This Unsweetened Applesauce recipe is quick and easy to make using just 3 simple ingredients. It tastes better than store-bought and is the best way to use your freshly picked apples this fall!
Have you ever been apple picking? It's one of my favorite fall activities!
Every year, my fiancé and I visit a local orchard to pick our own apples, munch on cider donuts, and grab some fresh apple cider.
If you've never been, I highly recommend it.
Anyway, one of my favorite things to make with all of my farm-fresh apples is unsweetened applesauce! This homemade version tastes so much fresher and more flavorful than store-bought varieties.
I prefer to make unsweetened applesauce because I like the flavor and natural sweetness of the apples to shine through.
This basic recipe is essentially just apples. It's made with 3 ingredients (one of which is water) and is a great starting point for beginners to experiment with.
Today, I’m walking you through how to make the best unsweetened applesauce, including which ingredients to use, tips that guarantee it turns out right the first time, and some of my favorite ways to use this easy homemade apple puree.
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What are the Best Apples for Making Applesauce?
The best apples for making homemade applesauce are whichever apples are fresh, in-season, and locally available!
Whether you grow your own apples, pick them at an orchard, or grab some at a local farmers' market, each variety will bring something unique and special to your homemade applesauce.
Personally, I go apple picking every year and use a mix of tart and sweet apples to make my applesauce. Honeycrisp, Fuji, McIntosh, and Golden Delicious are popular choices.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Quick & Easy- Ready in just 35 minutes, this easy applesauce recipe is practically fool-proof. It's perfect for beginners just learning how to cook from scratch.
- Only 3 Ingredients- Just apples, lemon juice, and water are all you need to make your own unsweetened applesauce.
- Customizable- This easy unsweetened applesauce recipe is a great base for you to experiment with. Add cinnamon, vanilla, brown sugar, or any other flavors you'd like!
- Reduces Food Waste- Have a bunch of apples that your kids promised they'd eat, but then didn't? Turn them into applesauce!
- Fun for Kids- Making homemade applesauce is a fun way to get your kids involved in the kitchen. It's quick and easy, and makes for a tasty snack!
- Great for Gifting- I love giving friends and family a small jar of homemade applesauce as a gift during the holiday season.
Here are some notes on key ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Apples- When I make applesauce, I typically use a blend of whatever apples I pick at the orchard. Feel free to use sweet apple varieties, tart apple varieties, or a mix of both!
- Lemon Juice- The acidity of fresh lemon juice balances the natural sweetness of the apples. It also helps to preserve the color of the applesauce.
- Water- Just a splash of water is all that's needed to get the apples cooking. Once they begin simmering, the apples will release a lot of water on their own.
- Cinnamon (optional)- Cinnamon and apples are a classic pairing. I usually like to add a pinch of cinnamon to my unsweetened applesauce for a bit of warmth and flavor.
🌱 Sustainability Tip: Source in-season, fresh apples from a local farm or farmers' market to support your local economy and reduce food transportation miles.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ways you can try customizing this sugar-free applesauce to fit your diet and taste preferences.
- Apples- Swap apples for pears. Or use a blend of apples and pears for a slightly different flavor profile.
- Lemon Juice- Lime juice, orange juice, or apple cider vinegar can be used in place of lemon juice.
- Water- Substitute water with apple cider or apple juice for a more intense apple flavor.
- Cinnamon (optional)- Replace cinnamon with nutmeg or a warm spice blend, like pumpkin pie spice.
Variations and Mix-Ins
- Sweetened- Add up to ¼ cup of granulated sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey to give this applesauce a sweeter taste.
- Spiced- Use a blend of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice for a warmly spiced applesauce.
- Chai- Make a chai-inspired applesauce by mixing in a ¼ to ½ teaspoon of chai spice blend.
- Vanilla- A splash of vanilla extract or fresh vanilla beans can really take your homemade applesauce to the next level.
- Citrus- Grate some lemon or orange zest into your applesauce for a bright pop of citrus flavor.
Here are some notes on any special equipment I used to make this recipe.
- Potato Masher- I find a potato masher to be the easiest tool to mash the cooked apples. However, a fork, immersion blender, food mill, or food processor can also be used.
- Stainless Steel Pot- A heavy-bottomed, stainless steel pot is perfect for making applesauce because it heats evenly and is non-reactive to the acidic ingredients.
How to Make Unsweetened Applesauce
Here is how to make unsweetened applesauce from scratch.
Step 1: Prepare the apples. Peel, core, and dice the apples into ½-inch cubes. Place them into a large stainless steel pot.
Step 2: Bring to a simmer. Add the water and lemon juice to the pot with the apples. Heat the apples over medium heat, bringing the liquid to a simmer. Once it's simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot with a lid.
Step 3: Cook the apples. Let the apples cook for about 20 minutes or until they are very soft. Stir in the cinnamon, if using.
Step 4: Mash the apples. Using a potato masher, fork, or immersion blender, mash the apples until the applesauce reaches your desired consistency. If it's too watery, you can simmer it gently until it thickens.
Step 5: Serve or store. Serve the applesauce warm, or transfer it to a storage container to cool before serving.
Unsweetened Applesauce (Video)
Tips for Success
Make this homemade unsweetened applesauce recipe successfully the first time using these helpful kitchen tips.
- Use fresh, in-season apples. Fresh, in-season apples have the most intense apple flavor, which is perfect for making homemade applesauce.
- Try a blend of apples. Apples can be either tart or sweet. For a balanced flavor, use a few different varieties in your applesauce.
- Add flavor. In this recipe, I recommend adding a touch of cinnamon to give the applesauce a bit of warmth. However, feel free to add other flavors like vanilla extract, nutmeg, or cloves.
- Choose your consistency. If you prefer a smoother applesauce, mash it well with a potato masher or use an immersion blender. For a chunkier applesauce, use a fork and leave a few apple pieces whole.
- Freeze for longer storage. Every October, I make a big batch of applesauce after I go apple picking. It freezes well and is a welcome treat in the middle of winter.
How to Use Homemade Applesauce
Of course, applesauce is delicious on its own. It is often enjoyed as a snack by kids and adults alike. But, what else can you do with applesauce?
Applesauce can add moistness and sweetness to baked goods, like muffins, quick breads, and cakes. It can also act as a fat replacer to help you cut down on butter and oil in baking.
One of my favorite ways to use homemade applesauce is as a topping for oatmeal, yogurt, pancakes, and waffles. It adds sweetness and can be used to replace sugar and syrup.
Finally, turn unsweetened applesauce into flavorful homemade condiments, such as BBQ sauce, glaze, marinade, or salad dressing. It pairs especially well with pork dishes.
How to Store
- Refrigerator- Store homemade applesauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
- Freezer- For longer storage, freeze applesauce for 6-9 months in a freezer-safe plastic bag or storage container.
- Canning- According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, homemade applesauce may be canned using either a water bath canner or a pressure canner. Always follow proper canning procedures when canning homemade food.
One of my favorite fall activities is making a big batch of homemade applesauce after picking my own apples at a local orchard.
Since applesauce can easily be frozen or canned, it's perfect for making ahead!
I like to make enough to last me until the next apple season. Then, I store it in small portions that I can defrost for snacking, baking, and more.
🎁 Edible Gift Idea: Homemade applesauce is a thoughtful and delicious edible food gift. Either can it before gifting or instruct friends and family to freeze within one week.
Frequently Asked Questions
Since this applesauce contains no added sugar, it's a good alternative to sweetened applesauce.
Technically, no! If you prefer a chunkier applesauce and don't mind the texture of the apple peel, you can certainly leave them in. It will make the process less labor-intensive. However, it can be trickier to use applesauce with peels for baking.
Yes, applesauce can be overcooked. If you let the apples become too mushy, the texture of your applesauce might become off-putting. Additionally, overcooked apples will have less flavor.
If your applesauce is too tart, add one tablespoon of sugar at a time to balance the flavor. On the other hand, if your applesauce tastes too sweet, add a little more lemon juice.
Apples turn brown because of a process called oxidation. The lemon juice is added to this applesauce to help slow down the oxidation process. However, if your applesauce turns brown despite the lemon juice, it's still safe to eat.
- 6 medium (about 2 pounds) apples any variety
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon optional
- Peel, core, and dice the apples into ½-inch cubes. Place them into a large stainless steel pot.6 medium (about 2 pounds) apples
- Add the water and lemon juice to the pot with the apples. Heat the apples over medium heat, bringing the liquid to a simmer. Once it's simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot with a lid.¼ cup water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Let the apples cook for about 20 minutes or until they are very soft. Stir in the cinnamon, if using.¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Using a potato masher, fork, or immersion blender, mash the apples until the applesauce reaches your desired consistency. If it's too watery, you can simmer it gently until it thickens.
- Serve the applesauce warm, or transfer it to a storage container to cool before serving.
- Quick Tip: Use a variety of in-season apples for the best flavor.
- Storage: Store homemade applesauce in the refrigerator for up to one week or freeze for 6-9 months.