Really good Apple Butter can be hard to find... but no worries because it is super easy to make at home right in your pressure cooker!
I don't know about you, but I find the store-bought apple butter to be way too sweet and not that applely! While it will do in a pinch, I usually just stayed away from apple butter unless it my Mom's homemade!
I'm not sure why I never made it myself until recently, it's so easy! Especially in the Ninja Foodi. or the Instant Pot!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, BUT this recipe is NOT a canning recipe. I compared my recipe to the one in the Ball book for canning and I don't use near the amount of sugar they do, so this is not a recipe that should be canned. You can use this technique and an approved canning recipe though.
It will last several months in the fridge. You can even freeze it and it will last much longer. I'll give you tips for freezing later in this article.
Yes! This can definitely be tailored to use as little sugar as you want. In fact, you can leave all sweeteners out and just reduce your apples until they are the consistency you want.
If you are going to skip the sugar, add in about ¼-½ cup of water before pressure cooking because the sugar does add to the liquid used to create the steam to go under pressure.
What Apples are Best for Making Apple Butter?
Any kind you want! The type of apples you use is completely up to you. I always mix a few varieties because I think it gives the apple butter a nice balance of flavors.
The softer the apple, the quicker they cook down, but since we are pressure cooking them, this simply doesn't matter! Pick your favorite apples and it will be wonderful.
My favorite combination is Gala and Granny Smith apples. Fuji and Granny Smith would be a nice combination as well.
Granny Smith might not be typical in apple butters, but since I don't like overly sweet apple butter, I like to use them because they give the apple butter a tiny bit of tart flavor that balances the sweetness and spices perfectly!
What is the difference between applesauce and apple butter?
While apple butter and applesauce use a lot of the same ingredients, there are some differences.
Making applesauce is a quick process of cooking the apples and pureeing them to the consistency that you want. Most applesauces aren't as heavily seasoned as apple butter, but they can be. That is all a matter of preference.
Making apple butter is a longer process because you cook down the apples and reduce the liquid so you have a thicker consistency. That's the main difference between the two, applesauce is thinner and apple butter is thicker. Apple butter also tends to be a little sweeter because the sugar is more concentrated with the loss of the liquid.
Applesauce is served as a side dish ususally or for a quick snack, while apple butter is usually used as a spread or a topping.
Both are delicious and you can make either with this recipe and technique, just don't reduce the apples as much and you will have a nicely seasoned applesauce.
What Spices Do I Use in Apple Butter?
Cinnamon is top of the list. I don't think I've ever had an apple butter without cinnamon in it, but if you don't like cinnamon, you certainly don't have to use it!
You can get as creative as you want, it's your apple butter. I use a combination of spices and include one that is not common at all; cardamom.
There is something about cardamom that brings something extra to the table when it comes to apple butter. It's slightly herbal, but also a little citrusy and I think it balances out the sweetness perfectly.
Of course, you don't have to use it. You don't have to use any of the spices I use. That's the beauty of making apple butter, you can make it however you like.
If you wanted to experiment with spices, don't add them in during the PC time. Instead, gradually add the spices when the apples are cooking down. Don't be heavy handed, you can always add more spice, but it's much harder to take it out! That is especially true for cinnamon. More is not always better with a strong spice like cinnamon, so start out with no more than 1½ teaspoons if you decide to omit the other spices.
How Do I Know When the Apple Butter is Done?
Apple butter is different from jams, jellies, and preserves because you don't have reach a certain temp for it to set up. You don't need any pectin because apples are high in pectin and you will get a thick apple butter simply from reducing it.
I think the sugar also helps thicken it, so if you opt out of the sugar, your apple butter might be slightly thinner.
There is no magical timing for apple butter, you simply cook it down until it deepens in color and is the consistency you want. The cooking time will vary based on the amount of apples, the amount of liquid you start with, and the cooking method.
You can make apple butter on the stove, in a pressure cooker or in a slow cooker and the time it takes for the apples to reduce will vary, so I use the scrape test to judge when my apple butter is done. I simply run my spatula across the bottom of the pot and when the mixture stays apart for 30 seconds or so and it's a rich brown color, I know I am done.
Here is a short video showing me doing the scrape test.
When testing this recipe, I was a little too impatient during the second test and didn't let it reduce enough. It was still delicious, but not as thick.
You can see the comparison in the picture below.
Both apple butters taste amazing, so it really doesn't matter if you get impatient and don't reduce it like I did on the left.
I will say that the apple butter on the left has a richer flavor though.
How to Freeze Your Apple Butter
The most important thing to do before freezing is to let it cool all the way. I would put it in the fridge for at least a day to make sure it is cooled completely.
Then, you can transfer it into any sealable freezer container and it will last a year or so in the freezer.
I would suggest using smaller containers and leave a little bit of room for expansion as the apple butter freezes.
Zip lock freezer bags work perfectly because you can squeeze all the extra air out.
Simply pull out a container or a bag when you need more apple butter and let it thaw in the fridge.
Will Apple Butter thicken as it cools?
Yes! It will thicken quite a bit as it cools. In fact, if you are worried that you didn't cook it long enough and will end up with thin apple butter, then you can do the plate test to check the consistency it will be when cooled.
To do this, place a glass or ceramic plate in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Spoon out some of the apple butter and put a thin layer in the middle of the plate. I usually use about 1-2 teaspoons. Put the plate back in the freezer and let it sit in the freezer for 15 minutes or so.
Run a spoon through the middle and see how well it holds its shape when separated. If it runs back together quickly, then the apple butter is too thin and you should reduce it longer. If it stays apart, it is done.
Can I Really Pressure Cook Without Any Liquid?
Yes, you can. Almost every recipe out there in internet land will call for some kind of thin liquid when using the pressure cooking function.
That is because you have to have a thin liquid to build steam to bring the pot under pressure. However, sometimes that liquid is in the non liquid ingredients and you do not need to add additional liquid.
A perfect example is this recipe for Easy Ratatouille. The vegetables give off the needed liquid and I don't add any in this recipe. The same is true with tomatoes. They have so much liquid in them, you don't need to any if you are making a spaghetti sauce from scratch. Unless you add pasta and that is a whole different concept.
I go into more detail about this in the article below.
If you want to read more about pressure cooking, here is an article I wrote: Pressure Cooking 101
I do use 1-2 Tbsp of juice from an orange in this recipe, but even if I skipped that, the pot would still come to pressure and I'll explain how.
When you select the pressure cooker function and turn the valve to seal, the heating element in the bottom engages and begins to heat the food inside. This is no different from heating apples and sugar on the stove.
As the heat increases, the sugar begins to combine with the juices from the apples and that becomes our liquid. The pot continues to heat and cook the apple/sugar mixture during the time to pressure and as that liquid begins to boil, steam is produced.
Once enough steam is produced, the weight of that steam pushes against the pin and the pin pops up, sealing the pot and putting it under pressure.
If not adding any liquid to this recipe makes you too nervous, go ahead and add ¼ cup of water, apple juice, or apple cider. It will be fine, but you will have to reduce the apples longer after the pressure cook time to evaporate the water out of the mixture.
Do I have to Make Any Changes if I'm using an Instant Pot instead of the Ninja Foodi?
You shouldn't have to make any changes to the recipe if you are using an Instant Pot or any other brand of pressure cooker. Most Instant Pot recipes and Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker Cooker recipes are interchangeable.
There are so many different models of pressure cookers that I can't be sure if the lids work the same when using sear/sauté, so that might be the only adjustment you have to make.
On the Ninja Foodi, I can put the lid on and turn the valve to vent and use the sear/sauté function to reduce the apple butter. This comes in handy because the apple mixture is really going to sputter and spit while it is reducing.
I think you can do the same with the IP's, but if you can't, simply use another lid and offset it a bit so the steam escapes.
How to Make Apple Butter in a Pressure Cooker
The first thing I do is zest an orange and squeeze the juice into the inner pot. This way when I add my apples, there is some acid in there to help them not turn brown. If you don't want to use an orange, just use 1-2 tsp of lemon juice.
Peel and core your apples. When peeling the apples, it really doesn't matter how small or big you make the slices because we will use a blender or immersion blender to get the apple mixture smooth after we pressure cook.
If you do not have a blender or an immersion blender, no worries, just cook your apples longer. I would probably pressure cook for 15-20 minutes and this will really soften them and then you can just break them up with spatula or a potato masher.
If you are using a blender, you will want to let your apples cool some before blending. I like the immersion blender because I'm impatient and don't want to wait! The immersion blender I use is listed below. I love that it comes apart and the stainless end is so easy to clean!
Add the apples to the inner pot and then the sugars. Stir the mixture.
Next, add in your spices. You can use the ones I did or experiment with your own seasoning blend. If you aren't sure which spices you want to add, don't add any until after the PC time. This way you can start out with small amounts and increase to taste.
Stir to combine the spices with the sugar and apples.
Put the lid on the pressure cooker and pressure cook on high for 10 minutes. When the time is up, do an immediate release.
The apples will still look like they are whole, but trust me, they are very soft and will break apart easily.
Use your immersion blender to puree the mixture until it is a smooth consistency. You can use a blender, but make sure to let the mixture cool before blending.
If you don't have a stainless steel inner liner, then transfer the mixture into a large bowl or another stainless steel pot that is deep enough. You don't want to use your immersion blender in the ceramic coated inner liner unless there is a guard on it and even then, be careful not to scratch the pot.
Once the mixture is nice and smooth, you will see that it is pretty runny. You could stop here and refrigerate the mixture and have a nice applesauce, but let's continue on and make some delicious pressure cooker apple butter!
Now we need to thicken it up. There are several ways you can do this. You can put the pressure lid back on and turn the valve to vent and slow cook on high for about 6 hours and that will reduce it OR, if you are impatient like me and want to get it done, we use the sear/sauté function.
There are several ways you can use the sear/sauté function to reduce your apple butter, but the way I start is to put the pressure lid on the Ninja Foodi and turn the valve to VENT. Use the sear/sauté on medium for about 10 -15 minutes.
Don't worry if your pin pops and seals the lid, as long as the valve is vented, you are not going under pressure. However, when the pin is up, the lid is sealed. So, if this happens (it did for me), just reduce your heat to low-medium and the pin will drop again.
If you want to keep your heat at low or low medium, you can do that as well. There isn't any right or wrong way to reduce the mixture, you simply have to let the liquid burn off.
The only reason I don't do it with the lid off is because it sputters and spits so much. You can use a different lid, but make sure it's offset a bit so the steam escapes.
After about 10 minutes, I like to check on the apple butter to see how it is coming along. You don't want to let it go too long on the medium sear/sauté or you could scorch it and that won't taste very good.
Once you check on it and stir it around, you can either put the lid back on with the valve vented or just sit the lid on top without locking it in place and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes.
I can't stress this enough, there is no magic time here. It could take 20 minutes or it could take 35 minutes to get to the consistency you like. If you keep the heat on low, it could take 40-45 minutes.
Just keep an eye on it every 10 minutes or so and do the scrape test that I talked about earlier in this post. You can make it as thick as you want. As long as you don't let it scorch, it will be delicious!
Here is a picture of me doing the scrape test and this apple butter was the perfect consistency! Remember, it thickens more as it cools.
Once the apple butter is reduced to the consistency you like, turn off the heat and let it cool a few minutes.
I like to put mine in canning jars even though I'm not canning the recipe. I just find them so easy to store in the fridge.
The amount of apple butter will vary depending on how long you let it reduce. I was able to get about 5 cups from my thinner batch, but only 3 cups from the thicker one.
Let it cool on the counter for about an hour and then chill it overnight.
Serve & Enjoy!
Pressure Cooker Apple Butter
- Instant Pot
- 1 large orange zest and juice
- 4 lbs apples
- ½ cup brown sugar packed
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp fine grind sea salt
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground cardamom
- Zest and juice the orange into the inner pot. You only need 1-2 Tbsp of the orange juice, but it won't hurt anything if you add it all in. Peel and slice your apples (remove the core) and place them in the inner pot.
- Add the sugar and spices to the pot of apples and stir. Put the pressure lid on and turn the valve to seal. Pressure cook for 10 minutes and do an immediate release.
- Use an immersion blender to purée the apples. See post for other ways to purée if you don't have an immersion blender.
- Put the pressure lid back on and make sure the valve is VENTED. Set the sear/sauté to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes. If the red pin pops up and you can't open the lid after 10-15 minutes, reduce the heat and allow the pin to drop.
- Check on the apple butter and continue reducing until you get the consistency you like. Remember it will thicken more as it cools. This process took me about 25 minutes. You can either put the lid back on with it vented or leave the lid off and stir while it's reducing. The apple mixture tends to pop and splatter, so even if I don't lock the lid in place, I do place it on top to prevent the mixture from splattering out. Keep the lid a little offset so the steam escapes and stir frequently. Reduce the heat as needed. You don't want to scorch the mixture.
- When the apple butter is to the desired consistency, turn off the heat and let it cool some. Place it in small jars or containers and let it sit on the counter for about 1 hour. Then, refrigerate until chilled.
- Serve & Enjoy!
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Seeing the need for easy, delicious, and high quality recipes, she is focusing all of her efforts creating recipes specifically for the Ninja Foodi. Her recipes are easy for the home cook to follow and provide step-by-step instructions.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can.
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