Easy Homemade Apple Butter

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Homemade apple butter could not be easier to make, and will turn any baked good into a fall-scented joy.

Teal dish filled with apple butter on baking rack next to muffins.

One of the best things to make after an apple-picking excursion is homemade apple butter. The scent will fill your kitchen with autumnal joy, and it will turn any baked good into something better. It’s also a great way to use up apples that are less than perfect — cut away any dud bits and then use the rest of the apple to make this easy apple spread.

Spread apple butter on English muffins, toast, popovers, biscuits, quick breads (try Pumpkin Zucchini Bread), crumpets, and muffins. It would be an apple bonanza slathered on some Brown Butter Apple Streusel Muffins.

Homemade apple butter in small teal bowl.

Apple Butter Recipe: Homemade apple butter could not be easier to make, and will turn any baked good into a fall-scented joy.

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What Is Apple Butter?

Contrary to what the name suggests, there is no butter in apple butter. The name refers to the fact that this slow-cooked, thick, sweetened, and spiced apple puree can be swiped across toast, muffins, etc., in place of butter.

The smooth “butter” can also be used in baking as a replacement for oil and adds a natural sweetness to recipes. You may want to reduce the amount of sugar called for in a recipe since the apple butter has sugar added in.

Ingredients

  • Apples – The apples get cored and quartered before they’re cooked down until they are super soft and sweet.
  • Water – Simmering the apples in water helps them get soft and saucy. The water will reduce and then gets blended into the cooked apples at the end.
  • Sugar – The sugar will take on an almost caramelized flavor as it cooks down with the applesauce.
  • Cinnamon – Adds that quintessential autumnal flavor and gives this apple butter recipe a beautiful brown color.
  • Cloves – The fall scent and flavor sweetness of cloves take apple butter to another level.
  • Allspice – Allspice is actually derived from a pepper. Although it’s not spicy in the traditional sense, it adds a definite warmth to this apple butter.

The Best Apples for Apple Butter

Several apples on beige tabletop.

Softer apples will cook down faster, but any apples can be used to make apple butter. Try McIntosh, Fuji, and Yellow Delicious. But you can also use firmer green apples or other crunchy varieties, knowing they will take longer to break down and soften.

The amount of sugar you will want to add depends on the sweetness or tartness of the apples. You can start with ½ cup and taste towards the end, adjusting the amount of sugar and spices as desired.

How to Make Apple Butter

  1. Prepare the apples: Wash, core, and quarter the apples.
  2. Cook the apples: Bring the apples and the water up to a simmer. Then, just reduce the heat and continue simmering the apples, stirring often, until they get super tender and soft. This should take around 25 minutes. Add more water if needed.
  3. Make the purée: Use a food mill to mash the soft apples into an applesauce consistency. Discard the skins as they build up in the food mill. Add in any remaining water that the apples were cooked in.
  4. Add the spices: Place the mashed apples back in the pot and heat. Stir in the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. At this point, your kitchen will start to smell amazing!
  5. Finish cooking: Continue cooking over medium heat. The apples will reduce and get nice and thick like butter. Let it cool to room temperature before using, or store in clean, dry glass jars.
Spooning homemade apple butter out of small blue bowl.

Pro Cooking Tips

  • As you puree the apples in the food mill, discard the apple skins as you go so they don’t clog up the little holes.
  • If you want to skip either the cloves or allspice, that’s fine. Or, use 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon and no other spices for a simpler cinnamon-flavored apple butter.
  • If the water is evaporating too fast and the pot is getting dry, go ahead and add a bit more water.

FAQs

What is the difference between apple sauce and apple butter?

Apple butter is cooked for longer and reduces down to a thicker consistency. Apple sauce is looser — more like a sauce than a butter…as the names indicate. So, in short, it’s the thickness. Apple butter is essentially reduced apple sauce.

What does apple butter taste like?

Apple butter has an intensely appley and sweet flavor, and also tastes of the warm spices added; in this case, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.

How healthy is apple butter?

Apple butter is healthier than jam because it usually contains less sugar. It is healthier than butter in that it contains less fat. However, due to the added sugar and the apples’ naturally high concentration of sugar, it’s still a bit of an indulgence. But it’s one that’s worth every bite and really brings some wonderful autumn flavor to your bread of choice!

Do I have to peel apples for apple butter?

If you are planning to run the cooked apples through a food mill, you do not have to peel the apples. The food mill will not allow the skins to go through the small holes, so you can toss them as you puree the apples. The skins also add some nice flavor and color to the sauce as the apples are cooking.

Testing Apple Butter for Doneness

There are two ways you can see if your apple butter has cooked down to the desired thickness. A spoonful of the apple butter should remain mounded on the spoon and not slowly drip off. Or, you can place the spoonful of the apple butter on a plate, and the liquid should not seep out from around the edges.

How to Store Apple Butter

Apple butter can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks, tightly sealed. It can also be frozen in a freezer-proof container for up to 1 year. Whether you use a container or a freezer-proof bag, make sure there is just a little room for the apple butter to expand when it freezes but not so much extra room that air will be trapped in the container with the apple butter. 

If you are canning the apple butter in a hot water bath, it can last for longer.

Woman smearing homemade apple butter on bread slice with spoon.

How to Serve Apple Butter

Apple butter is delicious on bread and toast of all kinds. Try a country white bread, English muffins, scones, and quick breads and muffins of all flavors. Zucchini bread and pumpkin bread are also great options!

You can also stir apple butter into oatmeal or another breakfast porridge. It makes a nice filling for crepes and can also be stirred into cottage cheese or yogurt.

Or, brush it on a roast chicken for the last 15 minutes of roasting for a lovely, sweet fall flavor. It’s nice paired with cheeses as well; try cheddar, manchego, or another firm, sharp cheese.

Woman holding bread slice smeared with apple butter.

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5 from 1 vote

Apple Butter

Homemade apple butter could not be easier to make, and will turn any baked good into a fall-scented joy.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 12 People (makes 1 ½ cups)
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Ingredients 

  • 3 pounds apples (see Note)
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice

Instructions 

  • Wash the apples, then quarter and core them.
  • Place the apples with the water in a large, heavy pot. Bring the apples to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the apples, uncovered, until they are very tender and starting to fall apart, about 25 minutes (some apples will take longer than others). Stir the apples frequently as they cook. You can add a few more tablespoons of water if needed so the apples can fall-apart mushy without sticking to the pot or burning.
  • Remove from the heat and press the apples along with any remaining liquid in the pot through a food mill.
  • Rinse out the pot and return the apples to the pot over medium heat. Add the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Stir frequently until the mixture has thickened and smells great. Allow to cool to room temperature and transfer to clean, dry glass jars.

Notes

  • As you puree the apples in the food mill, discard the apple skins as you go so they don’t clog up the little holes.
  • If you want to skip either the cloves or allspice, that’s fine. Or, use 1 ½ teaspoons of cinnamon and no other spices for a simpler cinnamon-flavored apple butter.
  • If the water is evaporating too fast and the pot is getting dry, go ahead and add a bit more water.
  • Apple butter can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks, tightly sealed. It can also be frozen in a freezer-proof container for up to 1 year. Whether you use a container or a freezer-proof bag, make sure there is just a little room for the apple butter to expand when it freezes but not so much extra room that air will be trapped in the container with the apple butter. 
  • If you are canning the apple butter in a hot water bath, it can last for longer.

Nutrition

Calories: 1485kcal, Carbohydrates: 389g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 0.4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g, Sodium: 23mg, Potassium: 1479mg, Fiber: 34g, Sugar: 341g, Vitamin A: 744IU, Vitamin C: 63mg, Calcium: 114mg, Iron: 2mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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