Real, Traditional, Authentic, Amazingly Good Butterscotch Candy

butterscotch candy 015

Pastry Chef Online WelcomeI'm so glad you're here! I bet you're here because you have excellent taste in candy and know that real butterscotch candy must be delicious! You are so right, and I'm going to teach you how to make it! In the recipe itself, I also give variations in cooking temperatures so you can make anything from butterscotch sauce to toffee (just see the Notes section in the recipe below).

Speaking of temperatures, knowing the temperature of your sugar syrup as you're cooking is vital to success.

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Stages of Sugar Chart

In the butterscotch versus caramel post, I said that both confections require salt, although butterscotch needs more than caramel. Β 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. Β 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Butterscotch and caramel were probably both originally made using salted butter.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. Β 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.

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  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.

    • says

      Exactly!! Well said! I don’t think I said it quite that well, @facebook-1522014263:disqus πŸ™‚ I thought I remembered having this conversation with you in a fugue state… πŸ˜‰ lol

  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! πŸ™‚ 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! πŸ™‚

  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.

  10. December says

    Mine also came out very dark and molasses-tasting with 4 oz Grandma’s. Doesn’t taste like butterscotch. Is the 4 oz being weighed on a scale or measured with a liquid measuring cup? I might try brown rice syrup instead, seems like the molasses is why it doesn’t taste like butterscotch.

    • says

      I weigh mine. And keep in mind that this is based on a recipe from the late 1800s. It is very probable that butterscotch in the late 1800s tastes different than a more modern interpretation of butterscotch. Mine came out exactly the color in my photos, and I appreciate the molasses edge. Again–brown sugar was probably much more molassesy long ago.

  11. December says

    So Jennifer Field says they weigh 4 oz molasses on a scale, not a liquid measuring cup. That makes a lot of difference. 4 fl oz weighs ~6.5 oz….. 4 oz weight is just a lil over 2 fl oz.
    I did this and it’s perfect:
    1 lb organic salted butter
    1 lb organic sugar (evaporated cane juice crystals)
    2 fl oz Grandma’s molasses
    2 fl oz brown rice syrup
    1 gram fine sea salt
    heat to 255Β°, cooled in glass dish lined with parchment
    (because of the organic sugar it’s a lil darker but if I used white sugar it would probably be the color in the pic)
    stable and chewy like caramels, tastes like butterscotch

    • says

      Yes, all my measures are by weight, including liquids. If I’m giving ounces, it means by weight. So glad you enjoyed them, December. And I always advocate salting to taste, so feel free to up it a bit if you think they need it!

  12. Millie says

    Hi! Thank you for such a great recipe. These are awesome!
    It never occurred to me chefs weighed liquids. So for people like me who measured 4 ounces, 1/2 cup, of molasses in a measuring cup instead of weighing out 4 ounces of molasses, we over shot the amount of molasses needed by 48.6 grams. That is like 30% more molasses than is needed.
    4 ounces of molasses weighs 113.4 grams where as measured 1/2 cup of molasses weighs 162 grams. 162 – 113.4 = 48.6
    I lucked out as when I was melting the sugar/molasses mixture, I tasted it because it looked really dark. It tasted too much like molasses. I quickly added 8 ounces of butter, 114 gm sugar, and 2.5 gm. sea salt to the pot which I think by my calculations reduced my “molasses error” down to ~5%.

    They are so good! The flavor is perfect for butterscotch, beautiful color, and they are so creamy. So much easier to make than caramels made with heavy cream.

    If you can’t weigh your molasses, I believe you would want to use a measured 1/4 cup (81gm) + 1 TBL (20.25gm) + 2 tsp (~14gm) to get a really close approximate equivalent to the 4 weighed ounces called for in the recipe. You get ~115.3 gm instead of the 113.4 gm. With what sticks to the measuring cup and measuring spoons, I bet it evens out.

    This recipe is well worth the effort of a little math. Mind you, I am not a math wiz, so I encourage you to double check the numbers yourself.

    • says

      You know, it seems so obvious now that I think about it. I just *assumed* folks would know I meant to weigh everything. Then it finally struck me. Assuming is never a good plan! I’m so glad you love the butterscotch and that you had the presence of mind to rescue yours before you got too far along and ended up with molasses candy. I am so impressed with your math. With your permission, I’ll add parts of your comment to the recipe notes. Let me know if that’s okay with you, and thanks so much!

  13. Michelle says

    I would love to try this recipe using coconut oil instead of butter and maybe brown rice syrup instead of molasses. I know it won’t taste anything like butterscotch but hopefully still be a yummy candy. Do you think it will work?
    Vegan friends would be happy πŸ™‚

    • says

      I think it would work, Michelle, and I know the vegans will thank you! You may want to dial the coconut oil back a bit just because it’s 100% fat while the usual butter is only about 80% fat. Do that math to make up for the difference, and I think it should work out just fine! And I guess it goes without saying, vegan-wise, make sure you’re using sugar that hasn’t been processed with bone char. Please let me know how it goes. I’ll be interested to hear!

  14. Richie says

    I will have to try this but need a thermometer first. Have been reading the comments in regard to the molasses and took not of Chris’s comments in regard to ‘first molasses’ being the correct molasses to use rather than the black treacle ‘blackstrap’ molasses. I am in Australia and we have Golden Syrup. doing a bit of reading on the net this is also known as light treacle and is described as the first cook of the sugar which seems to be what is described for first molasses so I am thinking this is the same thing. I will try it using this. First I need to find a thermometer which I have noticed can be quite expensive.

    • says

      Golden syrup will give you a delicious result, but it doesn’t have quite the bite of molasses. Still, your candy will taste great! Please note the amount of molasses (or golden syrup) is written by weight, not volume. That has tripped up some folks before, so I’ve tried to make it clear. I’m not sure about Australia, but in the US, you can get candy thermometers that clip onto the side of your pan for about $10. See if something like that is available there. Let me know how you like it, Richie, and thanks for stopping in and commenting!

      • Richie says

        thanks. In Australia an ounce is only ever a weight, never volume so wont get confused with that one. Got my thermometer now so will try it tomorrow and see how it goes with Golden Syrup. I think that is light treacle. All gets very confusing with some sites saying molasses is treacle, and others saying they are different. Will see how it goes πŸ™‚


  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.Β  I might choose otherwise next time. It’s part of the fun! […]

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