Homemade apple butter is easier to make than you think! Fresh apples are cooked down into a thick spread with cozy fall spices, brown sugar, and vanilla. Slather it on all the things, or just eat it with a spoon!

Apple butter in a small jar with spoon.

A lot of people shy away from recipes like apple butter and other homemade spreads like our healthy mixed berry jam and bacon jam because they assume they involve canning. Which, let’s be real, is a lot of work. And if you do it wrong: botulism! No one wants a side of botulism with their apple butter.

Well, you’ll be happy to learn that you don’t have to know how to can to make homemade apple butter—or any other jam or jelly, for that matter. Instead, you can just make a smaller batch that you can use up before it spoils. No canning required! 

About this recipe

So now that we’ve calmed your canning anxiety, let’s talk about this cozy apple butter recipe. It’s the perfect thing to make after you’ve gone apple picking and you’ve got a few pounds of apples to use up, and unlike apple pies and pastries, it’s practically effortless to make.

Peel the apples, put the ingredients in a pot, and let everything simmer until the apples break down into a thick, saucy butter. (It goes without saying that your house will smell amaaaazing when you make this.) 

Once you try this recipe, you’ll want to make it your new fall tradition! Maybe you’ll even be inspired to try canning? Or maybe you’ll just make it again and again all season long! Try using it to make these apple butter pancakes!

Thick apple spread in a jar.

What you need

  • Granny Smith apples – Granny Smith apples have a nice, tart flavor, but you can use another variety like Honeycrisp, Braeburn, or Pink Lady. Just keep in mind that these are sweeter, so you may want to use a touch less sugar.
  • Water
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pumpkin pie spice – This is a little shortcut that keeps you from having to measure out a bunch of individual spices!
  • Ground ginger
  • Light brown sugar – You can also use dark brown sugar for a deeper color and more molasses-y taste.
  • Vanilla extract – Or, you can use a vanilla bean; scrape the seeds into the apple mixture and then add the pod. Remove the pod once the apple butter is finished cooking.
Ingredients needed including granny smith apples.

How to make it

Combine the ingredients. In a large Dutch oven or pot, combine the peeled and cored apples, water, apple cider vinegar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and ginger. 

Uncooked apples in a large pan.

Tip: Want to make this in a crockpot? Add these ingredients to your slow cooker and cook on low for 10 hours, then mash the apples, stir in the remaining ingredients, and cook on low uncovered for another 2 hours.

Cook. Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for about 25 minutes, or until the apples are very soft, stirring occasionally.

Cooked apples in pot.

Mash the apples. Once the apples are soft, use a whisk to stir the mixture until the apples are broken down into a sauce. 

Finish. Add the brown sugar and vanilla extract and stir to incorporate. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is dark brown in color and thick, about 15 minutes.

Apple butter on a spoon.

Cool and store. Let the apple butter cool, then ladle it into jars. 

Three jars of apple butter.

FAQs

Why is it called apple butter?

Apple butter gets its name from its buttery-smooth texture. (And no, there’s no butter involved in making apple butter!)

What is the difference between apple butter and jam or jelly?

Apple butter isn’t gelled like a jam or jelly because it’s not made with added pectin. Another difference between apple jelly and apple butter is that jelly is made with apple juice, while apple butter is made with the whole fruit.

What is the difference between apple butter and applesauce?

Apple butter is a concentrated form of applesauce. Basically, it’s applesauce that’s cooked longer, so it has more depth of flavor and a smoother texture.

How to use homemade apple butter

Here are some of our favorite ways to use this:

  • Make healthy breakfast parfaits. Layer vanilla Greek yogurt with apple butter and granola for a fall-inspired breakfast parfait.
  • Give your pancakes and waffles an upgrade. Instead of topping buttermilk pancakes or waffles with maple syrup, spoon your homemade apple butter over the top.
  • Add it to all the things. It is the best topping for toast, English muffins, biscuits, and scones.

Storage Suggestions

Store in an airtight container or mason jar for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

More apple recipes for fall

Homemade apple butter in a small jar with spoon.

Get the Recipe: Apple Butter

Homemade apple butter is easier to make than you think! Fresh apples are cooked down into a thick spread with cozy fall spices, brown sugar, and vanilla.
5 from 2 votes

Ingredients

  • 6 granny smith apples (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

  • Peel and core the granny smith apples and place them in a large pot or dutch oven.
  • Pour in the water and apple cider vinegar. Sprinkle in the salt, pumpkin spice and ginger and mix.
  • Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the apples are very soft, about 25 minutes.
  • Using a whisk, stir the cooked apples around until the apples become a sauce.
  • Add the brown sugar and vanilla extract to the pot, stir, and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the sauce has thickened to and becomes dark brown, about 15 minutes.
  • Let cool before storing.

Notes

  • Store in an airtight container or mason jar for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Calories: 123kcal, Carbohydrates: 31g, Protein: 0.3g, Fat: 0.2g, Saturated Fat: 0.1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g, Sodium: 202mg, Potassium: 138mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 27g, Vitamin A: 50IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 26mg, Iron: 0.4mg