This homemade classic butterscotch pudding recipe is a nostalgic treat. If you think you don’t like butterscotch, it’s because you haven’t had real butterscotch, and this pudding is the real deal.
No boxes of mix here. We’re talking the marriage of caramelized sugar and browned butter with a dash of molasses. Real, homemade butterscotch pudding, friends!
Find the rest of my butterscotch recipes all in one place
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In Defense of Butterscotch
Butterscotch is my absolute favorite flavor.
A lot of folks aren’t butterscotch fans, and it’s my contention that they don’t like it because they’ve never had real butterscotch, only bright yellow-colored candies or prepackaged or instant pudding.
So come, let me share with you the magic that is real, classic, rich, homemade butterscotch pudding.
What Makes Butterscotch Butterscotch?
If you look at a lot of recipes for butterscotch pudding, you’ll find that most have you:
- melt butter
- add brown sugar
- add the rest of the ingredients
- cook until thickened
I contend this is not real butterscotch.
The real magic happens when you cook the butter and brown sugar together until the butter browns and the sugar caramelizes.
You’ll know it’s ready when it just barely starts to smoke and smell caramelized.
It’s the magical combination of browned butter and caramelized sugar with an undercurrent of molasses that defines the flavor “butterscotch.”
And you can’t get it without cooking the butter and brown sugar together for a pretty long time.
What Does Classic Butterscotch Pudding Taste Like?
Old-fashioned butterscotch pudding has a deep and rich flavor. It is not too sweet, and it has just a bit of a bitter edge from the caramelized sugar and the molasses.
It contains enough salt to round out the flavor, although when you taste it, you don’t think, “Hey, this pudding is salty!”
Butterscotch is the perfect blend of browned butter, caramelized sugar, a touch of molasses, and salt. Think toffee, but without any nuts in it.
If you want to explore that further, you can read my recipe for cashew toffee.
How to Make Butterscotch for the Pudding
The video I’ve chosen for this post is of me making butterscotch creme brulee, but the butterscotch making process is exactly the same. Since making butterscotch is the most important part of making the butterscotch pudding, please take a look so you know what to expect.
Keep in mind this is just one step in the process of making butterscotch pudding.
But I’m breaking the how to make butterscotch part out so you can get a feel for it. Be sure to have the rest of your ingredients ready to go, because you’ll continue making the pudding after you make the butterscotch.
Time needed: about 20 minutes.
- Melt the butter together with the dark brown sugar and salt.
- Heat to a boil, stirring constantly. At first, it will be hard to get the butter and sugar to blend together. Then all of a sudden, it’ll be a smooth, boiling mixture. Keep cooking and stirring.
- Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the sugar caramelizes. Once your butterscotch is boiling, continue cooking. First the butter will separate out again and you think you will have messed up. But then it will come back together after a couple of minutes of cooking and stirring. Once it comes back together, that’s when you add the milk. Hopefully these photos will come in handy.
Troubleshooting Your Butterscotch
A pinner left this comment over on Pinterest:
Made this 3x tonight. First time, it never broke like the recipe said it would. Used my judgement and added the milk before it burned. Second batch, waited longer to see if it broke and came back together… never did. Tasted horrible and burned. Threw it out. Made 3rd batch and added milk early again and it turned out great! Great flavor, but if you follow the recipe, you will burn it!Pinner Karyn
I thought I’d better address this so you don’t run into the same issue.
Every time I have ever made butterscotch, the mixture has “broken” and then come back together before caramelizing.
I guess this is not always everyone’s experience. So, here’s what to look for before adding your cream:
- The color of your mixture will darken
- You will begin to smell caramelized sugar
- You’ll see just a couple of wisps of smoke coming off the mixture
Once you see/smell these signs, immediately remove your butterscotch from the heat and add the dairy.
NOTE: You can make this pudding before the color darkens, before the sugar starts to caramelize, and before it begins to smoke just a tiny bit, but the flavor will not be as intense or as deep.
If you’re concerned you may overshoot the mark, definitely err on the side of caution and add the milk sooner rather than later.
Once you get the hang of it, though, you’ll be able to get the depth of flavor and slight smokiness that makes butterscotch such a complex flavor.
Making the Pudding, Step by Step
- Mix the yolks and cornstarch together, and set aside.
- Make the butterscotch (see the How-To above) and add the milk. Stir until smooth.
- Once the butterscotch is all melted back into the milk and it is steaming hot, temper into the eggs.
- Pour the egg mixture back into the pan and bring to a boil. Boil two minutes.
- Pour the butterscotch pudding through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the vanilla. Stir until combined.
How to Temper Eggs
Here’s a quick how-to on tempering eggs. It’s important that you raise the temperature of eggs slowly so they don’t scramble. You can see the process in the first three images in the collage above.
Here’s how to do it:
- Whisk eggs well.
- Pour a little of your hot liquid into the eggs, whisking all the time until combined.
- Continue adding about half of the hot liquid in a steady stream, whisking and whisking, until the egg mixture is hot.
- Pour the now-hot egg mixture back into the pan while continuously stirring.
- Continue with the rest of your recipe.
Butterscotch Pudding, Two Ways
Depending on the pudding texture you like, rich and dense or lighter and creamier, you can:
- let the pudding set up in individual bowls and then top with whipped cream (or not),
- or you can chill the pudding, whisk it smooth, and then fold whipped cream into it.
Then you have the option of serving with whipped cream on top as well. Or not!
Note that the bowl on the right probably has more calories because it has whipped cream folded into it.
Even though it has more calories, since it is lighter in texture it is probably a less heavy way to end a meal.
There’s no right way to finish this classic homemade pudding. The right way is the way you like to finish it. (But do use a spoon when you eat it!)
See the recipe and notes for how to combine the whipped cream and pudding.
More Pudding Recipes
Pudding is the best. So creamy and comforting. Here are some more pudding (or stirred, starch-thickened custards if you’re in the UK) recipes for you to try:
- Dulce de Leche Roasted Banana Pudding
- Maple Pumpkin Pudding
- Caramel Butterscotch Pudding
- The Best Chocolate Pudding
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 1/2-2 Tablespoons cornstarch (depending on how thick you like your pudding once it has set)
- 4 oz (about 1/2 cup, packed) dark brown sugar, by weight
- 3 oz (3/4 stick or 6 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt (I used Mortons)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- small pinch of salt
- 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar, packed
- In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks and cornstarch together. Mixture will be very thick. Set aside convenient to the stove.
- Put the vanilla extract in another medium bowl and place a fine mesh strainer over the top. Set aside convenient to the stove.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter.
- Add the dark brown sugar and salt, and cook the two together over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or high-heat spatula. The mixture will look very creamy and bubbly, and then all of a sudden, the butter will separate out and the whole thing will look kind of sad and like a failure. Keep going. In another couple of minutes, the mixture will come back together again. Don't stop stirring.
- As soon as the butterscotch comes back together, pour in the milk, all at one time and remove the pan from the heat. Do it carefully. The butterscotch will hiss and bubble and then turn into a hard mass. Carefully pry the hard mass off the bottom of the pan with your spoon or spatula and then return the pan to medium low heat.
- Stir until all the butterscotch has melted back into the milk. This could take 4-5 minutes. Just be patient and stir and stir. You will most likely have butterscotch stuck to your spoon or spatula. That's okay. It will melt too. Just keep stirring.
- Once the butterscotch milk is nice and smooth, continue to heat until the milk is steaming. Then, temper about half the butterscotch into the egg yolk mixture, whisking very well.
- Pour the tempered yolks back into the pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Allow the mixture to boil for 2 full minutes, whisking constantly..
- Pour the pudding through the fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the vanilla. The mixture will be very thick, so use the pack of your spatula to press it through.
- Stir until the vanilla is mixed in.
- At this point, you can pour into small bowls or leave it in the large bowl and press plastic wrap down onto the surface of the pudding. Either way, refrigerate until cold, or you can eat it warm. I won't judge you.
- See NOTES below for how to serve. Enjoy!
The video shows the recipe for creme brulee, but it also shows the butterscotch making process in "live action," which you may find more helpful than just the still, collage shots.
Whip together the whipped cream, salt, and brown sugar until it reaches medium peaks. You can either serve individual puddings topped with the whipped cream, or, if you want a lighter texture, remove the plastic wrap from the surface of the big bowl of pudding and:
- Whisk the pudding well so it is smooth and creamy.
- Whisk in a portion of the whipped cream to lighten the pudding.
- Once incorporated, fold the rest of the whipped cream in until no streaks of white remain. Serve in individual bowls.
You can make more whipped cream to serve on top of the "butterscotch mousse" if you'd like. Your call.
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Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 4 oz
Amount Per Serving Calories 296Total Fat 20.1gSaturated Fat 11.9gTrans Fat 0gCholesterol 157mgSodium 275mgCarbohydrates 25.4gFiber 0gSugar 22.8gProtein 4.3g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
And there you have it friends, rich and comforting butterscotch pudding. Please give it a try, and then let me know how you like it!
Thank you for spending some time with me today. Take care, and have a lovely day.