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Why did my apple butter turn out like applesauce?

If you were hoping to make a thick, rich apple butter but ended up with a loose, saucy consistency more like applesauce, there are a few potential causes for this mishap. Don’t worry – with a few tweaks you can get that spreadable apple butter texture you were going for next time!

Too Much Liquid

One of the most common reasons apple butter can turn out too thin is if too much liquid was added during cooking. Apple butter relies on the natural juices released from the apples as they break down to create a nicely thickened end result. Adding extra liquid like water, apple juice, or cider throws off that delicate balance and results in a looser consistency.

For best results, resist adding any extra liquid beyond a couple tablespoons of lemon juice or a splash of bourbon or rum for flavoring. Allow the apples’ natural juices to thicken up the butter on their own.

Not Cooked Long Enough

Apple butter needs significant time over low heat for the moisture to evaporate and the natural pectin in the apples to break down. If the apple butter is removed from heat before it has sufficiently reduced and thickened, runny applesauce is often the end result.

Be sure to allow your apple butter to simmer gently on the stove top or cook in a slow cooker on low for at least 2 hours, and ideally 4-6 hours. Stirring occasionally will also help facilitate thickening.

Added Ingredients Affecting Texture

While spices, sweeteners, and other mix-in ingredients can add great flavor to apple butter, some ingredients can also end up thinning out the final texture if you’re not careful.

Ingredients to use a light hand with include:

  • Lemon juice – Adds flavor but can loosen texture
  • Honey or other liquid sweeteners – Can thin texture
  • Pumpkin, carrots, or other purees – Dilute the apple flavor

Try to use gentler thickeners and flavor enhancers like cinnamon, allspice, brown sugar, or molasses instead.

Incorrect Apple Variety

The type of apples used can also impact the final texture of apple butter. Sturdier apples high in pectin like Granny Smith, Jonathan, McIntosh, and Rome hold their shape and thicken up beautifully when cooked down. Mealy, quick-cooking apples like Red Delicious will turn to mush rapidly.

For best results, choose apples like Granny Smith, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, or Jazz that are crisp and high in pectin.

Too Much Heat Too Quickly

Cooking apple butter over high heat can cause it to break down too quickly into a thin, applesauce-like texture. The apples need extended, gentle simmering time for the pectin to break down properly and moisture to evaporate.

Cook apple butter over the lowest heat possible, at a bare simmer. Use a splatter screen if needed to prevent excess evaporation.

How to Thicken Runny Apple Butter

If your apple butter has already turned out closer to sauce than spread, don’t panic! There are a few tricks you can try to thicken it up:

  • Simmer the apple butter for 1-2 hours longer over very low heat, stirring frequently.
  • Mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water for every cup of apple butter. Gradually stir into apple butter and continue simmering until thickened.
  • Blend 1-2 Granny Smith apples in a food processor until smooth. Stir into apple butter and simmer for 30-60 more minutes.
  • Stir in 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin that has been softened in 2 tablespoons water per batch of apple butter. Gently reheat to thicken.

Troubleshooting Watery Apple Butter

To help avoid a loose apple butter texture in the first place, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use sturdy, high pectin apples like Granny Smith
  • Avoid adding extra liquid
  • Simmer over very low heat for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally
  • Add thickeners like cinnamon, allspice, molasses, brown sugar
  • Limit moisture-heavy ingredients like lemon juice

Taking the time to slowly cook down the apples allows their natural pectin to break down and thicken up the apple butter beautifully.

How Long Does Apple Butter Last?

Properly prepared, jarred apple butter stored in the refrigerator can last up to:

Storage Method Apple Butter Shelf Life
Refrigerator 6-8 months
Freezer 1 year

To extend the shelf life even longer, apple butter can be canned and stored in a cool, dark pantry. Follow proper canning techniques to seal and sanitize the jars for room temperature storage up to 1 year.

For optimal freshness and flavor, use up refrigerated apple butter within 2 months and frozen within 6 months.

Serving and Storage Tips

To get the most out of each batch of apple butter:

  • Store in airtight containers in the fridge
  • Freeze any excess in freezer bags or containers
  • Always use clean utensils to remove apple butter to avoid introducing bacteria
  • Refrigerate after opening and consume within 2 months
  • Can apple butter using USDA approved methods for extended room temperature storage

Delicious Ways to Use Apple Butter

Apple butter isn’t just for slathering on toast or biscuits! Here are some unique and delicious ways to use up this sweet spread:

  • Swirl into oatmeal or yogurt
  • Fill crepes or pancakes
  • Use as a sandwich spread or burger topping
  • Mix into muffin, bread, or pancake batter
  • Stir into peanut or almond butter for extra flavor
  • Blend with maple syrup for a pancake topping
  • Mix with mustard or mayo for tangy sandwich spread
  • Use in vinaigrettes, marinades, and glazes
  • Stir into plain Greek yogurt for fruit dip
  • Blend into smoothies

Best Apple Butter Recipe

This classic slow cooker apple butter recipe results in the perfect texture every time:


  • 8 cups peeled, cored, chopped baking apples (Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Braeburn)
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  1. Combine all ingredients in a 3-4 quart slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low heat for 8-10 hours, until apples are very soft.
  3. Mash apples to desired consistency using a potato masher or immersion blender.
  4. Cook for 2 more hours with lid off, stirring occasionally, until thickened to a spreadable consistency.
  5. Pour into sterile jars and refrigerate up to 2 months or freeze up to 1 year.


Why did my apple butter come out runny?

Common reasons apple butter is runny include cooking over high heat, not cooking long enough, adding too much liquid, or using low-pectin apples. Be sure to cook gently at least 2 hours and use high pectin apples like Granny Smith for best results.

Can you fix runny apple butter?

Yes, runny apple butter can be rescued! Try simmering longer with the lid off, adding diced Granny Smith apples, mixing in cornstarch slurry, or adding gelatin to help thicken it up.

What is the best apple for apple butter?

Choose apples high in pectin like Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Jonathan, Braeburn, and Rome for making apple butter. The pectin helps thicken the apple butter naturally.

How long does homemade apple butter last?

Properly stored apple butter will last 6-8 months in the refrigerator, 1 year in the freezer, or up to 1 year if canned using USDA approved methods.

Should apple butter be refrigerated after opening?

Yes, apple butter should always be refrigerated after opening to prevent bacterial growth. Use within 2 months for best quality and safety.


With the proper ingredients, cooking method, storage conditions, and some troubleshooting tricks, you can achieve spreadable, luscious apple butter texture even if your first batch turned out too thin. Concentrate on low and slow cooking, minimal added liquid, and high pectin apples for success. Enjoy your apple butter on biscuits, toast, yogurt, in baked goods, and beyond!