Our favorite fall fruit stars in both, but here's what really sets them apart.
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So you have your haul of Galas, Honeycrisps, or Golden Delicious from the orchard or supermarket produce section, and want to extend their life and put them to tasty use. So is applesauce or apple butter the best option?

And how is applesauce different from apple butter, anyway? Read on for the fruit facts, plus recipe inspiration for both of these autumnal all-stars.

What Is Applesauce?

Applesauce is a semi-solid sauce created from apples, some form of liquid (such as water or cider), warm spices, and sugar, if desired. Cook that all down together to soften the fruit, mash or puree and voila: You have an applesauce recipe.

Depending on personal preference, you can puree it down into a smooth blend or leave it chunky, and you can scent it with vanilla, citrus, or maple.

Compared to apple butter, applesauce is lighter in consistency and flavor since it has a larger amount of water in the final product. With that in mind, you'll want to use flavoring elements in smaller quantities.

This all boils down to (sorry, we couldn't resist!) the fact that apple skins and flesh contain pectin. As you simmer them, the pectin is emitted and acts as a gel. Since applesauce cooks for a shorter time than apple butter, the result is mostly apples with a bit of jelly.

In America, applesauce recipes are used in sweet and savory applications. Try it atop potato latkes or alongside pork chops if you're Team Savory. If Team Sweet is more your style, stir some into oatmeal or incorporate it into cake batter.

Four jars of apple sauce, apple butter, and jam with small wooden spoons
Credit: Carson Downing/Meredith

What Is Apple Butter?

Both applesauce and apple butter start by cooking apples slow and low with the same ingredients (liquid, flavoring elements, sweetener). But apple butter differs from sauce since it calls for a much longer cook time.

The result? A thicker, concentrated-in-flavor, darker caramel-colored and spreadable "jam" that's more similar in consistency to butter. (Chef John's Apple Butter recipe will walk you through how to DIY.)

Contrary to what you might think from the name, there's zero actual butter in apple butter. That name is derived from the fact that it is a dense spread.

Some serve it warm, giving it a slightly looser consistency, while others eat it straight from the fridge. Either way, the flavors are often more intense than in applesauce — making apple butter recipes the ideal complement for hearty, nutty breads and strong cheeses. (We see you, charcuterie boards.)

Can You Use Them Interchangeably?

When trying to remember the difference, we like to think of apple butter as applesauce intensified. Or applesauce squared, and with a more solid texture.

But when it comes down to it, both applesauce and apple butter can often be exchanged in baking recipes — especially when used as a replacement for some of the butter, oil, or eggs. Try this in our No Butter Choco-Chip Cookies or Yummy Applesauce Bread.

Can You Make Apple Butter From Applesauce?

While we prefer to start from scratch, you can absolutely make apple butter from store-bought applesauce simmered down into a thicker format. Just add more spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and/or cloves and cook it to your desired flavor and density.

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