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 in glass cups

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 in glass cup

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!

2 images of 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

138 Comments

  1. Julie Barone says:

    Hi Sally,
    Would I be able to use this pudding for a cake filling?

    1. I can’t see why not!

    2. Sally I received some salted caramel it’s in a bottle if u cud tell me the quantity of the caramel so I can continue the pudding in a quick fix
      Thanx

  2. Sali Peterson says:

    I love your recipes. I have been able to make the ones I’ve tried gluten-free quite easily.
    For this one, I will try half and half and 2% milk. I will substitute the corn starch with either potato starch or mochi rice flour as I am sensitive to corn.
    Thank you. You know your stuff! Sali

    1. I’m glad you can usually make my recipes work for you! I hope this one turns out well also!

    2. I haven’t tried this recipe *yet* but I’m so glad I found it. Butterscotch is much understood. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve clicked on a recipe for butterscotch something-or-other only to discover (based on the ingredients) it’s caramel, not butterscotch. (Bait-and-switch if you love butterscotch as much as I do).

      As to whether you have to have the plastic wrap (or Press n’ Seal, which is my preference) touching the surface of the pudding, I’ve not found it necessary. As long as there isn’t a lot of air space between the pudding and the plastic wrap and you cover the pudding as soon as you fill your dishes (or bowl) a skin won’t form.

      Looking forward to satisfying my Butterscotch Pudding craving soon with what I’m sure is another great recipe from you!

      1. Ugh. I meant butterscotch is much MISunderstood!

  3. Wow delicious!

  4. So yummy! Husband described it as “knee-bucklingly good”!

  5. This pudding is crazy good! The dark brown sugar is so dark that it’s hard to tell when it’s caramelized but the time was spot on according to my thermometer. I was afraid my egg tempering wasn’t quite perfect so I strained it before chilling. It’s still hanging out in the fridge until after dinner tonight but I can’t stop sneaking tastes of it! Thanks for another show stopper!

  6. This looks delicious. Can you use a large pan to set the product rather than cups?

    1. Shouldn’t be a problem. Make sure you cover the whole surface with plastic wrap directly touching the pudding.

  7. You’ve got it pictures in such lovely individual glasses…did you shove the plastic wrap down in them to get it to touch the pudding surface, or did you let it set in a larger dish and then portion it out when serving?

    1. Hi Lauren! Yes, I cover and chill them right in the glasses but you can absolutely chill it in a large bowl also.

  8. Vicki Benavidez says:

    I made your butterscotch pudding today because I had leftover egg yolks from your coconut cake I made on Easter. Oh my. That pudding is so delicious that I could eat it all. But I will save my husband some. Everyone enjoyed the cake also. Thank you for all your recipes

  9. Excellent!

  10. I made a batch of this with some of the leftover eggs yolks from your Angel Food cake. Holy Cow! This is the best thing I’ve ever tasted! So rich and creamy and the flavor! I need to make another batch ASAP!

  11. As a girl who is missing the “chocolate lover chromosome”, I adore butterscotch. Cooking at altitude makes caramelizing sugar, caramel sauce tricky, but your clear instructions with pictures & video made this a successful attempt. I did these in little 3 oz. dessert glasses and it filled 8 easy ( I find people will more readily eat desserts if you serve them in mini versions). I think the hardest part of this was cutting all the little plastic squares to push down over the pudding surface! this will definitely be made again, thank you for this post!

    1. Thrilled this recipe was a hit! Thanks for your positive feedback 🙂

  12. Melissa Morgan says:

    Do you HAVE to add alcohol to get butterscotch flavor? My family has several stomach digestive issues and alcohol is not good for them? Is there any natural way to get the flavor without adding alcohol? Thanks so much for your time and help.

    1. You can leave it out and it will still be delicious, Melissa!

  13. I LOVE butterscotch pudding. My 83 yr old roommate was telling me about when she would make homemade butterscotch pudding and that got me interested in trying. Just made it with this recipe. It’s AMAZING.

  14. The step when you heat the milk/brown sugar mixture, you dont want to boil it, just to simmer it. After you add the cornstarch/egg you can bring to a boil. If you go all the way to boiling in the first step the milk separates.

  15. If I only have light brown sugar, can I just add 1 T of molasses to “make” dark brown sugar or will that throw the whole recipe off?

    1. I don’t recommend it. Use regular light brown sugar instead.

  16. Hi Sally! I’m going to make this for a dinner party next week. I’m wondering when I put the salted caramel on. After the pudding cooled? And do I cool the salted caramel before putting it on? Thanks! Love love loooove your blog!

    1. Hi Kelly, I put any toppings like salted caramel and whipped cream on right before serving. Yes, you want to the caramel sauce to be room temperature or cold so that it doesn’t melt the pudding when you place it on top. Enjoy!

      1. Just wondering… Since the salted caramel recipe says it solidifies, wouldn’t it be possible to make both, somewhat cool both, and then substitute a layer of salted caramel for the wrap? Add whipped cream, etc… Last minute?

  17. I cooked my eggs. My batch with alcohol didn’t set at all. I’ve strained it. My batch without alcohol set some but I’m straining it too.
    Any idea what I can do with it now? They taste delicious!

    1. I used entirely lactose free skim milk for all 2 1/2 cups of the recommended whole and cream- its all I had! To thicken I used 4 egg yolks and upped the corn starch to 4 tbsp. Also didn’t have any bourbon so I used 1 tbsp vanilla. On the stove it thickened perfectly and tastes delicious. Impatiently waiting for it to cool! But even hot it has the consistency of any other fresh pudding and I am confident the texture will be great

  18. Mandy Striegel says:

    I saw this recipe and had to try it. My husband is a fiend for butterscotch pudding. First time I made it, I only had light brown sugar and it was amazing – so much so that my son, who is not a big fan, had 3 helpings! Just made it again today for Christmas tomorrow but this time used dark brown sugar and Brown Sugar Bourbon and doubled the recipe. OMG! Unbelievable is right! Then I made the salted caramel sauce to go with it and let’s just say, I am in heaven! I’ve tried several of your recipes and these 2 have got to be my favorite!

  19. Can this be used as pie filling?

  20. I made half the recipe today, so only two servings. It was perfect! I wasn’t sure about the alcohol as I usually don’t like whiskey or rum, but I felt it was missing something so I added it. It made the difference without being overpowering. My boyfriend said it’s one of the best things I ever made! He says that a lot when I make your recipes though. But still! Thank you for this recipe, I’ll be making it again!

  21. Totally fabulous. Perfect sweet-creamy-salty balance. Makes 4 generous servings or 6 teasers. I used whiskey; it sure adds a depth of flavor. Listen to Sally – leave the sugar alone to carmelize. I kept stirring it (because I have trust issues, clearly) and it didn’t get as dark as I would like. Still literally perfect (although it borders on being an extreme sport once you add the cornstarch mixture – dodging butterscotch bullets). Awesome dessert to make ahead. Stop reading and start butterscotching.

  22. Too sweet in my opinion. Will likely try it again but with reduced sugar.

  23. OMG! I just finished making this spectacular recipe and sampled the cooking pan and a slightly chilled refrigerated morsel . I never had butterscotch pudding so creamy and bursting with flavor! Thank you so much for sharing this and yes I followed this recipe to a tee. My daughter is coming for dinner tomorrow and she’ll definitely be pleased with this sweet surprise!

  24. I just created this recipe, following carefully.
    I typically create my scratch made puddings egg free, with much success, in larger quantities.
    This “butterscotch pudding” simply did not work for me.
    I have also made pot de creme in numerous flavors, which utilizes “egg tempering” with twice as many egg yolks with much more consistent success.
    This end result tastes nothing like what I consider to be butterscotch flavor, based on say, the butterscotch candies.
    The “pudding” never set up or held a pudding firm consistency once I pulled it from the refrigerator. It was thinner, actually custard thin like, think, plain Greek yogurt consistency.
    The flavor, was strong, the bourbon too much for such a dessert while adding nothing to the flavor of this pudding except the potent bourbon hitting you.
    When I think pudding, it has a thicker set up consistency, smoother mouth feel, not cloyingly sweet with no need of alcohol. I had high hopes, but this is not a butterscotch pudding in my opinion.

  25. This pudding was AMAZING!!! it tasted incredible but the texture was a little grainy. Not sure what I did wrong. Can you think of any reason why it would be grainy?

    1. Hi Charmaine, I’m so glad you enjoyed the flavor of this butterscotch pudding! Was your brown sugar particularly old and hard? The moister and fresher it is, the better it will melt down.

    2. I made this and my pudding was grainy also. I think the egg yolks must have scrambled.

  26. I have never made homemade pudding and though I’m a good baker, I am miserable at candy making. This recipe is AMAZING!!! I followed the instructions but I changed the ingredients due to dairy allergies. It still turned out perfectly! I used canned coconut milk instead of the cream and milk. I lowered the brown sugar to 1/2 cup. I substituted the smart balance spread for the butter. And finally, I used 2 tablespoons of Elijah Craig bourbon. I’m in shock! I didn’t burn the sugar. The texture and consistency are perfect. It tastes heavenly! It worked out to make 5, 3/4 cup servings at 183 per serving. Thank you so much for this indulgence!

  27. Nicolthepickle says:

    This was really good. It tastes like Valrhona’s blonde chocolate.
    I used it as a layer in a Rolo trifle and used rum as the accent. I will make it again. Thanks for the recipe.

  28. This was AMAZING! Perfect dessert after my family Sunday dinner.

  29. Just made this – AMAZING!! I topped with your amazing caramel sauce. Thank you!! Do you think I can double this to serve 2x the number of ppl? Thanks!

    1. Sure can! So glad you loved this pudding recipe.

  30. Made this twice now. It’s soooo good. Beats any other recipe I have found so far! I love the caramel topping on this, but found that recipe to be SO SALTY. Half the salt!

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