Apple Butter · GF (about 6 cups)

The secret to great apple butter is to use mix of fresh and dried apples slow cooked in cider and, if you’re feeling frisky, a little applejack.

Dried apples have a concentrated flavor that, ounce for ounce, fresh apples (loaded with water) just can’t provide. Anyone with a trace of Appalachian heritage knows you can make a phenomenally intense apple butter from 100% dried apples. But unless you can dry the apples yourself, the ones you purchase will only come in one variety and thus only one flavor. By using a few different varieties of the fresh fruit, you’ll have an array of apple flavors coming together in one unforgettable butter.

homemade apple butter

If you’d like to skip the fresh apples, omit them and use 2 pounds of dried apples instead.

3 pounds fresh apples, peels on, cored and chopped
1/2 pound dried apple rings, chopped
1 gallon apple cider
optional: 4 ounces applejack
2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, seeds reserved
16 ounces sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
optional: 1, 3” cinnamon stick

In a large stock pot, combine the apples, dried apples, cider, applejack if using, and vanilla bean pods. The dried apples will absorb the cider and plump considerably, so please use a pot with plenty of room to spare.

Set the pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced by half or more and the apples seem to be swimming in a very thick stew. This could take between two and four hours, depending on the width of your pot, specific heat, and commitment to babysitting the mixture.

When the mixture has become thick, add the reserved vanilla seeds, sugar, salt and cinnamon stick, if using. The sugar will dissolve and return the mixture to a more liquidy state. Continue simmering for about another hour, or until the apples and liquid have become very dark in color and as thick as before you added the sugar.

Now remove the vanilla bean pods (don’t forget to scrape out the apple-y vanilla goo from inside the pod) and cinnamon stick. Puree the apples with an immersion blender, or in a food processor.

Immediately spread over a thick slice of butter-buttered bread, grab a mug of tea, and bliss out.

Transfer the apple butter to jars. Store, refrigerated, indefinitely.


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Any questions?

Dec 12, 2011 ·  5:04 PM

Oh apple rings…I am addicted to them, but definitely see your point in the concentrated flavor they’ll provide. Yum!

 · Nelly Rodriguez ·

Dec 12, 2011 ·  7:36 PM

I would have never thought to include dried apples! Thanks for the tip!

 · Jessica ·

Dec 12, 2011 ·  9:38 PM

I have never had apple butter, but have a jar waiting patiently This looks delicious, especially with the dried apples!

 · Kiri W. ·

Dec 12, 2011 · 10:34 PM

@Nelly, apple rings are so good chopped up in granola!! Apple FTW!

@Jessica, in many parts of Kentucky, it’s considered a waste to make apple butter with fresh apples because the flavor from the dried apples is so much stronger. But I love the complexity a variety of fresh apples can bring. But if you want one, strong, intense note of APPLE, go for the all dried version.

@Kiri, that jar is lonely fill it up!


Dec 12, 2011 · 11:10 PM

Dried apples. Brilliant..

 · Tom · 

Dec 13, 2011 · 12:56 AM

Genius. My apple butter was much too thin and this makes perfect sense! You’re recipe looks great, can’t wait to try it.

 · BigFatBaker ·

Dec 13, 2011 ·  2:16 AM

I actually had a recipe today that called for apple butter and I said to my daughter that I wished I had a recipe. Now I do! Thank you, this one is going in my files!

 · Kim - Liv Life ·

Dec 13, 2011 ·  3:09 AM

Yummy, I’ve never made this before but I can’t wait to try it, thanks for sharing

 · Food Lover ·

Dec 13, 2011 ·  7:48 AM

I love applebutter. When my son was smaller, we used to share saltines with applebutter spread on them. Yours looks perfect!

 · momdecuisine ·

Dec 13, 2011 · 10:47 AM

@Tom, throughout Appalachia, that’s the most traditional way to make apple butter. Most of the old timey recipes instruct you to wash the dried apple slices, because they would have been tried on a tin roof and littered with leaves and bugs, etc. Glad to skip that step…

@BigFatBaker, the key, if nothing else, is to cook until it begins to change color. But also, leaving the skins on the apples lets them contribute their pectin which also helps with the body of the butter. The food processor will blitz them into smithereens so you won’t have to worry about pieces of peel in the final product either.

@Kim, perfect timing!!

@Food Lover, I hope you do! Sooo good over toast, stirred into oatmeal or spread into cinnamon rolls. Bliss.

@momdecuisine, oh man, my Mom totally raised me on Saltines too! They’re the perfect comfort cracker.


Dec 14, 2011 ·  7:08 PM

I think I know a certain vegan friend who will be getting some of this for Christmas!

 · Dana ·

Dec 15, 2011 ·  6:08 PM

This is going to make some great holiday gifts. Thanks for posting it. I can’t wait to get to the Farmers Market.

 · Valerie ·

Dec 15, 2011 ·  6:24 PM

@Dana, this same recipe works wonderfully with pears too! Your kitchen is going to smell sooo good….

@Valerie, another gift giver! Have fun at the market!


Jan 03, 2012 ·  8:40 PM

Can you tell me how many jars this makes. Thanks in Advance. I really want to make this, and need to get some jars.

 · Dawn · 

Jan 03, 2012 · 10:20 PM

@Dawn, it depends on what size jars you use of course, but it makes six cups which would be three pint-jars. Enjoy!!


Feb 29, 2012 ·  6:00 PM

What is applejack?

 · Donali · 

Feb 29, 2012 ·  7:42 PM

@Donali, applejack is a distilled apple liquor, or sometimes made from concentrated hard apple cider. One of America’s oldest liquors! Read more about it here.


Jul 09, 2013 ·  5:05 PM

I have looked all over my town for Applrjack or an apple brandy. There isn’t any available. Is there a substitute or should I just leave it out?

 · Cynthia W · 

Jul 10, 2013 ·  7:11 PM

Hi Cynthia! You can use an equal weight of apple juice or cider, or leave it out altogether. It’s only in there for a bonus dimension of apple flavor, you won’t really lose anything by leaving it out. Hope you like it!


Oct 29, 2013 ·  8:56 PM

This looks wonderful Stella! Just wondering, considering the long “babysitting” period, do you think this could be prepared in a slow cooker?

 · Uchujin · 

Oct 30, 2013 ·  5:13 PM

Hello, my space going friend! Believe it or not, I’ve never used a slow cooker (we have a tiny kitchen, so no extra appliances for us). Can you use it with the lid off? If so, I imagine that would be a great option, otherwise I don’t think the mixture would be able to reduce as it should.


Nov 03, 2013 · 11:17 PM

Hi Stella, I have an update for you. I made your Apple Butter this weekend, and the results were spectacular. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I used a mixture of Granny Smith, Fuji, and Gala apples – sorry, no dried apples on hand. I also did not have any Applejack Brandy, but happened to have a bottle of Travis Hasse’s Apple Pie Liqueur, which I used instead.

I tried the slow cooker (with the lid off), and after 3 hours of simmering (on high setting), it just wasn’t getting hot enough, so I transitioned over to a large stock pot on the stove. My only issue was knowing when it was done. I didn’t want it to be too “runny,” so I erred on the conservative side and cooked it for a long time. The end result was a beautiful, dark, apple butter; and perhaps it was my imagination, but I think it became quite a bit thicker as it cooled. My (Japanese) wife had never tried Apple Butter before, and she just loved it – oishii desu ne!

 · Uchujin · 

Nov 05, 2013 · 10:19 AM

Hi Uchujin! Thanks for reporting in on the slow cooker experience! I haven’t heard of that Apple Pie Liquor before, but it’s on my radar now. Without the dried apples (which are hyper absorbent, like little sponges) I imagine the apple butter probably took longer for you than indicated in the recipe. But as you discovered, apple butter is happy to be made with almost any configuration of fruit. And it’s not your mind playing tricks on you, thanks to all the pectin in the apples, the apple butter does indeed thicken as it cools. Happy your wife enjoyed it too; I’ve actually been meaning to try the apple butter as a filling for a Japanese style bread, like anpan. Appurupan, I suppose.


Dec 20, 2015 ·  2:19 AM

Hi Stella
Love your site and am just starting to transition to baking and cooking by weight instead of volume. I would like to be able to print out your recipes but find I am not able to do so, if there something I am missing?

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Sep 10, 2017 ·  5:20 PM

I made this recipe yesterday in a 7.5 quart Le Creuset dutch oven using dried apples from Trader Joe’s and a combination of 1/3 granny smith and 2/3 gala for the fresh apples. I had to cook them for about 5 or 6 hours before they cooked down to half, and then after the additional hour and the blending, the apple butter still came out much more runny than in your photo, and I ended up with 11 cups. I’m wondering if there are better varieties of fresh apples that can be used to achieve the thicker texture? It still tastes good, but I’m thinking the flavor is probably twice as concentrated in your version.

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