The Best Apples for Homemade Apple Butter

Golden Delicious and jazz apples at Harvest
LauriPatterson / Getty Images

Want to make a big pot of homemade apple butter? While you can turn any apples into apple butter, some apples are better suited to the job than others. You'll save yourself a bunch of time and get tastier results if you put a bit of care into your apple selection.

Choose Softer Varieties

Soft apples work best for apple butter because they cook down faster. Use any of these varieties by themselves, or mix them up to give your apple butter more depth. By using softer varieties, you'll have delicious apple butter in no time.

  • Braeburn
  • Cortland
  • Fuji
  • Gravenstein
  • Grimes Golden
  • Idared
  • Jonamac
  • Liberty
  • McIntosh

If you're buying your apples at a farmer's market or orchard, ask the farmer to recommend varieties or combinations that he or she thinks would work best for apple butter. You may discover varieties that aren't on this list but work just as well.

Already have your apples? Don't sweat it you have something other than what's listed here. While your apples may take longer to cook down, they'll still make great apple butter. Use a crockpot, so you aren't tethered to the stove, and you won't even notice the extra time.

Why Make Apple Butter?

Apple butter is a thick spread that's made by cooking down apples until they caramelize and develop a dark brown, paste-like consistency. Sugar and spices are added to further flavor the finished product. Apple butter can be used in all the ways that you'd use jam. Spread it on toast and biscuits, or use it to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There are even recipes, like apple stack cake, that call for it as an ingredient.

While you can buy apple butter already made, the grocery store kind pales in comparison, and jars of homemade apple butter tend to sell for upwards of $5 at the farmer's market. Ouch! Learn how to make your own (it's easy), and you'll save money while gaining the opportunity to customize your apple butter to your tastes. Cut the sugar, or swap in a sugar substitute. Use only the spices that you like, and make as much or as little as you want.

Apple butter freezes beautifully and can be canned, as long as you stick to a recipe that's approved for canning. It makes it easy to stock up for the rest of the year or to get ahead on gifts.

Illustration of the best apples for apple butter
The Spruce / Jaime Knoth

How to Make It

To make apple butter, you first have to turn your apples into applesauce—peeling, coring, cooking, and mashing them. It is the most labor-intensive part of the process, and it helps to have the right tools available. Apple peelers, corers, and slicers speed up the prep work.

Once the applesauce is made, add spices and continue cooking it down until it reaches your desired color and thickness. Apple butter can be made in the crockpot, in the oven, or on the stovetop. The crockpot method is recommended since it's the least work, and you're less likely to have your apple butter burn.