Learn how to make healthy applesauce from scratch and the best apple varieties for cooking. Follow this tutorial to learn different ways of cooking applesauce – stovetop or crockpot, chunky or smooth, sweet or spiced.
As the weather cools and the leaves turn, all I want to do is 1. Be outside crunching on leaves or 2. Be in my kitchen cooking up fall goodies. Today’s recipe for the easiest homemade healthy applesauce enabled me to do both!
We’re far from being able to have our own apple trees at this little urban homestead. But we do take advantage of the abundance of local farms that offer apple picking. Our favorite, Branstool Orchards in Utica, OH, is dog-friendly! (It’s actually the same orchard where I got the peaches for the peach pepper jam I shared this summer.)
Every autumn, we bundle up and make the drive out of the city, returning in the evening with our abundance and my brain brimming with plans.
Of course, we often wind up eating so many fresh that I don’t get to test all of my ideas. I used the end of this year’s apples to make this healthy applesauce. But next year I want to use some of the bounty to can mincemeat pie filling as a surprise for my dad.
I love to make a huge batch of this healthy applesauce and then freeze it in canning jars. I pull them out one at a time throughout the year for adding to oatmeal, spooning over ice cream, or serving with pork chops and potato pancakes.
The great thing about this recipe is that it’s more method than recipe. Make it with whatever quantity of apples you have, and just scale the other two ingredients (apple cider and pumpkin pie spice) to taste.
It’s so simple, and a healthy treat that really can’t be beat. If you’ve never made applesauce before, I hope you try it and let me know what you think in the comments!
What makes this applesauce healthy?
For starters, there’s no added sweetener – just a half cup of apple cider. You could even omit that or swap it for water. I just find that added bit of moisture helps the apples begin to cook down faster.
But, compared to the sweetener and preservatives you’ll find in store-bought applesauce, I think the little bit of cider is no big deal.
Plus, apples are full of fiber, vitamin C, and potassium!
Isn’t homemade applesauce a lot of work?
Nope! At least, this one isn’t. It requires a sum total of three ingredients and four kitchen tools (a cutting board and knife to prep the apples, and the pot and wooden spoon to cook them).
You don’t even have to peel the apples. Just making sure you’re using organic, unwaxed apples. Of course, you can peel if you want to. I lack that patience and I like the lovely pink color the applesauce turns with the peels left on.
But really, it’s just chopping the apples and then cooking them down to your desired texture. It takes time, but not much in terms of labor or complication. If you want a really smooth applesauce, you can use an immersion blender (or a regular one). That adds one more step and tools to clean, but it’s still not hard.
Which apples should I use for applesauce?
Whatever kind of apples you love to eat! Yes, certain types will hold up better to cooking. In general, for cooked applications, you want firmer, less sweet varieties. But it really is up to you and what you like to eat. I used a mixture of Jonathan, Honeycrisp, and McIntosh. I find using a few different varieties yields a more complex, flavorful applesauce.
Here’s the full list of recommended saucing apples from my local orchard:
- Ginger Gold
- Swiss Gourmet
- Grimes Golden
- Cox’s Orange Pippen
- Winter Banana
- Gold Rush
- Pink Lady
- Golden Delicious
…As you can see, you have lots of choices.
What methods can I use to make this healthy applesauce?
The two I can say for sure will work are stovetop and slow cooker, though the latter will take longer. I’m sure someone has figured out how to use an Instant Pot, but I haven’t personally tested that method.
I like the stovetop because I’m impatient. I use my enameled dutch oven, but a nonstick stock pot is also a good choice. I’d avoid stainless steel as the apples will cook for long enough that the metal might leach an odd flavor.
How do I store this applesauce?
First things first, this recipe is not approved for canning. You can store in the fridge or freezer instead.
I like to store my applesauce in old canning jars, but any glass or BPA-free plastic container will work!
How long will it last?
This healthy applesauce should keep at least a week in the fridge or two months in the freezer. In my experience, it’s kept a lot longer in the freezer. I just finished off my final jar from last year a month or so ago.
*Note if you want to freeze it in jars, make sure you leave enough headspace and don’t tighten the lid at first to give the applesauce room to expand. If using a jar with shoulders, be sure the level of the sauce is below where the shoulder curves inward.
How can I use this healthy applesauce?
Anyway you would use regular applesauce! It’s great plain, especially as an afternoon snack for kids. I love it on oatmeal or with yogurt and granola for breakfast. It’s also wonderful warmed and served over vanilla ice cream. Tonight, we’ll be serving it alongside pork chops.
You can also bake with applesauce as a replacement for the fat in some recipes. Or make an applesauce-specific baked good, like applesauce bread or muffins!
So, how do I make the easiest healthy applesauce?
- 5 ½ lbs apples, cored and diced
- ½ c apple cider
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves to taste)
- Wash and dry your apples, Then core and dice into half-inch chunks.
- Combine apples, cider, and spice in a large stockpot. Place on stove and bring to medium heat.
- Once you can hear the cider simmering, turn down medium-low.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until desired consistency is achieved. I let mine go about 2 hours, but go for longer or for less time depending on how you like your applesauce.
- Turn off heat and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, dish into storage containers.
As noted above, if you like a very smooth applesauce, you can peel your apples and then immersion blend them once they've finished cooking.
To make this applesauce in the slow cooker, combine ingredients as above and cook on low about 6 hours.