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What makes the best applesauce?

Applesauce is a beloved snack and dessert ingredient enjoyed by people of all ages. With its sweet apple flavor and smooth, creamy texture, applesauce is a classic comfort food. But not all applesauce is created equal – the quality can vary widely depending on the ingredients and preparation methods used. So what are the keys to making delicious, high-quality applesauce at home?

Choosing the Right Apples

The first step in making great tasting applesauce is selecting the right apples. The variety of apple makes a big difference in the flavor and texture of the final product. In general, apples that are tart, crisp and firm tend to make the best applesauce. Some top varieties to consider include:

  • Granny Smith – Granny Smith apples have a bright green skin and tart, crisp white flesh. They hold their shape well when cooked down into applesauce.
  • Honeycrisp – Extremely crisp and juicy Honeycrisp apples have a mildly sweet yet zesty flavor. They make smooth, well-balanced applesauce.
  • Jonagold – Jonagold is a crispy heirloom apple with a honey-like flavor. It makes silky smooth applesauce with a sweet tang.
  • Pink Lady – These apples have a distinctively pinkish hue and a perfect balance of sweet and tart flavors. They give applesauce great texture.
  • Fuji – The sweet, spicy flavor of Fuji apples shines through in applesauce. Fujis break down easily for smooth sauce.

Avoid using soft apples like Red Delicious, as they tend to get mushy when cooked. For the most flavor, opt for a blend of apple varieties.

Prepping the Apples

Once you’ve chosen the right apples, proper prep is important for great texture. Start by peeling, coring and slicing the apples into 1-inch chunks. Peeling is optional, but will give you a smoother, less fibrous applesauce.

Many recipes also call for pre-cooking the apples briefly with a bit of lemon juice or ascorbic acid. 2-3 minutes in boiling water is sufficient. This helps the apples hold their shape better during cooking.

Leaving the apple skins intact and skipping the pre-cooking gives you chunkier, more rustic textured applesauce. It’s a matter of personal preference.

Cooking Methods

There are a few different methods you can use to cook down the apples into smooth, thick applesauce:


This traditional approach involves cooking the apples in a pot on the stovetop over medium heat. Add just enough water to the pot to prevent scorching, about 1/4 cup. Cook, stirring frequently, until the apples are very tender and broken down, 15-20 minutes.

Slow Cooker

For sheer ease, a slow cooker makes hands-off applesauce cooking a breeze. Place chopped apples into the slow cooker with 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook on high 2-3 hours or low 4-6 hours, until apples are mushy.

Pressure Cooker

A pressure cooker yields silky smooth applesauce in a fraction of the time. Cook chopped apples with liquid under pressure for just 2-3 minutes, then release pressure and puree.


Roasting apples uncovered in a 375°F oven concentrates their flavor while collapsing them into sauce. Cook 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they reach desired consistency.


Spices, sweeteners and other mix-in’s can take your applesauce to the next level. Consider adding:

  • Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or allspice for warmth
  • Vanilla or almond extract for extra flavor
  • Lemon juice or zest for brightness
  • Sugar, honey or maple syrup to taste for sweetness
  • Raisins, dried cranberries, chopped nuts for texture

Start with modest amounts, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of dried spices, 2-3 Tbsp lemon juice or 1-2 Tbsp of sweetener per 3 pounds of apples. Taste as you go and adjust to your liking.

The Finishing Touches

Once the apples have cooked down, you can leave the applesauce chunky or puree it smooth in a food processor or blender. For chunky sauce, mash slightly with a potato masher.

Chill the applesauce in the refrigerator before serving. This allows flavors to develop fully. The sauce will thicken more as it cools. For smooth sauce, pass through a food mill or fine mesh strainer before chilling to remove any lingering peels or fibers.

To freeze applesauce for longer term storage, pack into freezer containers, allowing 1/2 inch headspace. Freeze up to 1 year. Thaw in fridge before serving.


Making fantastic applesauce at home does require a bit of effort – but the results are well worth it. With the right apples, preparation, cook times and flavor additions, you can create applesauce that rivals (or exceeds!) anything you can buy at the store. Experiment and have fun with different apple varieties, textures, mix-in’s and cooking methods until you create your own signature sauce!

Apple Variety Description
Granny Smith Tart, crisp and bright green. Holds shape well when cooked.
Honeycrisp Very crisp and juicy with mildly sweet flavor. Makes smooth sauce.
Jonagold Crisp heirloom with honey-like sweet/tart flavor. Silky texture.
Pink Lady Sweet-tart balance. Vibrant pinkish hue. Great texture.
Fuji Very sweet and spicy. Breaks down easily when cooked.
Cooking Method Instructions Texture
Stovetop Simmer apples in small amount of water 15-20 min until tender. Chunky to smooth
Slow Cooker Cook apples 2-3 hrs on high or 4-6 hrs on low. Smooth
Pressure Cooker Cook apples under pressure 2-3 mins then release. Very smooth
Oven Roast apples at 375°F 30-40 mins, stirring occasionally. Chunky to smooth
Flavor Additions Examples
Warm spices Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice
Extracts Vanilla, almond, maple
Citrus Lemon juice, lemon zest, orange juice
Sweeteners White sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup
Texture Raisins, dried cranberries, chopped nuts