Home Articles What Is Apple Butter? (+ How to Make It)

What Is Apple Butter? (+ How to Make It)

You might’ve seen it at farmers markets or in local grocery stores, but what is apple butter?

And how do you make it at home?

Top view of apple butter in a glass jar and bread placed on top of wooden cutting board.

There’s no actual butter in the mix, but rather a concentrated caramelization of apples, spices, and sugar.

So it’s an intensely flavorful, spreadable condiment that can be used like butter.

I guess “applesauce” was taken, and “apple spread” doesn’t sound quite as appealing.

Anyway, it’s a centuries-old culinary delight you should definitely try whenever you get the chance.

And if you want to find out more, keep reading.

What Is Apple Butter?

Apple butter consists of cooked apples, liquid, sugar, and spices.

Together, they create a type of jam or preserve with a deep brown color and smooth texture. That’s often used to top toast or muffins.

It can be made in a Crockpot or on the stovetop and requires slow-cooking fresh apples until they’re tender and mashable.

Apple butter has a long shelf life and deep apple flavor, so it’s ideal for gifting.

It’s dairy-free and basically an upgraded version of applesauce.

So, you can’t really eat it with a spoon. But it tastes phenomenal on warm muffins and biscuits.

The consistency is much thicker, and you’ll add a bunch of spices to boost its flavor.

But the key is in the cooking. When you slow-cook apples, they release all their natural sugars, which caramelize and concentrate into something spectacular.

Apple butter in a small jar with two slices of bread with filling, cinnamon sticks and fresh whole apple on side.

What’s the Difference Between Apple Butter and Apple Jam?

If you want a sweet, apple-flavored spread for toast, apple butter or apple jam are excellent options.

And the two have a lot in common – they’re apple-y, rich, and lip-smackingly delicious. 

They aren’t the same thing, though.

The difference between apple butter and apple jam lies in the cooking times and texture.

  • Apple butter is cooked for a long time until the fruit is caramelized and dark, while apple jam isn’t cooked that long, so it’s much paler.
  • Apple butter is thick and smooth, whereas apple jam often has chunks.

When you look at apple butter, it’s quite dark and glossy. But it’s not sticky or jam-like. And that’s down to the high water content.

In contrast, apple jam is pale and shiny with a sticky finish.

Sometimes, the cooked apples are pureed before being cooked with the sugar, and other times it’s left chunky.

Either way, it’s got a higher sugar content, making it more jelly-like. So if you take a spoonful out of a jar, it usually holds its shape pretty well.

To sum up: apple jam is like the jam you get from the store. Be it strawberry, grape, or apricot, they all have a sticky finish and jelly-like texture.

Apple butter, on the other hand, is thick but pourable.

Top view of jar of apple butter, cinnamon sticks and slices of bread with spread.

Apple Butter vs. Applesauce

So if apple butter is so different from apple jam, is it more like applesauce?

Well, yes. In a way.

Applesauce is more similar to apple butter than apple jam. However, even these two spreads have their differences.

Differences

Apple butter is much thicker and darker and has a different texture. 

Applesauce is light and somewhat grainy or mushy. It’s also kind of watery.

Apple butter, though, is thick and smooth. And since it’s cooked for so long, it’s not that watery at all.

The way it spreads across a piece of toast is more like peanut butter than applesauce.

The reason they’re so different is the same as with apple jam: apple butter is cooked for longer.

Similarities

Of course, you’ll still notice some similarities between the two.

They have similar flavor profiles, for one thing. They’re both apple-based and contain many of the same spices. 

The methods for cooking both products are also a lot alike.

They both undergo a slow-cooking process over low heat. Apple butter just requires a lot more time to finish cooking. 

Two jar of home made apple butter

How to Make Apple Butter 

There are multiple ways to make apple butter, but I prefer using a slow cooker. Doing so just makes the process so much simpler.

Clean-up is a breeze when you use the slow cooker, too!

Here are the steps for making it: 

1. Clean the apples and gather the other ingredients.

To make apple butter, you’ll need about five pounds of apples. And it’s best to wash them before use.

You’ll also need a base in which to cook the apples. This recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of apple cider.

(Apple juice can replace apple cider in a pinch.)

Finally, you’ll need your seasoning blend: 

  • 1-1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • One pinch salt

2. Chop and cook the apples.

Once everything is ready and the apples are washed free from the waxy coating, chop them into evenly sized-pieces.

I like to core them and cut them into wedges. And leave the skin on! That’s where most of the flavor comes from.

Pour the apple cider vinegar and apple cider into the slow cooker. Then, add the apples.

Set the heat to low, put the lid in place, and cook for about 8 hours. 

(Alternatively, you can cook for 4 hours on high heat – though the flavor won’t be as deep.)

3. Mash and puree the cooked apples.

Remove the apples from the slow cooker and mash them with a potato masher. They should be thoroughly mushy when you’ve finished. 

Then, use a sieve or food mill to remove any remaining skins or seeds. Continue passing the apple pulp through the food mill until it’s smooth. 

Or pop everything into a blender and blitz until smooth (you’ll need to let it cool first).

Return the apple pulp to the slow cooker. 

4. Add the spices and cook again.

Next, add all of the spices, stir well, and increase the heat to high.

Cook uncovered for approximately an hour, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking and burning.

Near the 1-hour mark, the apple butter should turn dark. It should also be pretty thick.

By thick, I mean: you should be able to scoop a spoonful without it running off. 

The culinary term for this is “mounding on the spoon.” In layman’s terms, it looks like chocolate pudding when you scoop a spoonful out of the container. 

5. Let it cool and transfer it to suitable containers.

After the butter cools, transfer it to Mason jars or other suitable containers. Then, store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. 

Place the jars in a 15-minute hot water bath to make them shelf-stable. Then, store them somewhere dark and cool.

They should stay fresh for up to a year. Just be sure to refrigerate the jars after you open them. 

Apple butter and bread slices arranged on top of wooden table.

Apple Butter Uses 

Believe it or not, you can do much more with apple butter than most people realize.

It works wonderfully as a sweet spread, of course. So put it on warm biscuits, toast, bagels, and more. 

Other uses include:

  • Topping for waffles or pancakes
  • Spread on muffins and homemade bread, like banana or zucchini 
  • Over oatmeal, congee, or rice pudding 
  • On pork chops
  • As a glaze for chicken wings

How to Store Apple Butter

As mentioned, you can use a water bath to make your jars shelf-stable. You can also pop the jars in the fridge for up to a month. 

Your final option for long-term storage is the freezer.

Remember to let the apple butter cool completely. Then, place it in an airtight container with an inch or two free at the top.

Then, seal them tightly and stick them in the freezer. 

You should be able to store the butter for up to a year without it spoiling. 

More Apple Recipes You’ll Love

Mock Apple Pie
Apple Dump Cake
Apple Strudel
Applesauce Muffins

What Is Apple Butter? (+ How to Make It)

Yield

4-5

cups
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking Time

9

hours

You might’ve seen it at farmers markets or in local grocery stores, but what is apple butter? This jam-like fruit spread is a tasty mix of apples and spices. And it couldn’t be easier to make at home!

Ingredients

  • five pounds apples

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1 cup apple cider

  • 1 -1/2 cup dark brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

  • 1 pinch salt

Instructions

  • Wash the apples to remove the waxy coating.
  • Chop and core the apples into evenly sliced wedges. Eight per apple should do.
  • Add the apple pieces, apple cider, and apple cider vinegar to a slow cooker. Turn it to low and cook for 8 hours.
  • Mash the apples until they’re as smooth as possible. Then, run everything through a food mill to collect a smooth puree.
  • Alternatively, blend the apples in a food processor or blender, then pass through a strainer.
  • Pour the apple puree back into the slow cooker, add the brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt, and stir well.
  • Turn the slow cooker to high and cook for 1 hour, stirring frequently.
  • Pour the apple butter into a shallow dish to cool, then transfer it into clean, heat-proof containers or glass jars.
  • Store in the fridge and enjoy!
What Is Apple Butter?

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author avatar
NaTaya Hastings
NaTaya Hastings is a food and recipe writer for Insanely Good Recipes. She’s an educator, boy mom, dog mom, and whatever-stray-enters-the-yard mom. As a result, she's constantly cooking for both humans and animals.

Luckily, she enjoys it!

Though born, raised, and still living in Alabama, her specialty is NOT down-home Southern cooking. Instead, she loves to experiment with Asian, Mexican, Italian, and other ethnic cuisines. She has two mottos when it comes to cooking. “The more spice, the better!” and “There’s no such thing as too much garlic!”

She’s also pretty good with desserts. Especially the easy, no-bake ones.

Her favorite things are cuddling with her four giant dogs, traveling, reading, writing, and hanging out in nature. She’s also pretty excellent at Dominoes.

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