Take your love of this delicious flavor to a whole new level.
butterscotch drizzle over ice cream
Credit: Greg DuPree/Dotdash Meredith

What Is Butterscotch?

In the world of desserts, few flavors instantly evoke wonderful memories and a sense of comfort like butterscotch. Whether it is from the drizzle of a warm butterscotch sauce over scoops of ice cream, or savoring the rich, velvety texture of a butterscotch pudding, it doesn't take long to think of impressionable memories involving this iconic flavor.

But what exactly is butterscotch? People often tend to think butterscotch and caramel are interchangeable, but are they similar? Does the flavor of butterscotch really contain scotch?

Let's dive into some facts about where this flavor originated and what it is that makes the taste so memorable. Finally, find a few fantastic recipes created by the Allrecipes community that capture all the best qualities butterscotch has to offer.

Where Did the Name Butterscotch Come From?

There are traces of the creation of sweets with butterscotch-like flavors that date back to England in the early 1700s, but the origins of the term butterscotch and a specific recipe is attributed to a confectioner named Samuel Parkinson.

In Doncaster, England, in 1817, Parkinson set off a wave of excitement by creating a candy that used a combination of butter, sugar, and treacle (a version of our modern-day molasses). This confection grew in popularity, and the company ultimately received a Royal Seal of Approval for its high demand in exporting.

With that sweet chip on the company's shoulder, S. Parkinson & Sons added the titles of "The Queen's Sweetmeat" and "Royal Doncaster Butterscotch" to their marketing in selling the sweet treats.

The origin of the name "butterscotch" likely refers to an antiquated confectionary term 'to scotch,' which means to score or cut. When confectioners would make these candies, the process would have likely involved a scoring or cutting process as the product was cooling so it would be easier to break into uniform pieces later.

While food historians lean toward that as the most likely explanation for its name, it is worth noting that there is also debate about "scotch" in butterscotch being an indicator of the recipe being of Scottish decent, or that scotch is a derivative of "scorched" to imply the process of the butter and sugar being cooked over high heat.

One misnomer is certain, however: that butterscotch contains any trace amounts of scotch or alcohol. Nearly all past and current recipes do not contain any Scotch whisky (unless the recipe is enhanced by adventurous cooks for their personal preference!).

Caramel vs. Butterscotch

Caramel and butterscotch share several similar properties, but the main difference is that caramel uses only granulated sugar, which is heated until it melts and darkens. This process of browning sugar is a flavor unique to caramel as is and does not require any additional ingredients.

Butterscotch, however, always contains a blend of sugar and butter. The original recipes for butterscotch used a similar method of caramelizing sugar, but also added the butter and molasses as essential ingredients.

Modern techniques for butterscotch use brown sugar and butter as the foundation for the deliciously distinct flavor. The differences are subtle for modern-day cooks because both caramel and butterscotch often use the addition of other ingredients to enhance or alter the consistency or texture depending on the recipe.

For example, it is quite common for cream, vanilla, and salt to all play supporting roles in recipes for both caramel and butterscotch variations.

While the original recipe for butterscotch was a distinct hard candy, the flavor has evolved and taken a variety of new forms. Butterscotch can still be found in candy form today but is also a specific flavor that is widely found in dessert toppings and sauces, baking chips, pudding cups, baking flavorings, cocktail syrups, and liquors. These are all great options for when you need a quick fix for butterscotch flavor. However, the list below includes some delicious variations of butterscotch desserts you can create at home, all created by cooks and bakers in the Allrecipes community.

Our Favorite Butterscotch Recipes

Whether you like the smoother consistency of a butterscotch pudding or prefer to take your time enjoying a butterscotch hard candy, one thing that can be agreed on is that this iconic flavor will always be at the top of people's preferences.

Equipped with a collection of interesting facts and wonderful homemade recipes, you can now take your appreciation for this wonderful flavor to a whole new level.

butterscotch cheesecake bars
Credit: loulouce

Get the Recipe: Butterscotch Bars