Perfect Pumpkin Spice Slow-Cooker Apple Butter combines two of the season’s most coveted flavors—apples and pumpkin! It’s easy to make, is absolutely delicious, and is naturally vegan. Best of all? It’s frugal and the perfect alternative to sugary jams and jellies. All you need are some apples, some pumpkin purée, a slow cooker, some spices, and that’s it!
Whether or not everyone is ready for the season so many of us love, I sure am and have been since last fall ended (only half joking there!). However, one thing I’ve promised myself is not to get caught up in trying to keep up with the pumpkin spice madness online (which is no easy feat as you if know if you’ve been on Instagram lately!).
While I *love* seeing all the delicious and creative renditions of all things pumpkin, I know it gets old for some people, and to be honest, I think it tends to take away from some of the other amazing flavors fall has to offer. But for all my fellow pumpkin lovers out there, don’t worry because I do have lots of pumpkin recipes coming up; I’ll just be trying my hardest to balance everything out.
The truth is, I love all kinds of fall recipes, especially classic fall recipes that I’ve loved since childhood. And today’s recipe is all about the pumpkin spice goodness, but in a unique way that is special to me and that I hope you will love too!
Apple butter! What is it, how to make it, what’s so special about my recipe?
Okay, so here’s the deal for those that aren’t familiar with apple butter. It’s basically cooked down applesauce, so if you can make applesauce, you can make apple butter. It’s a thick, dense, naturally sweet fruit butter that is simply divine and so much better than regular applesauce!
My love for apple butter started when I was a child when we used to go to the mountains every single year. I always loved going and I’m convinced it’s the reason I still love it to this day. When we all used to still be one family (my parents split up when I was 15 and divorced later; my dad later passed away), we took multiple trips to the mountains either in Tennessee or North Carolina. I loved going so much and still do. The mountains were always so peaceful to me, even as a child, and have always been a *happy* place to me that feels special. Something about the sounds, the colors there, all of it calms and nourishes my soul in a way other places don’t. But what I also loved about going to the mountains was the food!
Not just comfort southern food (although I ate plenty of that, mind you), but classic foods you don’t see everywhere today such as homemade jams and spreads, along with baked treats and different varieties of coffee, teas, ciders, and more. Apple butter is one of the classic mountain recipes I continued to love as I grew up, and honestly, there’s just nothing like it slathered on a homemade muffin in the fall with a warm mug of coffee or tea if you ask me. Apple butter tastes like a mixture of apple cider, caramel, and applesauce all rolled into one, but with a thick, dense texture that’s perfect whether chilled or warmed.
Most apple butter is made by cooking apples with either sugar or processed apple juice. The great thing is, you don’t need either of those to make delicious apple butter. Apples become so, so sweet when they’re cooked down into apple butter because they’re more condensed, so you don’t need any additional sweetener for apple butter unless you just want to use one.
However, as much as love apple butter, I also love pumpkin butter, so I combined the two and made a homemade pumpkin apple butter that is slow-cooked and enhanced with pumpkin pie spice! Pumpkin spice apple butter is so much better than regular apple butter because it’s denser and richer, yet completely free of refined sugar or added fats. It also contains all the fiber that is naturally found in pumpkin and apples because nothing is taken away from the fruit during the cooking process. Plus, it’s so tasty!
Pumpkin purée, spices, chopped apples, a touch of water, and a slow-cooker is all you need. However, I’ll warn you: This recipe is a labor of love!
The entire recipe takes 24 hours to make, but don’t run away because it’s the EASIEST recipe you’ll ever make, seriously. You basically just put everything into the slow cooker and let the ingredients do their thing. I’ve tried apple butter recipes that are made with less cooking time, or only cooked for 12 hours, and can I be honest? They’re just not as good, in my humble opinion. I’m not just saying that either; the key to making this recipe shine is to let the “slow” part of the slow cooking really do its thing. Trust me! The longer this recipe cooks in the slow cooker (I used this one), the better and more caramelized the apple butter tastes.
*FYI* For those of you wondering, I also tried making this recipe in an Instant Pot just to compare notes, and it didn’t taste near as good or as naturally sweet, nor did it taste as good when I made it on the stove top. Again, the “slow cook” part of this recipe is the secret, so please don’t skip it! 🙂
Here’s how to make this recipe in a super easy way:
1. Choose a night to make this recipe, and 6 hours before you go to bed, put everything as directed in the slow cooker and put the lid on. Turn it on high and leave it alone.
2. Two hours before you go to bed, turn the slow cooker down to low with the lid on and leave it on low for 12 hours. After 12 hours, the next day, take the lid off. You’ll see the apples have really cooked down and you have what looks somewhat like soupy applesauce. Take a potato masher or an immersion blender, and mash or purée the mix right in the pot, just slightly to break the apples down.
3. Now, leave the mixture in the pot and let it continue cooking on low for 6 more hours, but uncovered so the moisture starts to evaporate and cooks off. While you could transfer it to the stove instead, I found the slow cooker version tasted so much better, not to mention it’s much easier because you don’t have to transfer anything, just take the lid off and leave it alone! After the 6 hours have passed, you’ll have apple butter, exactly 24 hours after you put it on the day before!
This recipe makes exactly one regular sized (16-ounce) mason jar, plus a few extra tablespoons (perfect for taste-testing!). It will keep for one week in the fridge, or you can freeze half of it in an ice cube tray and use it just as you would use applesauce in recipes later on. Or, make two mini jars and freeze one and defrost later; you choose!
- 4 apples (any variety will work, I used Gala)
- ½ of a 15-ounce can of pumpkin purée (plain pumpkin)
- ½ Tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- ½ cup water
- 1 Tsp. vanilla extract
- optional but recommended: 2 Tbsp natural, unrefined sweetener of choice**
- Wash the apples, remove the stems, chop into halves, then quarters, and cut out the seeds.
- Put all the ingredients (including the apples) into the slow-cooker in the order listed, put the lid on, and let it cook for 6 hours on high.
- Six hours later, turn the cooker on low, and let it cook for 12 more hours.
- After 12 hours, remove the lid, and you'll see the apples should be very soft and it will look a bit like chunky applesauce and might even look like apple soup. Don't worry, it's not done! Purée the mixture with an immersion blender or mash the apples with a potato masher just slightly to break them down, but don't worry if it's not completely smooth yet.
- Leave the lid off the slow-cooker and let it cook for 6 more hours on low without the lid on; just leave it alone so the excess water evaporates and it cooks down even more.
- Six hours later, turn off the slow cooker. Purée the apple butter mixture with an immersion blender, or transfer the mixture to a blender to purée it and you're done!
- Let it cool, then store in a 16-ounce mason jar and keep it in the fridge. It will last for one week in the fridge or you can freeze half for later use. Do not keep at room temp.
- Enjoy on toast, on oatmeal, on fresh fruit, use it to make your own condiments, in place of applesauce when baking, or use it as a sandwich spread on whole grain bread. You choose!
**Natural sweeteners include pure maple syrup, coconut sugar, molasses, dates (about 2-3), date sugar, or honey if you aren't vegan. I used 2 tbsp. organic maple syrup here.
How to Enjoy This Recipe:
I love this recipe on oatmeal (big surprise there!), on top of muffins, and I LOVE to bake with it where I would normally use applesauce because it works the same way in recipes but takes on this incredibly sweet, yet hearty flavor. It’s also good on waffles, pancakes, biscuits, can be used in place of butter or eggs in many recipes, and even used in smoothies, too. It’s so good, I hope you love it as much as I do! 🙂
Optional Sweetening Tips:
If you would like to bump up the sweetness of the recipe a bit, or are gifting a jar of this pumpkin spice apple butter to a friend who has a sweet tooth, I’ve included the options you can use for a touch of natural sweetness including dates or date sugar, molasses, coconut sugar, or my favorite: a touch of pure maple syrup. I made two batches of this pumpkin spice slow-cooker apple butter. I made one batch plain with no sweetener and made one with pure maple syrup. Both worked perfectly with the same cooking times and both versions were delicious!
For the maple syrup version, I used an incredible, new-to-me maple syrup by The Maple Guild: Organic, Vanilla Pure Maple Syrup—yum!
This maple syrup is awesome; it has the depth and richness of a dark amber maple but with REAL vanilla bean. It’s divine! The Maple Guild uses a special process to make their maple syrup which involves steaming versus traditional boiling methods. They also offer all organic products in their syrups and even offer this delicious maple cream spread which is basically cooked down maple syrup into a spread, which can I just say is incredible and would be a perfect replacement to sugar jam or jelly on toast with ZERO added sugar.
Check out The Maple Guild here and see what they have to offer, and feel free to enter their Maple It! contest if you wish to, where you can win a year’s supply of their maple syrup products. This post isn’t sponsored by them in any way, but they did send me the items above to test out and to share with you in this recipe. Thanks, The Maple Guild!
I hope you love my Pumpkin Spice Slow-Cooker Apple Butter! Take a photo if you make it and tag me on Instagram @heather_mcclees so I can see! 🙂
Perfect Pumpkin Spice Slow-Cooker Apple Butter is probably one of the top recipes on this blog that I’m most proud of, not because it’s hard or super creative, but because it turns one of my childhood favorite recipes into something that I made in my own kitchen for less than half the price of what quality versions cost in stores or online.
I hope you love this recipe as much as I do, and be sure to let me know if you try it!
Have you ever made your own homemade apple butter or homemade pumpkin butter?