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?

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Flavor, sauce, memory, aroma, era: butterscotch was an all but extinct, or out-of-date substance, and flavor until recently.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

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


  • 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


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.

melt brown sugar in butter for butterscotch cook brown sugar in butter for butterscotch

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.

stir butterscotch sauce

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.

add cream to butterscotch sauce boil butterscotch sauce

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.

butterscotch sauce

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.

dollop of butterscotch sauce

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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Historically: Wikipedia on butterscotch

Shuna's recipe for butterscotch pudding

Flickr photo set on the making of this butterscotch

How to Make Butterscotch

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

91 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Deb

    For me, the brown sugar is more for caramel. I use White sugar instead and LOVE IT!


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  2. JayBee

    I used a meat thermometer that only goes to 220, took it off the heat about 30 seconds after the temp hit 220. It came out perfect and smooth and after I added the salt and vanilla, it was amazing. I think the folks having trouble getting the right consistency probably are either boiling at too high a heat or at too low a heat. Every stove is different; so a thermometer is the best judge rather than time. I told my roomie not to leave me alone in a room with the butterscotch sauce and a spoon.


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  3. Nissy

    It came out with a thickness between sauce and candy. Tastes nice though.

  4. terralynnl

    Where do I get Heavy Whipping Cream that is not ULTRA pasteurized? I can’t find it anywhere.

    Show Replies (1)
  5. vince

    Very easy, worked perfectly. Mostly cooked at low to medium heat with only a few seconds of high heat. I did bring it to 225 degrees. I use this as a base for butterscotch gingerbread which my grands are wild about and my work crew beg me to make.


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How to Make Butterscotch Sauce