Pennsylvania Dutch Low-Sugar Apple Butter


Jackie Mills / EyeEm / Getty Images

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 3 hrs
Total: 3 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 10 servings
Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
101 Calories
0g Fat
26g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10
Amount per serving
Calories 101
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 3mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 26g 10%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 21g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 15mg 73%
Calcium 13mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 166mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This Pennsylvania Dutch low-sugar apple butter recipe is made every fall by the folks who live in this area.

The Germans and Dutch make and eat a similar product from the juice of pressed fruit, called Apfelkraut or Apfelsirup. In the Rhineland, where traditional apple orchards grow, it is considered a specialty. They use it to sweeten their Sauerbraten gravy and on potato pancakes.

Making apple butter has been a method for preserving fruit since ancient Greece. Cooking or rendering fruit until the sugar content is above 50 percent preserves it, often without canning or refrigeration.

Both apple butter and Apfelsirup turn dark brown because the sugar in the apples caramelizes with long, slow simmering.


  • 6 apples, about 3 pounds, peeled, cored, and quartered

  • 3/4 cup apple cider, or apple juice, unsweetened

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons sweetener, such as agave syrup, honey, or sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Chop the 6 peeled, cored, and quartered apples into small chunks and place them in a saucepan. Add 3/4 cup unsweetened apple cider or apple juice (can be reconstituted from frozen), 2 to 4 tablespoons the sweetener of choice (agave syrup, honey or sugar), 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.

  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring often, for 1 hour. The apples should be very mushy.

  4. Remove cover and simmer for another 1 to 2 hours, stirring frequently so the fruit doesn't burn. The mixture will get thick and turn dark brown, from the caramelized sugar.

  5. When you stop cooking is up to personal preference. Again, the picture shows apple butter which was cooked until it was shiny, dry and thick like jam. You can always quit while it is still soft and a bit runny.

What You Can Do With Apple Butter

The beauty of apple butter is that you can turn it into a sweetener for other recipes.

  • Replace half the fat in quick breads with an equal amount of apple butter.

  • It's an excellent accompaniment to pork.

  • Use it instead of maple syrup on pancakes, with your morning oatmeal and over cottage cheese.

  • Spread it on your daily bread. It is lower in calories than dairy butter and has no fat.

  • Try apple butter on roesti, potato pancakes or pork chops.

Who Are the Pennsylvania Dutch?

The Pennsylvania Dutch are a group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and their descendants. People mistakenly think they are from Holland, but the "Dutch" is an Americanization of "Deutsch," which means "German." 

Not all Pennsylvania Dutch are Amish, although that is a popular misconception. They also can be Lutheran or Reformed, Mennonite or even Catholic. The term refers to people of German descent who settled in Pennsylvania. Amish is a religious sect, known as Anabaptists, and are considered Plain people or Plain Dutch in contrast to the Fancy Dutch.

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