How to Make Apple Butter 4 Easy Ways
Spoiler alert: There isn't any butter in apple butter.
That's right, apple butter contains no butter. Instead, the name describes the thick, rich spread you get when apples are slow-cooked for hours until the fruit breaks down into a sweet, smooth paste. That gorgeous nut-brown color? That comes from the natural fruit sugars as they slowly caramelize. And you know how you feel about caramel.
You'll use the same steps to prep apples to make apple butter, no matter which cooking technique you choose. Simply wash thoroughly cut out the core, then cut into uniform chunks so they cook evenly. No need to peel the apples first.*
After cooking the apples down using the method of your choice, you'll do one more thing to get that smooth consistency you want in your apple butter: Either process it with a blender or pass it through a food mill.
*Why don't you peel the apples? Many cooks prefer to leave the skins on the apples as they cook to enhance the flavor and color of the apple butter. If you're going to press the cooked apples through a food mill at the end, it will remove the skin fragments from the apple butter. If you're going to use a blender at the end, it will break down the skin into an emulsion.
1. Slow Cooker Apple Butter
Making apple butter used to be a labor-intensive, all-day harvest-time tradition that involved constant stirring to keep the apples from scorching as they cooked. Fast-forward to present day and we get to make apple butter in the modern convenience we call a slow cooker. It's about the easiest DIY to add to your fall cooking goals and it makes very impressive food gifts. Bonus: Your home will smell like apple heaven.
Follow Chef John's hands-off technique for making homemade apple butter in your slow cooker.
Get the recipe for Chef John's Apple Butter
- 5 pounds Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 ½ cups white sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 splash water
- Once you've prepped your apples by coring (using a handy apple corer) and chopping them (no need to peel!), place the apple pieces into a large slow cooker. Add white sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and vinegar. Add a splash of water and mix well.
- Cover and cook on High until apples are starting to soften and release liquid, about 1 to 2 hours. Reduce heat to Low and cook, uncovered, until all the apple flesh is dissolved, or about 5 to 6 hours. Stir occasionally.
- Puree using an immersion blender until smooth. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until darkened and thick, about 4 hours more. Pass apple butter through a strainer or food mill if desired. Seal in a glass container and refrigerate until cool.
2. Instant Pot Apple Butter
Pictured: Instant Pot Apple Butter
Home cook Kathleen Sanders was able to cut down on the cooking time by using the Instant Pot to make Chef John's Apple Butter recipe: "I made this on my Instant Pot. 7 minutes high pressure and 10 minutes natural release. Then, after I blended it, I slow cooked it on high with a lid on it slightly ajar for 5 hours. It's SO GOOD. Has a beautiful color and just the right amount of sweetness."
This recipe for Instant Pot Apple Butter is full of great tips for making apple butter in your Instant Pot, including using the sauté function to speed up the cooking time.
3. Stovetop Apple Butter
If you don't have a slow cooker, and you don't mind stirring once in a while, you can make apple butter the low-tech way on your stove. Use a heavy pot with a thick bottom for best results. Try this 5-star recipe for Supreme Apple Butter.
4. Oven-Roasted Apple Butter
This recipe for Apple Butter in the Oven starts on the stovetop and finishes low and slow in the oven. Use a heavy pot, like a Dutch oven, to make this recipe so the apples cook evenly with no hot spots to scorch your gorgeous apple butter.