Sugar-Free Applesauce (Canning Recipe)
* This article contains affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure.
Applesauce was the very first thing I ever tried canning at home. In other words, it was my gateway into the world of home canning.
Since it’s so easy to make, is safe for water bath canning and requires very few extra ingredients or special processing instructions, applesauce truly is one of the best things a first-time canner can make. And since it’s that time of year again when the apple trees are bursting with fresh fruit and the markets are stocked full, what better time than now to try canning applesauce for yourself?
Of course, if you don’t want to can it, you can always store it in the fridge or freeze it for later. The downside to either of these options though is that if you store in the fridge, you’ll need to use it up within a couple weeks at most. And if you store it in the freezer, you’ll need to wait hours for it to defrost when you want to use it and it takes up lots of space in your freezer.
I opt for canning my applesauce because it’s ready to go at room temperature whenever I’m ready to use it. All I need to do is dump it out of the jar.
Related: Water Bath Canning for Beginners
What to do with canned applesauce
There are so many things you can do with canned applesauce. It’s great to eat on its own (especially with the addition of a little cinnamon and brown sugar), added to oatmeal or baking recipes, or as a quick-serve baby food.
Last summer I gave birth to our daughter and canned up as many jars of applesauce as I could so that when she started eating solids I would be ready with baby food on hand. Sure enough, a few months laters she began eating puréed solid food and we went through all 20+ jars of apple and pear sauce in no time at all.
Now, I prefer to make my applesauce without any added sugar precisely because I try to avoid feeding my daughter extra sugar whenever possible. Plus, if you’re using applesauce for baking, it’s best to start with sugar-free sauce and then add sugar to your liking so that your final product isn’t overly sweet.
Same with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. While applesauce taste heavenly mixed with these spices, I can always add them later. I’d rather have a “clean slate” to start with and then decide how I’d like to adjust the flavour.
How to process apples for applesauce
Applesauce makes quick use out of apples if you have a couple key tools to work with. If you have a sieve or food mill, this will really speed up the process because you can cook your apples whole and then use the food mill/sieve to separate the peels, cores and seeds from the applesauce.
Using a sieve or food mill
To process with a sieve or food mill, put washed, whole apples into a large stainless steel pot and add about an inch or two of water (just to have the apples simmer and not burn to the bottom of the pot). Put the lid on and bring water to a simmer so that the steam from the water can recycle through the pot and steam all of the apples to cook them. Cook for about 10 minutes and then check apples and water level. Add more water if necessary. Continue to cook apples until the skins have split open and the flesh is soft all the way through.
Allow cooked apples to cool for a few minutes before processing. Then run them through your sieve or food mill to remove the flesh from the skins and seeds. Put applesauce back into a stainless steel pot and continue to simmer. You can then add peels and seeds to your compost or use them to make apple cider vinegar at home!
Related: How to Make Dried Cinnamon Apple Slices
Processing without a food mill
If you don’t have a sieve or food mill, you’ll want to start off with a good vegetable peeler like this one. I find it much easier to work with a peeler than to use a knife to cut the skin off.
I do not have a food mill, so the recipe below calls for peeled, cored apples.
Also, to make coring your apples quick and painless, invest a few bucks in an apple corer. It will save you sooo much time in the end!
* Hint: As you peel and core your apples, toss them into a large bowl of cold water mixed with lemon juice. The water and lemon juice will help to preserve the apples and keep them from turning brown.
After you’ve peeled and cored your apples, put the slices into a large, stainless steel pot with an inch or two of water and simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes. Check the apples after 10 minutes and add more water if the water is completely dried up and the apple slices aren’t yet soft enough to mash up. You don’t want your sauce to be too watery though! So only add more water if absolutely necessary and do so sparingly.
Once your apple slices are soft enough to mash (similar to the consistency of potatoes when they are ready to mash… you can check with a fork), use a potato masher or a hand blender to mash them up in the pot.
I find a hand blender the easiest way to go. I recommend the Breville brand immersion hand blender. We use ours for all of our soups and sauces and it works like a charm.
Once your apples are mashed, blended or have been run through a sieve or food mill, continue to simmer the applesauce in a stainless steel pot until it’s heated all the way through. If you will be canning the applesauce, be sure to sterilize and prepare your jars at this point.
Canning your applesauce
Once applesauce is thoroughly heated, add a little lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon for every 3 lbs of apples). The lemon juice helps to preserve the applesauce as different types of apples have different natural acidity levels. It also helps to preserve the colour.
If you want to add any sugar or spices, do so now. If not, you’re ready to can your applesauce!
Pour into hot, prepared jars, leaving ½-inch headspace, and process in a water bath canner (15 minutes for pint jars, 20 minutes for quart-sized jars).
After processing, allow jars to cool completely on a towel on your countertop (use a folded towel as hot jars on a cold countertop can break), and once cooled you can store your shelf-stable jars of applesauce in your pantry and use all year long, whenever you’re ready!
Canning tools I use and love:
- Canning Funnel
- Canning Scoop
- Jar Lifter
- Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (this recipe is adapted from this book)
- 6 lbs. of apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
- Water (just enough to simmer apples in pot)
- Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- In a large stainless steel pot, combine apples with just enough water to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and boil gently until apples cook down and begin to soften (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool for a couple minutes.
- Using an immersion blender, blend sauce until smooth. Alternatively, transfer mixture in batches to a blender and blend until smooth, then return sauce to the pot once it has all been blended OR for a chunkier applesauce, use a potato masher to mash apples.
- Add lemon juice (and cinnamon if using) and stir or blend until well combined. Bring applesauce back to a gentle boil.
- Ladle hot applesauce into hot, sterilized jars leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed, then wipe rims and place lids on jars. Screw bands down to fingertip tight.
- Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (add 5 minutes for every 1,000 feet above sea level).
- Remove jars from water and place on a towel on your counter to let cool completely before storing in your pantry.
Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂
Submit a Comment
You Might Also Like
Go Beyond Organic Gardening to Grow More Food With Less Work
You’ve most likely heard of organic gardening before, but have you ever heard of beyond organic gardening? In this post, we’ll go over exactly what this means, and how you can implement “beyond organic” practices in your own garden to grow more...
What is Hugelkultur Gardening (And What Are the Benefits?)
Learn about the many benefits of hugelkultur gardening and start your own highly productive and 100% sustainable hugelkultur raised bed! This is a guest post by Sunflower Craig of Permies.com Hugelkultur (pronounced: hoogle-culture) is German for...
👩🏻🌾 I help people reclaim their independence and break free from the system!
Get my latest recipes, resources and homestead inspiration! 👇
How do you remove the sugar from the apples? I would like to use reduced-sugar applesauce as an ingredient to make healthier dog biscuits for my dog, but am concerned about the amount of sugar in apples. Thank!
Hi Tom – the reason this is called a sugar-free recipe is because it’s free from any added sugars, but you can’t reduce the amount of natural sugars found in the fruit itself.
Hi! I’m making this right now and getting ready to process the jars. I have a whole case of 1/4 pint jars that I’m going to use to make individual snack size applesauces that I can pack for my kids when we are on the go. If it’s 20 minutes for the quart jars, 15 minutes for the pint, and you said in an earlier comment response to process half pint jars for the same 15 minutes as the pint- would I still process the 1/4 pint jars for 15 minutes, or would I only process those for 10 minutes?
I would still process for 15 minutes simply because 1/4 pint jars haven’t been tested to my knowledge and it’s better to process for too long than not long enough. Especially with applesauce, you can’t really over process it or over cook it so I would just do the 15 minutes to be on the safe side.
That’s a great idea to do snack size jars!
hello! Is this 6 pounds of apples before or after peeling/coring?
Hey! Do you think I could use this same recipe for half-pints? Thanks
Hi Faith! Yes, the recipe would be the same. Leave the same amount of headspace and process for the same amount of time:)
Hi there do I need the lemon or can I just do the applesauce as is no lemon
Using lemon juice is recommended to make sure there is enough acid in the apples for safe canning. However, you can substitute citric acid (1/4 tsp per pint) and get the same results.
We currently don’t have a reliable way to measure the acidity levels of foods for home-canning that guarantee the correct level of acidity for safe canning. Given the wide variety of types and hybrids of apples (and this goes for tomatoes also) the acid levels in the fruit itself have changed enough, from one type to another, that we can not guarantee a safely home-canned product without this step. So we always add a bit of lemon juice or citric acid to make sure it is processed safely.
If you don’t add any acidity, then there is a greater possibility of spoilage. For this reason, we can not recommend skipping the addition of some type of acid.
I have been making applesauce for several years from MacIntosh apples, which require added sugar ( at least for my taste). What apples do you typically use for your sugar-free applesauce? Do you mix several kinds together?
Thank you for any suggestions.
Hi Bob! I typically use Gravenstein apples as we get most of our apples from a neighbour’s tree. But I also like to use transparent apples for sugar-free. I guess I should have mentioned that the type of apple you use will determine the flavour in the end. All can be made sugar-free, however depending on your tastes and the variety of apples you’re using, you may choose to add a little sugar to sweeten it up just a bit.
I use 1/2 Fuji or Honeycrisp and 1/2 Granny Smith and love the finished product (and I have a serious sweet tooth).
I forgot to add the lemon juice. Is it not going to keep well?
The role of lemon juice in applesauce is a little unclear, to be honest. This is an adapted recipe from the Ball Complete Book Of Home Preserving (2006) and it calls for lemon juice for safety reasons. However the most updated recipe from the National Centre For Home Food Preservation (2015) does not call for any lemon juice in their recipe. Considering apples are a high-acid fruit and as the NCHFP is a trusted and reputable source, I would feel comfortable omitting the lemon juice in this recipe as long as you followed correct processing times and procedures. Here is a link to the NCHFP’s recipe for applesauce without lemon juice: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/applesauce.html
I have a cooking apple tree in my garden & every year I make apple sauce with no lemon juice! I don’t even bother with lemon juice any more because brown so much even when using it, so I have just accepted that my apple sauce is browner than most. I always add cinnamon and like to “think” it’s just that haha.
I made the applesauce w/out sugar and spice so I can use in cookies thanks for the hint on lemon juice it sure looks better than brown.