All you ever wanted to know about apple butter vs applesauce. What are the differences? What are the similarities? Can you substitute one for the other? What about apple puree? Is that the same as applesauce?
In this post, it’s my goal to answer all your burning questions about the difference between applesauce and apple butter.
This post is one of a series of Fundamental Fridays posts. You can find all of them in one place by checking out the Fundamental Friday category.
As I was making apple butter for the second time in recent days, I wondered to myself, “What is the difference between applesauce and apple butter?” I figured if I was asking that question, maybe some of you were, too.
What Is the Difference Between Applesauce and Apple Butter?
After reading copious numbers of applesauce and apple butter recipes, I think I can narrow down the difference between applesauce and apple butter, at least a little bit.
I think it’s safe to say that applesauce and apple butter lie on a continuum of apple-ness, ranging from something like sliced apples floating in water on one end and apple pate de fruit on the other, where the appletensity cannot be topped.
What Is Applesauce? What Does Applesauce Taste Like?
Applesauce has plenty of flavor, but it lies more toward the watery/less cooked end of the continuum and generally consists of peeled (or not) and cored apples, maybe some water, maybe a bit of lemon juice, and maybe some sweetener. Occasionally a bit of spice.
The apples are cooked until soft at which point you either mash them up or puree them, depending on if you want a chunky or smooth sauce. The flavor is generally light and bright.
Is Apple Puree the Same as Applesauce?
The short answer is yes, apple puree (like baby food) and applesauce are the same.
The only difference is that apple puree is always, well…pureed…while applesauce is sometimes left chunky.
If you want to use apple puree to make apple flavored pate de fruits, then you need a specific kind of apple puree that is generally much less sweet than a traditional applesauce.
To make apple puree for making pate de fruits, weigh your apples, and cook them with 10% of the weight of the apples in sugar. So if your apples weigh 16 oz (1 pound), you’d use 1.6 oz (1/10 of 1 pound) of sugar.
Then just cook until soft, run through a food mill, food processor, or blender.
Voila, apple puree suitable for making pate de fruits!
What Is Apple Butter? What Does Apple Butter Taste Like?
On the spectrum of apple butter vs applesauce, apple butter is on the more intense end of the spectrum and is like applesauce’s sophisticated yet mysterious cousin who comes from the fabled land of Autumn.
Apple butter generally contains the same ingredients as applesauce, although often you don’t even core the apples for apple butter. Along with the usual suspects, there is almost always a mixture of spices.
Apple butter is applesauce intensified.
Can You Make Apple Butter from Applesauce?
You can totally do this (although I would probably just start from scratch).
Take commercially produced (or your own) applesauce and turn it into a really lovely apple butter by adding some spices and cooking it down over low heat so the water evaporates and the apple flavor is intensified.
You also get some lovely caramelization which adds depth to the flavor and deepens the color.
How to Make Applesauce in a Slow Cooker
A standard recipe for slow cooker applesauce is apples, peeled (or not) and cored, water, and sugar. Maybe some spices. You cook this mixture until the apples are very soft, and then you mash them. The end. Voila apple sauce.
Here are some recipes for you:
Can You Make Apple Butter in a Slow Cooker?
A standard recipe for slow cooker apple butter is apples, peeled (or not), apple juice or cider, sweetener and spices. Cook this for several hours in the crock pot, pass through a food mill and then continue to cook in the slow cooker with the lid off for a couple of hours until some of the water evaporates and the flavor intensifies.
Here are some slow cooker apple butter recipes for you to take a look at.
- Slow Cooker Apple Butter(version 1)
- Slow Cooker Apple Butter (version 2)
- Slow Cooker Fall Harvest Butter (apple and pumpkin)
- Slow Cooker Chai Apple Butter
Apple Butter Vs Applesauce
It’s really hard to talk in absolutes about what is definitively applesauce and what is definitively apple butter, but I will go out on a limb and give you my opinions on absolutes. The definitive guide to the difference between applesauce and apple butter, if you will.
- Applesauce Always Contains apples.
Applesauce may contain:
- apple juice
- lemon juice
- a spice or two.
The apples can be peeled or unpeeled, but they are (almost) always cored.
Applesauce can be chunky or smooth.
- Apple Butter Always Contains apples.
- Apple butter usually contains spices.
Apple butter may contain:
- apple juice
- cider vinegar
Tools for Making Applesauce and Apple Butter
You really don’t need much more than a good paring knife, a heavy pot, and a potato masher to make applesauce or apple butter. But there are some tools that will make your apple loving heart happy and your apple peeling life a bit easier.
I’ve used one of those Johnny guys at the restaurant, and even though it looks a little gimmicky, it makes short work of peeling and slicing tons of apples. If you have fewer to go through, a press-down corer/slicer is great to have. I love my food mill for the perfect texture it gives both applesauce and apple butter, and an immersion blender works well–and quickly–for smoothing out your sauce.
Does Apple Butter Have Butter In It?
Apple butter does not contain butter. Just because you mix butter into applesauce doesn’t make it apple butter.
The “butter” refers to its spread-ability and smooth consistency, so I think it is safe to say that apple butter is always pureed.
Apple butter is much more intensely appley than applesauce. I think of applesauce as pastel apple and apple butter as primary apple. In Crayola terms, applesauce is the color Peach, and apple butter is the color Fuzzy Wuzzy.
Caramelization and the addition of spices does make apple butter more suitable for fall than apple sauce, both in flavor and in color, although there is no rule that says you can’t enjoy apple butter whenever you want. Or applesauce, for that matter.
Can You Make Apple Butter or Applesauce in a Pressure Cooker?
Yes, you can use your Instant Pot or other pressure cooker to make your apple-y treats. Note that since an Instant Pot will not let your applebutter reduce (since it’s under pressure and no liquid in the form of steam can escape) you will need to continue to cook your apple butter using the saute setting once you release the pressure.
- Pressure Cooker Applesauce
- Instant Pot Applesauce
- Chai Spiced Apple Butter (follow Instant Pot directions)
Can You Add Other Fruit To Your Apple Butter?
You can add other fruit to your applesauce or to your apple butter. Cranberry applesauce, pear-apple butter, fig applesauce, pumpkin apple butter, etc. I am pretty sure the only rule is that, whatever fruit you add to your applesauce or apple butter mixture, you have to use predominantly apple, otherwise you will have apple pear butter instead of pear apple butter, if you see what I mean.
Here are some fruits to consider:
- pumpkin (yes, it’s a vegetable, but still)
As far as dessert components, I think the intensity of the apple flavor in apple butter stands up better in desserts or baked goods such as my Yeasted Chai Spice Apple Butter Coffee Cake.
Applesauce, on the other hand, can take the place of fat in baked goods since the mild apple flavor will take a back seat and will bring a lot of moisture without adding a very distinct flavor.
I think that pretty much covers apple butter vs applesauce. As I said at the beginning, aside from using apples, there aren’t a lot of absolutes in either applesauce or apple butter.
In short, I think the difference between the two is mainly a matter of degree of cooking.
Since apples are naturally pectin-rich, apple butter will set up into a soft jam or spread upon refrigeration.
Leaving the skins on, as well as the cores in, both help with that since that’s where most of the pectin lives.
Applesauce isn’t cooked long enough to concentrate the pectin and will maintain its loose sauciness even after cooling.
Other Applesauce/Apple Butter PCO Recipes You Might Enjoy
- Honey Apple Butter Recipe
- Granny Smith Applesauce
- Maple Apple Butter Polka Dot Cheesecake Bars
- Chai Spice Apple Butter
If you have any questions about this or any other recipe or post on the site, there are a few ways to get in touch.
You can leave a comment on the post, and I’ll be back in touch within 24 hours.
If your question is more pressing, don’t hesitate to email me, and I should be back in touch within 4 hours (unless I’m asleep) or often much more quickly than that.
I hope you’ve learned something from this post or that you’ve decided to make the recipe.
It would really help me and other readers out if you’d rate the recipe using the star ratings in the recipe card.
It’s also very helpful to me and to other readers if you leave a comment and/or a recipe review.
Thank you so much for being here and for helping others find my recipes by sharing on your social platforms!
Thanks for spending some time with me today, friends! Take care, and have a lovely day.
If you haven’t already, I’d love to have you sign up for my newsletter.
I generally send one or two a week with recipes, tips, and some behind-the-scenes action.
Just click the button below to sign up. Thank you!
What Others Are Saying...
movita beaucoup says
I feel I would understand the differences better if you simply made me the applesauce and apple butter, and then allowed me to compare (with my mouth). Some homemade English muffins would also be beneficial, but I leave that up to you.
Jennifer Field says
I see your point. Perhaps I’ll just make some English muffins and let you know how it goes. Ha! Or perhaps you should come visit and we shall taste test together, MB!
I think I agree with Movita. Imagine the perfect apple gifts, a jar of each for your recipient to sample and compare! LOL! I love apple sauce, but since I am jam fan, I think I’d really fall in love with apple butter! YUM!
Jennifer Field says
I am pretty much team apple butter all the way, too. I feel like applesauce is what you eat when you’re sick or have a sensitive tummy.
I always wondered what the difference is…I love how thoroughly you explain the difference, and all of the yummy recipes too!
Jennifer Field says
Thanks Sandi! It’s one of those questions that doesn’t seem to be important but then you can’t stop thinking about it. Or is that just me?! =)
I always wondered what the difference was between apple butter and apple sauce. I don’t think I’ve ever tried apple butter, but it certainly sounds way better than apple sauce!
Jennifer Field says
I am firmly on team apple butter–so much more intense! 🙂
Pumpkins are fruits. Not vegetables. They grow from a flower.
Jennifer Field says
Botanically speaking, you are correct of course. Thanks for stopping by!