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Butterscotch Pudding

I recently got hooked on Le Grand Perdant 2. Unlike French cinema, which has a way of importing the best of America, French television has a way of importing the worst of America. Which often means reality shows. I have little patience for watching women named Bambi and Jennie compete for husbands named Tristan and Chad, but at least this one has a positive spin.

Even people voted off have achieved a personal goal of fitness and weight loss. So The Biggest Loser 2 isn’t necessarily The Biggest Winner. Call me sappy, but it’s nice to see a program where competitors support each other to achieve their goals.

I guess I’ve been away from the states for too long…I know, I know…pas américain!

Hence, every Monday night for the past few weeks, I’ve tucked myself into bed and watched 3 episodes of The Biggest Loser 2 back-to-back. In France, that’s not that much time since there’s usually only one commercial break in a program. So a one-hour American tv show lasts about 19 minutes. The finale is next Monday and I can’t wait. But the contestant that got the boot last night cheated and ate 9 brownies. 9 brownies! She got busted by the hidden camera which, thank goodness, I don’t have one around here.

Unless there’s something you guys aren’t telling me…

Speaking of big losers, boy, do I feel like a loser for not giving you a recipe for Black & White Cookies. So that there are no losers anymore (…if only that were true….) I made a deal with Deb—if I provide a Butterscotch Pudding recipe for her, she’d provide one for Black & White Cookies.

Because I’m a person of the highest moral character, and not a loser, I’m keeping my end of the deal here with my fantastically-creamy, hyper-delicieux Butterscotch Pudding. It’s a recipe which I’ve updated from my second book, Ripe For Dessert, which is going out of print and just a few soon-to-be-rare copies remain. So if you want one, now’s the time to grab it.

For the absolute best flavor, I like to use cassonade, a natural brown sugar which is easily available in France. Because it’s more acidic than ordinary brown sugar, the warm pudding may get slightly curdled after it’s cooked. If so, simply whiz it until smooth in a food processor or blender, noting that if you use a blender, do it in two batches and secure the lid since hot liquids can be dangerous if the blender container is more than half-full. You might want to drape a kitchen towel over the lid as well, just to be sure.

Cassonade and Butter

You’ll also notice I add a splash of whiskey. One theory is that the name ‘butterscotch’ is a derivation of ‘butter-scorched’. Others say it that it meant ‘scotching’ or cutting, which they did to slabs of buttery, creamy caramels when making candy.

Although the name implies it, it doesn’t have to have scotch or whiskey in it, but I find the flavors marry so well that I can’t resist adding a little shot. I once worked with some Mexican cooks who were stunned to see me adding vanilla to their beloved flan. I had no idea I was committing heresy against an entire nation. (Which wouldn’t be the first time…) But as I like to say, that’s one of the beauty of being an adult: you can make those decisions for yourself.

But one decision I refuse to let you make is to be one of those people that wants to press plastic wrap on top of the puddings to avoid that delicious, chewy skin that forms on top.

If you don’t like pudding skin, why are you eating pudding in the first place? That’s the best part and you don’t want to be in the category of a big loser.

Now, do you?

Butterscotch Pudding

Butterscotch Pudding

Adapted from Ripe For Dessert (HarperCollins)
Servings 4 servings
  • 4 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 cup packed dark brown or cassonade sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 cups (625ml) whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the dark brown sugar and salt, then stir until the sugar is well-moistened. Remove from heat.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with about 1/4 cup (60ml) of the milk until smooth (there should be no visible pills of cornstarch), then whisk in the eggs.
  • Gradually pour the remaining milk into the melted brown sugar, whisking constantly, then whisk in the cornstarch mixture as well.
  • Return the pan to the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Once it begins to bubble, reduce the heat to a low simmer and continue to cook for one minute, whisking non-stop, until the pudding thickens to the consistency of hot fudge sauce.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the whiskey and vanilla. If slightly-curdled looking, blend as indicated above.
  • Pour into 4-6 serving glasses or custard cups and chill thoroughly, at least four hours, before serving.


    • Yooli

    Oh David….First Molly and now you with the butterscotch. Mmmm! I bet the pudding would taste amazing with a splash of some walnutty tasting sherry too! (I’m addicted to the Lustau Solera Reserve Amontillado Dry – so much black walnutty goodness). I must try this soon!

    • TACE

    You got some nerve ;) …a show about losing weight and then a recipe for pudding…….I’m torn…..think about eating healthy or slather butterscotch pudding all over my….tastebuds..? I’m still recovering from the salted butter caramel ice cream…I dream of it, it dreams of me…we want to be together but portion control is thrown out the window when it and I were in the same state together…which was bliss but still…ok, twist my arm, I’ll make the dang pudding just not right away….I promised salted butter caramel ice cream I’d make it again next when I made a sweet treat.

    • Lucy Vanel

    This would go perfectly with my weekly back to back episode of Twin Peaks, David, thank you!

    • kayenne

    haha i’ve that same quirk about skins on puddings and custards… i don’t mind them… heck, i love them! besides, why waste plastic… we should be lessening our carbon footprint…

    • dana


    Butterscotch is definitely in the air this spring! I recently posted a blog entry with my slackers version of butterscotch pudding that can be made in the microwave.

    Check it out sometime when a craving hits but you can’t face washing a saucepan.

    • radish

    mmm, this looks incredible… but i have one question, if i make this, it’ll have to be with 2% milk, because my bf is lactose intolerant and they now have real milk in the states that is lactose-free (and it’s organic – woot!) but unfortunately, they only provide it in low-fat, 2% kind… what do you think? will it work?

    • chanelle

    now i’m gonna have to make some. it’s 6:21 in the morning. i haven’t even had breakfast yet. sheesh, what you do to me.

    i like it.

    • naomi

    @ radish: I make puddings & gelatos all the time using 2% instead of whole milk. This doesn’t affect the flavour, it just means the dessert will not be quite as rich.

    • Mari

    hello pudding master lebovitz, could you tell me what kind of whiskey you prefer to use? i’m not much of whiskey drinker, but i do have a bottle of maker’s mark in house. would bourbon lend itself well to butterscotch goodness?

    • David

    Mari: I used Jack Daniel’s, which is what I had on hand. Maker’s Mark is great, or even a bottle of real Scotch works well too.

    Ok…and dark rum is a nice substitute, although the alcohol can be omitted entirely, too.

    • Suzanne

    I was just thinking about making the chocolate pudding from your Great Book of Chocolate (thanks for the tip, by the way, on your Ripe for Dessert book–I’ll get a copy right away), but my love for butterscotch combined with this recipe definitely override yesterday’s urges! (And yes, I’m looking forward to that lovely pudding skin!)

    I’m also hooked on The Biggest Loser! It’s a very guilty pleasure for me. I don’t know if I saw the episode with a contestant eating nine brownies. Wow, nine. I’ve never eaten nine brownies in one sitting, but even so, I’m really glad there’s no video camera in my kitchen! Especially for after I make this pudding…

    • Deb Perelman

    I am obsessed with The Biggest Loser. I nearly bawled last night watching it. I also nearly bawled the two (two!) times this past week I have tried and failed to make butterscotch pudding (though I was at least able to salvage on into a most-deletable ice cream). David, you’re such a showoff! It’s okay, my Dishwasher like to show off too: he is an excellent black-and-white cookie icer.

    • French Laundry at Home

    Please. Move in with me immediately. I beg you.

    • Murasaki Shikibu

    “…but it’s nice to see a program where competitors support each other to achieve their goals.

    I guess I’ve been away from the states for too long…I know, I know…pas américain!”


    • Kitt


    This is a “healthy” recipe, if you compare it with the butterscotch pots de creme from Orangette I made a few days ago. That one is entirely heavy cream, made with muscovado and demerera sugars.

    The muscovado was new to me, and now you add cassonade! Off to Google …

    • David

    Kitt: Cassonade is the best. I use it all the time. I’ve been going back through previous recipes and using milk in place of cream and whole eggs in lieu of yolks, where it doesn’t make much difference in the final product. So I don’t feel so guilty eating all the brie and camembert around here!

    Carol: That depends; what shape is your oven in?

    • elarael

    I love it when a bit of people’s personality comes through in something they’ve made…I don’t know you, of course, but you’ve expressed you’re predeliction for retro modern stuff a few times and combining such a retro dessert with that 70’s (60’s?) dish is just great! I love it when it comes together like that : ) Nicely done!

    • French Laundry at Home

    My oven is magnifique. And it has a working handle on the door, to boot!

    • JennB33

    You’ve inspired me to make this – today – and who knows if I’ll wait until one of them is cool to indulge. Also – the pudding skin?? The BEST PART!

    • Ms. Glaze

    I knew I shouldn’t have checked out your site when I’m starving. Just got off work and I need some calories!!! I’ll take those 9 brownies thank you very much (hidden camera be damned). Thanks for the stove-top recipe. I don’t have an oven in my teeny tiny Parisian apartment and I’m always looking for desserts that impress that I can cook on my two-burner plaque. Any more you feel like sharing? Gros Bisous, Ms. Glaze

    • Linda H

    Beautiful pudding. I’m making it tonight. As for the worst of American tv being imported to Europe–I was dismayed to find out from some kids I talked to in Italy that they see Jerry Springer, The Simpsons, and South Park. No wonder our image in Europe is a bit distorted!

    On the other hand, French Academy award winner Marion Cotillard is a beautiful and charming export from France.

    • Tisha

    Actually, The Biggest Loser has the distinction of being a European import. I remember watching it in Flemish when I was in Belgium for a conference several years ago. Big Brother was first a German (?) reality show, if I’m not mistaken.

    • queenofsheba

    I don’t know David, will Carol share you with Mike Bloomberg? Or is she just planning on setting aside a wing of the White House for you when they move in?

    Thank you sir, for your opinions on pudding skin and their absolute gospel trueness. I made my pudding tonight with bourbon made from honey that the wild turkey people put out. Just waiting for it to chill…

    • Linda

    OMG…I just want to crawl into the dish and bathe in that pudding…
    I am making this tomorrow!

    • krysalia (france)

    moi aussi j’adore la peau de la crème, aucun interet sans, autant s’acheter de la danette sinon :)

    • Kate

    What I want to know is how to make pudding that is nothing but that gooey thick top? Maybe spread it on a baking sheet? I live for that top. It’s all I want to eat and when it’s gone, I am so sad.

    Delightful recipe; homemade pudding is so wonderful!

    • seta

    How about Next, 5th wheel, and the other really really bad ones they’ve imported!? The other day I zapped by the French version of Next – “Next in France”. It truly frightens me. More than what my waistline will look like after I eat all the pudding I’m planning on making with your recipe!

    • Tanya

    Sorry to see that those dreadful reality shows have made their way there too. I cannot wait for them to run their course and be done with them, for good!
    That butterscotch pudding looks devine!

    • jo


    We made this a few weeks ago at the place I teach cooking to kids called create a cook.

    We made it with the 9-11 year olds, I chose the recipe because most of these kids have only ever seen pudding made out of a box. They all loved it!

    Of course I did have to argue with two of the girls who wanted to put plastic wrap to avoid the yummy skin…heinous! I tried to convince them, but they would hear none of it.

    • David

    It seems to me that there’s money to be made in those pudding skins. (Like, who’d of thought potato skins would be so popular?)

    If someone out there could come up with pudding skins in various flavors—chocolate, butterscotch, vanilla, etc—they could make a fortune!

    • Michelle @ Us vs. Food

    ooh, last time i tried to make butterscotch pudding – before your oh so helpful caramel making tips – there was a lot of burned sugar and some largely inedible pudding (i *had* to eat some of it… i mean, come on, it’s pudding).

    i don’t like pudding skin. i am not ashamed of that.

    Us vs. Food

    • Elizabeth

    Is cassonade anything like piloncillo, which is easily found in Latin and Mexican markets in the U.S.?

    • Tartelette

    Pudding skin is like fresh cream after you boil fresh milk: heaven…
    Cassonade is one my guilty pleasures, especially now that I can’t find it that easily…hmmm…

    • David

    Elizabeth: Cassonade is unrefined brown sugar and piloncillo, I would imagine, is a perfect substitute. You may need to grate it since I’ve only seen it in cones.

    I just bought some jaggery from India (another unrefined sugar) which I can’t wait to use as well.

    • Elizabeth

    Thanks for the rapid reply, David. Grating piloncillo in the food processor with the grater attachment works well. Can’t wait to make this pudding, and thanks for sharing the recipe. BTW, your anise ice cream from “The Perfect Scoop” is my all-time favorite ice cream.

    • Jessica

    That looks great! I especially love the chocolate shavings on top.

    • Suzanne

    Hi David! Okay, I just made this pudding (as I said I would above!) and it’s chilling in the fridge right now. My initial taste of the warm pudding was delightful, and it’ll make a fine dessert tonight (and a nice surprise for my boyfriend when he gets home from work)–though I’m wondering if I should have left it on the heat longer when I added the sugar and salt to the butter in the first step. When you say “stir until the sugar is well-moistened,” should this be a definitive caramelizing moment? I may be an idiot (I’ve had a suspicion for a while now…), but I just stirred until the brown sugar had completely mixed with the sugar. I’m worried I missed out on some fantastic caramel flavor!

    • theitaliandish

    Your pictures for this post were absolutely over the top. Yum.

    • lollya

    David, I popped over here to say hello and check out more of your desserts. I had found a delicious GF version of a chocolate sweet treat that you whipped up for Shauna, which is featured in her Gluten Free Girl book. Thank you for that. So as my luck would have it, now I have two recipes for something to quench my sweet tooth. Oh how I love pudding.


    • Amanda

    I made this recipe today and it was awesome. I only had 2% milk and regular dark brown sugar on hand and it still tasted great. I served it with a sprinkling of fleur de sel on top and it was a hit. Plays on salty and sweet are quite trendy right and there is a reason: they are fantastic!

    • David

    Suzanne: When I used cassonade sugar, it basically needs to be moistened; that is, all the butter is absorbed by the sugar and it’s relatively smooth (although it’ll still be sugary-grainy.) Here’s a picture of what the sugar looks like when you add the milk.

    If using ordinary brown sugar, it’s will likely liquify and start to sizzle around the edges. It’s fine at this point, or you can cook it a little bit. But it’s unnecessary since the flavor mostly comes from the brown sugar itself and isn’t caramelized.

    • Suzanne

    Thanks, David! I love your pictures — they’re so helpful. Seems like I made it correctly. It was a big hit last night!

    • Rebecca

    David. my mouth is watering! As a kid I was in a children’s theater production of ‘Oliver!’ where the directors gave the chorus Butterscotch Pudding (in lieu of gruel). We were supposed to bang our bowls to the beat of the song, but I sat there (the youngest and littlest ‘orphan’) licking away every drop of the pudding-I must have looked like an orphelin, indeed! They got rid of the pudding after that. I haven’t had BP since, but I think I must try yours…thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    • Sarah Shoemaker

    David, I just stumbled across your blog via The Village Vegan. I wish I had found your musing before, since I just returned from a semester abroad in Paris! Reading some of your posts is making my kind of nostalgic and I’m a bit jealous of your life, it seems. Keep up the great work and keep the recipes coming!

    New Reader, Sarah Shoemaker

    • Anna

    oooooh I LOVE the skin on puddings and custard and I always thought I was the only one with this weird habit, whilst my friends and family turned away in horror!

    • Linda

    I just made this…easy…such an “adult” tasting pudding. I used regular old American dark brown sugar.It went together quickly and I had no problem with curdling….they are cooling on the counter now…can not wait to try it cold!
    Thanks for a great recipe!

    • Lyra

    I made chocolate pudding cake last night and now I am imagining the leftovers with a spoonful of this delectable looking pudding on top. Good thing I’m hitting the gym after work!

    • katie

    David – this isn’t related to butterscotch pudding, but after reading the recipe, I might be making that tonight too! I just wanted to let you know that I received The Perfect Scoop and the ice cream attachment for my Kitchenaid (named Marvin, pistachio green!) this past Christmas and I’ve been basking in frozen goodies ever since! I love the book and your recipes are fantastic (based on mine and many happy taster’s reviews!). Tonight I’m making the maple walnut with wet walnuts and the malted milk (boyfriend is allergic to chocolate, so I always end up making two a week – I’m not complaining though!). Thank you so much for writing this book – it is quickly becoming the most well-used dessert book in my collection.

    Thought you’d be tickled to know that one drunken night while hosting a group of friends I altered your champagne grapefruit recipe to make a frozen mimosa-style sorbet subbing in mandarin oranges.

    Have a great weekend, thank you again!

    katie in canada

    • Christine

    Having been a closet pudding skin eater for eons, I gave such a sigh of relief to read that there are others like me in the world.
    I’ll make your fab butterscotch pudding tonight – damn the plastic wrap!

    • Rina

    Oy vey.

    I guess it’s not too healthy to make this at 11:40pm is it. A moment on the lips…

    Maybe tomorrow then. ;)

    I’ve lurked your site for quite some time and absolutely love it. Thank you and keep it up!

    • Rina

    Oh – and I LOVE pudding skin. And the waxy rind on a good Gouda or Edam.

    I’m disgusting, I know.

    • Joanna in the kitchen

    Now that’s more than fair! Two great recipes instead of one. It was worth all the nagging ;-)

    • brett

    I see the word butterscotch and I start hyperventilating. I’ve had your book (for how long? since the year it was published) and I’ve yet to make your pudding recipe. That, I promise myself, is about to change. Thanks for the reminder and the updated recipe.

    • Lesley

    It’s kizmet. I just told my little girl today I would make her butterscotch pudding…

    And I’m sappy too, I loooove the Biggest Loser, they transform their entire lives!! I get all weepy…

    • Christine

    I just discovered your site and I am in love with this pudding. It looks fabulous and all I am doing is thinking about how I must make this ASAP!

    • Petra

    Gave this recipe a try over the weekend. It was delicious!!! I used dark brown sugar, stirred in sliced bananas after it had cooled half way. The bananas gave it an unbelievable flavor.
    Very easy and simple. Started making this after dinner. After it was done, just set the whole saucepan, covered, out on the freezing patio and the pudding chilled up in no time.
    I am a big fan of salted caremel-anything, so I was wondering if you have a recipe for salted caramel pudding or custard.

    • Hillary

    Ooh I’m glad I got to benefit from both ends of this deal, butterscotch pudding AND black and white cookies!

    • Deborah Dowd

    I love butterscotch. Now David, how am I going to continue to lose weight if you keep posting recipes like this? Whatever happened to carrot sticks?!

    • AHarste

    The skin is the best part!

    • Kitarra


    I tried this recipe because I love butterscotch pudding so much but it wasn’t quite to my taste. It was a little too sweet (weight everything so sugar was right on) and a little too thin.

    Suggestions for adjusting the ratios?

    • David

    Kitarra: Sure, you can easily reduce the amount of sugar to your taste and up the amount of cornstarch, or add more eggs yolks to make it thicker.

    • Diane

    This butterscotch pudding sounds delectable, unfortunately I have been unable to locate any brown sugar since I moved here to France. When in England I purchased a large bag of dark brown sugar but I sadly saw the last of it this month (funny but the only things I brought home from there were ingredients I couldnt find here in France)

    • David

    Diane: Check out my post American Baking in Paris. There’s tips on where to find some key ingredients…but the cassonade cuivrée in the recipe is available at any natural foods store and many supermarkets.

    (As far as mainstream brands, I like the Daddy brand the best.)

    • Jin

    hi David,

    I’ve made this twice so far and it is delicous! I have one question for you.

    After making the pudding, I packed it in a little cup to take to work the next day as a homemade SnackPack. However, it was super watery when I went to go eat it, and the remaining pudding in the fridge had big puddles of liquid. I also noticed that it was getting a little bit grainy? or you could notice a slightly grainy texture to the pudding. It was still delicious, but not the really pudding anymore.

    I know that certain custards/puddings can get watery if you scoop it after the initial set. Is there any way to combat this watery-ness other than eating everything right away?

    • David

    Hi Jin: You could add more cornstarch, which absorbs liquid. Be sure to cook it enough too, since the cooking ‘activates’ the cornstarch and gets it to set. It’s not a super-thick pudding but is meant to be soft and creamy. Try pouring it right into small containers while it’s hot. Hope those tips help!

    • Lydia


    I just made this today and could have eaten it straight out of the pot before it cooled down. It was so simple to make. Thank you thank you thank you.

    • Sean Early

    Thanks David for the recipe. Couple of quick ideas to share. First, Jin probably OVER cooked her pudding; when overcooked, the egg and cornstarch proteins coil so tightly that they stop holding as much liquid, resulting in liquid separation. Same principle as over-cooked pumpkin pie.
    The other is a kitchen safety issue I suppose. I think that it is always wisest to try NOT to blend hot, thick sauces with anything other than an immersion blender. I’ve made the pudding three times, with three different sugar combo’s and for the two somewhat-curdley go-rounds, I just forced it through a finest-mesh chinois (double mesh fine strainer would work just as well I’m sure).
    Last, my best results came from using a combo of 1/2 organic light brown sugar (which I got at a national chain market) and 1/2 finely grated piloncillo (thanks previous poster for the idea!). These sugars are both more acidic, so count on needing a chinois or fine-mesh straining but I think the flavor probably comes closest to the French sugar you prescribe.
    Again, many thanks for a lovely trip down culinary memory lane.

    PS – Die-hard robe-ist here.


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