How to Make Butterscotch Sauce

DessertHow ToSauceButterscotch

When was the last time you tasted authentic butterscotch? A classic butterscotch sauce recipe with brown sugar, butter, and cream.

Photography Credit: Shuna Lydon

Please welcome guest author pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater who shares with us the (almost) lost art of making butterscotch sauce. ~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 Flavor, sauce, memory, aroma, era: butterscotch was an all but extinct, or out-of-date substance, and flavor until recently.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 Sauce

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  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes

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

1 Have everything ready to go: 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 Melt butter, add brown sugar: 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: 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 Note the texture: 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 Add the cream, let boil: 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 or until it registers 225°F on a digital or candy thermometer.

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6 Let rest, then transfer to storage vehicle to cool: 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 Taste, add salt and vanilla extract to taste: 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.

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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

How to Make Butterscotch

If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

Shuna Lydon

Pastry chef 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 and Aziza in San Francisco. Shuna's writing can be found on her highly acclaimed food blog Eggbeater. Shuna is now based in New York City.

More from Shuna

76 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  • Beth

    I always try a random butterscotch sauce recipe for when I’m in the mood. I usually double the recipes and there wasn’t enough butter when adding in the brown sugar. The butter and brown sugar mixture was very dry. I added a little more butter and it turned out fine. I never boil mine to a certain temperature. After adding the cream, I let it come to a boil around medium heat for about 5 min. This is an important step to let it boil, this is where the flavor comes out. Then I use it in my coffee, dip graham crackers in the sauce for a sweet snack, or I just eat it straight from the jar!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  • Bill Roseberry

    This is supposed to be butterscotch? It’s salted caramel! I tried twice, both times stuck at the fact that salt doesn’t dissolve into the caramel. Also at close to room temperature it is WAY to thick to stir anything into it!

  • Cindi

    I attempted this twice. Both times the butter separated from the brown sugar and never caramelized. I tried lowering the heat the second time and it still didn’t work. What am I doing wrong?

  • DRomesburg

    Thank you, this butterscotch sauce is FANTASTIC, truly! Do you think there is a way to incorporate this butterscotch sauce into flavoring caramels? I want to capture the wholesome butterscotch flavor. I was thinking if I cooked the caramel recipe to a higher temperature stage, perhaps I could blend the two together and make a nice butterscotch caramel right at the beginning of the firm ball stage.

  • Theresa

    I have made this twice. The first time I took it to 225 degrees which took longer than 10 minutes and it was a FAIL!! The second time I stuck to the 10 minute cook time, which is about 216 degrees, and it was a beautiful success!! So if you are using a thermometer 216-218 degrees seems to be a perfect temperature for a delicious butterscotch sauce! The other thing I would suggest is to gently heat the cream before adding to the boiling sugar and butter. I think it does better as the cream doesn’t cool the sugar as much so it won’t start to crystallize. Just my thoughts. The recipe is a keeper though and I am using it as a sauce for my sweet potatoes.

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How to Make Butterscotch Sauce