Apple butter is a magical spread that turns everything it touches into sweet culinary heaven, but if you’re all out or, even worse, allergic to it, you may be on the prowl for an equally delicious apple butter substitute.
After all, apple butter is good for way more than smearing on toast.
Apple butter is well-suited for breakfast foods, snacks, lunch items, dinner entrees, and desserts; there really aren’t many foods that wouldn’t taste great with a little (or a lot) of apple butter.
Its versatility and status as one of the most beloved fruit spreads make finding an acceptable substitute for apple butter a pretty important—and lofty—task.
You’re going to want and need something with a similar flavor profile, consistency, richness, and overall character to complement whatever dish or recipe in which you’re using the substitute.
Luckily, we’ve scoured and scrounged for all the best apple butter replacement options and included them in this post to help you make an informed and delicious decision.
Before we discuss what apple butter tastes like, we’d like to clear up a common source of confusion: the name apple butter.
Because it’s called apple butter, most people naturally assume that the spread consists of a mixture of apples and butter.
However, you might be surprised to learn that there is actually no butter in apple butter.
Apple butter is made of apples (of course), cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg or other warming spices, vanilla extract, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, water, and a pinch of salt.
Basically, apple butter is applesauce that has been pureed and cooked longer to eliminate any access water, leaving you with a thicker, caramelized, butter-like consistency.
The smooth, scrumptious spread that remains, known as apple butter, tastes essentially like applesauce.
You can certainly detect the notes of all the aforementioned spices and ingredients, but something about the pureeing and caramelization process also gives apple butter a pleasantly unexpected savory quality.
The flavor of apple butter falls between cooked, spiced apples and sweet, aromatic butter—even though there’s no butter.
Ways apple butter is used
As we mentioned earlier, apple butter is as versatile as it is delectable.
Its creamy composition and depth of flavor make apple butter a welcome pairing with just about any type of food, from breakfast to dessert.
Apple butter is most commonly associated with breakfast foods; you can swirl it into your oatmeal, spread it on your toast, biscuits, pancakes, waffles, or bagels, and you can even add it to a breakfast sandwich.
Lunch sandwiches are also great candidates for an apple butter slather – think turkey, roast beef, ham, chicken, grilled cheese, or even a burger.
If you’re looking for ways to break free from the spread routine, add apple butter as an ingredient in soups, like butternut squash, loaded potato, or sausage and kale.
You can brush some apple butter on your meat during the final stages of baking, grilling, or smoking; it pairs best with chicken and pork, but it will also suit a steak just fine.
Heck, it’s even good with certain types of seafood!
Sides like roasted veggies or pretty much any type of potato taste great with a side of apple butter, and if you want to get real crazy, you can use apple butter as pizza sauce and top it with bleu cheese, bacon, prosciutto, and walnuts.
No apple butter guide would be complete without dessert suggestions, so rest assured that you can use apple butter to spice up any sweet with an unrivaled fall flavor—cheesecake, sponge cake, cookies, pies, you name it.
Our personal favorite use for apple butter, however, is as a charcuterie accoutrement.
Subs for apple butter and how to use them
Now that we’ve covered the myriad applications for apple butter, we’re ready to discuss the substitution possibilities.
Each of these replacements offers a unique quality, but be sure to follow the instructions in order to yield the best results.
It makes total sense that you can sub out apple butter for applesauce since, you know, they’re pretty much the same thing.
However, applesauce has a completely different consistency, as it’s more watery and gritty, which somewhat limits its capabilities – for example, it just doesn’t work as a spread.
Other than that, applesauce acts as a good stand in for recipes that call for apple butter.
Replace 1 cup of apple butter with 1½ cups of applesauce.
Another option is to make apple butter from applesauce, and no replacement will be needed.
All you have to do is add any desired spices to the applesauce, heat it on low in a saucepan until it cooks down to the right consistency, and blend it until it’s smooth and creamy.
Yogurt is a frequently used substitute for ingredients like butter, oil, and buttermilk, so replacing apple butter with yogurt isn’t a stretch.
Though yogurt has a completely different taste and doesn’t match the savory sweetness of apple butter, it does contribute a fresh tangy flavor and a rich smoothness.
And while yogurts come in a variety of flavors and some even contain fruit, it’s best to use plain yogurt, preferably Greek.
Yogurt can replace apple butter in almost any capacity, as a condiment, garnish, or in recipes.
1 cup of plain yogurt can be used to replace 1 cup of apple butter.
Oil won’t match the flavor of apple butter as a substitute, but it’s something almost everyone always has on hand, which makes it a go-to if all you’re lacking in a recipe is apple butter.
You can use olive oil or vegetable oil, but the conversions differ slightly.
¾ cup of vegetable oil, or 1 cup of light olive oil can replace 1 cup of apple butter.
4. Butter or margarine
Butter or margarine is a terrific substitute option for apple butter as it’s very close in consistency.
Like oil, these two lack in flavor but are common kitchen items, making them accessible replacements.
Swap out 1 cup of butter or margarine in place of 1 cup of apple butter.
5. Pumpkin Puree
Pumpkin puree is surprisingly similar to apple butter in its versatility.
Although the taste of pumpkin is often typecast into roles like pie, lattes, and autumn cheesecakes, it also makes a great addition to the same kinds of dishes in which we tend to use apple butter.
Its subtle sweetness, potential for added spices, and rich, creamy consistency makes pumpkin puree one of our favorite apple butter substitutes.
Use 1 cup of pumpkin puree in place of 1 cup of apple butter.
Buttermilk has a bit of a sourness, but its thickness and fluffy contribution to baked goods make it a solid choice as a replacement for apple butter.
You can find buttermilk at any grocery store, or you can make your own at home if you prefer using milk and lemon juice.
To make the switch, use ½ cup of buttermilk as a sub for 1 cup of apple butter.
Avocados have enjoyed quite the renaissance in recent years, showing up on toast, aiolis, salad dressings, and in all kinds of dishes.
Because of their newfound popularity, it’s likely avocados are regularly on your grocery list, making them a readily available substitute for apple butter when you’re in a pinch.
Avocados and apple butter also share a similar consistency, which means you can replace 1 cup of apple butter with 1 cup of avocado.
8. Jam or preserves
Jam or fruit preserves seem like the natural replacement for apple butter, as the most obvious use for both is a spread or swirl.
The texture is quite different, but the consistency is rather comparable, and jams or preservatives will also add a complex fruity sweetness.
You can use any flavor, but if your goal is to match apple butter as closely as possible, your best bets are apricot or pear.
1 cup of jam or preserves will take the place of 1 cup of apple butter.
Tips and tricks
As you can see, you have several options for apple butter substitutes; however, if for some reason none of these items are readily available or you’d rather go in a different direction for flavor’s sake, consider these tips and tricks.
- You can use nut butters like peanut, almond, or cashew, or you can use nutella.
- Cream cheese can work in this capacity, but you’ll want to allow it to soften before adding it to baking recipes.
- If you happen to have extra apple butter at any time, you can also set some aside and store it in the freezer so you’ll have it when you want or need it later; apple butter can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a year.
- When it comes to substituting for apple butter, you really can experiment with pretty much anything that you feel makes sense or sounds deliciously interesting—the world is your oyster.
The bottom line
Whether you’re swapping out apple butter due to allergies and dietary restrictions or you just don’t have any around, we’ve provided you with the most viable choices for substitution.
We’re confident that there’s something on this list and in the tips and tricks to accommodate every need and preference.
At the end of the day, let your taste buds be your guide.
Learn how to make apple butter at home using your extra applesauce!
Or how about making desserts and baked goods featuring apples?
Apple Butter Substitute: Applesauce
Here's how to use applesauce instead of apple butter as a replacement.
- Replace 1 cup of apple butter with 1½ cups of applesauce.