How to Make Applesauce

Making applesauce at home is easier than you think: and it skips the extra sugars of the store bought kind! Here’s how to make applesauce.

How to Make Applesauce

Apple picking is synonymous with fall here in the Midwest. What’s October without a good trip to the apple orchard? Alex and I brought in a haul of apples from a local orchard with our son Larson the other day. Our family favorite applesauce recipe is so, so tasty and uses only natural sugars. So of course, we had to share this classic fall recipe. Ready to get started?

Got an Instant Pot? Try our Quick Instant Pot Applesauce instead!

Homemade Applesauce

Important: use your favorite apple variety!

A very important note before we start: use nothing but your favorite cooking apple variety in this applesauce! The flavor of homemade applesauce is 100% dependent on the type of apple you use. Alex and I love tart apples, so our favorite varieties are Macintosh, Jonathon, Ida Red, and Honeycrisp. Make sure that you’re using an apple variety where you like the flavor raw! This makes sure you’ll like the flavor of your applesauce.

How to make applesauce: a tutorial

What to do with pounds of apples? Make applesauce, of course! (And lots of other apple recipes.) I grew up making applesauce from the tree in our backyard. My family always set aside a few days to cook down mountains of apples and freeze the sauce for the winter. Maybe because it was such an involved affair, I didn’t think applesauce could be easy until I started making it as an adult. Not only is it simple to make, if you have the right apples, you need no extra ingredients (except water and salt)! Here’s how to make applesauce.

Or: If you have an Instant Pot, go to Instant Pot Applesauce!

Step 1: Core and chop the apples (no need to peel!).

Wash, core and chop 4 pounds of sweet cooking apples, leaving the skin on if you’d like (see below for pros and cons). Use your absolute favorite cooking apple variety! We recommend sweet tart varieties like Macintosh, Jonathon, Ida Red or Honeycrisp.

Should you leave the apple skin on for applesauce? We do! But it depends on your preferences of prep time, equipment, and applesauce color.

  • Leave the apple skins on. Leaving the skins makes for fast prep, since you don’t have to spend time peeling them. Even better, cooking with the apple skins gives the applesauce a rosy color! The tradeoff is that you’ll have to food process (or blend) and then strain out the skins, or use a food mill. To us, this is worth it and we leave the skins on.
  • Peel the apple skins. If you prefer, you can peel the apple skins. It takes more time upfront to peel the apples, but you won’t have to food process or strain at the end. You also don’t need special equipment: you can mash with a potato masher. Using this method, the applesauce will be more of a yellow-ish brown color.
How to Make Applesauce: Chop the Apples

Step 2: Add the apples to a pot with water and cook.

Place the apple pieces in a large pot or Dutch oven with 3/4 cup water. Add a cinnamon stick and kosher salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and cook until the apples are soften, about 30 to 35 minutes. Check the pot several times, stirring and mashing down the apples. When the apples are cooked down, turn off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick.

Step 3: Blend or mash the applesauce (see below).

Once you get to the blending or mashing, there are a few options depending on whether you’ve chosen to leave on the skins and what your equipment is!

  • Chunky applesauce: Mash down the apples with a potato masher. If you left the skins on, you can remove the apple skins with a fork. But it’s easiest to do a chunky applesauce if you peel the apples first, so that’s what we recommend.
  • Smooth applesauce (shown in photos): Run the applesauce through a food processor (or blender) until it’s smooth but still has texture. Then pass it through a strainer to remove any pieces of the peel. Another option is to pass it through a food mill, which quickly removes the peel. (This is my family’s method, but not everyone has a food mill these days!) 
How to make applesauce: Strain it

Step 4: Taste.

We were surprised to find that the apples we used were so sweet that the sauce was perfect without any added sweetener!  It all depends on the type of apple you use, so you can add a bit of maple syrup at the end to your liking. However, “au natural” was perfect for us (and it tasted nothing like the “natural” brands in the stores)!

More apple recipes we made? This tasty apple crisp and these apple streusel muffins (plus a vegan version).

How to make homemade applesauce

This applesauce recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free.

Print
How to Make Applesauce

How to Make Applesauce


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (10 votes, average: 4.80 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Description

Making applesauce at home is easier than you think: and it skips the extra sugars of the store bought kind! Here’s how to make applesauce.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds sweet cooking apples (for example, Macintosh)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or ground cinnamon to flavor at the end)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Maple syrup (optional — we don’t use it!)

Instructions

  1. Prep the apples: Core and dice the apples. Leave on the skins (for an applesauce with a rosy color), or if you’d like, peel the apples (it’s easier to make chunky applesauce this way; see Step 3).
  2. Cook the apples: Place the apple pieces in a large pot or Dutch oven with the water. Add the cinnamon stick and kosher salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and cook until the apples are soften, about 30 to 35 minutes. Check the pot several times, stirring and mashing down the apples. When the apples are cooked down, turn off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick.
  3. To make a chunky applesauce, mash down the apples with a potato masher. If you left the skins on, remove the apple skins with a fork (it’s easiest to do a chunky applesauce if you peel the apples first). 
  4. To make a smooth applesauce, use one of the two methods: run the applesauce through a food processor (or blender) until it’s smooth but still has texture. Then pass it through a strainer to remove any pieces of the peel. Another option is to pass it through a food mill, which quickly removes the peel. 
  5. Taste: depending on the type of apples, the apple sauce will likely be sweet enough as is. If not, add a drizzle of maple syrup. If you didn’t use a cinnamon stick, you also can add stir in a few pinches of ground cinnamon to taste.

  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: How to make applesauce, Homemade applesauce recipe,

Apple picking
Apple picking is a family tradition for us (here’s me and our son Larson)! Is it in your family?

Looking for more apple recipes?

If you’ve got lots of apples, we’re here to help! Here are the best apple recipes we’d recommend:

Last updated: October 2019

Subscribe for free weekly recipes & more!

About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

22 Comments

  • Reply
    Ken G.
    October 12, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    We found that if you put the sliced apples, honey and cinnamon in the microwave, yes I know it’s a dirty word, but you can omit the water and the flavor is not diluted. Makes terrific apple sauce.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      October 13, 2011 at 9:47 am

      Wow, I didn’t know about this trick! (I agree microwave can be a dirty word, but sometimes it’s necessary :) ) How long do you microwave for?

      • Reply
        Ken G.
        October 13, 2011 at 6:30 pm

        We microwave about 10 cups of peeled and sliced apples for 5-7 minutes (covered of course), stir then back in for another 5-7. The time varies with microwaves as you well know, but it is very easy to get the texture one prefers by monitoring. We only add two cinnamon sticks before cooking, then add the honey and/or sugar and ground cinnamon after to taste. This is a tried and true recipe thanks to the annual bounty from the family gravenstein tree. We have three freezers (mine, sister’s, mom’s) full of the stuff!

        • Reply
          Sonja
          October 15, 2011 at 4:12 pm

          How interesting! I think I may have to try this with our leftover apples – thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    Lauren @ Healthy Food For Living
    October 13, 2011 at 6:56 am

    I love that you didn’t add any sugar to the sauce! Apples are perfectly sweet on their own, and this recipe sounds fantastic =).

    • Reply
      Sonja
      October 13, 2011 at 9:48 am

      Thanks! We actually heard about not needing to add sugar from Alex’s mom and sisters — and I was amazed too! It depends on the apple, but we loved it just as it was :)

  • Reply
    Karen
    October 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I can easily eat an entire jar of Motts Applesauce. Definitely want to try this.

  • Reply
    penandra
    October 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    I make mine in the slow cooker with no water — my Mom used to can hers (instead of the freezer), and she would add some of those “red hots” (small cinnamon candies) to about 1/3 of the jars . . .

  • Reply
    Ashley
    October 13, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    I LOVE the pink color. Beautiful. My mom makes the best applesauce. It’s a dark, muddy color from all the spices she adds. She uses very little sugar, if any, so the tartness packs a lovely punch.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      October 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      Thank you — we weren’t sure how much leaving the skins on would affect the color, but it did make for a nice pink! Spices sound delicious – we’ll have to try adding some next time!

  • Reply
    rachelsdigestif
    October 14, 2011 at 12:22 am

    I love making homemade applesauce…but have yet to do so this fall. This has sparked some inspiration!

  • Reply
    anna
    October 14, 2011 at 1:39 am

    Hi! I am fortunate to read your blog just in time after receiving a box of red apples (a gift from a friend, who I happened to help by recommending a good speech therapy school for her little boy…)
    My mom says the variety is Worcester or Pearmein. She added they are good variety but don’t keep well. Do you think these apples will be the good kind for your recipe?
    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      October 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm

      Oh, perfect! I did some research and found that Worcester Pearmain is an early-season English apple with a sweet and sometimes strawberry flavor. That said, I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be a good kind to use for the recipe! And there’s only one way to find out… let us know if you give it a try!

  • Reply
    MrsMudd
    October 15, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Well, having gotten the recipe from my aunt….who always made freezer applesauce…we use the old-fashioned, but very efficient combo apple corer-peeler for prep…then slowly cook the apples…no need to slice…we like lumpy, and use the potato hand masher to finish them when they soften…leaves a wonderful texture…and yes, we threw in some red hots…which provided a tiny bit of sugar in their own right, a wonderful pink color overall, and the bite of hot cinnamon. Yum!

  • Reply
    Gracie
    November 3, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    When I saw this post, I was flooded with fond memories of my mom making applesauce every fall using the apples from a tree in our yard. I considered giving it a go, but decided I’d pass. About two days later, I printed the recipe. I have made five batches since then. Everyone from babies to my boyfriend to my coworkers have eaten it and loved it. The little containers bring a smile to their faces. Thanks for posting it. I plan to make a batch tonight, with hopes of finally putting a few containers in the freezer for myself. :)

    • Reply
      Sonja
      November 3, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      What a wonderful story – thank you for sharing! I’m so glad you decided to make it, and that it could be a fun reminder of childhood for you too! :) Good luck and I hope you get to enjoy some too!

  • Reply
    Bri
    December 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Yum! I started experimenting with homemade applesauce. Last couple times I went to Costco and bought a large bag of red delicious apples.

    I use a crock pot and essentially peel and cut up the apples, drop them in, add a bit of vanilla and water, then let them cook all day. :) The entire apartment smells delicious all day!

    I also make a dessert applesauce, where I add in white and brown sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon (along with some water). It tastes like apple pie filling, and is great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream ;)

  • Reply
    karl
    September 4, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I am a young mom and find my family caught up in a busy life. I wanted to start creating special memory’s and moments for our kids. We started visiting our local orchard and was surprised at how we all enjoyed the day. We now look forward to the start of Sept. and lucky for us we are close enough to make several trips a season. I am not really that great in kitchen but love experimenting with the kids. Came across your recipe and am so excited to give it a try. Sometimes the thought of homemade can be so intimidating, thank you so much for posting an easy recipe. Loved reading all the great posts with good tips, add ins, and great memory’s.

  • Reply
    Lesley Tate
    February 22, 2014 at 5:28 am

    I live in Ireland and really the only apples cheap enough to use are cooking apples, alsi known as crab apples here. They are so bitter I would have to sweeten and I only use honey. Is the apple sauce ok to freeze with the honey added or should I make the sauce without the honey and add it later to a thawed serving ?

    • Reply
      Sonja
      February 22, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      Hi Lesley! Great question. I would think you could go ahead and freeze with the honey. We’ve never tried it, but I would’t think it would hurt. Give it a try and let us know how it turned out!

    • Reply
      Jerome
      November 13, 2015 at 11:46 am

      Freezing the apples sauce with honey added would have no effect on the honey. Frozen honey when thawed is still honey and its qualities are not at all diminished. I raise honey bees and my honey is stored in the freezer if I’m not able to extract it immediately and then thawed for extraction. If you think about honey in a bee hive over the winter, in northern climates, it freezes but is still used by the bees and they are able to survive winter.

  • Reply
    Jerome
    November 13, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Instead of water in the above recipe you can substitute APPLE CIDER. This helps cook the apples without watering down the flavor. You can leave the cores and stems in the apples if you run them through a Victorio Strainer.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.