Ingredient Intelligence

What Is Butterscotch, and How Is It Different from Caramel and Toffee?

published Dec 12, 2022
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A Pile of Gourmet Butterscotch Baking Chips
Credit: P Maxwell Photography/Shutterstock

Now that we’re in full holiday baking mode, you may be looking for a delicious treat you can package up and give as a gift. While caramel and toffee are excellent choices, butterscotch, the third sibling in this sugary trio, is equally worthy of your attention. Warm, buttery butterscotch is sweet and mellow, with notes of vanilla and cooked sugar, and, thanks to the addition of butter and the molasses in brown sugar, it’s a little bit easier to make than caramel — what’s not to love about that?

Butterscotch is a candy made by heating brown sugar and butter on the stove to the soft crack stage, between 270°F and 290°F. First invented in the late 1800s, butterscotch can be a soft or hard candy or a sauce.

What is the difference between caramel and butterscotch?

The main difference between caramel and butterscotch is that caramel is made by heating white, granulated sugar to various stages, while butterscotch is made with brown sugar and butter, which gives it a deeper, more rounded flavor, thanks to the butter and molasses. Caramel sauce, in particular, is caramel that is combined with some form of cream.

What is the difference between toffee and butterscotch?

Toffee and butterscotch are made from the same ingredients — brown sugar and butter — but butterscotch is cooked to the soft-crack stage (between 270°F and 290°F) and toffee is cooked longer to the hard-crack stage (between 295°F and 309°F), giving it a more brittle texture.

Why is it called butterscotch?

The exact etymology of the word butterscotch is unclear. It may refer to “scotching” or cutting of the candy into squares, or it may reference origins in Scotland. The name may also have been derived from the method of scorching or “scotching” butter.

Butterscotch Recipes to Try

Now that you know a little more about butterscotch, it’s time to get cooking. Whether you make a classic butterscotch pudding, whip up a butterscotch syrup to drizzle over vanilla ice cream, or use butterscotch chips to flavor a favorite cookie, these treats will be sure to win you over to Team Butterscotch.