Butterscotch Cookies

Butterscotch Cookies

Butterscotch cookies are the caramel-lover’s answer to the chocolate chip cookie. 

These butterscotch cookies are tender and chewy with just the barest bit of crisp on the edges. The brown sugar adds caramel notes that highlight the sweet butterscotch chips, which are further complemented by the subtle layer of warm spice from the ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Meanwhile a healthy dose of salt balances out all the sweetness, making for a scarily snackable cookie.

Butterscotch vs. Caramel: What’s the Difference?

Butterscotch is essentially a flavor of caramel with a few subtle differences. When making caramel, granulated sugar is melted over moderate heat and then cooked until deeply browned, almost burnt, before stirring in cream and butter at the last minute.

Butterscotch, on the other hand, starts out with brown sugar and butter. Brown sugar lends a deep caramel flavor from the get-go, and as it is cooked with the butter, the milk solids in the butter start to brown, adding a distinct rich nuttiness. Of course, for these cookies you don’t even need to fuss with making a simple butterscotch sauce. Just grab a bag of butterscotch chips at the grocery store and you’re ready to go.

What to Pair With Your Butterscotch Cookies

A bold cup of coffee or tea, as well as a cold glass of milk would all be perfect pairings for these cookies. Or crumble them over some vanilla ice cream. They are a great candidate for a cookie swap or an edible gift since they retain their crisp edges and soft centers both day-of and for up to 3 days in airtight containers.

“The brown sugar compliments the toffee flavor in the butterscotch. The warm spices were delicious, felt super appropriate for fall, and added a pleasant sharpness/kick to round out the sweetness along with the sea salt. The cookies held very well in airtight containers up to 3 days, retaining crisp edges and soft centers.” —Spruce Eats Test Kitchen

Five cookies with butterscotch chips sitting on a white plate A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

  • 2/3 cup (142 grams) packed light brown sugar

  • 1 large egg, at room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 1/3 cups (163 grams) all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 cup (185 grams), plus 3 tablespoons butterscotch morsels, divided

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Preheat oven to 350 F.

    butterscotch cookie ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  2. Beat together butter and brown sugar with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

    butter and sugar creamed in stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  3. Add egg and vanilla; beat on medium speed until well combined, 30 seconds to 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Turn off mixer.

    butterscotch cookie dough beat in stand mixer

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  4. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and nutmeg in a medium bowl until well combined.

    dry ingredients whisked together in bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  5. Add flour mixture to butter mixture all at once; beat on low speed just until combined, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides as needed.

    dry ingredients mixed into wet ingredients for butterscotch cookies

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  6. Fold in 1 cup of the butterscotch morsels until combined. Cover and chill for 10 minutes.

    butterscotch chips folded into cookie batter using spatula

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  7. Portion dough into 2-tablespoon mounds and roll into balls (about 1.6 ounces each). Place dough balls 2 1/2 to 3 inches apart on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.

    butterscotch cookie dough portioned into balls on parchment lined baking sheet

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  8. Divide remaining 3 tablespoons butterscotch chips among dough balls, pressing gently into tops. Note: The additional morsels make for a pretty presentation, but can be skipped if desired.

    extra butterscotch chips pressed on top of cookie dough before baking

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

  9. Bake, one pan at a time, in preheated oven until cookies are golden and set around the edges, but centers still feel slightly soft, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating pan from front to back halfway through. Let cookies cool on baking sheets on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm or transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

    cooked butterscotch cookies cooling on wire rack

    The Spruce Eats / Photographer: Fred Hardy II, Food Stylist: Margaret Monroe Dickey, Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

Recipe Tips

  • When it comes to measuring flour, we fluff our flour, spoon it into our measuring cup and level with the back of a butter knife or a small offset spatula. The most accurate way to measure, however, is to use a kitchen scale. This can ensure that your measurements are right on point since every person may measure their flour a little different.
  • Properly softened butter should give when pressed but still possess enough plasticity to provide some resistance. If you can press your finger all the way into your butter, it is now room temperature and too soft to properly cream with your sugar. 
  • Unlike cakes, we cream our butter and sugar for these cookies for a shorter time frame (2 to 3 minutes). We don’t need to incorporate tons of air since our goal is denser, chewier cookies. 
  • If you have a kitchen scale, it can be helpful to weigh out each dough ball for more uniform results. 
  • When baking, aim to pull your cookies when they are just golden and set on the edges but still feel soft in the center. This will make for cookies that are just crisp on the edges with tender, soft, chewy interiors.

Recipe Variations

  • Feel free to sub in the same amount of similarly sized bittersweet, semisweet, white chocolate, or cinnamon morsels. You can also cut in some toasted nuts, like pecans, walnuts, or pistachios, for some of the chocolate chips. Aim for about 1 cup total mix-ins.
  • A bit of orange zest would complement the brown sugary notes of this cookie with a bit of bright citrus.
  • You can also play with the warm spices in the dough, adding in ground ginger, allspice, or clove in small quantities.

How to Store or Freeze

  • Cookies are at their prime the day of baking, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 5 days. 
  • Baked and cooled cookies can be individually wrapped and placed in a freezer-safe resealable plastic bag; freeze for 3 to 4 weeks. When needed, remove the desired amount of cookies and let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour, or until thawed. Note that butterscotch chips added on top may have a slightly bloomed look once thawed but will be just as delicious.  
  • The cookie dough can be refrigerated overnight, then scooped and rolled next-day. Let dough balls come back to room temperature before baking, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • To freeze the dough, scoop and roll dough balls; place at least 1/2 inch apart on a plate or baking sheet and freeze until solid, about 1 hour. Place in a freezer-safe airtight container or resealable plastic bag for up to 1 month. To bake, place dough balls 2 1/2 to 3 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Let stand at room temperature until thawed, 1 to 2 hours, before baking.

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