How to Make Apple Butter

5 from 2 votes

Learn how to make homemade apple butter with this easy-to-follow guide featuring the traditional stovetop method and the newer Instant Pot way.

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Did you know that it’s super easy to learn how to make apple butter yourself on the stovetop or using an instant pot? While the cooking process is a bit long, the hands-on time is minimal. It’s as simple as chopping, cooking, blending, and reducing the apples into its signature creamy, thick, spreadable homemade apple goodness. 

2 small glass jars with a spoon lifting some from the jar in foreground.

Apple butter is a fantastic way to use Fall apples and celebrate the season all year long with easy storage methods. You can batch cook this apple butter recipe to give to friends for holiday gift giving or stock the fridge with a tasty spread to add to toast or pancakes. In this tutorial, I share how to make traditional apple butter on the stovetop and in a pressure cooker/Instant Pot in under two hours and with minimal effort and the best results.

WHY learn to make apple butter

  • The best way to use seasonal apples. If you love making recipes aimed toward the seasons, then this recipe will beckon your Fall spice cravings. It’s aromatic with clove and cinnamon, and this recipe is a great way to use apples when they’re in full swing.
  • Your family will love it. You can taste the love that goes into making this homemade apple butter from scratch. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the simplicity of using it to spread on toast or topping their waffles. It’s a crave-worthy topping that they’ll be begging you to make again and again.
  • A tasty ingredient for recipes. Make a double or triple batch of apple butter for a unique ingredient to use in recipes, like cookies, cakes, milkshakes, and even savory dishes such as glazed chicken wings or flatbread pizzas.
  • Great for gift-giving. Stock up on jars to fill with your homemade apple butter and gift as part of a holiday basket paired with a sweet loaf of pistachio bread or sweet potato muffins to spread it on.

Ingredients for Apple Butter

  • Apples – Peel, core, and chop the apples into chunks to evenly cook for either cooking method. See below for my favorite apples to use to make apple butter.
  • Apple cider – Using apple cider helps to concentrate the delicious apple flavor.
  • Brown Sugar – The resounding molasses flavor of dark brown sugar adds a deep caramelized color and rich flavor that you’ll want in a thick, creamy fruit butter.
  • Spices – Cinnamon and ground cloves enhance the apple flavor and create an aromatic spread that resembles Fall.
  • Lemon Juice – Adding lemon juice helps to offset the sweetness of the recipe, adds a little zesty flavor, and acts as a preservative, too.
  • Salt: Salt helps to balance the sweetness and assists in breaking down the apples.
Ingredients for recipe: apple cider, spices, brown sugar, lemon, and about 9 apples.

How to Make Apple Butter from Scratch

Start preparing the apples by chopping them into chunks. Then, choose which cooking method you prefer, either on the stove in a large, heavy bottom deep pot or an Instant Pot. The steps for each cooking method are very similar and will result in the best apple butter.

HOW TO MAKE on the Stove

  1. Add chopped apples and apple cider to a deep pot and bring to a simmer. Once it begins to simmer, reduce the heat and cover. Continue to cook until the apples are soft.
  2. Once tender, transfer them to a blender and blend until smooth. It’s ok if there are still a few chunks left as they will continue to cook down. This mixture will resemble applesauce.
  3. Once blended, add the puree back to the pot and add in the brown sugar, spices, and salt. Bring this back to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally. You’re looking for the fruit butter to be thick and dark brown.
  4. Once you’ve reached a thick, brown consistency, remove the pot and stir in freshly squeezed lemon juice.
4 image collage making recipe in a pot.

HOW TO MAKE in an Instant Pot

  1. Place the apples and apple cider into the pressure cooker. Close and seal the instant pot and set it on high pressure.
  2. Carefully transfer the apples to a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Switch the instant pot to sauté and pour the blended apples back with the sugar, spices, and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally until you reach a thick, dark brown, jam-like texture.
  4. Remove the insert from the instant pot, squeeze in lemon juice, and stir well to combine.
4 image collage making recipe in an instant pot.

TIPS FOR Making Apple Butter

  1. Use a heavy-bottomed pot. Cooking the apple butter in a pot that distributes the heat evenly will help it cook down evenly without scorching.
  2. Spice according to preference. Cinnamon with just a dash of cloves really enhances this apple butter without overwhelming it, but you could experiment with other warming spices. Try ground ginger, nutmeg, or even cardamom!
  3. Stir often, particularly at the end. As the apple butter gets thicker, it will start to stick to the bottom of the pot and burn, so keep a close eye on it and stir every few minutes during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
  4. Store in 8-ounce glass jars. This recipe makes 3 cups of apple butter so you can evenly divide it into 3 8-ounce mason jars with an air-tight seal. This will help to keep each jar fresh because you won’t be opening the same container multiple times, and instead preserving the spread and extending its shelf life.

recipes to make with apple butter

Small bowl with a spoon dipped into fruit butter.

HOW TO STORE Apple Butter

After making homemade apple butter, divide it into airtight storage containers and store it in the refrigerator or in the freezer.

HOW LONG WILL Apple Butter LAST IN THE FRIDGE?

This autumn spread is perfect for making ahead of time, and when stored properly, apple butter has a great shelf-life. You can store it in sealed air-tight jars in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.

CAN I FREEZE Apple Butter?

Yes! Freezing apple butter is a fantastic way to extend the Fall flavor goodness, and it will last up to a year when frozen. To freeze, bring the apple butter to room temperature, then ladle it into freezer-safe containers. These can be zip-top bags or glass mason jars.

To freeze in mason jars. Fill the jars and leave about an inch from the top to account for expansion while freezing. This is a visually pleasing way to store foods and also makes it easy when ready to use. Simply place it in the refrigerator to thaw without having to transfer it to a container afterward.

To freeze in bags. Fill them up, leaving space at the top, and remove as much air as possible. Lay the bags flat on a baking sheet and freeze. Once they are frozen, you can remove the baking sheet and stack them how you’d like. It’s a great method for saving space in your freezer.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What’s the difference between apple butter and applesauce?

Apple butter is just apple sauce that is cooked much longer until caramelization with sugar and juices into a thick, spreadable, butter-like consistency.

What are the best apples to use for making apple butter?

You can use any apple to make this recipe or even use a variety of apples. Because we are cooking apple butter low and slow, choose softer varieties like Golden Delicious, Fuji, or Red apples. You may have more of an assortment available during peak apple season and can have a fun activity to do by going to a U-Pick apple orchid.

Why is my apple butter not thickening?

If your recipe still hasn’t thickened enough within the stated time, allow it to simmer on low until it reaches your desired consistency. Sometimes appliances don’t cook at the proper temperature, and this could be a cause for inconsistent cooking times. Also, apple butter will thicken more as it cools, so don’t be discouraged if it is a little thin. Just keep cooking it, and then let it cool to get that signature thick, deep brown consistency.

Top view of apple butter in 2 mason jars.

Now that you have this step-by-step tutorial for making apple butter at home, you’ll have a new seasonal tradition to share with your loved ones, create delicious recipes, and enjoy a simple, worthwhile spread with the best Fall flavors.

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How to Make Apple Butter

Learn how to make homemade apple butter with this easy-to-follow guide featuring the traditional stovetop method and the newer Instant Pot way.
5 from 2 votes
Servings 48 servings (2 tbsp)
Course Condiments
Calories 33
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 15 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 4 pounds apples 8-9 medium, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • teaspoon ground cloves
  • teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions

For the Stove

  • In a large, deep pot, combine apples and apple cider. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, then cover and simmer until the apples are soft, 25-30 minutes.
  • Transfer the apples to a blender and blend until mostly smooth.
  • Return the apple puree to the pot and add brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple butter has thickened to a jam-like texture and is the color of dark brown sugar, 75-90 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let cool completely and then refrigerate in an airtight container.

For the Instant Pot

  • Place apples and apple cider in the instant pot. Close and seal the instant pot and set for 15 minutes on high pressure. After the 15 minutes are up, allow the instant pot to vent completely before opening.
  • Transfer the apples to a food blender and blend until smooth.
  • Return the apples to the instant pot insert and add brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Switch instant pot to the saute setting and bring apple mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple butter has reduced to a thick jam-texture and is the color of dark brown sugar, 75-90 minutes.
  • Remove the instant pot insert from the instant pot and stir in the lemon juice. Let cool completely and then refrigerate in an airtight container.

Notes

Yields 3 cups.

Nutrition

Calories: 33kcal, Carbohydrates: 9g, Protein: 0.1g, Fat: 0.1g, Saturated Fat: 0.01g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.02g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.003g, Sodium: 7mg, Potassium: 54mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 21IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 5mg, Iron: 0.1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

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2 small glass jars with a spoon lifting some from the jar in foreground.

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