apple butter in a white dish on wooden cutting board surrounded by whole red apples and cinnamon sticks

Apple Butter Recipe [Small Batch]

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If you’ve ever tried apple butter, you know how truly delicious and smooth it is. And you don’t have to be knowledgeable in canning, preserving, or even a seasoned chef to learn how to make some at home. This small batch apple butter recipe is one you can make in the luxury of your own home anytime you’re craving that rich, apple-spiced smoothness.

*By purchasing ingredients through the “Get ingredients with Instacart” button in the recipe below, I may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases as a result of being affiliated with the Instacart Tastemakers Program.

What is Considered a Small Batch?

Just from browsing the internet and other small batch recipes, it seems that a small batch of apple butters and the like ranges from 3/4 cup to 2 cups (1 pint).

Producing a small batch of something is best for when you only want to keep a small amount on hand. So no need to go apple picking for bushels and pecks of apples. A small bag from your local farmer’s market or grocery store will do just fine.

This recipe is meant to be easy, convenient, and even encouraging for those who’ve never made apple butter before. You don’t need a crockpot, slow cooker, or food mill which a lot of other recipes use. All you need is a stovetop and a large pan. Although a blender or food processor also comes in handy if you want a smooth-as-silk consistency to your apple butter.

With this particular recipe, you’ll end up with a small batch of about 1 and 1/4 cups of apple butter to enjoy as you please!

Apple Butter Nutrition

Don’t let this sweet topping/condiment fool you. There are nutritional and health benefits you can get from consuming this carmelized, apple butter concoction. It boasts health-promoting phytochemicals, while being lower in sugar and higher in fiber than it’s commercially prepared counterparts.

Nutritional Content and Health Benefits

I can’t possibly talk about apples without mentioning the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. But really how nutritious are apples?

Well, the old adage does have a lot of truth to it. Fruits and vegetables, including apples, are so great for us because of the phytonutrients they contain. Apples happen to be high in flavonoids, including quercetin, catechin, and epicatechin, among others (1).

And of the many different apple varieties, Fuji and Red Delicious varieties are the highest in both phenolic and flavonoid content (1).

Research also suggests that apple intake is associated with decreased risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and type II diabetes. Additionally, higher intake of apples is also linked to increased lung function and weight loss (1).  

Lower in Sugar

While apple butter does contain natural sugar in the form of fructose from the apples, it is still less sugar per serving than most store-bought apple butters. This is because many store-bought (and even homemade recipes you google) can have added sugars. See more about added sugars below.

The low and slow cooking process used in this recipe concentrates the flavors, including the sugar content. So you should still use this apple butter in small amounts. A serving size is 1 tablespoon which provides essentially the same amount of carbohydrates (~6 gm) as commercially-prepared counterparts, however none of which are from added sugars.

For reference, here’s a table comparing this apple butter recipe to one popular commercially-prepared apple butter.

Musselman’s Apple Butter30 calories6 gm total carbohydrate5 gm added sugars
Apple Butter Recipe [Small Batch]24 calories5.9 gm total carbohydrate0 gm added sugars
Table 1: Calorie, carbohydrate, and added sugar comparison between 1 Tbsp. commercially-prepared apple butter and 1 Tbsp. apple butter recipe (small batch)

Fiber Content

The cooking process does break down some of the fibers in fruits and vegetables, but not all. This is one reason I chose to leave the skins on my apples in this recipe. It adds both fiber as well as beneficial phenolics and flavonoids, compared to other apple butter recipes that call for the apples to be peeled.

What Does Apple Butter Taste Like?

Apple butter is not at all like jam or jelly. Even though it’s used in the same ways, this spread is much more decadent.

In my opinion, apple butter tastes like spiced apples with a much more intense, concentrated flavor. Like a thickened, spiced apple cider almost. And while there’s no actual butter in apple butter, it’s spreadability makes it worthy of the name “apple butter”.

Variations of Apple Butter

While this is the version of apple butter I prefer, there are many other types of apple butter recipes out there.

This one allows room for expansion because it’s super simple, with minimal ingredients. Other recipes you may come across use other spices, different varieties of apples, have added acidic elements such as apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, and may add sugar or other sweeteners to the recipe.

In the end you have total control and can come up with what works best for your taste buds. Next, let’s go over a few variations to the recipe you may want to try.

Spice Variations

While you can most certainly leave out any spices when making apple butter, I think the spices are what really sets it apart from regular applesauce and make it special. There are a few great options for spices to choose from when making apple butter.

A few of these are the sweet and aromatic spices:

  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • allspice
  • ginger
  • cloves
  • cardamon

You can try one or a combination of these spices to make the perfect combo to spice up your small batch apple butter. I will warn you though, go easy on these strong spices. You can alway add more, but you cannot take it away once added.

Variations of Apples Used

Any type of apple can be used for apple butter. I have used both Mcintosh and Fuji varieties before and they both turned out perfect.

Generally speaking, softer apple varieties will cook down faster. So, if you want to cut back on the cooking time by a few minutes, try Fuji, McIntosh, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold varieties.

You can use one kind of apple for each batch or a variety of apples. Experimenting with the flavor is part of the fun. And this recipe is an easy one to experiment with since there are so few ingredients.

Optional Sweeteners (Added Sugars)

I did not use any sweeteners in this small batch apple butter recipe. My goal was to avoid added sugars. Added sugars are linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and triglyceride levels, colon cancer, diabetes, cognitive issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, and so much more (2).

The American Heart Association and the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans both recommend limiting added sugars in our diets (2,3). An added sugar is any form of sugar carbohydrate that is added in the process of making a food product. Some examples of added sugars are:

  • Regular table sugar and all other sugars (turbinado, cane sugar, confectioner’s, etc.)
  • Brown sugar
  • Molasses
  • Maple syrup
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Honey
  • Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup

For the best infographic on added sugars, download thie following PDF from the American Heart Association:

You can add a sweetener to this recipe if you like a sweeter apple butter. If I had to choose just one, it would be maple syrup but you can try whichever sweetener of choice you’d like. Each one will add a different degree of sweetness so start with a small amount and add as needed.

How to Use Apple Butter

It may come as a surprise, but apple butter is actually quite versatile. It can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.

  • Spread on bread or toast, muffins, or english muffins
  • Use as a topping on pancakes or waffles
  • Add to yogurt
  • Add to oatmeal or overnight oats
  • Use as a healthier ice cream topping
  • Mix into oatmeal
  • Blend into smoothies
  • Add as a condiment or glaze to pair with chicken or pork chops

So you see, apple butter is really amazing and can be used in so many ways. I hope I inspired you to whip up a batch and try a few of these.

How to Make Apple Butter Recipe [Small Batch]

Time needed: 1 hour.

Apple Butter Recipe [Small Batch] Steps:

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    All you need to make this small batch apple butter recipe is 4 simple ingredients. Apples, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. However, you can make this a 2-ingredient recipe by substituting apple pie spice for all the other spices, if you have some on hand.

  2. Chop and apples.

    Next you have to core all the apples. Then chop them as small or large as you like. If you’re not planning to blend the mixture after cooking and like a chunkier apple butter than cut the apples into larger chunks. I prefer my apple butter as smooth as well…butter. But to each their own. I also end up blending the mixture, so there’s really no need to fuss over making sure you are chopping the apple into perfectly uniform-sized pieces.

  3. Cook the apples on the stovetop.

    You want to cook only the apples on the stovetop. The spices will come in the next step. Here, you’ll cook the apples until they are super soft, about 25-30 minutes.

  4. Blend, process, or mash the apples.

    The next step is to put your cooked apples either in the blender, food processor, or mash by hand. It all depends on how smooth or chunky you want your apple butter to be. I prefer mine extra smooth and spreadable, so I blend mine. But hey, I’m not one to discrimate. I love apple butter every which way imaginable.

  5. Return the apple mixture to the stovetop.

    Next you’ll put the apple mixture back in the saucepan and add the spices. Bring it to a simmer and keep it there for about 30-45 more minutes. Or until your apple butter become thick and dark caramel in color. FYI, it’s so tempting not to keep taste-testing as you go. Be careful or you’ll end up with nearly all your apple butter eaten before you’re done.

  6. Eat it warm or allow your apple butter to cool and enjoy!

    Once your apple butter cools, it will thicken up some more. Now you can enjoy it in a multitude of ways or store it in the fridge for later!

FAQ for Apple Butter Recipe [Small Batch]

Does apple butter go bad?

Homemade apple butter that is not canned, can last in your fridge for up to 3 months. However you can also freeze it for up to 12 months. Just made sure that you leave about 1/2 and inch to allow expansion as it freezes.

How is apple butter different from applesauce?

The difference between apple butter and applesauce is time. Apple butter is made by cooking down the apples over a long period of time to thicken. This allows more water to evaporate and the apples to carmelize and turn a rich, brownish color.

Can I use different apples to make apple butter?

Absolutely. I’ve made this recipe various ways using both Macintosh and Fiji apples. You can try different versions yourself using Gala, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Red delicious, Golden, or virtually any kind of apple you like. You can even experiment with using more than one type of apple per batch.

Do I have to peel apples when making apple butter?

No. There are recipes that call for peeled apples and also those that don’t bother with peeling. I chose to leave the skin on in order to add fiber and phytochemical nutrients. If you plan to blend the apples after cooking them down then it really doesn’t matter if you peel them. It ends up incredibly smooth. My only suggestion is that if you plan to NOT peel your apples, use organic apples which are free from pesticides and other chemicals.

Can you can this apple butter?

Canning is one thing I’m not familiar with and have not tried before. Being that this is a small batch of apple butter, there’s really no need to can it. However if you double or triple the recipe and would like to give canning a try, I’d recommend referring to a site such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP).

apple butter in a white dish on wooden cutting board surrounded by whole red apples and cinnamon sticks

Apple Butter Recipe [Small Batch]

A 4-ingredient (not counting the water), no-added-sugar version of apple butter that you can whip up anytime. No need for any special equipment. The warming spices and concentrated flavor will add so much depth to anything you spread it on or over. And as an added bonus, you're house will smell AMAZING!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 55 mins
Course Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 20
Calories 24 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 blender or food processor optional

Ingredients
  

  • 4 Fuji apples medium sized
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon ground
  • tsp cloves ground
  • tsp allspice ground
  • ¼ cup water

Instructions
 

  • Core the apples and chop into bite-sized pieces. No need to peel. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they will take to soften while cooking.
  • Add apples to saucepan and cover with lid. Cook over medium heat for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning on the bottome. When done apples should be completely soft when tested with a fork.
  • If you prefer a smooth apple butter, you will now place cooked apples in a blender or food processor until desired smoothness is achieved. You can also mash with a fork if you like a chunkier apple butter.
  • Return to original saucepan and add ground cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.
  • Simmer uncovered another 30 minutes until apple butter thickens, reduces in volume, and turns a dark caramel color. Make sure to stir constantly to prevent splattering.
  • Eat warm or cool overnight. Enjoy!

Video

Notes

Additional Suggestions: 
  • You can mix up this recipe in a number of ways. For one, you can use various apple varieties in place of the Fuji apples used here. Try any other soft apple such as McIntosh, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold. 
  • Second, you can mix up the spices used. If you like only cinnamon, make a cinnamon apple butter. You can even use apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice. Other options include adding a pinch of ginger or nutmeg.  
  • Third, if you prefer a sweeter apple butter, you can add a little maple syrup, sugar, brown sugar, or sugar subsitute such as Stevia or monk fruit during the simmering stage. Just be mindful that some sweeteners will add more or less sweetness than others, so start small and taste-test as you go.  
 
Nutritional Information Per 1 Tablespoon Serving (Makes 20 servings total):
24 calories, 0 gm total fat, 0 gm saturated fat, 5.9 gm carbohydrate, 0 gm protein, 0.8 gm fiber, 0.4 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol 
 
Keyword apple, cinnamon, easy, fall, fruit, gluten-free, vegan

Like this recipe? Here are some others to try during the fall months (or anytime):

Share with me: Did you try your hand at making this small batch apple butter recipe? Was it as easy as you thought? What did you think of the flavor? I love hearing from you, so let me know by making a comment!

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