Real, Traditional, Authentic, Amazingly Good Butterscotch Candy

butterscotch candy 015Yesterday in the butterscotch versus caramel post, I said that both confections require salt, although butterscotch needs more than caramel.  And then I thought of that 1848 “recipe” for traditional Doncaster butterscotch, calling for one pound each of sugar and butter and a quarter pound of treacle.  I was also pondering the fact that the proportion of sugar to butter in butterscotch is 1:1 while butter doesn’t necessarily play a role in caramel, and that’s when it hit me.

Butterscotch and caramel were probably both originally made using salted butter. So, the more butter called for, the more salt the end product contained. —Pronouncement by Me based on nothing but conjecture. But it feels right, doesn’t it? I mean, back before refrigeration, salt was put in the butter as a preservative, so it stands to reason that the butter Back Then was Pretty Darned Salty.

I read on that some salted butters can contain up to 3% salt, or about 3/4 teaspoon per stick. Or up to 1 whole Tablespoon per pound.  So, if the original Doncaster butterscotch was made with a base recipe of one pound of (presumably) salted butter, it would also contain about 1 Tablespoon of salt. Hence: salt is a Big Player in butterscotch’s flavor profile. Magical!

And with that, I give you Real, Traditional, Authentic, Amazingly Good Butterscotch Candy. With Options for changing the texture, as well.

UPDATE: Please note that I used Grandma’s Molasses and not blackstrap molasses. If you are using a stronger molasses, you may need to cut back. Please read the comments for other folks’ experiences. The other side of the molasses debate could also be that what we think of as “real” butterscotch now may be very different from real butterscotch back when this recipe was written. Perhaps it was a much more molasses-forward confection. If you’re feeling really spunky, make it with a strong molasses and a milder one and see which  you prefer. Enjoy!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Real, Traditional, Authentic, Amazingly Good Butterscotch Candy
Recipe type: Candy
Cuisine: British
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Back in the mid-ish 1800s, a British confectioner went and visited Italy and apparently was both saddened to find that their sweets were better than what was available in England and inspired to Fix That. Butterscotch is what he came up with. Good show, old man. This recipe makes a relatively soft candy that should be stored in the refrigerator. See the notes for the temperatures to cook it to get everything from a sauce to a much firmer candy.
What You Need
  • 1 pound granulated sugar
  • 1 pound unsalted butter (or try using salted. You still might need to add some more salt, so taste to see)
  • 4 oz molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 10-14 grams fine sea salt, or to taste (about 2-2½ teaspoons)
What To Do
  1. Cut a strip of non-stick foil to the same width as the bottom of an 8" or 9" baking dish. Line the pan, making sure the edges of the foil extend up and over opposite sides of the pan. Don't worry about the unlined sides.
  2. Spray the whole shebang very well with pan spray, especially the unlined sides. Set aside on a heat-proof surface.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
  4. Stir in the sugar, molasses and salt.
  5. When the mixture is good and liquidy, increase the heat to medium to medium-high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  6. Cook the candy to 250F and then pour into your prepared pan.
  7. Let sit out until barely warm, and then score the candy for later cutting. Run a thin spatula between the unlined sides of the pan and the butterscotch, and put it in the fridge to firm up completely.
  8. Remove to a cutting board sprayed with pan spray, and cut into whatever shapes you want. This will make about 65-80 pieces of butterscotch, depending on how you cut them. Or it might only make four pieces, but I wouldn't advise that.
  9. Store, covered, in the fridge.
Other Stuff to Know
To make authentic butterscotch sauce, cook the ingredients to 240F.

To make a firmer candy that will hold its shape at room temperature, cook the ingredients to 260-280F, realizing that the higher the temperature, the firmer it will set up when it cools.

If you cook the ingredients to 305-310F, you've just made toffee, so pour it onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet covered with Toasted Nuts of choice, although almond is traditional.




  1. says

    it’s funny what you kinda sorta figured out about the butter because I was having thoughts along those lines the other day: most old recipes call for butter, not specifically salted or unsalted, and I thought about how you said that people nowadays never seem to use enough butter in their desserts which is why zOMG, *salted caramel* is the best thing EVARrrr. But if modern recipes were adapted from old ones without increasing the salt once we started using UN-salted butter (so we could control the amount of salt better, oh the irony!), then of course we only have enough salt to activate the yeast or leavening agents but not enough to affect flavor…

    It makes sense to me, at least. I have these conversations with you in my head while I’m in the kitchen, BTW.

  2. Tess says

    I wish you lived close enough for me to be your recipe-tester!! I didn’t know 9/19 was Butterscotch Pudding Day!!! My absolute favorite… my Granmommie use to make & would leave chunks of mix so when I ate, there’d be a butterscotch explosion in my mouth!!! Thanks!!! And I am looking forward to your recipes in my inbox!! Be sure to list “title of recipe” in subject line!!! You will have a special folder! ☺

    • says

      Hooray for special folders! :) I didn’t realize 9/19 was butterscotch pudding day, either. I *did* know that it’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, though! Now, when I make butterscotch, I will automatically talk like a pirate! lol

    • says

      Good question, Milz. Honestly, mine didn’t stay around long enough for me to worry! lol They do contain a ton of sugar, so I’m sure they’d be fine for up to a week. Hope that’s helpful!

  3. Stephanie says

    How long does this keep? My mom is goingto die…she loves soft candy. She loves butterscotch. WIN! I just FOUND your site and I am in love. Love your recipes AND your posts.

    • says

      Hey there Stephanie! So glad you found me and that you like what’s going on in my corner of the Hinternets! I would think that the butterscotch would keep for a good 10 days or so. In our house, it lasted about 2 days, and it was all my fault. I Could Not Stop eating it! I hope you try it and that you (and your mom) enjoy it! :)

  4. rhea says

    It sounds DE-LI-CIOUS!!I just tried making this and is now cooling down.I hope I cooked it long enough :/ I don’t have a thermometer so I wasn’t sure if it was done or not.It was still a yellowish color when I poured it into the pan.Do you think its done?

    • says

      It’s really hard for me to say, but if it’s not, you can do one of two things: you can just use it as an ice cream sauce and love it that way, or you can scrape it all back in the pan and continue to cook it until a tiny bit dropped into a dish of ice water turns into a firm ball that will hold its shape once you pull it out of the water. You should be able to “squish” it between a finger and thumb, but it should offer a little resistance. I hope you enjoy it, @22cd7b28219a495c8d385d8ed32e8f28:disqus

  5. James Hacker says

    Hi PC, I just made your recipe for Butterscotch Candy. I must say the color of my batch with 4 oz. of molasses is way darker in color that the picture you show. Does your batch above have treacle or some other golden colored syrup?

    • says

      No, I just used regular Grandma’s molasses, James. Were you using blackstrap molasses? That could make a difference. And how did it taste? Were you pleased with the results? If the flavor is good but you’re not in love with the color, maybe you could dip them in chocolate…? =)

  6. James Hacker says

    Sorry if I sound a little frustrated. I have made literally thousands of caramels where I cook the sugar to 350 degrees to caramelize it to a dark amber and then add cream and butter and cook to 248 degrees. The color of those caramels is on the dark side due to the caramelization. They are smooth and delicious. I am looking for a recipe that still has depth of flavor but is a more golden, traditional butterscotch color…either caramels or butterscotch. I was excited to read your article on old fashioned butterscotch and I found it informative and interesting, but there is no way that adding 4 oz of grandmas molasses to one pound each butter and white sugar will yield the color in the photo above…is there?? Yes, the flavor is terrific, but I might call them Molasses Chews rather than butterscotch. I want the buttery richness of Butterscotch and the color you show in the photo. Thank you for your patience with me.

  7. James Hacker says

    I do measure all ingredients with my digital scale. Sorry again to be so cantankerous. I was so hopeful when I googled butterscotch and saw that picture. I’ll try again.

    • says

      No, don’t apologize. I really do get it. I figured that you use a scale; just had to ask since many folks don’t. All I can say is dump everything in the pan, start it on medium and take it to 250F. Kim and I both had success, so I just don’t have any other good troubleshooting tips for you aside from suggesting you maybe cut back on the molasses to 2.5-3oz for your next go round. If you do try it again, do keep me posted, James!

  8. CJ says

    Hi, I tried this and I’m so sad to say that the proportions absolutely did not work. There was way too much butter; the sugar could not take the amount, and I wound up with a layer of butter over grainy candy. (I measured by weight, on a dry day.) The color was certainly beautiful, and the taste of the candy was good; but it ultimately was not edible because of the excess of grease. I’m sorry to leave unenthused feedback as your page is beautiful but butter is expensive and this just didn’t work. I imagine it could work with about 2/3 as much butter, maybe.

    • says

      I’m sorry you had this problem, CJ. It did not happen to me, and if it had, I certainly would’ve told everyone about it. I wonder if you used a butter with a higher butterfat content than I used? I used “standard American butter” which is about 80% fat. If you used a higher-fat butter, maybe that might have had something to do with it?

      I will say that when I first started melting all the ingredients together, the butter did want to separate. Stirring took care of the issue for me.

      If you do reduce the butter and give it a whirl, let me know what you think.

  9. Chris says

    The picture of butterscotch on here looked so beautiful and delicious I had to try this. I ended up with the same problem as James–an incredibly dark product that tasted so strongly of molasses it would not work to call it butterscotch. I do know why my results are so different, though, and it has everything to do with the molasses. You do not need to go “blackstrap” to have something waaaaay too strong for this recipe. To put it simply, the Grandma’s molasses you are using has less of what makes molasses molasses than many molasses products have.

    In sugar production sugar cane is boiled with water to leach out the sugar. There are a lot of other byproducts leached out with it that need to be separated off to obtain table sugar. The leftover syrup is called molasses, but that molasses still has a lot of sugar in it so they run it through again to get more of the sugar out as it is the sugar that makes them money. In each generation of the process the remaining sugar gets more and more caramalized because of the heat involved, making the molasses darker and darker. Typical terms used in the process refer to a “first molasses” a “second molasses” and a “blackstrap molasses” at the end. This is a simplification, though, and there is pretty much an infinite number of grades that could theoretically be obtained. Grandma’s molasses is less molassessy, if I can use an invented word, than ordinary first molasses products as it is intentionally made to be so instead of being a happy byproduct of sugar production that can also be sold. There are many American molasseses like Grandma’s–molasses by definition because it is not fully refined sugar, but it is the intended product rather than a byproduct and ends up being not as strong.

    The solution is simple enough. Just keep cutting back on the amount of molasses in the recipe until you get what you are after. Stronger molasses is for the most part more concentrated molasses. The water content doesn’t really matter as that is ultimately controlled by the candy thermometer. I’m pretty certain I’ll have to cut back by half or more for this recipe. Short of that people could always go out and buy Grandma’s molasses as is used in the recipe.

    • says

      Interesting. It does go to show that sometimes using a specific brand of a particular ingredient can make all the difference in the world. And I’m all for using an invented word. Thanks, Chris.

      Were you able to achieve the desired results by cutting back on the molasses you were using?

      • Dave says

        Is there any way to measure the ingredients without a scale? Sure would love to try this,but I don’t want to buy a scale if possible.

        • says

          Hi, Dave. I cannot tell you how freeing it is to own a scale, but if you really *really* don’t want to buy one (eventhoughtheyreonly25dollarsandwillmakeyourlifesomucheasier) then I recommend you use this conversion chart from King Arthur. It gives the weights of standard volume measurements of almost any ingredient you can think of. You may have to do a little math, but I think it will be very helpful. And note that the molasses I use is Grandma’s Molasses which is apparently about as light a molasses as you can get. If you use something more robust, cut back on the amount some.


  1. […] Traditional butterscotch is made by cooking sugar, butter and molasses together to about 240F. If you take those same ingredients (which today we often shorten to butter and brown sugar since brown sugar contains molasses) and cook them to 310F, you end up with toffee. Where butterscotch is chewy, toffee breaks and crunches. It also contains nuts or seeds, and part of the fun is choosing which nuts or seeds to use. Because you can use whatever you like. I chose to make cashew toffee this time.  I might choose otherwise next time. It’s part of the fun! […]

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