Love caramel but maybe find it a little fussy to make? Looking for a ridiculously easy dessert sauce? Then you need to try my homemade butterscotch sauce! Butterscotch is caramel’s easier and butterier cousin. What’s not to love?
There are a number of things I’ve resisted making over the years. Either because they seemed too difficult. Or because I could buy what I thought were reasonable versions of them in the store. Or both.
Things like hummus. And blue cheese dressing. And dinner bread. I now make all of these myself on a regular basis since they are both a great deal easier than I realized and also so much better than just about any version that I can buy in the store.
I’m now adding butterscotch sauce to the list.
Homemade Dessert Sauce
This version here I have adapted from The Smitten Kitchen’s Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce (who adapted it from a source who in turn adapted from a source – if you want a basic, no-frills butterscotch recipe this seems to be the one to make). I found this recipe when I did a little search after deciding I needed to make some.
And, yes, it is ridiculously easy, as well as ridiculously tasty.
A few minutes to assemble the ingredients and a few minutes more stirring the sauce on the stove top and you are done! You have thrown off the shackles of artificial colors and flavors, and unpronounceable additives, and whatever else they put in the butterscotch sauce you can buy in the store.
What do you need?
You’re going to need 5 common ingredients. Nothing fancy here, just simple done well!
- Brown Sugar – one 1/2 cup packed
- Butter – unsalted since it’s best to control the salt separately
- Cream – heavy cream aka double cream
- Vanilla – just a little but it makes a big difference!
- Kosher Salt – I like the larger grains of kosher over table salt
Tip: I like to use light brown sugar but you can substitute dark brown sugar for a more intense flavor.
As far as equipment, you will need a medium saucepan or, if you’re really into sauces and puddings, a saucier. A saucier is a slope-sided sauce pan that is great for making…well, sauces since it has curved sides which allow you to whisk without encountering hard to reach edges.
Also, I would recommend a flat whisk for making this recipe (and any other sauce). I have this metal handled flat whisk. It’s well made and is easy to clean with no plastic parts to break down.
How to make this
To make homemade butterscotch sauce melt butter in a sauce pan. Add the sugar and mix in, then add the cream and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes while stirring. Take off the heat and add the vanilla and salt.
Unlike caramel sauce where you have to worry about crystallization and checking temperatures, here things are very simple.
1. Melt butter and add sugar
Just melt your butter. Once it’s melted, add the brown sugar and whisk until it’s well mixed with the butter and warmed up.
2. Add cream
Then add the cream (it won’t boil up since nothing is too hot yet) and whisk well while bringing the whole mixture to a boil. You can see it’ll look all white at first since it’s not combined properly yet. But once the sauce warms up some more it will be a nice golden color.
3. Bring it to a boil
Now boil (gently!) for 5 minutes. In the photo everything is bubbling but not bubbling too high with the bubbles stacking up. That’s what you want.
4. Finish it up
After the 5 minutes are up, take it off the heat and add the vanilla and a bit of salt. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Tip: Be careful when tasting the HOT SUGAR SAUCE. Just dip your spoon in to coat it then blow on it to cool it enough that you won’t burn your mouth. Now taste. 🙂
butterscotch vs caramel
Caramel sauce is made with white sugar and water which is brought to a boil until the the sugar caramelizes. Once the mixture has darkened and caramelized, it is taken off the heat where cream, butter, and vanilla are added. You will need a candy thermometer to make sure it doesn’t burn and overcaramelize and be careful about sugar crystals since they can cause it to solidify. Also, add that cream slowly or it will boil over!
Butterscotch sauce is made with butter and brown sugar which are mixed together and then combined with cream. Everything is brought to a boil and then vanilla and salt are added off heat. No candy thermometer, no worry about sugar crystals, no boiling over, just sweet dessert sauce.
If you try my recipe for Homemade Butterscotch Sauce, I would love to hear from you in the comments with your experience and rating! And I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
Homemade Butterscotch Sauce
- 4 tbsp (2 oz) unsalted butter,
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar,
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Melt butter in a sauce pan on medium heat.
- Add brown sugar and whisk to mix it into the butter. Then add the cream and bring the sauce to a boil whisking until the sauce is smooth.
- Keep the sauce at a light boil for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally, reducing the heat on the burner if needed.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Add the salt and vanilla. Taste and add more of either if you want to pump up the flavor a bit more.
- Let the sauce cool to room temperature and enjoy.
- Inspiration: Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen - Ridiculously Easy Butterscotch Sauce.
- Brown Sugar: You can use either light or dark brown sugar in the recipe.
- Cooking the Sauce: The sauce will bubble vigorously and the bubbles will stack a bit but be careful not to let them get too much or too high or you may burn the sauce.
- Uses: I have used the sauce in some recipes such as: Hot Apple Pie Bourbon Cocktails and Apple Crisp Bars. You can use the sauce on ice cream, over cake, in buttercream frosting, in lattes or ice coffees, as a fruit dip and more!
- Storage: Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. When chilled, the sauce is pretty solid so warm it back up in saucepan on medium heat for a few minutes if you need it to be pourable.
First published October 2015. Rewritten, expanded, and rephotographed.