Unbelievable Butterscotch Pudding (Homemade)

Homemade butterscotch pudding is underrated, yet unbelievable. In this recipe, you’re combining the outstanding flavors of caramelized brown sugar and butter with vanilla and a splash of bourbon. This butterscotch pudding recipe is luxuriously creamy, velvet-rich, and totally unforgettable with salted caramel and fresh whipped cream on top.

Homemade butterscotch pudding with salted caramel and whipped cream

The work is cut out for me today as I have to twist your arm into trying TWO underrated desserts. First, butterscotch. Often overshadowed by chocolate, peanut butter, lemon, and every other flavor on the planet, butterscotch quietly sits in the corner until it’s noticed. Second, pudding. Normally pudding is as exciting as watching paint dry; a majority of dessert lovers don’t give it the time of day.

But let’s take a moment to appreciate both. Homemade butterscotch pudding is in its own playing field. In 1 pot, we’re combining caramelized brown sugar and butter with a splash of vanilla and bourbon. Butterscotch pudding is luxuriously creamy and velvet-rich. Top with salted caramel, fresh whipped cream, and toffee bits for a truly unforgettable dessert.

And the best part? Box mix pudding is not invited to this party!!

Butterscotch pudding in glass cups

Guess what? Butterscotch pudding is actually making a comeback. LA’s restaurant Pizzeria Mozza has been all the buzz lately because it serves up an iconic dessert: butterscotch budino. (Budino is Italian for pudding-like desserts.) Reading about it, as my mouth totally salivated, inspired today’s recipe.


Video Tutorial: Butterscotch Pudding


Spoonful of homemade butterscotch pudding with salted caramel

How to Make Homemade Butterscotch Pudding

Instant box pudding mix has skewed our perception of what real pudding actually tastes like. It’s much creamier and smoother, close to creme brûlée. And it’s easy to make! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you know how to stir, you know how to make pudding.

  1. Combine whole milk and heavy cream. Heavy cream is the secret to REALLY GOOD pudding. Thin it out with whole milk so the pudding isn’t overly thick.
  2. Combine egg yolks and cornstarch. They thicken the pudding to the best consistency.
  3. Cook brown sugar, water, and salt together. You are essentially caramelizing the brown sugar on the stove. It’s the most important step in the entire recipe because it develops the butterscotch flavor. Without it, you’re eating brown sugar pudding, not butterscotch pudding.
  4. Slowly add the milk/heavy cream to the pot. The colder the milk, the more the pot will sizzle. Add it carefully, then bring to a boil.
  5. Add the egg yolk mixture to the pot. Temper it first by adding some of the boiling pudding to the egg yolk mixture, then pour it all back into the pudding. You can watch me do this in the video above. The purpose of tempering is to slowly raise the egg yolk’s temperature without scrambling them. It’s very simple.
  6. Remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients. You need butter, vanilla extract, and bourbon, rum, or scotch. Softened butter keeps the pudding creamy and the last 2 are for flavor. You won’t regret the splash of alcohol!

Ingredients for butterscotch pudding

This is a 10 minute recipe. Add each ingredient to the pot in different stages, then let the pudding cool and thicken. Your 10 minutes of work will be certainly be rewarded!

Ingredients in Homemade Butterscotch Pudding

You only need a few basic ingredients for stovetop butterscotch pudding.

  1. Whole Milk
  2. Heavy Cream
  3. Egg Yolks
  4. Cornstarch
  5. Water
  6. Dark Brown Sugar
  7. Salt
  8. Butter
  9. Vanilla Extract and Scotch or Bourbon.

My #1 tip: Use dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar. In my recipe testing, I found light brown sugar to be good, but dark brown sugar is great. The sugar cooks into a darker color and the butterscotch flavor is much more intense.

Butterscotch pudding in glass cups

What Does Butterscotch Taste Like?

My love for butterscotch runs deep. Deeper than peanut butter, deeper than apple pie, deeper than sprinkles. But what does butterscotch taste like? Butterscotch is like caramel, but its base is brown sugar, not regular white sugar. Therefore, butterscotch has that richer, more complex flavor than caramel. I actually have a homemade butterscotch candy recipe in Sally’s Candy Addiction! They’re called Butter Rum Hard Candies on page 27.

Butterscotch pudding in glass cup

Speaking of caramel, this butterscotch pudding is elevated to heaven with a generous dose of salted caramel and crunchy toffee. Homemade whipped cream is a convenient finishing touch since you already have heavy cream on hand for the pudding. But these toppings are optional. Truly all you need is a spoon to enjoy this stuff!!

PS: I serve the pudding in regular cups and/or these French wine glasses. So fancy!

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Butterscotch pudding in glass cup

Homemade Butterscotch Pudding

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 10 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This butterscotch pudding comes together in about 10 minutes on the stove. In this recipe, you’re combining the outstanding flavors of caramelized brown sugar and butter with vanilla and, if desired, a splash of bourbon. This butterscotch pudding recipe is luxuriously creamy, velvet-rich, and totally unforgettable with salted caramel and fresh whipped cream on top.


Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) whole milk
  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup (150g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • optional but recommended: 1 Tablespoon scotch, rum, or bourbon
  • optional for topping: salted caramel, Heath Bar toffee bits, homemade whipped cream

Instructions

  1. Whisk the whole milk and heavy cream together. Set aside. Whisk the egg yolks and cornstarch together. Set that aside too. Have both ready to go in step 3.
  2. Whisk the brown sugar, water, and salt together in a medium heavy duty saucepan over medium heat. Without stirring, allow to cook and bubble until darker brown, about 5-6 minutes. It should begin to smell caramelized at that point. If desired, you can take the temperature with a candy thermometer to be certain it is ready. Look for around 240°F (116°C).
  3. Slowly and carefully whisk in the heavy cream/milk. It will sizzle and may splatter, so pour in slowly. Cook on medium heat until mixture begins to boil. Once boiling, remove about 1/2 cup of the mixture and, in a slow and steady stream, whisk into the egg yolks. Keep those egg yolks moving so they don’t scramble. In a slow and steady stream, pour and whisk the egg yolk mixture into the pot.
  4. Turn the heat down to low. The pudding will immediately begin to bubble and thicken. Whisk and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until completely smooth, then add the vanilla and bourbon.
  5. Cool for 5 minutes, then pour into serving glasses or bowls. Cover tightly with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate for 4-6 hours or overnight until chilled and thickened.
  6. Serve with optional toppings. Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Notes

  1. Whole Milk + Heavy Cream: I strongly recommend these two. You can try subbing both for the same amount of half-and-half, but I recommend sticking to the recipe for best results. Lower fat alternatives will yield a thinner pudding. I haven’t tested dairy-free alternatives, but let me know if you do! Milk and cream can be cold or room temperature, but the colder they are, the more they will splatter when added in step 3. To avoid a mess, room temperature is the better choice.
  2. Egg Yolks: Note that the photo above shows only 2 egg yolks, but additional recipe testing proved 3 egg yolks is the magic number. Here are recipes using egg whites.
  3. Dark Brown Sugar: For stronger flavor and darker color, I strongly recommend dark brown sugar instead of light brown sugar.
  4. Adapted from Mozza’s Butterscotch Budino

Keywords: pudding, butterscotch

133 Comments

  1. Kathy Duran says:

    I have made this pudding 4 times in the last two days. My family can’t get enough. It’s truly amazing and a great way to use up the leftover yolks from our egg white omelettes! Thank you for your recipes. I spend my days browsing thru your emails, Instagram & website.

  2. Horrible! Too sweet, didn’t set enough and after being chilled had a chalky texture, which I presume is the 3 tbsp of butter. It was not so while it was hot. I followed everything precisely too. Very disappointed in this one.

    1. Chalky texture usually means the starch didn’t gelatinize. If your proportions were correct, then you didn’t cook it long enough. Alternatively, you may have added too much corn starch for the amount of liquid. It’s counterintuitive, but adding more liquid and continuing to boil would have helped thicken it.

  3. Earl Williams says:

    Unbelievable is probably the right term for this elegant dessert. Would be more than welcome at a formal or semi-formal dinner and WHAT A SURPRISE. The taste is elegant like a great chocolate mouse with a little kick from the Jack Daniels. Great flavor. The salted caramel on top makes it more special with crushed Heath Toffee.
    This turned out to be a wonderful surprise and a dessert I will use often. It has a great “surprise” factor.

  4. Where has this been my whole life? Omg. This is the first time I’ve tried making my own pudding. Store bought is now dead to me. And butterscotch had gone from my least favorite to my NUMBER ONE!

  5. Wonderful taste and texture!! Question: how can I make it thicker to use as a topping on top of a graham cracker crust. I want it to hold its shape when I cut into it. Thank you for posting.

    1. Hi Carolyn! So glad you enjoy this butterscotch pudding. Though I haven’t tried thickening it further for a pie, you may want to replace some of the whole milk with heavy cream so it’s thicker and add another teaspoon of cornstarch.

      1. Thanks so much for your response! I was thinking to add more cornstarch too, I wasn’t sure how much. I will try it out! The flavor was amazing!!

  6. Love love love. Creamy and tasty. Thank you for this recipe, step by step instructions and video. Oh and dont skip the booze. Ive made it with rum and it really added flavor.

  7. I’m sure I did something wrong but I can’t figure out what. The brown sugar mixture turned into a hardened sticky glob when I added the milk & heavy cream. Maybe I should have used a thermometer. I only left it boiling just over 5 minutes, no stirring. I ended up chucking the glob and switching recipes to try to salvage the milk and egg mixtures. 🙁

    1. Hi Christy, the water should help melt the brown sugar down into a liquid, so adding the heavy cream and milk (especially with that amount of fat) shouldn’t crystallize it. Was your heat too high? Thanks for trying the recipe.

    2. Made this tonight. My first go at cooking the brown sugar and water resulted in a glob of hardened candy as well. I’m sure it got to hot. Fortunately, I could salvage the milk and start again. The second time was a success.

  8. My pudding never set and I might have taken it off the heat too soon after tempering the eggs. I let it set overnight and was so sad to wake up to a cold delicious butterscotch soup. I put it back on the heat, let it bubble up on some gentle heat and added a little more cornstarch. It thickened after all but it changed the texture of the pudding, not so smooth, even after a sieve. Oh well, the flavor was phenomenal and I knew I had to at least try. It was a tad too sweet and I added an extra pinch of sea salt to the puddibg

  9. I made this as a challenge to try to duplicate my grandmother’s butterscotch pudding for my mom. It so delighted her the first time that I made it a second time. My observations:
    Both times I made it according to the recipe and used organic dairy and pure vanilla. It was delicious testing out of the pot, but I did add the suggested TBS of bourbon to bring the flavor to that ooooooh butterscotch. It developed even more over a few days as mom carefuly self-rationed. Everything was perfect. So I made it again.
    Following the same method, as i cornstarch cornstarch into the got much thicker than the first time, then as soon as I added the eggs (after tempering) it got VERY thick. I checked the cornstarch amount; I measured correctly. The pudding still turned out well, but was more like pie filling once cooled. An A+ Nonetheless , and success creating delicious nostalgia for my mmmmom

  10. Pam Richardson says:

    I made this with my 12 year old daughter. It turned out perfect! The directions were very clear and helpful. We WILL make this again.

  11. Yummy. I put in, not a full 3/4 packed cup as writers found it too sweet and I am turned off to…too sweet. The pudding came out fine. Lots of fun and thanks for the video as it helped take out guess work. Never had bourbon before.

  12. Way tooo delicious! I ate two servings in one day. Next time I will try it without the bourbon. I tasted more of it than the butterscotch flavor.

  13. Megan Ostuni says:

    For an early father’s day brunch we used a Prince song as a theme, since my husband loves it. This pudding was our butterscotch clouds, delicious! The lyrics are…Starfish (pancakes the kids cut into fish and stars)and coffee, maple syrup and jam, butterscotch clouds, tangerine and a side order of ham! Thanks, Sally! It was my first time making pudding/budino from scratch, what a hit!

  14. Sally, you never fail to impress me! Such a great recipe, cured my butterscotch pudding craving, and tasted better than anything from the box!

  15. Vala Runolfsson says:

    I really appreciated your very complete instructions. Followed the directions exactly and it turned out so good. I will try a little less sugar next time, as it was a little too sweet. (Years ago, we had a pudding combo at Tracht’s in Los Angeles. She served a pudding combo dessert in shot glasses of Butterscotch pudding and a Bittersweet chocolate pudding. Now, I need to find a perfect bittersweet chocolate pudding to go with this one.) Thanks!

  16. Just wow. The flavor is beyond amazing. I had cream but it went bad so I just used whole milk and it still turned out fantastic. The only other change I made was the bourbon. I put in 1 teaspoon just to enhance the flavor . I am not one that likes booze in food. The 1 teaspoon was perfect. Elevate without booze tasting. This recipe will be added to my fav list

  17. I made this pudding and served it with homemade butterscotch sauce and whipped cream. The butterscotch sauce was VERY sweet (I would’ve used Sally’s butterscotch sauce or made caramel, but I didn’t have enough cream), so that made the overall dessert far too sweet. However, I did scrape the butterscotch off the top of my pudding, and then it was wonderful, as the pudding itself is just the right sweetness 🙂

  18. This is my absolute faaavorite! I just recently made this again and got the idea in my head before I checked my ingredients and realized I didn’t have any heavy cream… I was desperate enough to try it with a combination of whole milk and oat milk. I did 1.5 cups whole and 1 cup oat. It actually turned out alright! As you state above, heavy cream will obviously be the most delicious and best set result BUT it was not as runny as I was expecting with the oat milk sub more of a plain yogurt consistency. Making this again for a girlfriend’s bday Friday!

  19. I made this dessert and included her recipe for homemade caramel and homemade whipped cream (plus tossed the Heath bits of brickle on top). I only reduced the bourbon to 1/2 tablespoon but wished I’d had used the 1 tablespoon the recipe suggested. Indeed, I received compliments on this recipe with the first bite my guest took. This IS a special ‘labor of love’ to make for your guest as I felt it had a lot of steps but what could one expect with such a decadent outcome?! All from scratch and nothing from a box, anything less would not yield the little treasure that it did. I do think I should’ve served my guest less portion sizes due to its sweetness but they still ate 100% I gave them. Plus, when I have a super sweet dessert, I cut the sweetness by not adding sweetener to my homemade whipped cream. That helps a lot! This is a recipe I’ll make for super special occasions.

  20. Haven’t made this yet but it looks really good. I don’t drink or use alcohol in cooking so know very little about it. Can alcohol extracts be used instead of the actual alcohol? If not, what is the best kind/brand/etc. of alcohol to use?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You can leave it out and it will still be delicious, Erica! Add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, if desired.

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