Homemade Butterscotch Ice Cream

I really hate to be the bearer of bad news to mint chip, Neapolitan, and wild huckleberry, but this Butterscotch Ice Cream might be my new favorite flavor. And that's saying a lot, since Breyer's Mint Chip has been my go-to since I was a kid. I wasn't expecting this change of heart when I created the recipe, but when I couldn't stop reaching into the freezer for one more little bite, well, I knew I had a contender.

Butterscotch Ice Cream in a bowl with sprinkles on the side.

Why this butterscotch ice cream might be my new favorite ice cream

As a certified ice cream fan, that's a strong statement. I come from a family of ice cream lovers (I'm looking at you, dad.) I've definitely passed this love onto my daughter, who once tried to convince me that a dish of cookies 'n cream in the morning made perfect sense as her "breakfast dessert." Nice try, kid.

  • Simple ingredients: Look on the back of most store bought ice creams, and I guarantee that half of the ingredients you can't even pronounce (carrageenan, anyone?) Most, if not all, of the ingredients in this recipe you probably already have on hand: milk, cream, eggs, brown sugar, salt, butter, and flavorings.
  • To churn or not to churn? It's your choice!: Not everyone has an ice cream maker at home, so I've included instructions for churning the ice cream in an ice cream maker and a simple no-churn option using an immersion blender or a hand mixer. Both result in equally rich, smooth and butterscotch-y treats.
  • That flavor!!: It's like a Werther's Original in ice cream form, with hints of browned butter, vanilla, salt, and caramel all wrapped up in one cold and creamy dessert.
Butterscotch Ice Cream in a freezer container.

Video: Watch my Butterscotch Ice Cream in action and pick your version (churn or no-churn!)

Ingredients and special equipment

Ingredients for Butterscotch Ice Cream.

Ingredients

  • Butter: Use unsalted butter to control the level of saltiness in the finished recipe. If you only have salted butter, decrease the salt in the recipe to ¼ teaspoon.
  • Dark brown sugar: Light brown sugar may be substituted, but the resulting butterscotch flavor will not be as rich. See FAQ section, below, for tips on softening brown sugar that has hardened.
  • Heavy cream
  • Whole milk: 2% milk may be substituted, but I do not recommend skim/non-fat milk, as it will affect the texture and viscosity of the finished ice cream.
  • Eggs: You will just need the egg yolks for this recipe. Unused egg whites can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, for up to three weeks.
  • Salt
  • Vanilla: Opt for pure vanilla extract over imitation whenever possible, as it yields a more authentic vanilla flavor.
  • Bourbon: Whiskey or scotch may be substituted, or you can omit it altogether if you don't want to add liquor to the recipe.

Special equipment

  • Ice cream maker (optional): This recipe offers options with or without an ice cream maker, both resulting in a rich, smooth ice cream. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for your specific model when churning the ice cream.
  • Immersion blender / hand mixer: Use one of these for the "no-churn" option to mix the ice cream between freezings. The blender and mixer mimic the churning function of the ice cream maker, breaking up ice crystals and aerating the mixture.
  • Loaf pan or an ice cream freezer pan: Both work equally well.

Step by step photos and instructions

  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and begins to bubble, about 4 minutes.

2. Add ½ cup of the cream to the pan (the mixture will bubble) and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and is very smooth. Whisk in the milk and turn the heat to low.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, salt and vanilla. Whisking constantly, slowly add ⅔ of the hot butterscotch mixture to the yolks, whisking until smooth. 

4. Add the yolk mixture back to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture has a custard consistency and is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, 3-4 minutes. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup cream and the bourbon.

No-churn Butterscotch Ice Cream option:

  1. Pour the custard into a freezer container (I used a loaf pan) and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze for 1 hour.
  2. Remove the pan from the freezer and uncover. Using an immersion blender or a hand mixer, thoroughly mix the custard for about 1 minute, making sure that you get into the corners of the pan. This helps to aerate the ice cream, mimicking the process of an ice cream maker. 
  3. Repeat the process 2 more times after hour two and hour three in the freezer, mixing thoroughly each time. 
  4. Return the pan to the freezer, cover, and freeze until firm, another 4 hours. Give the ice cream a final mix, and then serve or cover and freeze overnight to firm up even more.

Butterscotch Ice Cream in an ice cream maker:

  1. Transfer the custard to a heat-proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill until the custard is very cold, at least 3 hours or overnight. 
  2. Churn the ice cream according to the instructions for your ice cream maker, until it has thickened and has the consistency of soft-serve (20-25 minutes.) Transfer the ice cream to a freezer container, cover, and freeze until firm about 4 hours or overnight

Frequently asked questions

What does butterscotch ice cream taste like?

Butterscotch ice cream typically has a rich, smooth flavor with notes of browned butter, dark brown sugar, vanilla and in many cases bourbon. It has a smooth, sweet and caramelized taste with a buttery, slightly salty undertone.

How do you fix curdled custard?

If lumps or a grainy texture begins to form in your custard, pour it into a bowl and pulse it with an immersion blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. You can also pour the custard into a standard blender and blend it until the pieces are emulsified back into the mixture.  

Can I use light brown sugar instead of dark brown sugar?

In most cases, you can use light brown sugar in place of dark brown sugar, although the resulting flavor will not taste as rich or caramelized. Light brown sugar has a lower molasses content than dark brown sugar, making it less robust in both taste and color. If you want to match to the flavor of dark brown sugar, you can add 1 tablespoon of molasses per cup of light brown sugar to increase its richness.

What is the best way to soften brown sugar?

There are several ways to soften brown sugar that has become too hard to scoop or measure for a recipe. If you need it quickly, you can use the microwave method. Place the brown sugar in a microwave-safe bowl and cover it with a damp paper towel. Microwave in intervals of 15 seconds, stirring in between until it softens. If you have a few hours or need your brown sugar the next day, place a piece of bread, a damp towel, or half an apple in the sugar's container and cover it. The moisture from these items will soften the brown sugar, usually within a few hours.

Butterscotch Ice Cream cone with sprinkles.
Ice cream is meant to be enjoyed year-round (obviously), but here are some desserts that are perfect for your summer entertaining:

Tried this recipe and loved it? Take a photo and tag me on Instagram or give it a review!

Butterscotch Ice Cream in a bowl.

Butterscotch Ice Cream

Julie Hession
Smooth, rich, and caramelized, with hints of butter and salt, this Butterscotch Ice Cream is sure to become one of your new favorite flavors! This recipe features mixing and freezing options with or without an ice cream maker (a.k.a. "no churn"), but resulting in equally delicious and creamy desserts.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chilling/freezing time 7 hours
Servings 8 servings
Calories 299 kcal
5 from 8 votes
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Equipment

  • 1 Ice cream maker (optional -- see No-Churn Instructions)
  • 1 Loaf baking pan
  • 1 Immersion blender or hand mixer (optional)

Ingredients
 
 

  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar packed
  • 1 cup heavy cream divided
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon bourbon

Instructions
 

  • If using an ice cream maker, make sure that you put the ice cream bowl in the freezer so that the interior is completely frozen by the time you are ready to churn the ice cream.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the brown sugar and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved and begins to bubble, about 4 minutes.
  • Add ½ cup of the cream to the pan (the mixture will bubble) and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and is very smooth. Whisk in the milk and turn the heat to low.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, salt and vanilla. Whisking constantly, slowly add ⅔ of the hot butterscotch mixture to the yolks, whisking until smooth.
  • Add the yolk mixture back to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture has a custard consistency and is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, 3-4 minutes. Whisk in the remaining ½ cup cream and the bourbon.

If Using an Ice Cream Maker

  • Transfer the custard to a heat-proof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill until the custard is very cold, at least 3 hours or overnight.
  • Churn the ice cream according to the instruction for your ice cream maker, until it has thickened and has the consistency of soft-serve (20-25 minutes.) Transfer the ice cream to a freezer container, cover, and freeze until firm about 4 hours or overnight.

No-Churn Option

  • Pour the custard into a freezer container (I used a loaf pan) and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze for 1 hour.
  • Remove the pan from the freezer and uncover. Using an immersion blender or a hand mixer, thoroughly mix the custard for about 1 minutes, making sure that you get into the corners of the pan. This helps to aerate the ice cream, mimicking the process of an ice cream maker.
  • Repeat the process 2 more times after hour two and hour 3 in the freezer, mixing thoroughly each time.
  • Return the pan to the freezer, cover, and freeze until firm, another 4 hours. Give the ice cream a final mix, and then serve or cover and freeze overnight to firm up even more.

Video

Notes

  • Homemade ice cream will not last as long as store-bought ice cream in the freezer, as it contains no preservatives.  This recipe will keep for about two weeks, tightly covered or wrapped. 
  • Feel free to add any mix-ins to the ice cream (such as chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, cookies pieces, etc.) after the churning process and before the final freeze, as the ice cream will be soft enough at this point to evenly incorporate ingredients. 

Nutrition

Calories: 299kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 140mg | Sodium: 177mg | Potassium: 122mg | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 741IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 92mg | Iron: 0.5mg
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9 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! Extremely rich, and as much as I want to keep eating, my brain says "Maybe we wait just a smidge!" easier to make than I feared, but I always fear tempering eggs.

    1. 5 stars
      Thank you so much, Rebekah!! And I agree--tempering eggs can be a little nerve-wracking, but it sounds like you did it perfectly 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    I am so with you! I think we should make an effort to bring giant, inappropriate hats to the US. Mine might involve a rolling pin or a large fork sticking out the top 🙂

  3. Thanks, Kristina!   To say that I watched some wedding coverage would be a massive understatement.  Now, I am obsessed with the idea of fascinators (or I am fascinated with the idea of fascinators!)  Hope you are well 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    These tartlets are so adorable! I also set my DVR for the wedding coverage...so much fun to watch!

  5. Thanks, Lisa!  Its been a BUSY few months for me.  Im hoping to return to at least a weekly post from now on (hoping is the key word)!

  6. Thanks so much, Emily, but I completely disagree!  Your creations always look fantastic, and you come up with so many unique flavor combinations.  Plus, your photography skills are MUCH better than mine are!!  Thank you for the vote......fingers crossed!

  7. 5 stars
    Everything looks so great! I can't ever make anything look as perfect as you can. I'm envious of your skills.

    I'm going to go vote for you! I have a feeling you're going to win.

5 from 8 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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