How-To & Diy

How to Make Applesauce Without a Recipe

November  4, 2013

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Food52 Editorial Intern Elana Carlson shows us how to make the most colorful, flavorful applesauce -- without a recipe. 

How to Make Authentic Applesauce on Food52

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When I think back to my preschool years, scrunchies and mock turtlenecks were very much in style. At snack time, applesauce was served; a generic and predictable version. It had a yellowish hue, was semi-tart, and not especially tasty.

I would never have thought twice about applesauce, until one fall day, my family made a batch at home -- hardly recognizable from its jarred kind I ate at school. Maybe it was the color, so rosy and mauve, or maybe it was the naturally sweet flavor. Regardless, thus began my passion for homemade applesauce. 

This applesauce stands alone, but you'll want to put it on latkes, pork chops, blintzes, or maybe just add a dollop of whipped cream, and a pinch of cinnamon -- however you choose it will be sinlessly addictive.

How to Make Homemade Applesauce on Food52

More: Pick your apples wisely with our guide.

The secret to your sauce is the apples. Macintosh, Cortland, Empire are all great, but your favorite variety will work too. I always add Winesaps, as they give it that lustworthy pink color. 

If you can get to an orchard or a farmers market, buy seconds! No need for perfect apples here; seconds are the cheaper ugly ducklings, too bruised for sale at full price. You are about to transform them into something beautiful soon enough.

In terms of quantity, grab as many as you can carry -- a peck (approximately 30 apples) yields about six quarts of sauce.

How to Make Applesauce in 5 Steps

1. First, the only labor-intensive part: wash and prep the apples. The one mandatory step here is coring; peeling is completely optional. Cooking with the skin on will result in a more flavorful sauce. If you are feeling super rustic, include skin in the final product (More on this.).

How to Make Applesauce in 5 Steps


2. If you want to infuse a little flavor, add cinnamon sticks now; two is good.

How to Make Homemade Applesauce in 5 Steps


3. Place apple pieces in a large pot, add water until there is 1/4 inch of water covering the bottom surface of the pot. Cook on medium heat, with the cover on to prevent the water from evaporating.

Once the apples start bubbling, turn down to low heat, add more water if necessary (no more than 2 tablespoons at a time). Periodically stir, while enjoying a mulled cider.

How to Make Applesauce in 5 Steps


4. Once the apples get to your desired level of softness, remove the cinnamon sticks.

How to Make Applesauce in 5 Steps on Food52


5. Finish off with a few stokes from the potato masher.

Now, taste for sweetness. You might be surprised at how perfect it is, and not want to add any sugar. But if you like it on the sweeter side, try adding raw cane sugar (turbinado). It adds a caramel-y quality and some heft. Cook for another minute to dissolve the sugar.

For a smoother texture you can very easily run the mixture through a food mill or mesh strainer in batches, removing the skin.

How to Make Applesauce in 5 Steps

When serving, sprinkle on some freshly grated nutmeg or cinnamon.  

Throw it in the fridge, freeze in plastic containers, or can. Just be careful not to leave any lying around unattended. It's known to disappear. 

How to make Applesauce in 5 Steps on Food52

Photos by James Ransom

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'Dominique April 28, 2017
We do ours in the microwave, which is even simpler and very fast. Peel, core, chop or slice apples. Place in a glass bowl, no water at all. Seal the bowl tight and microwave for 10 minutes. Then they might need a little mashing, add whatever sweetener you want, some cinnamon, and you,very got applesauce in a jiffy.
Uncle C. February 6, 2015
I use a bit of garam masala for the spice. It has just the right mix of cinnamon and cloves.
Lindy January 30, 2014
Hi, I love these tips, but how do you can the apples so that they can be stored in the food cupboard? I don't want to make thousands, but at least a good supply!!
soupcon March 30, 2014
Can in boiling water bath or pressure canner. See: for details on boiling water bath.
I made applesauce last fall from apples of unknown varieties given to me. I ran them through a food mill after cooking with no added sugar and canned them in pint jars using a boiling water bath. They sit happily on my shelf waiting to be used.
Tucker &. November 17, 2013
This sounds totally awesome. My question - how many pounds of apples? What's the estimated yield in terms of pints? I've done chutneys, but this sounds great and much easier.
Elana C. November 18, 2013
Thanks! A peck varies, but it's about 10.5 pounds and yields 6 quarts of sauce, so 12 pints. Enjoy!
deanna November 14, 2013
Karen Bates of The Apple Farm in Philo,Ca. serves applesauce hot with butter and sage - fabulous.
Ac S. November 10, 2013
Applesauce in the fridge will last 2 - 3 weeks if properly chilled and no double dipping straight from the jar! However do NOT ever freeze applesauce in plastic bags/containers! Applesauce is acidic, and plastics break down when hot and/or cold and will contaminate the applesauce - which is toxic, endocrine disrupting chemicals now leaching into the food you're eating! Yuck! Especailly it young children are going to eat! Instead freese, store in glass containers only.
Use Fuji apples for a perfectly sweet applesauce without needing to add any sugar, however, Fujis have so little acid it will be improved with addition of lemon (zest or juice to taste - the tart gives it balance! My favorite apple to use is actually the Honeycrisp - perfect balance of sweet & tart. Mac's have fantastic flavor but turn to mush in no time, so too much like mushy baby food - save the Macs for eating fresh. Never use Granny Smith - very little sugar in that apple, so will require addition of sugar to be tasty.
beekeeper November 10, 2013
I'm with the crockpot crowd. We grow our own apples, liberty, macintosh and an unknown variety and they tend to burn quickly on the stovetop. The crock pot keeps them from burning and also you don't have to add any liquid to the pot. Just pure apples. I have even stopped using cinnamon because it detracts from the freshness of the apple flavor though it would be a nice touch to have a cinnamon shaker on the table, when you serve the applesauce, for those who would like it. We can the sauce, 20 minutes in a boiling water canner for both pints and quarts. Wonderful.
Bethesda K. November 10, 2013
We make our ours every fall by peeling, coring & slicing them using one of those gadgets you attach to the countertop, and then we throw them into crockpots with a couple of cinnamon sticks. We leave them on low generally for about 24 hours. Super easy, and the whole house is suffused with apple & cinnamon aromas.
Zozo November 5, 2013
Yay! Have seen so many complicated recipes for applesauce online and it all seems rather unnecessary. This has been the only way I've ever cooked applesauce and it tastes delicious! I blitz it with a stick blender at the end for when I want something super smooth.
Elana C. November 5, 2013
Such a great idea, Zozo -- it is a little pureed soup-like!
Karl R. November 4, 2013
This looks great! I've also had luck roasting the prepped apples at 400 for about an hour, stirring them about half way through.
Elana C. November 4, 2013
Thanks, Karl! I've never tried roasting, but would be interested to see how it changes the flavor.