Before you think, "Applesauce? How boring!"...let me assure you that this applesauce is like no other. (Well, it's like one other. Let me explain.)
First! How does this slow cooker applesauce taste?
Guys! It's incredible! Sweet and tart with notes of vanilla, I reach for this INSTEAD OF DESSERT! I'm not kidding! There are so many ways to use it, though, besides just scarfing it with a spoon straight from the bowl. More on that in a minute; scroll to the bottom of the post for ideas.
I never thought I would be the type of person to look forward to having oatmeal in the morning, but big swirls of this applesauce on top have made me a changed woman.
I fell in love with homemade (no sugar-added) applesauce when I made Instant Pot Applesauce for The Pioneer Woman. The truth is, I hated using that Instant Pot. Oh, it was pretty and worked great, but I just didn't like using it. The settings, the steam, the venting...the space it was taking up in my cabinet! It wasn't for me. (I gave it away!)
When we visited Germany in November, I was reminded of that luscious homemade applesauce and decided to make a slow cooker/crockpot version.
Slow Cooker Applesauce Ingredients
- apple juice or cider
- lemon juice
- vanilla bean paste
You'll notice that there's no sugar in this recipe. You don't need it! Apples are sweet on their own. I get plenty of sugar from cookies, thankyouverymuch.
For the apple juice or cider, look for unfiltered juice with no other ingredients. In some areas, apple cider is precisely that - unfiltered apple juice. In other parts of the country, apple cider means apple juice with cinnamon and other spices. You just want plain ol' unfiltered apple juice. It'll look cloudy rather than clear. Check the label.
What kinds of apples are best for homemade applesauce?
You'll want a mix of sweet and tart apples for the very best applesauce. There's no hard and fast rule for the exact ratio of apple varieties. Grab a combination of what looks good at the store or farmers' market. You MUST, though, include some Granny Smith apples. Granny Smiths are the queen of tart apples and will really make your applesauce sing!
I almost always include Pink Lady (pretty tangy) and Honeycrisp (sweet-tart) apples in the mix. Some sweet apples to consider are Fuji, Envy, and Gala. My grocery store has a big chart of sweet to tart apple varieties; this apple sweetness chart is a great reference, too.
Homemade applesauce: To peel or not to peel?
I've made applesauce both ways, and I prefer it with peeled apples. Even when I tested the applesauce with some of the softer peels only and peeling the tougher skins, I still preferred the apples peeled. You'll puree the sauce, but even then, the texture of the peels remains in tiny bits.
Let's Make Easy Slow Cooker Applesauce
I like to pour the apple juice/cider and lemon juice in the slow cooker base before adding the apples. That way, I can stir in the apples as I go.
Peel, core, and slice the apples. The slices don't need to be thin, usually 6-8 wedges per apple. Place those in the slow cooker and stir.
Pop on the lid and let it cook for 4 hours. You can stir it once or twice, but do that quickly and get the top back on.
At the end of the 4 hours, the apples should be falling apart when you give them a stir. Turn off the heat.
Add vanilla bean paste. Use an immersion blender right in the slow cooker to puree the apples. I like my applesauce smoooooooth like baby food! If you want a chunky applesauce, leave it a little chunky.
Serve warm or cold. Store in covered containers in the refrigerator.
Easy Slow Cooker Applesauce
1 cup unfiltered apple juice or cider
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6-7 pounds apples, variety of sweet and tart
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
Pour apple juice/cider and lemon juice into slow cooker. Peel, core, and slice apples into 6-8 wedges each. Place apples in slow cooker, stirring to combine with the juice.
Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours. Stir once or twice if desired, quickly replacing the lid.
After 4 hours, the apples should be soft and falling apart when stirred. Turn off slow cooker. Stir in vanilla bean paste. Use an immersion blender* to puree the applesauce. [NOTE: I like it best super smooth, but you can puree as much or as little as you like.]
*Alternatively, carefully scoop the applesauce into a blender and process in batches.
Serve warm or cold. Once cooled, spoon into jars or covered containers and refrigerate. Will keep in the fridge for 10-14 days.
How to use Homemade Applesauce
- eat it with a spoon right out of the bowl!
- swirl into a breakfast grain bowl (I replace the blueberries with applesauce. ohmygosh...so good!)
- top vanilla bean ice cream and sprinkle with toasted nuts
- add to a cheese platter
- stir into cooked oatmeal
- serve with potato pancakes
- make applesauce cookies