Butterscotch Pie

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Among the many irresistible dishes for which my dear friend Maxine Nichols is famous, her butterscotch pie stands out. Its handsome color, silky texture, and plush flavor make me afraid to be alone in a room with it, for fear I would eat the whole thing by myself. This is my version of her pie, and it is worthy of adding to your Southern dessert repertoire. Jean Anderson, highly decorated author of countless cookbooks, traces the origins of this butterscotch pie to 1915 in The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century, a delicious read and fascinating reference for cooks and food-lovers alike. This recipe calls for a baked piecrust, so plan ahead.

NotesSome pies call for partially or fully baked piecrusts. These are often for pies that will not be baked at all or will not be baked for very long. To pre-bake a piecrust: Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line the empty piecrust with parchment paper or waxed paper (this is called “blind baking”). Then fill it with dried beans or rice, to keep the dough from shrinking and the sides from collapsing as it cooks. Bake until the crust is very lightly browned and somewhat dry, about 10 minutes. For a partially baked (par-baked) piecrust, stop at this point and proceed according to the recipe directions for filling and baking the pie. For a fully baked piecrust, remove the pie pan from the oven, and carefully lift out the parchment paper and rice or beans. Return the now-exposed piecrust to the oven until it is dry and nicely and evenly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove, cool, and proceed with recipe.

Cooking Methodbaking



Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionBuffet, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationhalal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Equipmentelectric mixer


Taste and Texturecreamy, rich, sweet

Type of Dishdessert, pie


  • Pastry for a 9-inch single-crust pie (store-bought or see basic Butter Pie Crust
  • 1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups evaporated milk, half-and-half, or milk
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten well
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons sugar


  1. Line a 9-inch pie pan with crust and then crimp the edges decoratively. Line and fully bake the crust (see Notes).

  2. To make the filling:

  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Use a fork or a whisk to mix them together. Add the milk to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until you have a thickened, smooth sauce, about 10 minutes.

  4. Place the egg yolks in a small bowl. Add about 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks, stirring constantly as you pour the milk slowly into the bowl. Mix well, Pour the warmed egg yolks into the saucepan of sugar and milk, stirring constantly to help them mix in smoothly.

  5. Cook, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes more, until the filling is thick and smooth. Remove it from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla, mixing everything evenly and well. Pour the filling into the baked piecrust and set aside.

  6. To make the meringue:

  7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high, and add the sugar gradually, about 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat the egg whites until the meringue is thick, shiny, and able to hold curly firm peaks. Scoop the meringue onto the filling. Spread it out to seal the edges to the crust, mounding it up in the middle. Use the back of a spoon to swirl it up into curly shapes.

  8. Place the pie on the middle rack of the oven. Bake until the meringue has turned a beautiful golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Place the pie on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and let it cool. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate and serve chilled.


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