When choosing an ice cream topping, it's hard to choose between caramel and butterscotch. Sometimes the two sweet syrups end up looking and tasting exactly the same. However, it turns out that there are some differences between butterscotch and caramel and how they are prepared. Butterscotch vs caramel: What is the difference?

What is Butterscotch?

butter, pumpkin, caramel, cream
Jayna Goldstein

Butterscotch is usually a mixture of brown sugar and butter, but there are some recipes that use sugar, butter, cream and vanilla. It is very similar in color to caramel, but it is a bit of a deeper golden.

Unfortunately for some of you, butterSCOTCH does not contain whiskey. Scotch is an old word for "scorch," so it could come from browning sugar. But it is also an old word for "score," or drawing lines, so it could refer to breaking the mixture into candy after it has cooled.

What is Caramel?

chocolate, caramel, cream, cake, candy
Natalie Chuang

Is it care-a-mel or ca-ra-mal? The answer is that it could be pronounced either way. Caramel is simply sugar that has been cooked until it browns. When heated, granulated sugar melts and darkens, developing complex aromas and flavors that taste decreasingly sweet and increasingly toasty.

espresso, tea, cappuccino, chocolate, milk, sweet, cream, coffee
Alex Tom

Some richer caramel sauces are made with a mix of white granulated sugar, heavy whipping cream, butter, and a dash of vanilla. No matter how it's made, caramel makes the perfect addition to apple slices, ice cream, and macchiatos. Just like butterscotch, it is often made into candy.

So What's the Difference? 

ice, cream, chocolate, barbecue sauce, milk, sweet
Alex Vu

Hence the name, you're more likely to find butter in butterscotch rather than caramel. However, some caramel recipes call for butter, so the two could end up tasting similar. The main difference is in the sugar. Caramel is often made with granulated sugar, while butterscotch is made with brown sugar. 

Butterscotch candies are often harder than caramel candies, which are often chewy and soft. Both are incredibly sweet and can benefit from a pinch or two of sea salt

Butterscotch and caramel are both sweet treats made from similar ingredients. But which one wins the butterscotch vs. caramel battle? That's a decision for you to make.