How to Make Apple Butter for an Amazing Taste of Fall All Year

Extend the life of your freshly picked produce with our easy recipe for apple butter—and you'll never need to buy a jar from the store again.

A smear of homemade apple butter is an easy, delicious way to give plain toast a flavor of fall. If you're prone to buying a jar every season, we're here to show you how to make apple butter in your own kitchen. Not only is homemade apple butter super tasty, but it is also super easy to make. Grab a few extra pounds of apples on your next trip to the orchard or farmers market because once you start making apple butter from scratch, you'll want to put it on everything. We've also included tips for making batches of slow cooker apple butter as well as canning apple butter to gift to a friend (or stock up for later).

two bowls of oatmeal topped with nuts, dried fruit, and apple butter
Karla Conrad

How to Make Apple Butter

If you've made homemade applesauce before, you can absolutely make apple butter from scratch. The process starts the same way (slowly cooking apples), but apple butter is cooked longer with warm spices to achieve a thicker consistency and more concentrated apple flavor. Most apple butter recipes are similar, but we'll be referring to our Test Kitchen's trusty apple butter recipe for this guide.

Step 1: Cook Apples on the Stove Top

Core and quarter tart cooking apples (don't forget to wash them first). There's no need to peel them. Add the apples to an 8- to 10-quart heavy pot ($75, Walmart) with apple cider or apple juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Best Apples for Apple Butter

Tart apple varieties our Test Kitchen recommends for this spiced apple butter include Granny Smith (the tartest of all), Cortland, Cameo, Idared, Jonathan, Jonagold, and McIntosh.

Step 2: Press Apples

Place a food mill ($56, Bed Bath & Beyond) or fine-mesh sieve ($13, Target) over a large bowl. Carefully press the cooked apples through until you have 7½ cups. (You can discard any larger apple peels that didn't cook down and enjoy any leftover mixture beyond the 7½ cups as applesauce.) Return pulp to pot.

Step 3: Simmer the Apple Butter

Add granulated sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon to the pot with the apple pulp. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, uncovered, over very low heat 1½ to 1¾ hours or until very thick, stirring often to prevent sticking. You'll know the apple butter is ready to ladle into jars when it has thickened enough to mound on a spoon.

Step 4: Serve and Store Apple Butter

Once your homemade apple butter is done you've got a couple of options: enjoy it now or can it for later (more on this next). If you decide to enjoy it right away, keep the leftovers stored in jars or airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

How to Make Apple Butter in a Slow Cooker

It's also super easy to learn how to make apple butter in your trusty slow cooker. The steps are similar to the above (as well as canning tips below), only you'll peel the apples first and use less liquid since it'll be cooked slowly over low heat to release its natural juices. Try our spiced slow-cooker apple butter recipe.

Test Kitchen Tip: Don't have enough apples for the recipe? Try our apple-pear butter!

Apple-Pear Butter
Carson Downing

How to Can Apple Butter

Since our apple butter recipe makes 3 pints (or 6 half-pints), it's a good idea to preserve your sweet spread. Canned apple butter should remain fresh for up to a year. To make it, follow these steps:

  1. Ladle hot apple butter into sterilized jars, leaving a ¼-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids and screw bands.
  2. Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner ($48, Walmart) for 5 minutes. Remove jars from canner and cool on wire rack.

Freezing Apple Butter

If you're running low on pantry space or don't have enough canning jars on hand, save your homemade apple butter by freezing it. After cooking, place your pot of apple butter in a sink filled with ice water; stirring it to cool. Ladle into clean jars or freezer-safe containers ($3, Target), leaving a ½-inch of headspace. Seal and label. Store apple butter in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Now that you've got all these jars of homemade apple butter, there are plenty of apple butter uses beyond just topping your morning toast. Infuse banana bread or pumpkin pie with the spicy-sweet spread. Add apple butter to sweet potatoes, fresh apples, and cherries for a delightful slow cooker side dish. You can even turn it into a mouthwatering glaze for your holiday ham.

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