This month on TNB, we’re going Back to Basics! All month long, I’m sharing recipes and techniques for how to make pantry staples healthier and from scratch. This sugar-free apple butter is a delicious and versatile alternative to jam. Perfect for toast, pancakes, waffles, and oatmeal.
There’s a moment at the beginning of each fall when giant, gorgeous heaps of multicolored apples seem to overshadow pretty much every other thing at the farmers market. It’s this punctuation in time, when the sun is still strong yet the air is crisp, and the apples smell really good, that you realize you’re pretty ready to transition into the next season.
It’s at this time that I tend to buy too many said apples. This is an issue for one tiny reason: Rene and I don’t actually like eating them.
I mean, we love the flavor, and they’re pretty fun when cut into wedges and dipped into peanut butter, or thinly sliced and added to a crunchy salad. But we’re not the kind of people who happily munch on apples during snack time.
So a few years ago, when I had no idea what to do with my overzealous farmers market haul, I Googled how to make apple butter and found a version without added sugar. Honestly, the technique seemed too simplistic to work, but the results were truly amazing.
You start this sugar-free apple butter by rounding up two pounds of apples. I’ve made it with all types of apples (sweet, tart, mealy, crisp, etc.) and they all work well.
The thing I can’t get over each time I make it is that the apples don’t need to be peeled – their skins disintegrate almost entirely into the sauce! – which is a big time-saver.
You chop the apples and cook them with a bit of water and spices until they’re saucy and broken down. Then you puree them, return the sauce to the pot, and continue cooking to concentrate that apple flavor. The resulting apple butter is sweet and tart, velvety smooth, and fragrant from the spices.
I like the combo of cinnamon and nutmeg here, but you could also play around with cardamom, cloves, ginger, lemon zest, or pre-mixed pumpkin spice.
In case you’re wondering, there’s no actual butter in “apple butter”. And what makes it different from applesauce is its thicker, more spreadable texture, and more concentrated apple flavor.
I’m not sure how “traditional” this recipe is and I don’t think it matters. Most of the recipes I see online use obscene amounts of sugar (upwards of 4 cups!!!), which is so unnecessary. I find that apples have plenty of their own sweetness, especially as it caramelizes in the sauce.
Apple butter is delicious on buttered sourdough toast, fluffy pancakes, waffles, and oatmeal. You can also use it in desserts like linzer bars and thumbprint cookies.Print
This sugar-free apple butter is a delicious and versatile spread. Perfect for toast, pancakes, waffles, and oatmeal.
- 2 pounds organic apples (about 6 small apples), cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- In a medium pot, combine the apples, water, and spices. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer with the lid ajar until the apples are saucy and broken down, and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 20 minutes.
- Transfer the apples to a food processor or Vitamix, and puree until smooth. Transfer back to the pot and continue cooking over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent the bottom from burning, until the mixture thickens a bit, takes on a slightly darker color, and has a more concentrated apple flavor, about 15 minutes more.
- Cool the apple butter to room temperature, transfer to an airtight container, and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Serving Size: 1/4 cup
- Calories: 25
Keywords: apples, apple butter, jam, fall, vegan