The Microwave: Real and Easy Butterscotch Sauce

Sunday June 7, 2015

Butterscotch sauce is something you make when you want to impress guests. Authentic (not artificially flavored) butterscotch sauce isn’t like the thick stuff you buy in the jar; it is silky and pourable, not cloyingly sweet. And positively addicting as far as a sweet attack goes. Part of the nostalgic soda fountain ice cream sundaes, the retro sauce is now the rage. Since caramel is one of my favorite flavors, I couldn’t be more pleased.

If Hot Chocolate Fudge Sauce is king of the sweet sauce universe, then Butterscotch is most certainly the Queen. And just as famous. It is golden and perfect for lighting up the dark winter evenings in your kitchen. Warm it to pouring consistency. You wont believe how easy it is to make from scratch in the microwave. Basically you melt the butter and add everything else and bring it all to a full rolling boil to melt the sugar, a far cry from the dangerous task of pouring cream into bubbling golden sugar like I learned how to make it for creme caramel. But the more simple method makes exactly the same sauce. It is remarkable.

Surprisingly, the flavor of the butterscotch blooms when there is both vanilla and salt added, and there is no Scotch whiskey involved (the scotch in the title refers to a technique in making butterscotch hard candy, not a liquor or country). Use a dark brown sugar, as light brown sugar doesn’t give a deep enough flavor. Don’t skip the corn syrup as it keeps the sugar from recrystalizing as it cools; if there is even one crystal of sugar, it can ruin the entire batch. Regular corn syrup is not the same as high fructose corn syrup, and you can buy organic corn syrup in Whole Foods. Use up to a teaspoon of a flaky sea salt to get a more salted caramel flavor.

For a slightly thicker sauce, you can use heavy whipping cream (not ultra-pasteurized please; go for one of the organic brands) or plain soy milk if you are cutting out milk, in place of the half and half.

Serve over ice cream as it accents all sorts of flavors from coffee to chocolate, as well as vanilla. Bring out the toasted, salted nuts (almonds, cashews, macadamias)…chop some up and sprinkle on top, for the flavor combination of the salt and caramel is one of the dynamic classics of the food world.

It is also good poured over gingerbread, cheesecake, pound cake, poached pears, sliced bananas, a brownie sundae, or steamed pudding. To do ahead: This sauce will keep at least two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.


Cookware: 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup

Microwave Wattage: 1,100 to 1,300

Cook Time: 3 to 4 minutes

Standing Time: None

Makes about 1 1/3 cups


  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dairy half and half
  • 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt or up to 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon brandy (optional)


1. In a 2-quart measuring cup, place the butter. Microcook on HIGH for 1 minute to melt.

2. Stir in the brown sugar, half and half, corn syrup, and salt with a whisk. Stir with a wooden spoon to break up any lumps in the sugar. Cover with a piece of parchment paper. Microcook on HIGH for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring once with the handle of a wooden spoon until thickened and sugar is dissolved. The mixture will come to a full boil.

3. Remove from the oven and immediately whisk in the vanilla and brandy until smooth and well blended. Dip the tip of a spoon into the sauce and carefully not to burn your tongue, taste for vanilla or salt. Serve warm in a little pitcher to pour over your ice cream. If not using immediately, cool completely, then pour into a glass jar and cover. Keeps up to one month (will thicken as it chills). You might find yourself eating it with a spoon out of the jar.

To reheat, in a glass bowl or Pryex measuring cup, microcook on DEFROST for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on how much sauce.

Almond Milk Butterscotch Sauce

Substitute unsweetened almond milk for the dairy half and half.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Microwave Cooking, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2010, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2015

Please enjoy the recipes and make them your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.

Your Comments

2 comments Comments Feed
  1. Chris and Amy 10/01/2011 at 4:09 am

    We just wanted to say hi! We love your recipes and just offered one of your books in our Third Bloggaversary Giveaway. Happy New Year!

  2. Beth 21/01/2011 at 4:19 am

    How fun!! a bloggaversary!!! I guess if you blog, you have one…thanks for writing. The best to you both
    this new year 2011.

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