Apple Butter

Favorite FallCanningApplePreserves

Homemade apple butter recipe, complete with step-by step instructions. Apple butter spiced with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and lemon. Great on toast!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

It’s hard to find any apple butter, let alone good apple butter in the grocery store these days. Making apple butter is a great way to preserve the fruits of an apple harvest.

In contrast to what the name implies, there is no “butter” in apple butter. The name comes from its smooth and buttery texture.

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Apple butter is delicious on buttered toast. Although apple butter takes time to make (the sauce is slow cooked for at least an hour), the upfront part is easy. You do not have to peel or core the apples.

Apple Butter

The pectin for firming up the resulting jam resides mostly in the cores and there is a lot of flavor in the apple peels. After the first cooking, these parts get discarded as the pulp is run through a food mill.

This recipe produces a traditional apple butter, which is both sweet and sour, the addition of cider vinegar just intensifying the flavor and giving it its tangy edge. It’s seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, allspice and lemon.

For more information on apple varieties, check out our Guide to Apples.

Apple Butter Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Makes a little more than 3 pint jars

Gravenstein are the best apples to use for apple butter, if you can find them. They usually ripen mid summer. Granny Smiths work well too.

This recipe produces an apple butter with a sweet and sour, deep rich flavor.



  • 4 pounds of good cooking apples (we use Granny Smith or Gravenstein)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sugar (about 4 cups, see cooking instructions)
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Special equipment:


Preparing the Fruit

1 Cut the apples into quarters, without peeling or coring them. (Much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels). Cut out damaged parts.

First Stage of Cooking

2 Cook the apples: Put the quartered apples into large pot, add the vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook until apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Purée apples and add the sugar and spices

3 Purée the apples through a food mill or chinois: Ladle apple mixture (cooked apples and liquid) into a chinois sieve (or food mill) and using a pestle force pulp from the chinois into a large bowl below.

4 Add sugar, spices, lemon zest, and juice: Measure resulting puree. Add 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add a dash of salt, and the cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, lemon rind and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Second Stage of Cooking

5 Cook the apple mixture, stirring often: Cook the apple sugar mixture uncovered in a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot on medium low heat, stirring often to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust is not forming at the bottom.

Cook until thick and smooth (about 1 to 2 hours). A small bit spooned onto a chilled (in the freezer) plate will be thick, not runny.

You can also cook the purée on low heat, stirring only occasionally, but this will take much longer as stirring encourages evaporation. (Note the wider the pan the better, as there is more surface for evaporation.)

As an alternative to stovetop cooking you can cook the purée uncovered in a microwave, on medium heat setting to simmer, for around 30 minutes. If you do this, monitor the cooking every 5 or 10 minutes. Microwaves vary in their power.


6 Sterilize canning jars: There are several ways to sterilize your jars for canning.

  • You can run them through a short cycle on your dishwasher.
  • You can place them in a large pot (12 quart) of water on top of a steaming rack (so they don't touch the bottom of the pan), and bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes.
  • Or you can rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.

7 Pour the apple butter into hot, sterilized jars and seal. If you plan to store the apple butter un-refrigerated, make sure to follow proper canning procedures.

Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids.

I use a hot water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.

As the jars cool, you should hear the lids "popping" as they seal the jars.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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404 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Apple lover

    Wow. I had high hopes for this and was apprehensive while adding the sugar, but did it anyway (although I reduced it a bit). After a huge amount of effort, I’m left with apple butter that’s so sweet I can barely eat it. Yes, it’s tangy, but it’s just… unbearably sweet? I’m not sure why you would do that to apples that are naturally sweet anyway. This is the first time I’m ever leaving a review because this recipe was so terrible.


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  2. Mark

    I made it exactly as the recipe calls but did double it up. Used a little over 8 lbs of Granny Smith apples we bought at a local orchard. It was a laborious project but nothing stuck to the bottom of the pots and nothing burned. It was a breeze processing the jars and all the lids are now snapped down. The taste is fantastic. I have never been a fan of apple butter before but this recipe has made me a believer. A slight tartness offsetting the sweetness. The spices aren’t overwhelming but compliment it perfectly.


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  3. kp

    Just made this with windfall eating apples from the garden. I thought they might not have enough flavour, but it tastes great, thanks for the recipe, will make again


  4. Bambi

    My apple butter came out wonderful I only changed the sugar because I am a diabetic, so I wanted to tell others that might wonder how to adjust it. I used one cup of dark brown sugar (little over) and three cups (little less) of Anthony’s Erythritol. Since it is only 70% as sweet as table sugar, it was just right for my taste. I did cook it longer mostly because of my schedule, I ended up canning it the next morning. It was great with a fork full I didn’t even loose a drop it is so thick.
    No after taste with this sugar if you have never tried it, in fact if you tasted mine you wouldn’t even know I used a substitute. Buy it on Amazon way cheap than the stores.

    Today I am making Pear Butter


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  5. Sylvia

    I don’t have a food mill. What can I use?

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