Scone vs Biscuit

When you reach for a quick bread to accompany your coffee or tea, you might find yourself choosing between a scone or a biscuit.

At a glance, they may appear similar—both are buttery, come in various flavors, and often accompany breakfast or afternoon tea. But despite these resemblances, scones and biscuits have distinct characteristics that set them apart from one another.

A scone and a biscuit sit side by side on a rustic wooden table, showcasing their differences in size, texture, and appearance

Scones, with their British origins, are typically made with more sugar and eggs than biscuits and often include cream. This results in a richer, slightly sweet treat that is denser and often enjoyed with clotted cream and jam.

In contrast, your typical American biscuit is less sweet, lighter, and fluffier, partly because buttermilk is used in place of cream and they contain no sugar or eggs. The flakiness in biscuits comes from the technique of cutting cold butter into the flour before baking.

Understanding these differences not only affects your palate but also influences how you might serve these baked goods.

While biscuits might be served with gravy or as a side dish for a meal, scones are more commonly seen on a brunch table or as part of a high tea, often with a selection of sweet spreads.

The nuances of texture and flavor between these two pastries are a testament to the variety that exists within the world of quick breads.

Historical Background

A table set with a vintage tea set, a plate of scones, and a plate of biscuits. A book about the history of baking sits nearby

In exploring the roots of these two popular baked goods, you’ll find that both scones and biscuits hold a distinct place in their respective cultures, each with a unique origin story that traces back through the kitchens of history.

Origin of Scones

Scotland is credited with the creation of the scone. Originally, they were made from oats, shaped into large loaves, cut into triangles, and cooked on a griddle.

The scone’s journey from Scotland’s firesides to the central element of the British Isles’ afternoon tea is a testament to its versatility and enduring popularity. Through cross-cultural exchanges and the expansion of the English empire, scones evolved, gaining acceptance far and wide.

Origin of Biscuits

The biscuit, as you know it in the United States, has origins that are synonymous with early settlers in the Southern United States.

With a need for bread that could be made quickly without yeast, these settlers used buttermilk and soft wheat to create the light, flaky layers typical of the American biscuit. Though the concept of the biscuit may have some similarities to scones, its interpretation and adaptation have been uniquely American.

Basic Composition

In exploring the basic composition of scones and biscuits, you’ll find that both begin with similar foundational ingredients such as flour, fat, and a leavening agent.

However, the type and quantity of these ingredients vary to create distinct textures and flavors.

Scone Ingredients

  • Flour: You will typically use all-purpose flour for scones to give them a sturdy structure.
  • Fat: Butter is the primary fat, cut into the flour, which contributes to a tender crumb.
  • Sugar: A higher sugar content in scones leads to a slightly sweet taste.
  • Liquid: Milk or cream is used, and occasionally eggs to enrich the dough and create a dense texture.
  • Leavening agents: Baking powder, and sometimes baking soda, are used to help the scone rise.

Biscuit Ingredients

  • Flour: All-purpose flour is also common in biscuits for a light and airy texture.
  • Fat: The fat choice is often butter, but sometimes shortening, providing flakiness.
  • Sugar: Biscuits typically have less sugar than scones, if any, leading to less sweetness.
  • Liquid: Buttermilk is favored for its acidity, which reacts with baking soda for leavening and adds to the flavor.
  • Leavening agents: Baking powder and baking soda are often used in conjunction to achieve a strong rise.

Physical Characteristics

When examining scones and biscuits, you’ll find distinctive differences in their texture, flavor, and size that make each unique. These aspects contribute to the overall experience of enjoying these baked goods.


Biscuits are known for their flaky layers, which are achieved by folding butter into the dough. The texture is typically fluffy and can be described as delicate.

Scones have a more crumbly texture due to the method of mixing butter into the dough, which creates a denser product.

  • Biscuits: Flakiness is a key characteristic, offering a soft and fluffy bite.
  • Scones: More crumbly and less flaky than biscuits, with a slightly firmer bite.


Flavor-wise, biscuits may lean more savory, serving as a vehicle for other flavors such as gravy or cheese.

Scones often contain flavorings like fruit, nuts, or chocolate, and are generally sweeter, making them a treat often enjoyed with tea or coffee.

  • Biscuits: Less sweet, can be flavorful on their own or complement other savory meals.
  • Scones: Typically sweet with a variety of flavorings, also can be found in savory variations.

Shape and Volume

Biscuits are most often round and can be quite fluffy and high in volume, while scones are usually larger and shaped into triangles or wedges, with a slightly heavier density.

  • Biscuits: Usually round and can have a significant rise creating a moist, airy interior.
  • Scones: Often cut into triangles or wedges, with less rise than biscuits but a hearty structure that holds up to spreads like clotted cream or jam.

Preparation Techniques

The quality of your scones and biscuits hinges on the mastery of mixing and kneading, as well as precise baking methods. Each step affects the texture, rise, and flakiness of these quick breads.

Mixing and Kneading

When preparing biscuits, your goal is to achieve a tender, flaky texture.

Start by combining your dry ingredients thoroughly. Then, cut in very cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

This technique ensures small, distinct pieces of butter remain, which will create steam and layers as they melt in the oven.

It’s crucial to minimize kneading to avoid overworking the dough, which can lead to tough biscuits.

For scones, the mixing technique is similar, but you’ll often include additional ingredients such as eggs and sugar.

Scones also typically require a slightly heavier kneading than biscuits, which leads to a denser structure. Still, take care not to over-knead, as you want to retain some flakiness.

Baking Process

Baking sheet preparation is key: line with parchment paper or lightly flour to prevent sticking.

Place your shaped dough onto the sheet, ensuring pieces are spaced apart to allow for even rising and circulation of steam.

Biscuits are often baked at a high temperature for a short duration to maximize rise and layer separation.

Watch for the biscuits’ golden color and listen for the characteristic sound of sizzling butter — signs they’re baking correctly.

Scones, on the other hand, can be baked at a moderately high temperature, promoting a crumb with a slightly firmer texture.

They will rise due to the leavening agent in the recipe, usually baking powder, which reacts to create air pockets in the dough.

Both should be baked until they achieve a golden-brown color, but scones may take slightly longer in the oven due to their denser composition.

Always preheat your oven to ensure consistent heat distribution from the moment your dough hits the heat.

Variations and Additions

A scone and a biscuit sit side by side on a rustic wooden table, showcasing their variations in texture, shape, and toppings

When you bake scones or biscuits, you have a wide array of ingredients that can be added to enhance flavor and texture. Your choice of additions can turn a simple recipe into a delightful, customized treat.

Common Additions for Scones

  • Fruits: Incorporating fruits like blueberries, strawberries, or apples can infuse scones with a natural sweetness and a burst of flavor.
  • Dried Fruit: Adding raisins, currants, or dried cranberries provides a chewy texture and concentrated fruitiness.
  • Nuts: For a crunchy contrast, consider folding in chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds.
  • Chocolate Chips: A handful of chocolate chips will make your scones a decadent treat.
  • Oats: Adding oats not only contributes to the texture but also gives a rustic, hearty quality to your scones.

Pair your scones with jam, clotted cream, or butter to underline their flavors and create a richer experience.

Common Additions for Biscuits

  • Cheese: Adding grated cheese like cheddar or parmesan can give your biscuits a savory twist and create a beautiful melt-in-your-mouth texture.
  • Herbs: Fresh or dried herbs such as chives, parsley, or thyme can add a fragrant dimension to your savory biscuits.
  • Bacon: Incorporating cooked and crumbled bacon will lend a smoky richness to your biscuits.
  • Butter: For flakiness, cold, cubed butter is essential. It creates pockets of steam as it melts, which is key for layered texture.

Cultural Significance

A table set with a scone and a biscuit, surrounded by teacups and a teapot, symbolizing cultural significance

The baked goods you enjoy carry more than just flavor; they bear rich cultural histories and embody traditions that go beyond their ingredients. Here’s how scones and biscuits each hold a special place in their respective cultures.

Scones in British Culture

Scones have become synonymous with British culture, primarily through their association with the quintessential British tradition of afternoon tea.

  • Afternoon tea: This ceremony of leisure and luxury pairs your scone with jam and clotted cream in a ritual known as ‘cream tea.’
  • Jam and clotted cream: These British scones are traditionally round, light, and fluffy, perfect for a mid-day treat.

Biscuits in American Culture

While British scones offer a delicate experience often associated with upper-class refinement, Southern biscuits symbolize comfort and heartiness in American culture.

  • Gravy: Your Southern biscuit is typically flaky, soft, and perfect for savory pairings. They’re a staple with gravy, especially in a “biscuits and gravy” dish popular in Southern cuisine.
  • Fried chicken: This American biscuit also frequently complements fried chicken, offering a pleasing balance to the meal’s flavors and textures.

Differences in Consumption

When you indulge in scones or biscuits, the accompaniments and beverages you pair with them can markedly enhance your experience. These baked goods are designed to be complemented by a variety of spreads and drinks, highlighting their unique flavors and textures.

Typical Pairings for Scones

Scones, often enjoyed as a component of traditional afternoon tea, pair exceptionally well with clotted cream and jam. This classic combination balances the crumbly texture of the scone with a rich and creamy element, often rounded out by the sweet and fruity flavor of the jam.

  • Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea
  • Raspberry or strawberry jam
  • Lemon curd for a tangy twist

In some cases, sweet scones might be enjoyed with a simple spread of butter or even served alongside coffee for a less traditional pairing.

Typical Pairings for Biscuits

Biscuits, on the other hand, have a diverse role across different meals.

  • Breakfast: In a breakfast setting, biscuits might be served with gravy, especially the traditional sausage gravy that is hearty and savory. They can also be a carrier for jelly or butter, satisfying the need for a simpler but rich flavor profile.
  • Other meals: For those who prefer biscuits as a side dish for meals, they might be served with savory butter, honey, or gravy.

Modern Trends

A table set with a plate of scones and biscuits, accompanied by a pot of jam and a cup of tea

In contemporary baking, both scones and biscuits are undergoing a transformation, with a focus on health-conscious ingredients and innovative recipes that push the boundaries of traditional flavors and textures.

Health Considerations

Scones and biscuits, traditionally rich in fats and sugars, are being reinvented with your health in mind.

  • Reduced fat: Recipes may use lower-fat alternatives or less butter to cut down on saturated fats.
  • Alternative sweeteners: Some recipes may incorporate natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, reducing refined sugar content.

Innovation in Recipes

Your scone recipe might now include savory elements, merging the line between sweet and savory pastries. Ingredients like cheese, herbs, and even bacon find their way into your scone dough, offering a richer flavor profile.

Conversely, your biscuit recipe can be adapted to elevate taste with additions like:

  • Sweet mix-ins: Chocolate chips, dried fruit, or a touch of cinnamon can sweeten your biscuits without going overboard.
  • Savory twists: Incorporating garlic, chives, or Parmesan to enhance the biscuit’s traditional flavor.

Summary and Comparison

In exploring the differences between scones and biscuits, you must consider factors like taste, texture, and ingredients, which all contribute distinctively to their recipes and resulting flavors.

Summary of Key Points

Scones and biscuits are traditional pastries that both incorporate butter as a key ingredient, but they diverge in their respective textures and flavors.

Scones are typically denser and may have a sweet or savory profile, while biscuits are known for their flaky layers and buttery taste. Your choice between them may depend on whether you prefer a treat that’s rich and crumbly (scone) or light and airy (biscuit).

Direct Comparison

When comparing scones to biscuits, you’ll notice several specific differences:


  • Biscuits: Flaky and airy
  • Scones: Denser and crumbly


  • Biscuits: More butter, often include buttermilk
  • Scones: Commonly use heavy cream and eggs

Taste and Flavor

  • Biscuits: Typically savory, but can be sweetened
  • Scones: Generally sweeter with variations for savory flavors


  • Biscuits: Acidity from buttermilk aids in fluffiness
  • Scones: Rich ingredients contribute to a creamier taste

Frequently Asked Questions

Scones and biscuits are often the subjects of culinary confusion. This section addresses common inquiries about their differences in taste and composition, interchangeability in recipes, health considerations, and cultural distinctions.

What is the difference in taste between a scone and a biscuit?

The taste of a scone is typically richer and sweeter, often due to the use of sugar, cream, and eggs in the dough. Biscuits are usually less sweet, with a buttery and flaky texture, and may have a tang from buttermilk.

Can you use scone mix to make biscuits, or vice versa?

While both mixes contain similar base ingredients, the specific ratios and additional ingredients used for scones and biscuits give them distinct textures and flavors. It is possible to use one mix as a substitute for the other; however, the end result will not be authentic to the intended pastry.

How do scones differ from biscuits in terms of ingredients and preparation?

Scones often incorporate eggs and cream, contributing to a denser and richer texture.

Biscuits typically use buttermilk and more butter, leading to a lighter and flakier result.

The preparation of scones involves gently mixing until just combined, whereas biscuit dough is often folded to create layers.

In what ways are scones healthier than biscuits?

The health aspects of scones versus biscuits vary depending on the ingredients used.

Neither is considered health food, but scones may sometimes have more calories due to the inclusion of heavy cream and eggs as opposed to buttermilk in biscuits.

What do Americans typically refer to as scones in comparison to biscuits?

In the United States, scones are generally a sweet pastry served with coffee or tea, often containing fruits or nuts and sometimes topped with a glaze.

Biscuits are seen as a savory bread, commonly served with breakfast or as a side dish, and they are rarely sweetened.

Are there any distinct differences between scones, biscuits, and buttermilk biscuits?

The main difference between scones and both types of biscuits is in their ingredients. Scones usually have eggs and cream, while biscuits rely on butter and milk or buttermilk.

Buttermilk biscuits specifically use buttermilk, which reacts with leavening agents to create a light and airy texture.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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