Love and Olive Oil
Small Batch Stovetop Apple Butter

Small Batch Stovetop Apple Butter

Crisp fall apples cooked down with sugar and spices until lusciously smooth and intensely flavored. This small batch apple butter recipe is perfect when you just have a few apples on hand.

Most apple butter recipes require 3-4 pounds of apples and hours of time. But sometimes you just want a little apple butter, a jar’s worth or so, that can easily be consumed in a week or two. For that, this small-batch recipe is perfect (not to mention it is much quicker and easier to prepare than a larger batch, no canning required!)

Small Batch Stovetop Apple Butter Recipe

Apple butter is one of those magical condiments that crosses the line between sweet and savory, and I can think of a million different ways to use it.

This particular batch of apple butter was made as to accompany a batch of sharp cheddar gougères (cheese puffs), apples and cheese being an entirely under-appreciated combination. In that same respect it also makes a great addition to your holiday cheese board, and would be astounding paired with melty white cheddar and brie inside a grilled cheese sandwich.

On the sweeter side, it’d be perfect dolloped on biscuits, spread onto toast, warmed and drizzled on fall spiced pancakes or waffles, stirred into yogurt or even swirled into homemade frozen yogurt.

I mean, it’s undoubtedly more versatile than any other condiment, ketchup included.

Perfect for fall: Small Batch Stovetop Apple Butter Recipe

What is the difference between applesauce and apple butter, anyway?

Time.

But it makes all the difference.

Applesauce is a fairly quick process, cooked apples run through a food mill. Apple butter is basically concentrated apple sauce, cooked down even more until it’s thicker, silkier, and more intensely apple flavored. Like the difference between tomato sauce and tomato paste, essentially.

Since this is a small batch preparation method, it takes significantly less time than a larger batch (more surface area = quicker evaporation; yay maths!) Needless to say, this apple butter only needs about an hour to cook, whereas a bigger batch would easily take twice that.

You’ll know it’s done when the apple butter is caramel colored and thick enough to hold its shape on a spoon (it won’t immediately drip off when inverted). For me it took about an hour to reduce from 2 cups down to about 1 1/2. There’s no magical “moment” when it’s done, so just test and taste as you go and call it done whenever it’s to your liking.

It’s not rocket science, after all.

Small Batch Stovetop Apple Butter

Can it be canned? While apple butter is generally considered safe for home canning, this specific recipe was not developed/tested with that in mind (since it’s such a small batch, it’s not really worth the time to can it).

If you’re looking for a larger yield apple butter recipe for canning, I recommend a recipe from a trusted source like Ball or NCHFP.

However, since this recipe is not meant to be canned, it means it’s ripe for adaptation. Maybe you want a splash of bourbon, or extra lemon juice for a brighter flavor, or a different combination of spices. Prefer more or less sugar? Adjust as desired. Heck, even swap out honey or maple syrup instead.

Small Batch Stovetop Apple Butter How to make homemade apple butter on the stovetop: the milled apple puree is then cooked down with sugar and spices for nearly an hour, concentrating the crisp apple flavor. Apple butter is basically thicker, more flavorful applesauce.

I used a food mill to sauce the apples as I love the more rustic texture it creates. Food mills are also amazing timesavers, removing any undesired peels or pits, so I didn’t bother peeling my apples beforehand. Apple peels are full of pectin, so cooking the apples initially with the peels helps to thicken the sauce as well.

If you don’t have a food mill, that’s ok, you’ll just want to peel your apples first and then run the cooked apple chunks through a food processor or use a hand blender to make a smooth puree. Apple butter prepared in this method will be smoother and slightly thinner than apple butter made with a food mill, but no less delicious.

Small Batch Stovetop Apple Butter

Small Batch Stovetop Apple Butter

Crisp fall apples cooked down with sugar and spices until lusciously smooth and intensely flavored. This small batch apple butter recipe is perfect when you just have a few apples on hand, no canning required.
4.75 stars (4 reviews)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds / 680 g apples, about 5 medium apples, cored and coarsely chopped*
  • ½ cup / 120 g filtered water, you can also use apple juice or apple cider (NOT vinegar)
  • ¼ cup / 50 g granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons / 30 g lemon juice, from 1 large lemon
  • ¼ cup / 55 g packed light brown sugar, more or less to taste (I recommend ¼ to ½ cup)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch ground cloves
  • pinch sea salt

Instructions

  • Place apple pieces and cores in a large saucepan along with water, granulated sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook apples for 20 to 25 minutes or until apples begin to soften and fall apart.
  • Remove from heat and discard cores. Run softened apples through a food mill, discarding any remaining solids or seeds. (Alternatively, if you don't have a food mill, blend softened apples in a food processor or using a hand blender until smooth.) You should have about 2 cups of apple puree.
  • Return puree to saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Add brown sugar to taste, along with spices and salt. Gently simmer, stirring regularly to avoid spattering, until apple butter is deep caramel in color and thick enough to hold its shape on a spoon.
  • Transfer to a jar or airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

Notes

* I used a mix of honeycrisp and granny smith apples here, but feel free to use your favorites. If you do not have a food mill, peel and core your apples before cooking..
All images and text © for Love & Olive Oil.

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35 Comments

  1. I woke up at 5am and had a craving for apple-butter, but I don’t have a crock pot– this recipe was amazing! I used 4 granny smith apples and 1 cosmic crunch. Instead of blending the apples, I added a bit more water and let it simmer longer. The result was the best apple-butter I’ve ever tasted! Tart and sweet with crunchy bits of apples, I made homemade biscuits just to have a vessel for more apple-butter.

  2. I went to lancaster pa  and brought home way too many apples. I have made applesauce and  froze apple slices for pies and ect.  I never made applebutter before but this recipe is awesome  made two batches .  I don’t have a foodmill but will get one.  Thanks for sharing 

  3. Just made this, what an awesome small batch of apple butter! So delicious, the only thing I did different was add some fresh ground nutmeg to the spices. I used Honeycrisp and Courtland apples (fresh picked from the market ;) This recipe rocks, what flavor!

  4. I’m making this recipe right now and it smells wonderful with cloves and cinnamon made with Ambrosia apples.

    Your recipe did not indicate if the pot lid should be put back on for the second phase of the recipe. I’m going without just because you said to watch about the splatter but I’m very sure it will be excellent. Thank you for sharing a recipe that is good for singles!

    • So glad you enjoyed! You were correct to leave it uncovered (as you want the excess liquid to boil off allowing the mixture to thicken). Generally with recipes uncovered is the default state of the pot, if it should be covered that would be stated specifically in the recipe.

  5. So good! This was easy and delicious. I used the full 1/2 cup of brown sugar and I love the way it turned out. I originally decided to make this because I was going to bake a cake that called for 1 cup of apple butter, but decided to scrap the cake and just use the apple butter for something else like crepes or scones!

  6. Nope, not apple butter. Lovely thick applesauce, but not butter. Apple butter takes more than an hour post-blending, no matter how small the batch. You can’t rush the caramelization needed to make apple butter. The test is the deep dark color from the cooking and it doesn’t just hold its shape on the spoon, the finished apple butter holds the spoon vertically in the jar. You’re getting there but a 25% reduction in volume isn’t quite enough.

    • This is super helpful – I’ve never made either so I didn’t realize there was a difference. I’m glad I didn’t use it in the recipe I was going to since it probably wouldn’t have turned out right if the “butter” I was using was the wrong consistency. Like you said though – it’s great, thick applesauce. Thank you!

  7. I absolutely love this recipe! Here in Germany, I’ve never heard of apple butter before, but since I learned about it and made this recipe the first time, a bit over a week ago, I finished one and a half jam jars full of it and now am about to double the recipe, so I can store some for later. It really is a treat and tastes heavenly.

    I’ve found out, that I like small apple chunks in mine and will do that this time.

    Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  8. First try with your wonderful recipe ! Absolutely perfect and so delicious , thank you for sharing this great small batch recipe . Made it exactly as written – didn’t change a thing ! 

  9. Core the apples. Remove any seeds that might have been missed. Carefully do this with a small sharp knife. Shred the apples so you don’t have to further process them. Simmering will break down the apples. Simmer until desired consistency. 
    Thank you for this small batch recipe. It’s a great one!

  10. I left the peels on and blended it and everything turned out great! Thanks for the recipe 😊

  11. This is the second year that I’ve used your recipe and it always comes out so perfect the only thing is I use apple juice instead of water I had no salt and I do nutmeg and cinnamon and of course the lemon juice and it is so good

  12. When I skim read “Apple Cider” I presumed ‘vinegar’ , in UK we just call it Cider. Anyway I put vinegar, what a disaster!

    • Yeah, apple cider and apple cider vinegar are completely different things. I’ve clarified the recipe to prevent others from making this same mistake.
      That said, your batch may not be a total waste, I bet it’d make for a lovely meat marinate, or even as a base for like a salad dressing or something?

  13. Thank you

  14. What do i do i added 2 cups of sugar instead of 1??

  15. Used this recipe as a base. Put the apples in my magic bullet and added a bit more cinnamon and cloves along with a half cup brown sugar. Hubs loves it! Definitely will be tweaking the recipe a bit next go round

  16. delicious and made the perfect amount- I doubled the recipe and got two pint jars- thank you for remembering that not all of us need 12 quarts of apple butter!

  17. I can’t wait to try this! I love that you’ve made a small batch recipe — even with two of us in the house, it would be hard to go through a big batch. Your pictures are also beautiful, by the way!

  18. Yummy. Was a little concerned that it would turn out too thin if I put it in the food processor, so instead I used a potato masher. I think it turned out great. It’s just the right amount for a few servings. Easy to follow recipe. Thank you.

  19. I did not make the recipe listed above. But, I really wanted to, you see it all stated when…

    I decided my juicing phase was over, and threw out my bulky, never quite clean, kale shredder. Obviously not thinking about the 1lb of organic apples I knew would not be eaten. 
    So naturally being so close to summer, I decided to make apple butter! (Clearly I make Great Decisions, I should run for office). This recipe looked so easy and I loved the rustic apple sauce look of it. 
    Being the champion decision maker that I am, I decided to go off script, blaze my own trail, add a stroke from my artist paint brush to this masterpiece. 
    Since the apples in question were honeycrisp and a day past ripe, I knew I wanted to cut the sugar and amp up the spice and everything nice. So I put in extra lemon and a 2inch chunk of raw ginger, confident in my not yet 30, no child brain to remember to take it out before blending. 
    As you can imagine, this part was forgotten and so skipped. I blended 2inchs worth of spicy raw ginger into my beautiful apple butter. 
    Being the quick, resourceful, cool under pressure, (potential future president) that I am…I called my mommy. 
    Turns out sweet compliments spicy, so I added twice as much sugar as listed. I also turned down the heat and extended the cooking time by an embarrassing amount, so that the fiber would have time to cook down.

     Now I have a beautiful sweet and spicy spread for my toast! You know, 
    for those bone chilling, 50degree California summer mornings. 

    This recipe was perfect, I wish I had made it, think I will try it next fall. Imagine, apple butter in winter…crazy. 

  20. Believe it or not, it’s hard to find apple butter in many stores. This is actually my 2nd time using this recipe. Taste like my great aunt’s homemade apple butter. Thanks a lot!

  21. Great easy recipe. I added a bit of nutmeg to mine and it was quite tasty. Tried it on toast right after I made it. Used 4 apples since they were going soft, diced and cored before cooking vs cooking them whole. My husband was pleased with the result too. Thanks for sharing!

  22. I just finished making this and it is DELICIOUS 

  23. Making this right now. Only added 2 Tbls sugar at start and a Tbls brown sugar after blending. Also a splash of whiskey and got more generous with cloves and cinnamon. Smells great right now waiting til it’s darker to take off the heat. Thanks for sharing this recipe we only had 4 old apples to use up. Lol

  24. Amazing recipe! Especially for the shorter amount of time it takes to cook! 5 stars! And my husband loved it too! Thank you!

  25. I just finished making this and before it could cool enough for me to put in a container my husband came out of his home office following the delicious smell of this recipe. It came out SO good! I like a sweeter apple butter so I used 1/2 cup brown sugar when you called for it and I didn’t simmer the cores, I didn’t want to have to worry about seeds, I’m a bit lazy lol! I used my potato masher to get it nice and smooth and I will definitely be using this recipe again!! Thank you!

  26. I used pink lady apples and only 1/4 cup brown sugar. It came out not too sweet, but not tart. Just like a good eating apple. It also has a wonderfully bright flavor. I’m excited how well my first batch came out!

  27. what a great condiment, so many different ways to use it, thank you for this recipe. really nice way to get my daily dose of apples!

    • I made this recipe this (fall) morning as an ingredient for This slow cooker apple butter pork chops recipe. Because I only have two pork chops, I halved this recipe. It was fun, easy and rewarding to make. I’m too busy cooking  to Join and follow In order to post a picture; however, here’s my post.

  28. I think you left out when to add the apple cider in the directions. I reread it a couple of times to make sure

  29. I always laugh to myself when I see an apple butter recipe, or any kind of butter, because when I first went to make apple butter, I assumed there would be butter! you’re right, it’s all about time.

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