What's the Difference Between a Biscuit and a Scone?

You can thank the British (sort of).

Buttermilk Biscuits Cooling on a Rack
Photo: LauriPatterson / Getty Images

If you live in a country with the Queen as your monarch, "biscuits" are cookies, and "scones" are similar to American biscuits. However, as with almost everything Americans inherited from the Brits, we had to make them our own. Here are the similarities and differences between biscuits and scones.

Biscuits and Scones Are Both Quick Bread

Next to each other, a biscuit recipe and a scone recipe may look deceptively similar. Classified as "quick bread," these recipes simply mean they are pieces of bread that rise during baking because of chemical leaveners like baking powder and baking soda. Both biscuits and scones have a foundation of flour, fat (usually butter), and liquid.

What is a Biscuit?

Biscuits and scones have the same British ancestor, but the early Southern colonists' version's characteristics include butter, lard, buttermilk, and soft wheat, plentiful in the South. Over time, this fluffy and layered bread evolved into a regional commodity: the Southern biscuit.

History of the Southern Biscuit

In the pre-Civil War South, the biscuit was a delicacy reserved for Sunday lunch or dinner, says Southern Living's Robby Melvin, senior test kitchen director. Early versions of the biscuit used quick cooking methods and available ingredients, such as the cat-head biscuit, sweet potato biscuits, and the beaten biscuit.

Soft winter wheat, self-rising flour was a game-changer when White Lily started making it in 1883 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Not only was it more accessible, but soft winter wheat, self-rising flour has less protein than other types of flour, which contributes to the light texture of the biscuits we enjoy today.

What is a Scone?

The scone's origin links to the British Isles. "The first scones were baked in cast iron pans hung in the kitchen fires of rural England and Wales," cites the Encyclopedia Britannica. When pinpointing the scone's exact birthplace, Scotland is often credited: "…the first known mention of a scone that was printed is from the translation of The Aeneid (1513) written by a Scottish poet, Gavin Douglas.

In Scotland, scones are closely related to the griddle-baked flatbread, known as Bannock," according to the Daughters of the British Empire, a nonprofit organization based in the United States.

The Scone's American Evolution

While biscuits in the South were fluffier and layered using available local ingredients elsewhere in the country (particularly in New England), specific communities made "biscuits" in a fashion similar to the English ancestor. Denser than its Southern cousin, these "biscuits" typically use eggs or cream as the liquid component. This recipe change creates a tighter texture and creamier flavor than the buttery Southern buttermilk biscuits.

Over time, these dense pastries took on the name "scone." Today, these scones contain more sugar than the scones of the past. The white sugar in the dough gives the tender interior a crisp and crusty outside, creating a contrast of textures that goes perfectly with a cup of coffee.

So, What's the Main Difference?

The biscuit and scone share British heritage, quick bread status, and the basic foundation of flour, fat, and liquid. But as they evolved to what they are today, scone recipes use eggs, and biscuit recipes do not. Here is a chart breaking down all the specifics of these "quick bread" recipes.

Southerners Love Biscuits and Scones

Just as there are a million biscuit recipes across the South, there is also no shortage of scone recipes baked in cafes and bakeries around the country. While savory scones filled with various kinds of cheese and herbs make for a delicious savory breakfast, sweet scones flavored with fruits and nuts are the most popular in the U.S. But whether you bake a batch of raspberry scones or take out a tray of steamy buttermilk biscuits, you are partaking in a long lineage of ever-evolving American quick bread.

Quick Bread Recipes and Baking Tips

Quick Bread Recipes

When you don't have time to babysit rising yeast and knead dough to bake bread, quick bread is a great way to make fresh, oven-baked bread that will fill your home with incredible smells. Quick bread uses chemical leavening ingredients instead of yeast, so the long process of waiting for the dough to establish is eliminated. Along with biscuits and scones, muffins, cornbread, and fruit- or vegetable-based bread (like banana or pumpkin) are all examples of quick bread.

Biscuit Making Tips

Nothing is better than warm, fluffy biscuits right out of the oven, whether made from scratch or a can. Southern Living's test kitchen has honed 11 tips for making buttermilk biscuits loved in the South. These recipe tips create soft and flaky biscuits with that signature tang, including grating frozen butter instead of cutting it in chunks, using White Lily self-rising flour, always using buttermilk, and remembering not to overwork the dough or twist the cutter.

When we're short on time or even making a quick bread is too much to pull off, that's where canned biscuits come to the rescue. We tested four favorite grocery store-bought biscuit brands, and these sweet and savory recipes using canned biscuits are great in a pinch.

Scone Tips

Southern Living's test kitchen recommends using full-fat milk, not overworking the dough, and using cold, wet ingredients when making scones.

Biscuit Recipes

01 of 10

Classic Buttermilk Biscuit

Our Favorite Buttermilk Biscuit
Brian Woodcock

Recipe: Classic Buttermilk Biscuit

Enjoy versatile biscuits any time of the day. Southern Living's classic buttermilk biscuit is excellent as a side for dinner or served warm for breakfast. These biscuits are flaky, airy, and perfectly buttery. This basic recipe provides a neutral bread flavoring, ideal for any topping.

02 of 10

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits
Southern Living

Recipe: Sausage Gravy and Biscuits

For breakfast, sausage and gravy biscuits will stick to your bones. Combining these two essential Southern foods creates a fluffy, warm buttermilk biscuit with thick, salty gravy. You'll have a delicious breakfast in under an hour, perfect for feeding a crowd.

03 of 10

Bacon-and-Cheddar Skillet Biscuit

Bacon-and-Cheddar Skillet Biscuit
Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Ruth Blackburn; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Recipe: Bacon-and-Cheddar Skillet Biscuit

Only 10 minutes of active, hands-on time and you've created a breakfast dish the entire family will enjoy. Cast-iron biscuit recipes are always a fun way to prepare an early morning meal, which is even better when those biscuits have sharp Cheddar cheese, sour cream, buttermilk, chives, and crumbled bacon.

04 of 10

Breakfast Biscuit Sandwich with Sausage, Egg, and Cheese

Breakfast Biscuit Sandwich with Sausage, Egg, and Cheese
Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Kay E. Clarke; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Breakfast Biscuit Sandwich with Sausage, Egg, and Cheese

A sheet pan is another innovative way to serve traditional biscuits with a unique flair. Fill the square biscuits with your favorite ingredients, or follow this recipe and add hickory-smoked sausage, Cheddar cheese, and plenty of roasted peppers. Add avocado and arugula leaves to add some greens to this breakfast dish.

05 of 10

Biscuit Sandwiches

Fried Chicken Biscuits with Rosemary Hot Honey
Southern Living

Recipe: Biscuit Sandwiches

Use biscuits for lunch to bookend one of your favorite sandwiches. Add ham, chicken salad, fried chicken, or even spicy pork tenderloin between the flaky, buttery crust.

06 of 10

Beef Stew with Cheddar Biscuits

Beef Stew with Cheddar Biscuits
Linda Pugliese; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen; Food Styling: Torie Cox

Recipe: Beef Stew with Cheddar Biscuits

A savory biscuit completes any bread basket for dinner, but beef stew and cheddar biscuits are a comforting and quickly prepared meal all in one. Adapt this recipe to your preferences by using turkey instead of beef or any cheese you'd like to include.

07 of 10

Blackberry-Lime Drop Biscuits

Blackberry-Lime Drop Biscuits
Greg Dupree; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners; Prop Styling: Kathleen Varner

Recipe: Blackberry-Lime Drop Biscuits

Try a drop biscuit cobber for something sweet other than a slather of jam. In this easy stir-and-scoop recipe, blackberry and lime combine to create a refreshing breakfast bread that tastes more like dessert. You can always try making an Apple Butter Cobbler with Drop Biscuits for a more traditional cobbler.

Scone Recipes

08 of 10

Buttermilk Breakfast Scones

Buttermilk Breakfast Scones
Southern Living

Recipe: Buttermilk Breakfast Scones

Like biscuits, scones can be savory or sweet, but pairing them with coffee or tea is essential, along with butter and jam. Buttermilk breakfast scones with currants are a good, basic starter recipe. These crisp, sugar-crusted tops are great for snacking any time throughout the day.

09 of 10

Peach Scones

Peach Scones
Micah A. Leal

Recipe: Peach Scones

These fruity scones, sprinkled with juicy pieces of peach, are great on their own or topped with butter and jam. Enjoy these refreshing scones as is with a dusting of powdered sugar. Exchange the peach for any fruit you prefer.

10 of 10

Bacon Cheddar Scones

Bacon Cheddar Scones
Joy Howard

Recipe: Bacon Cheddar Scones

For a savory scone, try this one ideal for breakfast, lunch, or tea time. Using eggs gives this recipe more flavor, and the spinach, feta, bacon, and Cheddar cheese make it a complete meal all in one bread.

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