You are going to love the nostalgic, deliciousness of this butterscotch meringue pie, friends. An easy-to-make pie recipe, just pour homemade butterscotch filling into a pre-baked crust, top with the brown sugar meringue, and brown using a torch or in the oven.

If you think you don’t like butterscotch, be prepared to have this butterscotch pie change your mind. We’re talking real, traditional butterscotch flavor here!

For ease of browsing, find all of my butterscotch recipes and all my pies and tart recipes in one place.

A slice of meringue-topped butterscotch pie on a blue plate.

This pie is awesome!! I particularly like the brown sugars meringue. Be prepared to use unsalted butter in the pudding like the recipe says or it will be too salty. I uses salted butter and had to add extra brown sugar to balance it back out. Even better the next day!

Pinner Dee

Butterscotch Meringue Pie

Close up side view of pie with a lot of broiled meringue on top.

Butterscotch pie is one of my favorite desperation pies, mainly because butterscotch is one of my favorite flavors!

If you think you don’t like butterscotch, I submit to you that you have never had real butterscotch.

Butterscotch candy was originally made with equal parts sugar and butter with 1/4 part of molasses, all cooked together with enough salt to make it taste amazing.

Pastry Chef Online Participates in Affiliate Programs. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I may earn a small commission. For more information click to read my disclosure policy

Depending on how long you cook that mixture, you can end up with a sauce, a chewy candy, or a hard candy. Butterscotch pudding (spoiler: butterscotch pie is just butterscotch pudding poured into a pre-baked pie shell) takes a shortcut by using dark brown sugar (these days, refined white sugar with molasses added in) and butter cooked together until bubbling and maybe just starting to smoke a bit.

Add to that some dairy, eggs for richness and thickening, and starch for even more thickening power, and you have an easily-made dessert that can be served in bowls as pudding or in a pie crust as, well, pie.

How to Make Butterscotch Pie

2 plates with slices of butterscotch pie on them.


Here’s what you’ll need to make your pudding pie. I bet you probably already own almost everything. Go check. I’ll wait!

  • pie crust (homemade or purchased)
  • cornstarch
  • salt
  • milk
  • egg yolks
  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • heavy cream
  • vanilla
  • egg whites


As with most desperation pies, this one is pretty easy to make. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Bake your pie crust and set aside.
  2. Make the pudding. This part includes making butterscotch then adding in dairy, eggs, and starch for thickening.
  3. Pour the filling into the crust, and let it set up for an hour or so.
  4. Make the brown sugar meringue–which incidentally is a Swiss meringue–by whipping the whites and brown sugar in a double boiler until very hot and then whipping with your mixer until cool and light and fluffy and shiny.
  5. Spread the meringue on the pie and brown either with a torch or under the broiler for a couple of minutes–watching carefully so it doesn’t burn.
  6. Refrigerate until cold.

Desperation Pies

This is another desperation pie–pies that pie loving folks used to dream up in the dead of winter when there was no fruit around for apple pie or berry pie.

These comforting, easy-to-make pies draw their ingredient lists from pantry staples and from other ingredients that would be readily available, such as milk and butter from their cows and eggs from their chickens.

Here are some more desperation pie recipes for you, some of which might be familiar and some of which might be new to you. The fun thing about them is you probably have all (or nearly all) of the ingredients you need to make these guys right now:

  • Shoo Fly Pie is molasses based with a wonderful sandy streusel on top.
  • Sorghum Pie, flavored with cinnamon and with a surprise ingredient is really delicious
  • Indiana Sugar Cream Pie is Indiana’s state pie for a reason. Simple to make, and pure creamy vanilla goodness
  • Vinegar Pie is probably the most popular recipe on my site. Flavored with apple cider vinegar, the pie reads like a lightly lemon pie and doesn’t taste like vinegar at all.
  • Chocolate Chess Pie is a fudgy Southern classic, and this recipe is possibly my favorite pie recipe on my site

I’ve tried several butterscotch recipes, trying to find one for my elderly mother-in-law that tasted like her mother used to make. This is the one! The secret to the deep flavor, I think, is to let butter & sugar cook till it almost smokes. Thank you for this great recipe!

Reader Susan

Why Brown Sugar Meringue?

You don’t have to make the brown sugar meringue, but it does dress up a brown pie beautifully, plus the brown sugar in the meringue echoes the brown sugar in the butterscotch.

And if you’re wondering if you can use brown sugar–or other “unorthodox” ingredients in your meringue–the answer is yes you can.

As long as the ingredients aren’t fatty and won’t break down the meringue, you can add all sorts of things to meringue to make it a bit more interesting than just sweet poofy air.

Consider using citrus juice, citrus zest, any number of ground spices, various extracts, etc.

But for this pie, just stick to the brown sugar. If you want, you can also add just a touch of vanilla extract.

A slice of butterscotch meringue pie on a blue plate.
This pie slices like a dream. This piece looks a tiny bit slumpy because it had been out of the fridge for 2 hours or so before I sliced it.

A Note About Measurements

Best for Home Use
Escali Primo Digital Food Scale
$27.18 $24.79

Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.

Purchase Now How & Why to Use a Kitchen Scale
This is an affiliate link which means I earn from qualifying purchases. Your price is unaffected.
07/22/2024 07:15 am GMT
5 golden stars for rating recipes
close up side view of pie with a lot of broiled meringue on top

Butterscotch Meringue Pie

Jennifer Field
One of my favorite desperation pies, butterscotch meringue pie is nostalgic, homey, comforting and so very tasty. I do hope you enjoy it–and if you think you don't like butterscotch, be prepared to change your mind.
4.66 from 23 votes
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Cooling/Fridge Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 30 minutes
Course Pies and Tarts
Cuisine American
Servings 8 servings
Calories 362 kcal


For the Filling

  • 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt (I used Morton’s)
  • 20 oz whole milk (2 1/2 cups)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 oz unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
  • 6 oz dark brown sugar 3/4 cup, tightly packed
  • 8 oz heavy cream (1 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 9 ” pie shell baked, NOT deep-dish

For the Brown Sugar Meringue

  • 3 large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (I used Morton’s)
  • 6 oz brown sugar dark or light, (3/4 cup, tightly packed)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract


For the Filling

  • Whisk together the cornstarch, salt, whole milk, and egg yolks until smooth. Set aside convenient to the stove.
  • In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter.
  • Add the brown sugar and stir together until all the sugar is moistened.
  • Cook over medium heat until the butter/sugar mixture is boiling, stirring frequently with a long-handled wooden spoon or heat-resistant spatula.
  • As soon as the butter/sugar mixture barely starts to smoke, carefully pour in the heavy cream. It will bubble up and spatter. The sugar will seize up into a hard mass. Worry not. Continue to cook and stir, switching to a whisk to make things a bit easier, until the sugar melts back into the cream.
  • Once the mixture is smooth again, pour about half of it into the egg mixture, whisking all the while. Then pour the egg mixture back into the pan.
  • Cook over medium to medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Do not slack on this part, or the pudding will not set up correctly. 2 full minutes. Set a timer.
  • Strain the pudding through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla. Fill the prepared pie shell so it is full up to the crimped edge. Set aside for a few minutes while you make the meringue.

To Make the Meringue

  • In a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water, whisk the whites, salt, and brown sugar together until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is very hot–about 165F.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and beat on medium speed with a hand mixer until the mixture thickens somewhat and lightens in color.
  • Add the vanilla and beat on high speed until the tips of the meringue just curl over a bit at the ends when you hold the beaters upright.
  • Dollop the finished meringue onto the pie filling and carefully spread it out so it completely covers the filling and meets the crust all the way around. 
  • Using an offset spatula, press it onto the meringue and then lift straight up to make swoops and peaks if you’d like.
  • Place under the broiler, watching it carefully, or use a torch to brown your meringue. Chill overnight before serving. Share. Or don’t. Enjoy!

Did You Make Any Changes?


If you are not feeling pie today, just pour the filling mixture into little (or not so little) bowls and serve individually, topped with some of the meringue or just with some lightly sweetened brown sugar whipped cream


Serving: 1gCalories: 362kcalCarbohydrates: 50.6gProtein: 5.1gFat: 15.9gSaturated Fat: 9.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 105mgSodium: 412mgSugar: 45.7g
Keyword butterscotch meringue pie, butterscotch pie
Did you make this recipe?Please tell us what you loved!

And that’s it friends. A comforting, homey butterscotch pie that will make you feel like you’re at grandma’s, if your grandma was a good pie maker!

Enjoy the butterscotch meringue pie (or pudding if you’d rather leave off the crust).

Thank you for spending some time with me today. Have a lovely day.

Join in Today!

My Top 5 Secrets to Becoming Fearless in the Kitchen

Plus weekly new recipes, how-tos, tips, tricks, and everything in between


  1. 5 stars
    I’ve tried several butterscotch recipes, trying to find one for my elderly mother-in-law that tasted like her mother used to make. This is the one! The secret to the deep flavor, I think, is to let butter & sugar cook till it almost smokes. Thank you for this great recipe!

  2. I would like it to have more of a butterscotch flavor. What can I do to this recipe to make that happen?

    1. Hi, Peggy. The only thing I can think of that would keep this from tasting super butterscotchy is that you did not cook the brown sugar and butter long enough to get a deep butterscotch flavor. Was your pie filling as dark in color as mine? If not, that’s probably the reason. It takes a bit of time and stirring and really allowing the butterscotch to caramelize in order to get deep butterscotch flavor. I hope that helps. Please let me know and I’m happy to do more troubleshooting with you.

  3. Found numerous recipes but yours I chose for this delicious butterscotch pie. I wish my dad was here to enjoy with our family. It was one of his favorites. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi,
    Wow! Made this yesterday and it is super yummy! I absolutely loooooove butterscotch! The brown sugar meringue was so good!

    By the way, can you please feature a chocolate meringue pie recipe? I know it’s not fancy but it’s a great desperation pie, as well! My grandmother used to make one that was fabulous! I’ve had several failed attempts (the texture was either too runny or too gelatinous). For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to make this pie! Thank you!

    1. So glad you loved the butterscotch pie, Jules! Butterscotch is my favorite and I butterscotch all the things: cheesecake, pudding, cake, etc! I will absolutely work on a chocolate meringue pie for you. There’s actually a great video somewhere of an elderly lady making one on facebook live. She has since died, but her grandson (I think) wanted to capture her making the pie. I will have to find that video and email it to you.

  5. I have to make a butterscotch wedding cake and was wondering how this pie filling might be thickened or stabilized a little as a filling between layers. Could I use it as it is or will it ultimately melt? The wedding is in March in Cape Town (South Africa) and can get to 36 degrees Celsius at that time of year?

    1. I wouldn’t recommend using such an egg-and-dairy-full pudding as a cake filling. It will weep 8nto they layers and could also be a potential hazard. I would consider making something much more stable, especially at high temps. Let me think about this for awhile and I will email you with some ideas.

  6. I haven’t heard the term desperation pie before, but it’s a very good term! I love very berry pies, but it’s not always possible. However, this looks like a very good desperation pie!

    1. Awesome! I can’t wait!! Also wanted to say, your pate brisee works every time! Thanks to your scientific explanations and video series you produced a couple of years ago- I’m no longer nervous about making my own crust!

      1. Oh wow, that is so great to hear! I am thrilled you find them helpful. That pate brisee is a great recipe, but man did it take me awhile to get a feel for it. So glad it’s a tried and true one for you! Also, I searched high and low for that chocolate meringue pie on Facebook live and I couldn’t find it. Boo. But I know they used water in the filling for a much more chocolatey flavor than milk. I will play around hopefully in the next few weeks. I think making it with coffee would deepen the flavor even more!

4.66 from 23 votes (21 ratings without comment)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.