Based on a recipe from 1848, this recipe for authentic butterscotch candy contains only 4 ingredients, is well-balanced and chewy, and is easy to make with an accurate candy thermometer.
Truth be told, butterscotch in its original form is a crunchy candy, but using original proportions means that it ends up too bitter when cooked long enough to set up nice and crunchy.
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I am thrilled you are here to learn how to make this chewy version of a classic candy. Butterscotch is one of my favorite flavors, and I’m guessing you’re here because it’s one of your favorites, too!
One of the most important variables is the temperature of your sugar syrup as you’re cooking. It is really vital to success in achieving the texture you want.<
Why Chewy and Not Crunchy?
Using the original proportions of ingredients from the Doncaster recipe, the amount of treacle or molasses is much higher than what modern palates appreciate. And the longer you cook the molasses, the more bitter it gets.
I found that cooking the mixture to the firm/hard ball stages yields a delicious, deep butterscotch flavor that is molasses-forward but not super bitter. Continuing to cook the ingredients to anywhere from 285F to 300F or so just brings out more bitterness than most Americans enjoy.
If you would prefer to make butterscotch hard candy, I have a recipe with a more modern flavor profile (less molasses) that I think you will really enjoy.
The Difference Between Caramel and Butterscotch
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.
Both confections were probably both originally made using salted butter.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 OChef.com 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 recipe was made with a base of one pound of (presumably) salted butter, it would also contain about 1 Tablespoon of salt. Hence: salt is a Big Player in the flavor profile. Magical!
Comparing Butterscotch and Caramel
If you are interested in reading all about the similarities and differences between caramel and butterscotch, you may enjoy my post about the difference between the two.
Again, since temperature is critical to the success of candy making, I want to make sure you’ve grabbed your Stages of Sugar chart. The butterscotch candy recipe is right below along with a couple of updates to avoid confusion when making the candy.
Ingredients and Equipment
If you own these items, great! If you don’t, I encourage you to pick up both. You certainly don’t have to purchase the specific models I suggest. Just make sure they’re accurate and you are good to go.
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!
ANOTHER UPDATE: the amount of molasses is by weight, not volume. 4 oz of molasses by volume is a lot more than by weight, so please use a scale. See the “Notes” section at the end of the recipe for more information if you don’t have a scale.
More Candy Recipes
While butterscotch is my favorite flavor, I do enjoy other candy too. If you enjoy making your own candies, I have some recommendations for you.
If you’re new to candy making and don’t want to deal with super hot sugar, my butter mints recipe is a no-cook candy. If you can make American butter frosting, you can make these mints.
If you are comfortable with working with molten sugar, give my homemade Butterfinger bars a try. They are crunchy and crispy, and I worked really hard to perfect the recipe.
Bourbon honeycomb candy is also fantastic. I made it with bourbon-infused honey, but you can make it with regular honey, or just add a splash of bourbon to your mix.
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And now, onto the recipe.
Chewy Butterscotch Candy Recipe
- 1 pound granulated sugar (450 grams)
- 1 pound unsalted butter, (450 grams, or try using salted. You still might need to add some more salt, so taste to see)
- 4 oz molasses**, (112 grams, by weight. See Note, not blackstrap)
- 10-14 grams fine sea salt, , or to taste (about 2-2 1/2 teaspoons)
- 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.
- Spray the whole shebang very well with pan spray, especially the unlined sides. Set aside on a heat-proof surface.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
- Stir in the sugar, molasses and salt.
- When the mixture is good and liquidy, increase the heat to medium to medium-high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Cook the candy to 250F and then pour into your prepared pan.
- Let sit out until barely warm, and then score the candy into 1" squares 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.
- Remove to a cutting board sprayed with pan spray, and cut into whatever shapes you want. This will make about 64-81 pieces of butterscotch, depending on how you cut them. Or it might only make four pieces, but I wouldn't advise that.
- Store, covered, in the fridge.
**4 oz of molasses by weight. If you don't have a scale (please buy one), reader Millie says the amount by volume is 1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons of unsulfured molasses.
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.
Nutritional information is calculated for 64 pieces of candy.
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Amount Per Serving Calories 83Saturated Fat 3gCholesterol 15mgSodium 62mgCarbohydrates 8gSugar 8g
And if you think you don’t like butterscotch, I hope this recipe will help to change your mind.
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