Homemade Apple Butter Recipe
Went apple picking? Got lots of apples? Make this easy homemade apple butter recipe! Just a few simple ingredients and so much delicious fall flavor!
When it’s apple season, nothing screams “Fall!” like a big pot of homemade apple butter bubbling away on the stovetop!
Apple butter just bursts with sweet apple and warm spice flavors, and it has so many great uses. It’s one of my favorite things to make during the season!
From savory to sweet, spread on top of pork chops or used a topping for ice cream, anything that wants a little sweet fall flavor will taste delicious with a dollop of smooth apple butter.
And you won’t believe how easy it is to make your apple butter from scratch!
It only takes a few essential ingredients, and most of the time, it’s completely hands-off.
I’ve got instructions for making homemade apple butter on the stovetop or in the crockpot. It’s totally up to you!
Either way, you will love this sweet fall treat.
What is apple butter?
Apple butter is a simple, home-y topping that tastes great spread on biscuits, scones, or toast.
It’s made primarily from apples but doesn’t contain any butter or dairy. In fact, it’s vegan!
Apple butter has hints of warm cinnamon spice, but it mostly just tastes like apples. It has an intensely apple-y flavor because it is apples cooked down and concentrated to their essence.
It’s in a class by itself. It’s not a jam or a jelly, although it can be used similarly.
And it is not quite the same thing as applesauce, either. It’s thicker, smoother, and has a more concentrated apple flavor.
Why you’ll love this recipe
This recipe is easy to make with only a few ingredients and about 20 minutes of hands-on time. And most of that time is spent peeling and cutting the apples!
It has the best flavor! The apples are truly the star, and the other ingredients complement the fresh, sweet taste.
It’s also a great recipe for the holidays! It makes a large batch, so you can can it and give it as a homemade Christmas present or hostess gift for Thanksgiving.
And the texture is just gorgeous. Peeling the apples helps to give this recipe a smooth and velvety finish.
Apple butter ingredients
You can make this recipe from just a handful of basic ingredients.
Start with a whole lotta apples! You will want about 4 pounds of apples for this recipe, which is approximately nine medium-sized apples. If you’ve just gone apple picking, this is a great way to use your haul!
In addition to fresh apples, you’ll also need apple cider.
Apple cider is the pure, unfiltered juice of fresh apples. It’s similar to apple juice, but apple juice is filtered so it’s lighter in color and clear. Apple juice would make a good substitute if you can’t find the dark brown, cloudy apple cider I’m recommending here.
I’m not talking about the fizzy hard cider that has alcohol. But that would work well in a pinch and the alcohol would likely evaporate during the cooking process.
And whatever you do, don’t use apple cider vinegar! That would be way too tangy.
Light brown sugar is my favorite for this recipe, but dark brown will work too if that’s what you’ve got! The end result will just look a little darker (obvs) and the flavor will be a little more earthy.
White sugar will work too, or any other sweetener that swaps 1:1 for brown sugar.
No need to jam it into the measuring cup. Just a loose pack will do!
Cinnamon and Cloves:
Salt carries the flavors and intensifies them. The end result won’t taste salty, but it will make everything so much more flavorful! I like kosher salt best because it doesn’t have any additives (table salt usually contains iodine and that can leave a bitter taste), so the flavor is pure, and it’s very inexpensive and easy to find.
At the end, you’ll squeeze in some lemon juice to give the apple butter a little “lift.” This will brighten and enhance the apple flavor.
What kind of apples should I use?
You can use any apple you like for this recipe.
I chose Honeycrisp apples for the batch you see in these pics and video, because I like their natural sweetness. You could also use Golden Delicious, Gala, or Fuji apples.
Or, if you prefer a more tart apple flavor, Granny Smith apples would be a great choice.
You can even mix things up and try a variety of different apples.
But any apple will work, so use what you have!
How to make apple butter
Start by tossing the apples, cider, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt into a big pot and bring it all up to a simmer. Allow everything to cook, stirring every so often, until the apples have become soft and are beginning to fall apart.
My Honeycrisp apples took about an hour on medium-low heat to get to this stage.
(If you aren’t using a hand blender, you’ll want to do this in batches, so that you don’t overflow your machine.) Be careful- the mixture is hot and steamy!
When the apple mixture is velvety-smooth, return it to the pot and let it cook down some more.
You want to let the liquid evaporate and leave a very concentrated apple puree behind. The longer you cook it, the thicker it will become.
Simmer until it reaches your desired consistency. It will thicken up even more as it cools, so keep that in mind!
Once it’s reached a deep brown color and has the consistency of a thick spread, remove it from the heat and squeeze in a little fresh lemon juice. This will brighten up the flavor!
- If you make this recipe in the slow cooker, you can prep all ingredients in the evening and allow the slow cooker to do its magic overnight. Be sure to check the safety instructions on your device.
- If you want a smooth consistency to your apple butter, then blend the apples after they have cooked down.
- Prefer a chunky consistency? Simply skip the regular blender and continue to cook the apples down slowly.
- Return the cooked and pureed apples to the pot to allow the puree to cook down further for a really intense apple flavor.
- Stir a few times throughout the cooking process, to keep the apple butter from burning on the bottom of the pot.
- Simmer on low heat with the pot uncovered.
Can this be made in a crockpot?
I like this stovetop recipe because it’s relatively quick to make. But you could also make it in a crockpot or slow cooker!
To make crockpot apple butter cook the apples, cider, brown sugar, and spices on high heat (uncovered) for about 2 hours (or until soft). Puree them just as you would for the stovetop recipe.
Then lower the heat and allow the puree to cook for 8 to 10 hours. Stir it now and then, just to be sure it’s not burning on the bottom of the pot.
It takes a long time, but your house will smell incredible, and it’s mostly hands-off!
Can apple butter be canned?
You can absolutely process and can this; it works great!
Just sterilize your canning jars, boil your lids until the seal is softened and gummy, and fill the jars with apple butter. Wipe the edges of the jars clean, screw on the lids, and submerge them in boiling water for about 10 minutes.
You should hear the lids suction down and “pop” as the jars cool. This is how you know your seals are airtight!
If done correctly, the jars of apple butter can be kept in a cupboard at room temperature.
But if you don’t feel like going to the trouble, keep it in the fridge, and you should be fine!
How long does apple butter last?
Store your apple butter an airtight container and keep it in the fridge if you don’t want to process and can it. It should last in the refrigerator for several weeks to a month.
Canned and unopened jars of apple butter will last up to 2 years at room temperature.
Once a canned jar of apple butter is opened, it will last a few weeks to a month.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is apple butter used for?
There are SO many great uses for apple butter.
It’s naturally sweet, so it works well as a filling in desserts.
But it’s also lovely on savory dishes like herbed chicken or pork. In the Philadelphia area, where I live, we often enjoy it as a topping on scrapple. The sweet and savory contrast is incredible!
Most commonly, apple butter is enjoyed as a spread on toast, biscuits, or scones, but I’ve also used it to fill cupcakes (like these Apple Cinnamon Pancake Cupcakes) and bread (like this Apple Butter Cinnamon Swirl Bread).
What is the difference between applesauce and apple butter?
Both homemade apple butter and homemade applesauce are made from cooked, pureed apples.
The main difference is that apple butter is thicker than applesauce and has more added sugar. Whereas applesauce has a small amount (or even no sugar added), apple butter typically has more.
Also, apple butter gets cooked longer, to allow the water to evaporate and the apples to boil down to a thicker consistency, so it can be used as a spread.
Why is it called apple butter?
They call it “apple butter” because it has a buttery consistency, even though no butter is actually added.
Next time you find yourself with an abundance of apples, remember this easy homemade apple butter recipe!
And if you have any holiday parties coming up, think about giving jars of apple butter as party favors or a hostess gift! Your friends and family will love the sweet apple and warm cinnamon flavors!
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Homemade Apple Butter
- about 4 pounds apples, (roughly 9 medium-sized apples), peeled and cored
- 1 cup (236 g) apple cider, (NOT apple cider vinegar)
- 3/4 cup (165 g) loosely packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) kosher salt
- juice of half a lemon, (about 1 tablespoon)
- Place the apples, apple cider, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a large pot, and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, (stirring occasionally) until the apples have become very soft (about 1 hour).
- Use a hand blender to puree the mixture (or ladle it into a regular blender in batches) until smooth.
- Place the puree back into the pot and continue to cook, uncovered, (stirring occasionally) until thick, velvety, and deep mahogany brown (about 1 hour).
- Stir in the lemon juice, transfer the mixture to jars, and keep refrigerated.*