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Does apple butter get thicken as it cools?

Yes, apple butter does tend to thicken as it cools. This is because apple butter is a concentrated fruit spread made by cooking down applesauce to remove excess water and concentrate the flavor. As apple butter cools, the natural pectin in the apples helps set up the spread and causes it to thicken over time.

Why Does Apple Butter Thicken When Cooling?

There are a few reasons why apple butter thickens as it cools:

  • Reduction of liquid – Cooking the applesauce down evaporates water content, leaving behind a thicker, more concentrated spread.
  • Pectin – Apples are naturally high in pectin, a soluble fiber that acts as a gelling agent. As apple butter cools, the pectin helps it set up into a gel.
  • Sugar concentration – Adding sugar and cooking down the applesauce creates a high sugar concentration, which enables a thicker gel to form.
  • Starch gelatinization – The starch in apples gelatinizes during cooking, which enables it to absorb more water and thicken the apple butter.

Essentially, the process of cooking applesauce to make apple butter removes excess moisture, while concentrating the pectin, sugar, and starch to levels that support a thick, spreadable texture.

Tips for Thickening Apple Butter

Here are some tips if you want to thicken your homemade apple butter even more:

  • Cook down the applesauce longer – Extended cooking evaporates more moisture.
  • Add extra pectin – Using pectin powder increases the gelling capacity.
  • Add an acid like lemon juice – Acid activates pectin and enables a better set.
  • Use slow cooking methods – Slow cookers or crockpots evaporate moisture gradually.
  • Let it cool completely – Give apple butter several hours to fully thicken after cooking.
  • Refrigerate after opening – The chill helps apple butter continue to thicken over time.

What Temperature Should Apple Butter Cool To?

For best results, apple butter should be cooled completely before jarring or storing. Cooling it down to room temperature is not enough. Here are some recommended guidelines:

  • Cool to 85°F (29°C) or lower before filling jars for canning. This prevents sealing issues.
  • Cool to 40°F (4°C) if storing in the refrigerator long-term. Refrigeration helps apple butter thicken over time.
  • For short-term storage, cool to 70°F (21°C) before putting in a sealed container.

Rapid cooling methods like ice baths or cold countertops can help speed up the cooling process. But gradual cooling at room temperature also works. The key is allowing apple butter to continue thickening as it cools completely before jarring or eating.

How Long Does Apple Butter Take to Thicken?

Apple butter can take anywhere from 8 to 24 hours to fully thicken and set after cooking. The timing depends on factors like:

  • Cooking method – Stovetop cooking results in faster thickening than slow cooker methods.
  • Ingredients – More pectin and acid will enable quicker thickening.
  • Quantity – Larger batches may take longer to thicken up.
  • Cooling method – Quick cooling in the refrigerator speeds up thickening.

For most standard apple butter recipes, you can expect it to thicken substantially within 12-24 hours of cooking if cooled to room temperature or below. The best way to tell if apple butter has fully thickened is by chilling it in the refrigerator overnight and checking the texture.


Allowing apple butter to fully thicken and gel as it cools is an essential part of the preparation process. Cooking applesauce down initially removes moisture and concentrates the flavor. But the natural pectin, sugars, and starch need time to set up into a rich, spreadable texture as the spread cools. Following proper cooking, cooling, and storage methods will result in apple butter with the ideal thick, spoonable consistency.