This thick, sticky butterscotch sauce is slightly different from caramel sauce, as it doesn’t contain any butter, includes corn syrup for chewiness, and has the added boost of booze from Scotch whiskey. Any blended whiskey will do—you don’t need to use your expensive single-malt here. You’ll find this sauce is a miracle on cakes as well as a serious treat poured over vanilla ice cream.–Monica Sweeney


What’s that, you say? Do you want more specifics on the difference between butterscotch and caramel? The main difference is the sugar. While recipes vary somewhat, technically most caramel sauce recipes rely on granulated sugar that’s melted to a golden-brown liquid. Sometimes cream or butter (or both) are stirred into the melted sugar. Whereas with butterscotch sauce, brown sugar is the basis of the loveliness and is combined with cream—and even, in this recipe, whiskey—to achieve even loftier heights of lusciousness. What’s more, this boozy butterscotch sauce recipe is almost effortless to make. So much so that we consider it the easiest DIY dessert bling ever. You’re welcome.

A small jar filled with butterscotch sauce with some dripping down the side and a lid in the background.

Butterscotch Sauce

5 / 3 votes
Butterscotch sauce is the answer to your naked dessert problems. 10 minutes to make and so much easier than caramel. Brown sugar, heavy cream, and Scotch whiskey are bolstered by a little bit of vanilla and sea salt. What are you waiting for?
David Leite
Servings20 (2-tbsp) servings
Calories122 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes


  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup, (this is the stuff at the store and is different than the nasty high-fructose corn syrup manufacturers use)
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey, preferably Scotch whiskey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Heat the brown sugar, corn syrup, water, salt, and heavy cream in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves and the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the whiskey and vanilla and simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly. Store any leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a few days. (You'll want to reheat the butterscotch sauce in the microwave in 10-second bursts or in a bowl placed over but not touching simmering water until you reach the desired consistency.)

Adapted From

Best Dump Cakes Ever

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Serving: 2 tablespoonsCalories: 122 kcalCarbohydrates: 23 gProtein: 1 gFat: 3 gSaturated Fat: 2 gCholesterol: 12 mgSodium: 130 mgPotassium: 29 mgSugar: 23 gVitamin A: 131 IUVitamin C: 1 mgCalcium: 21 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2014 Monica Sweeney. Photo © 2014 Allan Penn. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

You’re not likely to spend a better 10 minutes anytime soon than you will by crafting this killer dessert sauce. While I could be quite content just eating this butterscotch sauce warm from the pan with a spoon, I can tell you, speaking from 3 nights’ running experience (ugh), it is unbelievably good over vanilla ice cream, too. Making the sauce couldn’t be easier, and I’m not kidding, 10 minutes is all you need to make this magic happen.

I made my awesome batch with bourbon because I didn’t have any Scotch whiskey in the house, so don’t feel the need to rush out for a bottle if you find yourself in a similar pinch. After making this butterscotch sauce recipe, I can’t imagine I’ll ever buy a jarred butterscotch sauce again; it would just be wrong. I’m banking on the fact that what little butterscotch sauce I have left after my butterscotch sundae binge will be stellar drizzled over the cake that I’ll be making for a dinner party on Friday.

This butterscotch sauce recipe was a snap to make, especially compared to melting sugar to a caramel color and adding cream and butter. We didn’t miss the butter at all and loved the boozy hint from the Scotch whiskey.

I started timing the 5 minute cooking time after small bubbles started to form, but 5 minutes total didn’t seem like enough time. The sauce was thin until I put it in the refrigerator for an hour. Next time, I would decrease the cold water to 2 tablespoons instead of 1/4 cup. This is definitely a butterscotch sauce recipe to keep around for when you need a sort-of caramel sauce in a hurry.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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    1. They are incredibly similar, KK. We can assure you that it was published from the cookbook referenced in the recipe, however, we can’t speak to where the author got her inspiration from.

    1. Amanda, we didn’t try it without the booze so I can’t say for certain how it will turn out, however, my guess is that it may be a little lacking flavorwise without the whiskey. You may want to up the vanilla extract to compensate. My suggestion, if you omit the whiskey, is to start with 3/4 to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and then take a taste and, if necessary, add a little more. As for the texture, you should be fine. The sauce is just like a typical butterscotch sauce and more on the runny side than the thick side. Good luck!