Traditional Homemade Scottish Tablet Recipe

Scottish Tablet Recipe Result Tablet on a Plate

When I first moved to Scotland I heard rumour of this delicious sweet treat that everyone seemed to love that lived here. To be perfectly honest I hadn’t heard of Traditional Scottish tablet before but I’m really glad I’ve heard of it now!

Tablet is a wonderfully tasty, sugary, sweet or candy with a slightly grainy texture that melts in your mouth. When I try and explain it to people who’ve never heard of it or tasted it I usually compare it to fudge, and I have heard it called Scottish fudge before, although it has a medium-hard texture rather than soft. 

After numerous people had told me that I just had to try it when I finally did I wasn’t disappointed! It’s delicious sugary goodness and seriously addictive. Not so good for the waistline but definitely the perfect treat when you want something sweet!

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Where does tablet come from?

You’ll often hear it referred to as “Scottish Tablet” but actually lots of sweets similar to tablet can be found around the world, although they often tend to be a bit on the softer side than the traditional tablet found in Scotland.

In Latin American there’s Dulce de Leche en Tabla, then Borstplaat in the Netherlands, and Sucre a la creme in Quebec, Canada. Sometimes you’ll hear it called Swiss Milk Tablet, but that refers to the type of condensed milk used rather than anything to do with Switzerland.

I also realised we have something really similar in New Zealand called Russian Fudge (although I can’t seem to find any reason why it’s called that and all recipes seem to originate in New Zealand). It’s essentially the same but with Golden Syrup added in it too.

However, having now lived in Scotland for years, I have to say I’m most partial to Scottish Tablet! It’s become a part of my life here.

Most weddings I’ve attended feature tablet after the main meal or as a favour to take home with you, and we even had tablet on the cake table at our wedding, yes we had a whole cake table don’t judge us! It’s often present in hotels/B&B’s as a treat on the tea tray, and there are lots of variations to be found like Tablet Ice-cream and Tablet Cheesecake.

Basically, you can’t visit Scotland without trying tablet! But I have to say the homemade stuff has always been better than the shop-bought kind because it doesn’t need preservatives or any substitution for milk products. I’m not saying all bought ones have these of course, but many do.

Homemade Scottish Tablet Recipe with Tarten Ribbon

Is tablet hard to make?

I had my first try at making tablet one Christmas when we were visiting some of Phil’s relatives. His stepmother, Margaret, showed me her family recipe and, with plenty of supervision, I helped to make it. It was amazing! She gave me a copy of the family tablet recipe but in all my moves abroad I unfortunately lost it!

Thankfully she has since forgiven me for this.

I recently decided I wanted to give it another go on my own, so Margaret kindly sent me “Aunt Grace’s Scottish Tablet Recipe” and here we are!

Scottish tablet was originally made with sugar and cream, but it’s now more commonly made with sweetened condensed milk and butter since it’s so easy to burn the cream. It still needs lots of attention to make sure it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan, you won’t be multitasking while you make this one.

The recipe makes quite a lot and tablet always makes a great gift… if you can bear to part with it!

Why not try your hand at making your own with the Scottish tablet recipe below? See our top tips to make sure things don’t go wrong!

Scottish Tablet Recipe on a plate

How to make this Scottish Tablet Recipe

There’s no getting away from it, tablet is definitely not diet-friendly! It requires a lot of sugar, but I firmly believe we all deserve a treat now and then so why not tablet?

Scottish Tablet ingredients - Milk, sugar, butter, condensed milk

Moving from New Zealand to Scotland and having lived for a while in the United States means I’m never quite sure what measurement system belongs where, so I’ve tried to put everything you might want in the recipe below but do let me know! I tend to weigh ingredients on the scales when I bake but you can also measure it out in cups if that’s what you prefer. 

Margaret always melts the butter, sugar, and milk together in the microwave and I find that much easier too! You can put it in the pot you intend to use on the stove however and just melt it together on a low heat, taking care to make sure it doesn’t catch on the pan or burn. Using the microwave in this step is generally quicker and there’s less room for error. 

Melted sugar, butter, and milk in a bowl

I have seen some other recipes use water instead of milk in the tablet recipe but milk gives the tablet a much creamier taste! 

Once you have melted the first lot of ingredients together in the microwave add it to the pan with the condensed milk. From here you need to bring it all to the boil, this is a really important step because if you don’t get the mixture hot enough the tablet won’t set properly later on. 

You need to have a big pot because as the tablet mixture rises in heat and comes to a boil it’ll expand. I learnt this the hard way, as you can see I only just managed to keep it in the pot!

Tablet mixture boiling on the stovetop

The recipe calls for a “brisk simmer” for about 20 minutes which means not fully boiling but not on a low heat either. The mixture will reduce down a little in the pan and you should keep stirring the whole time. You certainly get a work-out making tablet!

Once you’ve been simmering and stirring the Scottish tablet for about 20 minutes it will start to darken and then you need to take it off the heat and beat it until it thickens up (check our top tips and info below about knowing if it’s ready!).

Traditionally this was done with a wooden spoon and that’s how I’ve always done it too, but I know some people do use an electric beater as well.

Stirring tablet mixture off the stove top

Whenever I’ve seen homemade tablet it’s been done in a greased tin, but you could also do it in a lined or greased baking tray or lasagne type dish. It depends how thick you want the pieces to be when you cut them later on. The mixture below is still hardening up. 

After it’s been sitting about 20 minutes or so you can scour the top with lines for where you’ll cut later. This means you’ll get neater lines as it can shatter if you just try and cut it without the lines. 

And that’s how you make traditional Scottish tablet at home! It sounds complicated but it’s really not too bad. You just need to keep an eye on it and keep on stirring! I really hope my little step by step tips will help you out along the way too.

What if my tablet doesn’t set?

If your tablet doesn’t set it means it didn’t reach the right temperature. It is possible to rescue it by putting it back into the pan and bringing to a boil again, but it can sometimes mean it gets a little overcooked and won’t taste quite as smooth. The finished texture is usually a tad grainy but it then melts in your mouth.

The mixture will begin to darken when it’s ready. As with fudge, there are some tests you can do to see if you’ve got it to the right temperature, although I’ve never used them and you will just get to know that it’s right if you make it a few times (and why wouldn’t you?). 

I did some research and the setting point of tablet is 120 degrees Celcius if you want to use a thermometer. This means you use a candy thermometer to get it to that point and know it will set.

Alternatively, you can do the drop test in a glass of water. Take a bit of the mixture with the spoon or stirrer and drop it into a glass of cold water and if it sticks together and forms a ball it’s ready.

Traditional Scottish Tablet Recipe

Can you make Scottish tablet in the microwave?

As noted above, the first part of this recipe I’ve used the microwave. This is a little controversial! Tablet purists might say that it should all be done in a pan on the stove. The thing is, tablet requires a lot of attention and careful heating so that the sugar doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

Using the microwave for the first step of melting the butter, milk, and sugar together helps to minimise the chances of the mixture sticking. I like to transfer the melted butter, milk, and sugar mix to the pan to finish off the recipe because I think gives it a better taste.

It is possible to add the condensed milk and continue to heat it in the microwave for around 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes and then beating it before pouring into a tin to set, but I’d encourage you to try it with the method outlined here instead for the best flavour!

Scottish Tablet Recipe in a pile

Flavour Variations

While simmering and stirring your tablet you can also add some whisky if you want to make it even more Scottish, I’d suggest just a dash, too much is quite overpowering!

Some recipes call for vanilla essence to enhance the flavour but traditional tablet recipes don’t include it and, in my opinion, it’s not really necessary. The flavour is already there and sweet enough. 

As well as these suggestions you could experiment with other spirits such as rum or baileys or look to add a whole other flavour such as chocolate or even a more floral infusion such as lavender or rose.

Personally, we prefer our tablet without any additional flavours but I’d love to hear what you’d like to add, do let me know!

And that’s Aunt Grace’s Scottish Tablet recipe, don’t tell her I’ve shared it!

Top Tips for Making Scottish Tablet

Tablet is well known to be temperamental, and it’s no surprise we’ve had many questions since we released this recipe! Based on these we’ve compiled these top tips. There is some further explanation above, but these will get you started.

  • Use a large pot to enable the mixture to have room to expand
  • Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved at the first stage when you’re melting the butter, sugar, and milk together. You should use a spoon to scoop some of the mixture up and allow to run back into the bowl, checking you can’t see any sugar crystal/grains and it’s fully dissolved.
  • Allow the mixture to really bubble up and reach boiling point before turning down to simmer.
  • There is no exact length of time to simmer and stir as it depends on your stovetop, but this part of the recipe is crucial to the tablet setting. The mixture should start to darken, but to double-check it’s ready you can use a candy thermometer to check it’s reached 120C/248F, or you can use the “drop test”. This is where you drop a small amount of mixture into a glass of cold water and if it forms a little ball then it’s ready!
  • After taking off the heat make sure you beat the mixture until it starts to thicken, before pouring it out. It takes some arm work!
  • If your tablet still doesn’t set, it is actually possible to pour it back in a pan and reheat and start the process all again. It can turn out a bit more sugary/grainy but at least you’ll still get tablet!

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Yield: Approx 26 Squares

Homemade Traditional Scottish Tablet

Homemade Scottish Tablet Recipe

Scottish Tablet is a bit like fudge but with a harder, and with a slightly grainy texture that melts in your mouth. It's a must-try if you visit Scotland, but now you can make your own at home with Aunt Grace's Scottish tablet recipe too!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 900g granulated white sugar (4.5 cups or 2lb. Yes, that much sugar!)
  • 250ml of full-fat milk (1 cup)
  • 1 tin of sweetened condensed milk (397g tin)
  • 85g butter (6tbsp)

Instructions

  1. Slowly dissolve the sugar, milk, and butter until it's smooth. This can be done in a pot on the stove but it's also easy to do in the microwave and lowers the risk of burning. Put in a microwave-safe bowl and blast for 90 seconds at a time on a low or defrost setting. It'll take approximately 6 times in the microwave for it to melt into a smooth mixture. 
  2. Pour the liquid into a large pot on the stove. If you're using an electric stovetop you can use a trivet to stop the mixture burning. 
  3. Add the condensed milk and bring it up to a boil (stir continuously to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan) 
  4. Briskly simmer for about 20 minutes until the mixture darkens to a caramel colour, stirring continuously 
  5. Take off the heat, quickly beat the mixture and pour it into a buttered swiss roll tin

Notes

Be sure to use full-fat ingredients or the recipe won't work correctly. Also, use a large pot because the mixture will increase in volume when it's coming to a boil. Continuously stir the mixture so it doesn't stick! You can use an electric beater for the last step, but it's not necessary.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

28 Squares

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 155Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 26mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 0gSugar: 33gProtein: 0g

The nutritional data in this recipe is provided by a third party and these values are automatically calculated and offered for guidance only. Their accuracy is not guaranteed.

47 thoughts on “Traditional Homemade Scottish Tablet Recipe”

  1. This is a perfect recipe! However, 2 lbs of sugar is 4.5 cups, not 7.5 cups. I figured this out before I made the batch and it is absolutely excellent. It might do to check on that so it can be correctly enjoyed! We made it plain, but next time we may add a bit of whisky or ginger 🙂

    Reply
    • Oops! Thanks so much! We’ve changed that now I don’t even know how I did that. Trying to show all the measurements we can since people around the world use all different ones! We’re so glad you made it and enjoyed it that makes us so happy!

      Reply
  2. Looks fascinating to make.
    Do you have a good recipe for bisquits?
    My last name is Abernathy derived from Abernethy.. I have heard of the town of Abernethy and I know there is an Abernethy bisquit. I would love to try making them.

    Reply
    • We had a look and you’re right there is a traditional Abernathy Biscuit! We’ll look into making it and see what we can do 😀

      Reply
        • Hi Sally,

          We would suggest between 3-4 tablespoons of Baileys added once the sugar is melted. This works really well with whisky but ultimately it does come down to personal taste.

          Enjoy,
          Phil & Sonja

          Reply
    • Hi! This usually happens when the tablet hasn’t reached the right temperature to be able to set. It is possible to pour it back in the pan and then bring it to the boil again, simmer, and then beat before turning out into the dish. Make sure you have a large enough pan to allow it to expand and fully boil before turning down to a high simmer. If you want to you can use a candy thermometer and check it is at 120 degrees celsius before you take it off the heat.

      Reply
  3. Tablet lovely but separated when poured into tin. Top rose up like a volcano set well with a more sugary bit at bottom.
    Can you suggest anything. Please

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah,
      Thanks for your comment and your kind words. We wonder if you used full-fat ingredients because we found this helps, also did you fully dissolve the sugar initially? The only other thought was did you make sure that the mix got to the correct temp? A sugar thermometer can help with this. Tablets a fickle beast!

      Reply
  4. My mum made peanut butter tablet
    Not fudge but yummy grainy tablet
    She has passed and I’ve lost her recipe
    I’ve tried to recreate it but can’t seem to get it right
    I remember the peanut butter recipe was a bit different but I really don’t remember why. It seems she added a bit of Karo syrup? Have you ever made a peanut butter tablet?

    Reply
    • Hi Lorie,
      Your mum’s recipe sounds lovely but sadly it’s not something we’ve come across before. You could try asking in our group on Facebook?

      Reply
    • Yes it should be granulated sugar! I must have taken that photo after and grabbed stuff from the cupboard. Will switch it out! Thanks!

      Reply
  5. Turned out beautifully – thank you for this recipe! My family is from British Guyana but now live in the US and this is what I grew up knowing as fudge – not the mushy confection they have here. Thrilled to have found this recipe!

    Reply
    • To be honest we usually eat it all pretty quick so we’ve never tested it! But since sugar is a natural preservative and it’s made largely of sugar it should last for at least a few weeks. It should be kept dry and ideally in a cool place (not the fridge), not somewhere warm. I would say it could then last a couple of months even… if it’s not even before then!

      Reply
      • I buy mine at present from Ochil Pantry online. They have a 3 month date as it’s wrapped tight and advice a cool dry place to store. My mother in law used to make it – didn’t last long there either. I think I’ll have s try at making it a

        Reply
  6. this is my upbringing, the very brown sugar candy we always had(Scottish descent but lost much of tradition after4 gen)small cheat to make creamier is to add a tablespoon or so of cornstarch to it into fast and continue on. smoother texture. We also make use of the boounty of maple syrup here and reduce milk and add som Maple syrup

    Reply
  7. My Gran used to make this when I was little. I am a Grandma now so thought I would make this for the littles in our family. I was not able to find her recipe so used yours – thanks, it brought back wonderful memories!! Mine did turn out a bit grainy, I perhaps did not get the sugar to a complete melt before taking it to the pot. Any other suggestions for avoiding that in the future?

    Reply
    • What a lovely message, sorry for the delay in getting back to you. It sounds like you hadn’t quite melted the sugar as you say, lots of stirring to help it break down. We’re so glad we brought back some nice messages.

      Reply
  8. Totally loved your Scottish tablet. My mother was Irish and made something so like this but had p nut butter. It isn’t fudge but so like this. Thank you so much. I made hers at Xmas and this also. I think I gained 50 pounds. I kept tasting one then the other. Couldn’t tell which was best😂

    Reply
    • Hi Vicki,
      One of the reasons we started Scottish Scran and our Scottish Scran Facebook group is to hear stories like this, thanks so much for commenting, we’re so pleased our recipe helped you make something a little like your mother’s recipe, which sounds amazing!

      All the best,
      Phil

      Reply
  9. Hello from the United States! Eager to try the recipe as my son fell in love with tablet when we visited Scotland. Just wondering if the butter should be salted or unsalted, and whether there is a specific butter that you might recommend. All best and many thanks!

    Reply
    • Hello from Scotland! We would suggest unsalted butter and the best quality you can find, rather than a specific brand. You’re looking for high-level of butterfat made with a good quality milk. Not sure about the specific brands we’re afraid!

      Reply
    • Hi Joe! Tablet shouldn’t be soft it like fudge it does have a harder texture. However, if it is too brittle and breaking up after you have cut it into squares then it may be that you need to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved during the first step. Let us know how you get on!

      Reply
  10. This was my second attempt. It was going so well but when I was beating it at the end off the heat it foamed up like it does when it boils then instantly set. Any idea why this happened? Tasted lovely but we ended up with more like crumble than tablets.

    Reply
    • Hi Stuart,
      It sounds like you may have simmered it for too long or beat it back while it was still on the heat. Are you using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer? A spoon works best for us. We suggest once you’ve brought it to a boil you turn it down to simmer, once it turns a slightly darker colour, you take it off the heat. You can use a thermometer to gauge this if needed. You then beat it back with your spoon.
      It’s an excellent sign that it tastes good. It sounds like you’re really close to success. It took us a while to perfect, but once you’ve got it, it’s a skill that will never leave you!
      Good luck,
      Phil & Sonja

      Reply
  11. I have been making Tablet for a while now after I had it at a lovely cafe in Evanton. Truly a favourite of mine. I’ve been using a couple of different recipes to see which ones I like best. I find it interesting how different the ingredients are not really different, but the amounts can vary dramatically. I’ve just been looking through my Scottish cookbooks, and the ingredients are the same. But, as they are in cups, and I now cook with metric measurements, I’ve not tried to work out the differences including those recipes. Main difference is the addition of golden syrup, the amount of condensed milk, and the butter.

    Reply
  12. I make russian fudge quite often, which i find to be somewhere in between tablet and soft fudge, but wanted to try a proper crumbly butter tablet.
    Sadly this did not go well for me!!
    I suspect I overbeat it at the end as it seemed to seize and very suddenly became granular in the pan. I tried to tip it into the tray, but it had already solidified too much and was too crumbly to press together, so i just ended up with cooked sugar! 🙁
    I will try again another day!

    (As i have seen replies to comments above asking these questions: I did fully dissolve the sugar at the start; I brought it to the boil and turned it down to a simmer, stirring constantly until it changed to a caramel colour; I did use a sugar thermometer to check the temp after the colour had changed; i beat it with a wooden spoon, it began to thicken slightly then very suddenly solidified after perhaps 20-30 seconds of beating.)

    Reply
    • Hi Jade,

      We’re so sorry the tablet didn’t work out for you! It can definitely be temperamental for sure. There are a couple of reasons it could have done this. Firstly it may be that the sugar was dissolved too quickly in the beginning, which can lead to this happening sometimes. It’s best to dissolve the sugar on a low heat (we like to do it in the microwave so it never gets too hot). Secondly, it could be like you say, because of the beating part. Sometimes it can be best to leave for a couple of minutes before you start beating, and make sure to only do so until it starts to slightly thicken and no more. Fingers crossed you may have better luck with another batch! We do usually try to save the batch by putting it on a low heat and letting it all dissolve again and then basically start the process again, bringing it to the boil, simmering, and then beating before pouring. All usually for a bit less time. It doesn’t always work but we have managed to salvage a few batches this way!

      Reply

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