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What’s the Difference Between Caramel and Butterscotch?

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My husband and I were enjoying a late lunch with our daughter Morgan one day last week at Arby’s. Lenny was especially enjoying his Salted Caramel and Ghirardelli Chocolate Chip Cookie, which led to the question, “What’s the difference between caramel and butterscotch?

I’ve never been a big fan of roast beef sandwiches, but my hubby and our children seem to love them. However, last week we happened to arrive at Arby’s during their “happy hour” where they have a $1 menu from 2-5 pm every day. On the $1 menu you can choose from any slider, small fries, small shake, small drink, Jr. chicken sandwich, Jr. ham and cheddar melt, Jr. roast beef, apple or cherry turnover, and salted caramel Ghirardelli chocolate chip cookie or a triple chocolate cookie. That’s quite a variety for a dollar menu! Of course, I’m sure options may vary from location to location.

By the way, this is not a sponsored post and I was in no way compensated for talking about Arby’s or Ghirardelli. The story and opinions are true and all mine. When you find a good thing, sometimes it’s just too good not to share – and this is one of those times! One more thing about Arby’s. I tried the ham and cheese slider for the first time and it was absolutely full of smoky ham flavor and just the perfect sized soft potato roll. Loved it!

From what I was told by our local Arby’s, both cookies are made using Ghirardelli chocolate. So, how could these salted caramel chocolate chip cookies and triple chocolate cookies be anything but yummy, right?! I didn’t order a cookie, but Lenny did let me have a bite of his and I have to tell you that cookie was warm and oozing with oh my goodness salted caramel and chocolate goo.

Which reminds me of a funny story. Right before we left Arby’s, Lenny ordered me a cookie to go. I was really looking forward to drinking a glass of milk and enjoying my cookie later that evening. But, I didn’t eat the cookie. The next day, I received a text message from Lenny and it just read, “I ate your cookie.” He’s just too cute, sometimes! He simply couldn’t resist that salted caramel and chocolate goo.

What’s the difference between caramel and butterscotch?

So, what is the difference between caramel and butterscotch? Well, let’s talk about the similarities of caramel and butterscotch first. Both are made with melted sugar. Both require your full attention. Both can benefit from salt and sugar. The difference between caramel and butterscotch is that caramel is made with white sugar (although you could use brown sugar), but butterscotch is always made with brown sugar. The other difference is the process.

Salted caramel sauce is made from white granulated sugar, heavy whipping cream and butter, with a dash of vanilla and sea salt (optional). Butterscotch, however, is made with brown sugar. With caramel, the butter and cream are added at the end of the process. With butterscotch, the butter is cooked along with the sugar which browns the milk solids and imparts that nutty taste. Although salt and vanilla are optional with caramel, the final addition of salt and vanilla extract just simply perfect the taste of the butterscotch.

You can read all about my favorite Salted Caramel Sauce recipe here on the blog or even find my Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars recipe (Oh, super yum!). I almost forgot the perfect companion recipe – Homemade Vanilla Extract!


Before you begin to make butterscotch or caramel sauce, it is really important that you have all ingredients ready – as in pre-measured and ready to be added kind of ready. Trust me, you do not want to be hunting for vanilla or measuring cream when your sugar is ready! Here’s a basic recipe for butterscotch sauce.

Like I said, with butterscotch, the salt and vanilla bring out the best in the butterscotch and tasting it is essential to achieving butterscotch perfection. Really! Just be sure to let the butterscotch cool to room temperature first. Seriously. You absolutely do not want to burn the roof of your mouth with this stuff!

I hope this has helped you to understand what’s the difference between caramel and butterscotch.  Do you have a favorite? I’d have to say I love the caramel – salted caramel to be more exact. However, my hubby prefers the nuttier flavor of butterscotch.

Recipe Ideas

If you love caramel or butterscotch, you might also like these recipe ideas from The Birch Cottage:

Til next time…

Pam Baker from The Birch Cottage

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Friday 4th of November 2016

What's the difference~if any~ in caramel and carmel?

Pamela Baker

Friday 4th of November 2016

Well, caramel usually refers to food or the color, while Carmel is usually a noun and refers to the name of a city or place.

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