Fresh, wholesome applesauce — if you've never made your own from scratch, you'll be surprised by how quick and easy it is to cook up a batch.

By Vanessa Greaves
Updated October 14, 2020
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How to Make Applesauce

Making applesauce is about as easy as it gets. After all, you're simply heating apples until they're soft enough to mash. (Thirty minutes or less should do it.) Making your own also means you get to control and customize every ingredient — especially sugar — that goes into the mix. Here's how simple it is to make the best applesauce you've ever eaten.

1. Choose Your Apples

You can use any kind of apples to make applesauce. Good news: They don't have to be super crisp because you're going to cook them down into mush. In fact, this is a great excuse to use up slightly mealy or dented apples from the discount bin. Know that some apples are sweet and some are quite tart, which will affect how much sugar you add, if any. And just like with apple pie, you could use a mixture of apples to achieve a more complex flavor.

2. To Peel or Not to Peel?

Peel and core apples if you plan to simply mash them into chunky applesauce. Leave the peels on if you're going to pass the cooked pieces through a food mill, which will separate the skin and seeds from the apple mash. Leaving the skin on while the apple cooks also adds color to the sauce. Try this recipe for Blushing Applesauce to see what I mean.

3. Get Chopping

Whether or not you peel the apples, you'll want to cut them into evenly sized pieces so they'll all cook through at the same time. Try for 1- to 2-inch chunks.

4. Spice It Up

Most applesauce recipes call for the classic apple pie flavoring of cinnamon and nutmeg. Tip: Instead of using ground spices that quickly lose their potency on the shelf, try tossing one or two whole sticks of cinnamon into the pot along with a few scrapes of freshly grated nutmeg. More add-ins: Lemon juice to brighten up the taste, and fresh ginger to give the mix a little kick.

5. Hold the Sugar

Remember when I mentioned that some apples are sweeter than others? You should really wait to add sugar to your applesauce until after the apples are almost all the way cooked. Why? Because cooking apples causes their natural sugars to caramelize and intensify. Taste the warm apple mixture without sugar or other sweeteners, then add a bit at a time, stirring well between additions, to see how sweet it gets. Then finish cooking the sauce. You might end up using a lot less sweetener than your recipe calls for.

Cooking Applesauce

Let's look at all the ways you can turn apples into applesauce.

Stovetop Method

Got 35 minutes? That's all it takes to make Doug's Easy Applesauce. Doug uses a potato masher to help break down the apples into chunky bits. For a smoother sauce, use a food mill.

Doug's Easy Applesauce
Doug's Easy Applesauce | Photo by lutzflcat

Video: Watch Sarah's Applesauce to see a stovetop demo.

Slow Cooker Method

With this recipe for Spiced Slow Cooker Applesauce, you just load up the crock pot and walk away. In a few hours, you'll have perfectly cooked applesauce and your kitchen will smell like apple heaven. Tip: If it looks like your sauce is a little watery towards the end, lift the lid and let the excess moisture cook off a bit.

More: Cutting back on sugar? You'll appreciate this recipe for Slow Cooker Cider Applesauce (No Sugar Added).

Instant Pot Method

This recipe for Instant Pot Applesauce takes only five minutes of actual cooking time, but you need to factor in the time to build up the pressure and release it again at the end. Still, it's another way to put your Instant Pot to work for you. If you have pears on hand, you might like to toss them in to make Instant Pot Pear-Applesauce.

Rice Cooker Method

This recipe for Rice Cooker Raspberry Applesauce combines the speed of the stovetop method with the walk-away convenience of a slow cooker. Don't you love it when your appliances can multitask?

More: Find out what else your rice cooker can cook besides rice.

Microwave Method

When time isn't on your side, you can zap your apples in the microwave for lightning-fast applesauce. Try this recipe for Microwave Applesauce, flavored with apricots, cherries and a splash of sherry.

No-Cook Applesauce

Do you have to cook applesauce? Not necessarily. This recipe for No-Cook Applesauce uses a blender to blitz everything so you can have applesauce in about 15 minutes from start to finish.

How to Store Applesauce

Take advantage of apples in season or on sale to make a stash of homemade applesauce. Here are different storage options:

Refrigerator

Stash your freshly made applesauce in a glass or plastic container. For best quality, you can refrigerate it for up to two weeks.

Freezer

To save space in your freezer, fill freezer-safe quart-size plastic bags and lay them flat on a baking pan. Freeze flat and store. You can also freeze infant-size portions in ice cube trays and pop them into a freezer bag. Frozen applesauce should be eaten within 6 months.

More: Get smart tips for freezing food.

Canning

Preserve homemade applesauce for a year or more by canning it. (Yes, you're using glass jars, but it's still called canning. Go figure.) This how-to takes you through canning basics.

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