultrapasturized so that I can get rid of the last of my brown sugar.

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