Butterscotch Pudding

Making caramel sauce in pan

Making caramel sauce in pan

by Cat, Feb 2008  (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

This was my Mom’s favorite pudding, but she never made it from scratch. Instead, it was a box of Jello Butterscotch Pudding. So one time when she came to visit me in Portland after the end of tax season, I made a scratch batch for her. She was impressed, but continued to make her own from the box.

Then one time, when we were spending a week at Cannon Beach, we went to check out a new restaurant that featured Persian food. A version of butterscotch pudding was their house dessert, so of course we had to try it. It was wonderful, much better than the one I made for myself. So we chatted with the husband and wife who owned the restaurant and learned that the husband – the chef – had been the chef for the last Shah of Persia (Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi), but they had to flee the country when the Shah was overthrown in 1979. No wonder his dessert was so wonderful!

I don’t pretend that my recipes come anywhere close to what that Chef served, but the first one is good. The second one is quicker to make but does not have much butterscotch flavor.

About Ingredients

Molasses or brown sugar (which contains molasses), along with butter, is essential for the butterscotch flavor.  It simply cannot be duplicated with stevia or other non-sugar sweeteners alone.  However, Rapadura sugar naturally includes molasses, and is a more healthful choice.  For more information on butterscotch and other caramelized sugars, refer to my Caramelized Sugar (About) article.

The original recipe calls for ¾ cup brown sugar.  Using at least half of the sugar as Rapadura, with the remainder substituted as stevia, provides the right flavor while cutting down on total sugar.  Dark liquid stevia extract is the best form to use in this case for its slight molasses flavor, whereas the extract powder can give it a bitter taste.  To make up for the lack of molasses in stevia, I also add a bit of unsulfured molasses as well; the more Rapadura you use, the less molasses you need to add.

I do not recommend coconut milk as a milk or cream substitute in this pudding; its strong flavor competes with the butterscotch flavor.

Two recipes

I provide two different recipes for butterscotch pudding; I have more experience with the second version, but the first version uses fewer saucepans.

The first version prepares the butterscotch and the starchy mixtures separately, then combines them just before chilling. The second version does not prepare them separately, which means the sugar is not caramelized before mixing with the other ingredients.

Butterscotch Pudding I

This recipe is adapted from epicurious.com (2) and serves 6 – 8.  The original recipe calls for 1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar, which is melted and caramelized before mixing with cream and then milk and eggs.

Rapadura is a more healthful choice than brown sugar, but doesn’t have as much molasses flavor.  Adding a bit of molasses to the sugar before melting will increase the butterscotch flavor, which is especially important if you use part stevia to reduce the sugar in the recipe. I’ve not yet tested this with stevia, but have made it several times with all Rapadura.

You can play with the relative amounts of Rapadura and Stevia in the pudding mixture, plus ¾ cup Rapadura in the butterscotch mixture.  For example:

  • ¾ cup Rapadura in butterscotch; 1 ½ tsp dark liquid stevia extract (or ¼ tsp stevia extract powder) in pudding, as indicated in recipe;
  • ¾ cup Rapadura in butterscotch; ¼ cup Rapadura and 1 tsp dark liquid stevia extract (or ⅛ tsp stevia extract powder) in the pudding;
  • ¾ cup Rapadura in butterscotch; ¾ cup Rapadura in pudding, and no stevia

You may prefer to heat the pudding mix in a heavy-bottomed saucepan rather than the double boiler specified in the original recipe, as it is difficult to bring the mixture to a boil (needed to thicken the pudding) in a double boiler. If use a heavy-bottomed saucepan, take care to whisk constantly and carefully to avoid scorching the milk.

Rather than heating the eggs with the rest of the pudding mixture, I prefer to add the eggs after the rest of the pudding mix has thickened. I stir a bit of the hot, thick mixture into the eggs to warm them, then stir that back into the rest of the pudding, whisking until blended. This should avoid the lumpiness reported by several reviewers of the original recipe.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Butterscotch
  • ¾ cup Rapadura sugar
  • 2 – 6 tsp unsulfured molasses (optional)
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup light cream
  • Pudding
  • 2¼ cups whole milk (not homogenized), divided
  • ¼ cup Organic cornstarch or ½ cup tapioca starch
  • ¾ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • ¾ cup Rapadura sugar (or 1 ½ tsp dark liquid stevia extract or ¼ tsp stevia extract powder; OR  any combination of sugar and stevia, equivalent in sweetness to ¾ cup sugar)
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract (optional)
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • Equipment
  • small saucepan (for warming cream)
  • 2 quart saucepan (for caramelizing the sugar/butter mix)
  • wooden spoon
  • small bowl
  • 3-quart double boiler or saucepan (for thickening the pudding)
  • egg whisk
  • waxed paper

Method for Butterscotch

  1. Heat cream in small saucepan over moderately low heat until warm.  Do not boil.
  2. While cream is heating, melt butter in 2 quart saucepan over moderate heat, then stir in sugar and molasses.  Cook sugar mixture, stirring occasionally with wooden spoon until mixture is bubbling all over and appears smooth, about 5 minutes.  Don’t overcook or use too high a heat, to avoid scorching or burning the sugar.
  3. Carefully add warm cream (it will bubble, steam, and increase in volume, so be sure to use a large saucepan larger).  Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until sugar mixture is dissolved in the cream, about 1 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Method for Pudding:

  1. Bring water to a simmer in the bottom of the double boiler (omit if using saucepan).
  2. Lightly beat eggs in small bowl; set aside.
  3. In top of double boiler  (or in heavy-bottomed saucepan), whisk starch, stevia and salt into ¼ cup milk until dissolved.  Whisk in remaining milk until combined.
  4. Add warm butterscotch mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly.  Set over simmering water (or set saucepan over medium heat) and cook, whisking constantly, 10 minutes, or until it begins to thicken.
  5. Add about ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the lightly-beaten eggs and stir to combine.  Then pour eggy mixture back into the rest of the pudding.
  6. Cover double boiler (or saucepan) and continue to cook pudding, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes more.
  7. Turn off heat; remove top of double boiler and cool pudding 5 minutes, whisking now and then.  Cover with waxed paper pressed onto surface of pudding and chill until cold, at least 3 hours, up to 2 days.  Serve chilled.

Butterscotch Pudding II

This recipe is adapted from bhg.com (1), and serves 6 – 8.  This pudding tends to increase greatly in volume when bubbly, so be sure to use a 3 quart saucepan.

The original recipe calls for ¾ cup brown sugar; I’m experimenting with the Rapadura/stevia ratio, adding just a bit of molasses to replace that lost in the stevia substitution.  First attempt was 50/50, with 2 tsp molasses.

My first attempt did not have a good butterscotch flavor; I think that’s because the sugar was not caramelized before adding the milk and cream (much the same as when making toffee sauce.

This recipe doesn’t use a double boiler, but I highly recommend using one; however, the cooking time will be greater.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup Rapadura or brown sugar ( or ⅜ cup Rapadura or brown sugar and ¾ tsp dark liquid stevia extract or ⅛ tsp stevia extract powder plus 2 – 3 tsp unsulfured molasses)
  • 3 Tbsp Organic cornstarch or 6 Tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 2 cups whole milk (not homogenized)
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • Equipment
  • small bowl
  • 3 quart saucepan
  • egg whisk or wooden spoon
  • waxed paper


  1. Beat egg yolks lightly in small bowl; set aside.
  2. Combine starch with ¼ cup of the milk; whisk well to dissolve.
  3. Combine sweeteners in medium saucepan.  Whisk in milk, cream and milk/starch mixture.
  4. Heat, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; careful, it greatly increases in volume.  Cook and stir 2 minutes more.
  5. Remove from heat.  Gradually whisk about 1 cup of hot mixture into lightly beaten egg yolks. Then add this mixture back into pudding mixture in saucepan.
  6. Bring to a gentle boil; reduce heat.  Cook and whisk constantly for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in butter with vanilla until blended.
  7. Pour pudding into a large bowl.  Cover surface with waxed paper.  Refrigerate 4 – 5 hours, or until well chilled.

Serving Suggestions for All Creamy Puddings

  • For vanilla, butterscotch or chocolate pudding:  when ready to serve, remove waxed paper and stir.
  • For all puddings: Spoon into dessert dishes;

Optional Garnishes:

  • a dollop of whipped cream
  • chopped chocolate-covered English toffee
  • chopped dried cherries
  • chopped pecans or pistachios
  • fresh berries
  • fresh-grated nutmeg
  • ground cinnamon


  1. bhg.com (bhg.com/recipes/recipedetail.jsp?recipeId=R074970)
  2. epicurious.com (epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/100630)

About Cat

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