Unsweetened applesauce is a key item in any whole-foods kitchen, and it’s worthwhile to make at home, especially during apple season. So many people have apple trees that they don’t harvest, so if you don’t have your own, it’s worth asking around to see if anyone wants to share theirs.
When I lived in Canada we did a ‘fruit share’ where we picked the fruit and shared the harvest between the harvesters, the people who owned the trees, and a food bank, and it was great. In Gothenburg and other cities we’ve lived, people put out baskets of windfall apples – which can also be used for this applesauce – and you’ll likely see that in other towns and cities, too.
There’s such an abundance of apples in autumn, everywhere you look, and it really is too easy to make your own applesauce from fruit that’s found locally and cheaply, or even for free. There’s nothing better. Make it and then use said applesauce in apple cake, vegan apple muffins, or to serve with potato pancakes.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Apples: for this recipe you’ll want to use a sweet eating apple with a thin skin, not a tart apple. Boskoop, Elstar, anything that you’d eat without cooking, will all be good. Something like granny smith is a bad choice.
- Lemon juice: this is optional but will prevent browning and keep the colour of the sauce nice.
- Add-ins: if you want to add spices, stir them in after pureeing the sauce to keep their flavour strongest. Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves are all excellent, to your taste.
Step by Step
Step 1: wash and core the apples, then cut into chunks (this speeds up the cooking process). No need to peel.
Step 2: add the water and lemon juice, then cook, covered, until the apples are soft.
Step 3: remove from the heat and purée until smooth.
Step 4: cool fully before storing in the refrigerator or freezer.
I haven’t included canning instructions here because the applesauce doesn’t have any sugar and I don’t think it’s enough lemon juice – if you even use it – to make it safe to can normally. If you have a pressure canner I’m certain that could be used, but you do, then you already know how to can!
Of course I have canned unsweetened applesauce before, but it doesn’t last very long, and it’s easier to freeze if you have the space.
You can use this applesauce to cook down further into apple butter. It is plenty sweet enough if you use a good sweet apple that there’s no need to add any honey or sugar. Follow the same method as for crab apple butter.
If you don’t have an immersion blender, instead use a standing blender (after the sauce has cooled fully), a food mill, or press the cooked apples through a fine sieve. You could even use a potato masher or fork for a slightly chunkier applesauce. A food processor can be used in a pinch but again, make sure the sauce is cooled fully.
How to Store
Storage: keep the applesauce in a clean container in the fridge for about a week. It will last longer if stored in a sterilised glass jar, but if you see any sign of mould or discolouration, toss it.
Freezing: transfer fully cooled applesauce to an airtight container and freeze for up to six months. Thaw in the refrigerator before use. I freeze it in canning jars, making sure to leave at least 4cm headspace, but be careful as not all glass jars are suitable for such temperature changes.
- Don’t peel the fruit: much of the fibre and vitamins are in the skin of apples, and it’s worth keeping on for that alone. The skin will also add a bit of colour to the sauce and isn’t noticeable after blending if using a good eating apple with a thin skin.
- Cool before blending: if using a large blender or anything not meant to be used with hot ingredients, make sure to cool the cooked apples completely before blending.
- Don’t skip the water: a splash of water is added simply to prevent the apples from sticking to the bottom of the pot during cooking, and doesn’t diminish the flavour of the fruit.
- Increase the recipe: if you want to make more, increase the amounts as needed to do so. This makes about 400 grams, or close to two cups. If working with weights, you’ll need about one part water for every ten parts apples (e.g. 100g water for 1kg fruit).
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- 500 grams apples
- 50 ml water
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice ½ a lemon
- Wash the apples well, then core and roughly chop. Place in a large pot, then add the water and lemon juice.500 grams apples, 50 ml water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Heat over medium-high to bring the mixture to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, for about ten minutes.
- Once the apples are very soft, remove from the heat. Purée with an immersion blender or wait for the mixture to cool and blend in a blender or mash by hand.
- Store applesauce in the refrigerator for up to a week for freeze for several months.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.