Old-Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding Recipe (2024)

By Melissa Clark

Old-Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding Recipe (1)

Total Time
30 minutes, plus 2 hours’ chilling
Read community notes

This creamy pudding, thickened with cornstarch and egg yolks and stirred together on the stove, is as homey as it gets. Spiking the mixture with a little bourbon or Scotch isn’t strictly traditional, but it does add a pop of flavor. Choose bourbon to underscore the caramelized notes of the brown sugar, or Scotch for a savory smokiness and a nod to the name. Here’s a tip: Make sure to bring the pudding to a full, vigorous boil to activate the cornstarch. Otherwise, it may not set. If you’ve ever ended up with thin, runny pudding, undercooking may have been the issue.

Featured in: The Best Butterscotch Pudding Is Homemade

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Yield:4 servings

  • 4large egg yolks
  • 3tablespoons cornstarch
  • ½teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾packed cup/165 grams dark brown sugar
  • 1tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2cups/480 milliliters whole milk
  • 1cup/240 milliliters heavy cream
  • 1tablespoon bourbon or Scotch whisky (optional)
  • 2teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Whipped cream, sour cream or crème fraîche, for serving
  • Chopped candied ginger, sliced almonds, Demerara sugar, shaved chocolate, cocoa nibs or flaky sea salt (or a combination), for garnish (optional)

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (4 servings)

570 calories; 35 grams fat; 20 grams saturated fat; 1 gram trans fat; 10 grams monounsaturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 55 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams dietary fiber; 49 grams sugars; 9 grams protein; 382 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Old-Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Put egg yolks, cornstarch and salt into a large heatproof bowl, and whisk until the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps.

  2. Step


    In a medium pot over medium heat, combine brown sugar and butter, whisking, until the brown sugar melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture starts to smell like hot caramel and darkens slightly, about 1 minute longer. (Don’t walk away, or the mixture may burn.)

  3. Immediately pour the milk and cream into the pot. (It will bubble fiercely and seize up.) Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the clumps melt, 2 to 4 minutes.

  4. Step


    Slowly whisk about ½ cup of the hot cream mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking yolks until smooth, then whisk in the remaining hot cream mixture. Pour the egg-cream mixture back into the saucepan and place it over medium heat.

  5. Step


    Cook pudding, whisking constantly especially around the bottom and edges of the pot, until it comes to a full boil. (Don’t worry about the eggs curdling. You’re going to strain the mixture later.) Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring the mixture constantly, until it thickens enough to mound thickly on the spoon, 4 to 7 minutes. If at any point the pudding looks curdled, whisk to help smooth it out.

  6. Step


    Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a heatproof container or bowl, then stir in the Scotch or bourbon, if using, and vanilla. To prevent a skin from forming, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding. (If you like the skin, don’t cover pudding until it cools.) Chill for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.

  7. Step


    When serving, spoon pudding into dishes. Top with dollops of whipped cream, sour cream or crème fraîche, and any of the optional garnishes.


  • Make sure to bring the pudding to a full, vigorous boil to activate the cornstarch. Otherwise, it may not set. If you’ve ever ended up with thin, runny pudding, undercooking may have been the issue.



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Cooking Notes


If you don't have any heavy cream you can substitute one quarter cup unsalted butter and three quarters cup whole milk. You are already using butter and milk in this recipe, anyway. I have used this substitution many times in this type of recipe.


Be forewarned, the sugar turns to rock hard clumps when you add the milk and cream. Don’t give up (although I almost did)! — just keep whisking (or stir if that is easier) and it will eventually melt back down. Turned out great in the end, but for a minute there I thought it was ruined!


Butterscotch pudding is one of my favorite desserts but this was my first time making it myself -- and it was delicious. One tip: When I added the cream/milk, the caramel seized epically. I thought it was ruined. But I kept stirring and stirring and stirring, for about 8 minutes, and finally it began to relax and melt. So don't give up if this happens to you! Your patience will be rewarded!

Laurel Quint

Our favorite addition is a sprinkling of chocolate chips or shavings on the bottom of the bowl as you pour in the warm pudding. We always eat it after the skin has formed but before the chocolate solidifies again. Amazing, thanks Dad!


I’ve had issues making butterscotch where the added milk curdles upon touching hot caramel (the acid created in the caramelization creates the curdle). 2 hints #1. Allow you caramel to hang off heat for 2 minutes before you add your milk...this is tricky, as you have to understand that the caramel still continues to cook off heat and you have at anticipate that and pull off the heat accordingly#2. A pinch of baking soda added to the caramel neutralizes the acid ...do this b4 adding milk


A sprinkling of toasted walnuts or pecans is also a nice topping, with or without whipped cream. (I vote "with"!)


It's chilling now, but absolutely delicious. I tempered the egg mixture with about a cup of the hot milk mixture and then whisked it back into the rest of the hot milk mixture. By stirring constantly I had no need to strain the finished pudding. I put it in 1/2 cup mason jars, making about 6 individual servings. Another winner from Melissa Clark. Thanks


I guess my memory of butterscotch flavor comes from the instant jello pudding my mom whipped up when I was a kid. I would call it "Burnt Sugar Bourbon Pudding" which was perfectly fine. It just didn't take me down the butterscotch memory lane where I was hoping to go. I would also recommend using a silicon spatula to make the caramel so the caramel so it doesn't get all stuck up in your whisk.


Crucial to start with room temperature or warmer eggs. I warm them for 10 min in hot water from the faucet

Frieda Nagel

For the lazy cook - follow the directions BUT when you add the milk / cream mixture, remove the caramel from the heat. Slowly whisk in abt 1/2 of the cream. It will bubble and seize - don't fret as you have the secret weapon - the lazy cook. Keeping the pan off the heat add the rest of the milk, put a lid on the pot and walk away. Abt 20 min later most of the sugar has happily dissolved :) then whisk in the egg mixture. Bring back to heat and proceed. No sieve needed. Delicious laziness.


Used all milk. Goodness, “seizing up” seems like an understatement. I had a disk of hard sugar on the bottom the pan. Luckily, I read notes here that kept me from giving up in despair, and with patience and slow heating, all the sugar dissolved. I only boiled for a little over a minute: that’s how long I boil another cornstarch pudding I make and it was definitely coating the spoon. I didn’t see any curdling, so no way am I dealing with using a sieve! Initial taste test suggests delicious!


Take a few extra minutes to make real caramel instead of using brown sugar - the result is phenomenal! 1cup sugar 1/4 cup & 2 T waterBring to a boil over medium high heat & let cook undisturbed about 8 minutes, until the syrup turns a dark amberProceed as directed with recipe.


An alternative to a sieve, especially if you make a smaller portion: a blender. Make the caramel, add to vanilla cornstarch milk. Microwave to boil. Drop in 1-2 egg yolks. Blend with stick blender. Optionally re-microwave until it just starts to rise. Done.


Has anyone made this with a non-dairy milk or cream ?


Use the egg whites to make meringues for a topping.


What type of bowl is heat proof?


Fantastic recipe, especially with lightly sweetened whipped cream to serve. The whole family raved about it! The sugar crystalized badly as described in the recipe, but it remelted without issue.


In a medium pan over medium heat, it took much longer than one or two minutes to melt the sugar. Using a whisk to stir the half melted sugar was impossible so I switched to a spatula, and it was so much easier. Likely due to the long melting process this pudding is much more like penuche than butterscotch. In other words, burnt sugar pudding.


Added a bit more whiskey and planning on using as a cream puff filling, a BIG hit!


Has anyone used this as filling for butterscotch pie??


I've made this pudding a number of times now. I add a bit more bourbon whiskey than the recipe calls for, AND I add a few splashes of...Liquid Smoke, which obviously adds a bit more smoky flavor.When you first add the milk & cream to the butter/brown sugar mixture, and it 'seizes', you must be VERY careful when first trying to stir or whisk. There will very likely still be some brown sugar 'stuck' to the bottom, so you must 'scrape' with TINY motions, so as to not create hot 'splashes'.


All curdled. Switched to microwave method.


As others have noted, this had a grainy texture because the milk curdled when I added it to the melted sugar. I tried twice and did not succeed, and will not be making again nor recommending to a friend. My least favorite recipe here so far.


I was concerned about the sugar seizing so I added the milk/cream mixture slowly while constantly mixing the melted sugar, No seizing. I did double the batch and I did put it through a sieve. I served it with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. It was creamy , delicious and a big hit for our Christmas dessert. I made it the day before as suggested by another commenter.


Perfectly delicious.


This is very sweet and very rich. Small servings. If I made it again, I'd probably use less sugar and change the milk:cream ratio.


The pudding gets stuck in the strainer. Too thick. What do I do? I don’t have a sieve.


You may burn the sugar if you have not done this before—I certainly did! It’s hard to judge since brown sugar is already brown. Consider turning down the heat as little as soon as it melts to improve your chances of catching it before it burns.If it *does* burn, throw it out and try again. There’s no saving it.

Judy Nedry

An amazing recipe. Rich, smooth, deaep caramelized flavor.


Was paranoid about undercooking and possibly overcooked it. The result was very thick and sweet, almost like the richness of nutella. Would have preferred something lighter and honestly closer to store bought Jell-o pudding.

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Old-Fashioned Butterscotch Pudding Recipe (2024)


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