- I’ve been a huge fan of homemade unsweetened applesauce for years. It’s a taste treat on its own and great as an accompaniment to latkes or other foods.
Sometimes, I even add it to yogurt with granola for breakfast or a quick snack. But only lately, I’ve come to understand that applesauce often works as a substitute for other foods.
Applesauce can substitute for oil in baking. (Typically the applesauce subs for only part of the oil. While many uses of oil in baking recipes makes them healthier than using butter, substituting applesauce for part of the oil makes the recipe even healthier.) My Low fat Cranberry Applesauce Loaf is just one example. It’s a particular favorite of mine because I love the combination of cranberries and apples.
My son Liam and his husband are vegan. So when cooking or baking for them, dairy (including butter) and eggs are out. This has put applesauce in a whole new light for me. What once was a food, now is much more – a substitute for an egg or butter.
Whether you like to eat applesauce on its own, serve it as a condiment/side to another dish or use it in baking, you’ll find the homemade version is infinitely better than store bought for at least three reasons.
Why Homemade Applesauce is Better Than Store-Bought
- Control the Taste. With homemade, you choose the apples (using whichever varieties you like, alone or in combination), the taste and texture. What apples go into store-bought? Who knows? You certainly can’t tell from the labelling on the jars I’ve seen.
- Control the Texture. For baking, you probably want well puréed applesauce so you don’t get discernable apple pieces in your batter. In contrast, when you serve applesauce on its own, you probably want it to be chunkier. How chunky, of course, depends on your taste. Why go with a jar of store-bought that is someone else’s idea of the right texture when you can control it so well with homemade?
- Make as Much (or as Little) as You Want. Don’t you hate to waste food? If you only need a small amount of applesauce you can make less than a cup, or even less. Have you ever tried to buy just a bit of applesauce? The only small amounts I’ve ever seen in a store require you to buy six single cups packaged together. So you get more than you need and plastic packaging you don’t want.
The method for making homemade unsweetened applesauce is simple. Maybe these directions seem too simple to be a recipe. Call it a technique if you want, or a tip. I like to think of it as the fruit equivalent of making chicken soup. Get the general idea down, and then go to town with variations.
Peel and cut up one or more apples. I find that a single large apple makes slightly less than one cup of applesauce.
Add the apple pieces and a bit of water to a pot, bring the pieces and water to a boil, cover (partially or completely) and simmer until the chunks are quite soft.
Then mash or process them. You can “fancy up” the applesauce with lemon juice, lemon zest, or even a bit of vanilla. And of course, there are variations on the theme.
Bottom line – homemade unsweetened applesauce is simple and worth knowing how to make. By choosing the type of apple and the consistency that suit you, your applesauce will be much more to your taste than store-bought.
Tips for Making the Best Homemade Unsweetened Applesauce
- Picking the right variety of apples. If you’re making the applesauce to serve, alone or as an accompaniment, pick tasty apples. I find that a mix of tart (Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, etc) and others works well. The broader the variety, the more depth of flavor your applesauce will have. On the other hand, if you’re using the applesauce as a substitute for an egg, butter, or oil, its taste should not stand out. Therefore, pick one or two varieties that have relatively little flavor. This is one of the few times when blandness is a positive.
- Why peel the apples? If you have an incredibly powerful blender and plan to pulverize the applesauce completely, then peeling the apples is not necessary. However, in all other cases, peeling the apples avoids pieces of skin floating in the sauce.
- How big to cut the apple pieces? For a chunky applesauce, you can leave the pieces large. But for a relatively smooth applesauce, either to eat or as a butter/oil substitute, it’s best to cut the pieces small. Alternatively, you can leave the pieces larger and process or mash them for longer.
Trivia for the day – Did you know that apples have ovaries? I didn’t. But it turns out that is the name for the chamber that holds the seeds. You may never need that information, but then again, if you play trivia or just want to sound educated about horticulture . . . .
Homemade Unsweetened Apple Sauce
It's a cinch to make and tasty on its own, as an accompaniment to latkes or sausages, or added to yogurt or cottage cheese. Plus you can use it as a substitute for oil/butter to lower the fat or even as a substitute for eggs.
- 1 medium/large apple
- grated lemon rind, lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon optional add-ins
Peel and core the apple. (Remove seeds and ovary, the chambers which contain the seeds.) Chop the apple into pieces - large if you want chunky applesauce or small if you want it to be smoother.
Put the apple in a pot. Add water to cover and bring the water to a boil on the stovetop. Reduce the heat to keep the water simmering, partially cover the pot with the lid and continue simmering until the apple pieces are softened. If necessary, add more water a bit at a time, so the mixture does not burn.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and process to get the desired consistency. Alternatively use a hand beater, immersion blender, or potato masher or fork to create the desired consistency.
Next week, I’ll share a recipe for Flourless Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies that use applesauce instead of egg. Until then, hope you’ll let me know if you find another fun and delicious way to use applesauce.