How to Make Homemade Apple Butter

Homemade apple butter couldn't be easier to make—it just takes a little patience! The result is a sweet, aromatic and versatile condiment you'll want to spread on everything this fall.

So you have a bunch of apples and don’t know what to do with them? Sure, you could make applesauce, but if you’ve got a little time to spare, you could make something more versatile (seriously, you’ll want it on everything): homemade apple butter!

What do you do with apple butter?

Apple butter has many delicious applications! Wherever you’d use a jam, apple butter substitutes wonderfully. You can spread it on your biscuits or toast in the morning, use it in desserts like streusel bars or pretty pumpkin pies, or even use it to baste roasted chicken! It’s not too bad straight out of the jar, either.

What is the difference between applesauce and apple butter?

But some folks might be asking: what’s the big diff? They’re both cooked, smashed apples. The difference between the two lies in the cooking. Both start by cooking down apples with sugar and spices. Once soft, you’ve got applesauce (you can find a detailed tutorial here). However, if you continue the cooking process, you get apple butter.By doing this, you’ll achieve a darker, thicker, more flavorful spread. As with applesauce, the hardest part is peeling, coring, and chopping the apples, and after that, it’s all hurry-up-and-wait.

What are the best apples to use to make apple butter?

If you’re going to go through all the hassle of peeling and coring, you want to make sure you’re starting with the right ingredient. While firm-fleshed apples like Honeycrisp and Granny Smith tend to work best for pies, the opposite is true for apple butter. Soft apples like Braeburn, Fuji, McIntosh, and Cortland break down much more easily than firmer varieties and therefore cook much faster. Stick with one kind or mix and match for a complexity of flavor—it’s your choice!

How to Make Apple Butter

Ingredients

  • 5-1/2 pounds apples
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Step 1: Prep the apples

Peel and finely chop the soft apples. Apple peelers and corers really speed up this process!

Step 2: Dump and cook…

While applesauce is typically made over the stove (since it doesn’t take long), apple butter can be made easily in a slow cooker. Just dump your apples in the base of your slow cooker then pour your sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt over the top. Give this a quick stir and cook on your slow cooker’s high setting for an hour.

Step 3: …and cook some more

Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 9-11 hours or until thickened and dark brown, stirring occasionally (stir more frequently as it thickens to prevent sticking). This is a good project to start on a lazy fall day.

Step 4: Cook just a little more

Uncover and cook on low for an hour longer. If desired, stir with a wire whisk until smooth.

Step 5: Freeze (or eat!)

Once the mixture is completely cooled, spoon the apple butter into freezer containers, leaving a half-inch headspace. Devour it immediately, or seal it and refrigerate or freeze.

This recipe might be the slow way to do it, but home cooks know that low and slow always delivers tasty results (it’s the secret to all these tasty recipes).

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Grace Mannon
Grace is a full-time mom with a Master's degree in Food Science. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and writes about her hits (and misses) on her blog, A Southern Grace.