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Salty, sweet pecan butterscotch sauce turns any dessert into an event

(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post; props by Limonata Creative for The Washington Post)
Pecan Butterscotch Sauce
Active time:10 mins
Total time:40 mins
Servings:8 to 10 (Makes 1 1/4 cups sauce)
Active time:10 mins
Total time:40 mins
Servings:8 to 10 (Makes 1 1/4 cups sauce)

Brown butter, caramelized brown sugar and Scotch whisky flavor this pecan butterscotch sauce, which is great drizzled over a slice of pumpkin pie. It also works well as a topping for ice cream, pancakes or Pumpkin Mousse.

The one-pot recipe starts with browned butter to which you’ll add chopped pecans. Use toasted pecans for the best crunch and nuttiest flavor. Then, add brown sugar. (The difference between caramel sauce and butterscotch is that caramel uses granulated sugar while butterscotch uses brown sugar.) Allow it to melt and caramelize fully before adding the cream. Using room temperature cream keeps the sauce from sputtering out of the pan. It’s optional, but a splash of Scotch stirred in at the end balances the salty and sweet flavors.

Pecan Butterscotch Sauce

Storage: Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) chopped unsalted pecans (toasted or untoasted)
  • 1/2 cup (110 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180 milliliters) heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons Scotch whisky (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Step 1

In a medium saucepan over high heat, melt the butter. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, just until the butter turns a pale golden brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pecans, and decrease the heat to medium-high. Stir in the brown sugar, cooking and stirring it until it melts and you no longer see sugar crystals in the pot, about 4 minutes. Carefully stir in the heavy cream, starting with about a third of it before adding the rest: The mixture will bubble up, so stir gently and constantly so that it does not boil over. Continue cooking until the brown sugar fully dissolves into the cream, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Step 2

Stir in the whisky (if using), vanilla and salt. Let cool on the counter for at least 30 minutes, and up to overnight, before serving.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (2 tablespoons), based on 10

Calories: 171; Total Fat: 14 g; Saturated Fat: 7 g; Cholesterol: 3 mg; Sodium: 125 mg; Carbohydrates: 11 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 10 g; Protein: 1 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

From staff writer G. Daniela Galarza.

Tested by Debi Suchman; email questions to

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