Unsweetened Slow Cooker Applesauce Recipe (oven version, too)

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unsweetened slow cooker applesauce | pamela salzman

I don’t know about you, but we love having both cranberry sauce and applesauce on Thanksgiving and always the homemade kind.  It’s my tradition every year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to make a huge pot of both and my house smells amazing.  When my kids see the huge pile of apple peels on the counter and smell the cinnamon-y sweetness in the kitchen, they start to feel the holiday spirit.

the secret is using a variety of apples

The last two years my friend Caitlin has brought her delicious homemade applesauce for Thanksgiving, so I didn’t make any.  But the kids and my husband have missed tasting it fresh and warm out of the pot when I cook it from scratch, so I decided to make some a few weeks ago and boy, did they all go crazy for it.

peel, quarter and core the applesThe recipe I love is by everyone’s idol, Ina Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa.  I have made that applesauce many, many times, and not just for Thanksgiving.  It has a deep, rich apple flavor because the apples are roasted in an enameled pot low and slow in the oven.  Although over the years, as I have become a little more health conscious, I started to make small changes to her recipe, such as eliminating the butter and sugar, and still turned out a most tasty applesauce.  A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Picky asked me to make applesauce and I thought it might be fun to try it in the slow cooker.  Major success!!  I think I will make applesauce in the slow cooker every time, forever and ever and ever.

before cooking

I think the key to making a tasty applesauce is my same secret (not such a secret really) to making the best apple pie is using many varieties of apples.  I also think you can get away with using no added sweeteners if you choose mostly sweet apples, as opposed to tart ones.  If you typically buy unsweetened applesauce at the store, I am sure you will think this recipe is perfectly sweet enough.  I always try to use as little sugar as possible in fruit desserts because I think you taste more of the fruit flavor than just a bland sweetness.  For this particular batch I used Pink Lady (my favorite), Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, Arkansas Black, Fuji, and Granny Smith.  You don’t have to use that many different kinds of apples, but make sure you use at least three varieties.

remove the peels and the cinnamon sticks and stir

Unless we just met, you know how much I love prepping in advance and thinking ahead, especially when it comes to holiday entertaining.  And even though I always made my applesauce the Sunday before Thanksgiving, guess what?  You can freeze it.  I know!  Amazing.  Today is a great day to go out and buy a ton of apples and make this.  Although it only makes 6 cups and I am very sure there’s no way it will last you until the big day because you and your loved ones will want to devour it.  We love it plain, especially warm, but it’s also awesome on pancakes and French toast, with yogurt and granola, and on poultry.  Mmmmmm!!

unsweetened slow cooker applesauce | pamela salzman

5.0 from 1 reviews
Slow Cooker Applesauce
Serves: makes 6 cups
  • 6 pounds of apples (use several different varieties and try to use more sweet apples than tart)
  • the peel from a small lemon (use a vegetable peeler to take it off and try to remove in one whole piece so it’s easier to find when the applesauce is cooked)
  • juice of half a lemon (2-3 teaspoons)
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • pinch of allspice
  1. Peel, quarter and core all the apples. Save a large piece of peel from a red apple to include in the slow cooker. It will add a beautiful rosy color to the sauce. Place the apples, reserved piece of apple peel, lemon peel, lemon juice, cinnamon sticks and pinch of allspice (if you’re using that) in the slow cooker insert. Cover the slow cooker and set it to LOW. Cook for 5-6 hours until apples are super soft.
  2. Before you stir or mash the apples, remove the apple peel, lemon peel and cinnamon sticks. If you like a super smooth applesauce, blend with an immersion blender. I like it more chunky, so I just stir the apples with a wooden spoon or a large whisk.
  3. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze for up to two months.
To prepare in the oven, place all ingredients in a nonreactive Dutch oven or enameled pot, cover and bake for 1 ½ hours at 350 degrees.  Remove peels and cinnamon sticks before mashing apples.

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    • Pamela says

      AH! Sorry I didn’t respond to your original question in time, but I see you made it successfully. No water added! Delicious, isn’t it? Love the ice cube idea — genius!

  1. Jyl says

    OMG! What a success! I cannot get over how sweet this was and there was no sugar added! It was perfect! I enjoy a lot of the “less sweet” recipes – but I can typically still really notice that we didn’t add sugar, etc. But this was as good – or better than any applesauce I’ve ever had. I think the mixture of different types of apples did the trick! Perfect! Thanks you!

  2. Karyl says

    I made this tonight to use in a cake I plan on baking as well as for a snack. The recipe is excellent and plenty sweet. I used fresh picked apples – Rome, gala, pink lady and Jonagold. It’s a decent blend of tastes. Thank you for posting this! It is extremely easy and tasty. It’s also healthy. I like knowing what my applesauce has in it – apples. I will be using this one again.

    • Pamela says

      The applesauce keeps for about a week in a jar in the refrigerator. But if you are asking about canning the applesauce and storing it,I haven’t tried that but I have to assume it would do very well.

  3. Chris says

    Add some peeled, ripe pears to your apples before cooking. You can go half pear, half apple. The texture is like velvet and the flavor is out of this world. Yum!

  4. Mary says

    Hi — I love this recipe for applesauce — have made it twice now and it’s absolutely delicious — thank you for posting it!

    I love the lemon in the recipe, but have found both times I’ve made it that the lemon peel disintegrates into small pieces that are hard to find / retrieve when the sauce is done cooking. I peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler, around the lemon, like I would an apple, and try to keep the peel wide and long. Do you have any ideas as to how I can keep the peel from disintegrating?

    Thank you!

    • Pamela says

      Hmmm….I do the same thing with my lemon peel and it doesn’t disintegrate. If you can, try adding the lemon 1-2 hours before the applesauce is finished cooking. Or try tying it up in some cheesecloth.

    • Pamela says

      They’re the same thing except “Crock Pot” is a brand name, so a Crock Pot is a slow cooker, but a slow cooker is not necessarily a Crock Pot. Make sense?

  5. says

    So delicious. For an extra kick of flavor and fragrance I also like to add a quince or two to it. While I was away I packed the freezer with food, was lucky enough to have my mom here AND left my husband with a link to your site! Thank you for all the healthy deliciousness.


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