I love this sauce.  It makes an excellent dip for fresh apple slices.  It’s great on ice cream.  It turns orange segments into something really special for an interesting dessert or a brunch time treat.  Spoon some on a brownie, sprinkle with a little Malden salt, and you have a really up-town dessert.  It figures in more than one recipe on this website, so I think it deserves an entry of its own.

I learned this sauce from Chef Vincent Parkinson, a man who really knows his stuff.  He uses it to sauce his Sticky Toffee Pudding.  It’s a classic.  It’s not the same thing as true caramel sauce, which involves the careful caramelization of granulated sugar to a particular shade of deep amber, which can become smoking black if left unattended (and that pot is never coming back, I can assure you).  Butterscotch sauce is quick and easy, and can be made in a teeny tiny batch, or one big enough to delight a crowd of hungry teenagers.  I like to think it’s a sauce that any idiot can make, although that seems a tad disrespectful to my Cheffy Mentors.

Really good quality vanilla is a key ingredient.  You can make the sauce without it, but it’s not as good.


Like many classic sauces, this one is based on a pretty simple ratio.

  • 1 part butter
  • 2 Parts Brown Sugar (the darker the better, in my opinion)
  • 1 part Whipping Cream

You always add a little salt to enhance the flavor, and I always add a little vanilla.  You could add a little cinnamon if you wanted.  Sometimes a few drops of lemon juice takes the flavor just where you want it.  I add orange zest when I’m doing that thing with the orange segments.

For a single serving:

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar (packed into the spoon)
  • 1 Tbsp whipping cream (DO NOT use milk – liberate a coffee creamer from somewhere if you don’t keep cream on hand.)
  • a few drops of vanilla
  • a tiny pinch of salt

For a jar-full:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tsp (or more) vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp salt


In a deep saucepan, melt the butter.

Add the brown sugar.  Cook and stir until boiling all over.  Boil for about a minute for a small batch, and as long as 3 or 4 minutes for a large one. Stir a lot, and fairly energetically, so the butter and sugar become one thing, rather than a bunch of hot sugar and an oil slick of melted butter.  You can use a small wooden spoon for a small batch, but I always use a whisk for a bigger batch.  Be careful not to splash — the burns are mighty painful.

Take the pot off the heat.  Stir in the cream.  There might be some pretty exciting bubbling with a big batch — add that cream in a slow stream, stirring as you go.

Return the pot to the heat and bring the sauce to the boil once more.  Timing varies with the size of the batch.  Simmer until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.  What you’re doing at this stage is allowing some of the water in the cream to evaporate, which allows the sauce to thicken. Don’t overdo, and don’t walk away.  Your sauce can burn or boil over if left unattended.

Stir in the vanilla and salt.  DO NOT taste it until it cools down, please.  You can add more flavoring when it gets to the point where you won’t burn your mouth.

Is salted caramel your current favorite?  Rather than over-salting the sauce, sprinkle whatever you’re having with a little flakey finishing salt.

This sauce keeps in the refrigerator for as long as you can keep your spoon from dipping into it every time you open the door.  It keeps frozen probably forever.  It will need a little re-heating to return it to fluidity.  I have been known to spread a little cold, fudgy sauce between two graham crackers for immediate guilty pleasure.  Add a little to a microwave S’More and simply die of goodness.