Did you overbuy (or overpick) the apples and need a delicious and healthy way to use them up? Crockpot Applesauce is here to be your fall apple darling. This recipe is easy, naturally sweetened with honey (no sugar!), and it cooks completely hands-free.
Every year, my girlfriends and I go apple picking, an excursion which necessitates the purchase of what seems like a reasonable amount of apples in the moment…but turns out to be enough apples to run a small fruit stand.
I’m never upset about my haul, and I love plotting what to do with the apples that I don’t devour immediately.
Two years ago, this Slow Cooker Apple Butter and homemade baked Apple Chips were favorites. I also never tire of my go-to Vegan Apple Crisp (the best healthy apple crisp ever, even if you aren’t vegan), which I also eat for breakfast if I want something instead of an Apple Smoothie, and there aren’t any Apple Carrot Muffins tucked away in the freezer.
What I am saying is: go ahead and overbuy the apples. I have lots of healthy apple recipes to help you use them up, including today’s crockpot applesauce!
This slow cooker applesauce recipe is ridiculously easy to make (you don’t even need to peel the apples!) By the time it’s done simmering for hours, your house will smell the epitome of warm and cozy. Don’t be surprised when your entire family starts flocking into the kitchen, wondering what on earth smells so good.
Homemade applesauce outshines anything you’ve ever eaten out of a store bought jar or cup. Whereas store bought applesauce is fairly thin and bland, this crockpot applesauce is pure apple intensity in the most scrumptious of ways. Honestly, I might not ever go back to the cup after seeing just how easy and rewarding crockpot applesauce is to make.
In addition to enjoying this crockpot applesauce as a healthy snack, you can use it in many baking recipes that call for applesauce. These Applesauce Muffins are going to be the first thing I make with it. Serve it as a side with chicken or pork, or mix it into yogurt with a sprinkle of granola for a healthy breakfast.
How to Make Homemade Crockpot Applesauce
- Apples. For homemade applesauce, I love using a mix of apples. Each apple adds its own unique flavor, giving your homemade applesauce a more complex final flavor. I also made the crockpot applesauce WITH the peels on, and loved how it turned out. More details on apple selection and peeling below.
- Honey. Honey and apples go together like applesauce and my spoon (the two are very well acquainted at this point.) In addition to the beauty of the pairing, I wanted to make my crockpot applesauce with no sugar (the white, refined kind), so honey was a perfect option for this reason too. If you’re making crockpot applesauce for baby or prefer not to use any form of sugar for a different reason, you can always choose a sweet variety of apples and omit it entirely.
- Cinnamon Stick. My other applesauce essential. I prefer to use a stick over ground here. The stick has a much richer flavor.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice. I snagged this idea from a homemade crockpot applesauce recipe I saw on Allrecipes and thought it was a fabulous shortcut. Instead of measuring out the individual spices pumpkin pie spice includes, like nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, I used pumpkin pie spice. With all the fall baking I have ahead of me, it was a worthy pantry addition.
- Lemon Peel (no lemon juice needed!). The stealth ingredient that brightens the applesauce. You won’t taste the lemon; rather the lemon helps to balance the honey and makes the apples taste their most marvelous. I added a lemon peel, but you should make the crockpot applesauce with no lemon juice. The peel was plenty to brighten up the flavor, so you can save the rest of the lemon for another use.
The Recipe Steps
- Core and Dice Your Apples. Big chunks are fine! Just make sure they are all a fairly even size; about 1 ½ inches was the sweet spot.
- Place Your Apples in the Crockpot. I used this 6-quart programmable slow cooker.
- Add the remaining ingredients. Stick with the lowest amount of honey. You can always add more and adjust later.
- Slow cook the applesauce on LOW for 6 hours or HIGH for 3 to 4 hours. Your house is going to smell like a fall fairytale.
- Stir the applesauce a few times while it cooks. This will help you keep an eye on the texture. The apples (including their skin) will break down and turn into applesauce. It’s a little piece of fall magic.
- Blend. Or don’t! If you prefer your slow cooker applesauce chunky, you can leave mixture as is, or blend it just a little bit. We like ours nice and smooth, so I pureed it with an immersion blender directly in the slow cooker. You can also use a food mill, which will give you total texture control and remove the peels too. If you use a regular blender, be sure to puree in small batches, and be very careful. Hot liquids splatter when blended.
The Best Apples for Homemade Applesauce
- While you can technically turn any apple into applesauce, some varieties are better than others.
- Look for apple varieties with a flavor that is both sweet and tart (this gives you a wonderful, complex flavor), and that have skin that breaks down fairly easily.
- McIntosh is an excellent choice, if you are only using one kind of apple; Honeycrisp, Fuji, Pink Lady, Gala, Rome, Cortland, and Jonagold are all great choices too—though I tend to selfishly save most of my Honeycrisps for snacking or salads versus cooking them because they are SO GOOD.
- The only apples I do NOT recommend for applesauce are Red Delicious or Golden Delicious. They don’t have as much flavor.
- If you use a tarter apple like Granny Smith, mix it with a sweeter apple (like Gala) to help balance the flavor.
To Peel or Not to Peel the Apples?
Whether you make your crockpot applesauce with peels or without is honestly up to you!
- If you make crockpot applesauce with peels, you’ll preserve the health benefits such as vitamins, fiber, and nutrients that the peels contain.
- The peels completely cook down and disappear once the applesauce is pureed.
- Peeling the apples does give you a lighter, more traditional color. If you make the applesauce with the peels, your applesauce will have a deeper, more golden hue. It’s pretty, just different than what you see at the store.
- If you do not plan to peel the apples, be sure to choose apples with skins that break down easily (like any of the recommended apples above), or if you use a mix of apples, to peel the apples that have tougher skins (like Granny Smith).
Ultimately, I decided to make my applesauce WITH the peels on.
I’m all for the extra nutrients.
Also, I love not having to peel apples!
As you can see in the photos, my peels-on applesauce was still nice and smooth. No trace of a peel at all.
4 Tips for Applesauce Success
- Size Matters. Be sure to cut the apples into evenly sized pieces, so that the applesauce cooks evenly. I recommend cutting your apples in to 1 ½ inch chunks for this recipe. Compare the size of your apple pieces as you cut, and trim down any pieces that are too big.
- Don’t Overcook. Different slow cooker models and sizes can affect cooking time. When apples are overcooked, they will start to lose their flavor. In order to avoid overcooking your applesauce, I recommend checking it early and tasting it for doneness. You can test the apples by taking a bite of one or squeezing a couple between your fingers (careful, they will be hot!). If they feel squishy with no give, they’re done.
- Wait to Sweeten. It’s hard to know exactly how sweet your applesauce is going to be until after it’s finished cooking. Your unique blend of apples (which is part of what makes applesauce SO GOOD) will impact the final sweetness too. I suggest starting with the minimum recipe amount, cooking the applesauce, then adding additional honey to taste.
- Texture. Your texture will be more smooth and creamy if you choose to blend it longer. If you prefer a more chunky texture, I recommend blending for a shorter time period.
Try stirring any of these yummy additions into your applesauce at the end.
- Old Fashioned Applesauce. Stir 2 tablespoons unsalted butter into finished sauce.
- Cranberry Applesauce. Add 1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen) to the slow cooker with the apples. Puree with the apples at the end (note: this is referring to whole cranberries NOT dried cranberries, like craisins).
- Extra Ginger Applesauce. Peel a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger and cut it into 3 pieces. Add to the slow cooker with apples. Remove prior to pureeing.
- To Refrigerate: Once the applesauce has cooled, pour it into an airtight storage container and place in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
- To Freeze: Let the applesauce cool completely in the refrigerator after cooking. Pour the applesauce into a freezer-safe container or bag, removing as much air as possible, and freeze for up to 3 months.
- Directions for Canning: First, fill sterilized pint or half-pint glass jars leaving ½ inch of space between the top of the applesauce and the rims of the jars. Use a small spoon to release any air bubbles that form. Then, wipe off the rims of the jars with a clean, damp towel. Secure the canning lids onto the jar. Place jars in boiling water for about 20 minutes to finish. Let the jars cool completely before storing. Canned applesauce can be stored at room temperature for up to 18 months.
- If you want to make your crockpot applesauce overnight, I recommend using a programmable slow cooker that will automatically switch to “keep warm” after the cooking time has ended. This will significantly decrease the chances of the applesauce overcooking.
- Start your slow cooker right before you go to sleep, set it to LOW for 6 hours, and immediately go turn it off as soon as you wake up.
Recommended Tools to This Recipe
- Programmable Slow Cooker. I love that this one switches to “keep warm” once the cooking time ends, so food runs less of a risk of overcooking.
- Immersion Blender. For the ultimate applesauce texture, you can run it through a food mill.
- Easy Fruit and Vegetable Peeler (for those who would like to peel their apples). I also have a Y-peeler like this. I go back and forth as to which I like more.
I hope you adore this crockpot applesauce! I’ve been eating it every single day since I made it and am eagerly awaiting this year’s apple picking date so I have an ironclad excuse to make it again.
If you try this recipe, please leave a comment. I adore hearing from you, and it keeps me excited and motivated too! Thank you ♥
- 3 pounds apples roughly 8 larger apples or 12 smaller apples, depending on size (I like sweet-crisp apples: McIntosh, Jonagold, Gala, and Pinklady are all delicious. See blog post above for more suggestions.)
- ¼ cup honey plus additional to taste
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
- 1 small lemon divided
- Core the apples and cut into 1 ½-inch chunks. Leave the peels on or peel the apples if you’d like a lighter-colored sauce or are using an apple with a firmer skin like Granny Smith (see blog post above for more details). Place the apples into a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.
- Add the honey, cinnamon stick, and pumpkin pie spice. With a vegetable peeler, peel off a small strip of lemon peel (be careful not to get too much of the white pith, which is bitter). Add the peel to the slow cooker. Save the rest of the lemon for another use.
- Cover the crock pot, and cook on LOW for 6 hours or on HIGH for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until the apples completely break down. Stir the apples occasionally while the sauce cooks.
- Remove the cinnamon stick and lemon peel. Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce until smooth (or run the sauce through a food mill, which will remove some of the skins, or purée the applesauce in a blender in batches, being careful as hot liquids will splatter). Taste, and add additional honey if you’d like a sweeter sauce. Let cool, and enjoy!
- *No pumpkin pie spice? Swap it for ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and a pinch each of ground ginger and ground cloves. OR use 2 cinnamon sticks instead.
- Don’t miss the blog post above for storage tips, more information about the best apples to use for applesauce (and why I cook this recipe with the peels on), as well as tasty flavor variations.
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