This post has been updated for photos and content since it’s original publication in 2015.
Homemade applesauce is a must for fall. When the fruit is fresh from harvest and is at its crisp, juicy best. Sure, you can use any apples you like, but for the best apples for applesauce, I always reach for McIntosh apples. Their distinct perfume and flavor is tangy and sweet, requiring very little embellishment. In fact, this quick and easy 3 ingredient applesauce doesn’t need a long simmer, so this recipe is ready in under 30 minutes.
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Why McIntosh apples are the best for applesauce
In my humble opinion, McIntosh apples are the best apples for applesauce. They’re sweet, tangy and their distinctive flavor translates beautifully to applesauce. McIntosh are softer apples, therefore, they break down quicker in the saucepan and don’t need a long, slow simmer. Plus the flavor of McIntosh hits every part of your tongue. It’s just a bit more acidic and tangy than other apple varieties, but their natural honey sweetness balances the flavors.
Consequently, McIntosh apples don’t require a lot of extras for homemade applesauce — just a few tablespoons of brown sugar and a bit of citric acid will do, making this an easy 3-ingredient recipe (I don’t count water as an ingredient). During McIntosh apple season (September), you’ll want to stock up and make this homemade applesauce. Whether you like smooth or chunky applesauce, this quick and easy recipe lets you customize it to your tastes.
Ingredients for homemade applesauce
- McIntosh Apples
- Brown Sugar (just a touch)
- Lime Juice (it’s softer and more nuanced than lemon juice)
- Water (I don’t count water as an ingredient)
How many apple varieties are there?
With 7,500 varieties of apples available worldwide and 100 commercially available in the U.S., there are certainly other options beyond McIntosh apples for making your homemade applesauce. I also understand that taste is subjective, and since I’m not the food police, feel free to use your favorite apples for this recipe. That said, you need to try it with the McIntosh apples. Do your own taste test and see which you prefer.
What about other apples for homemade applesauce?
Here are a few tasting notes on just a few varieties.
- Granny Smith are a bit too tart and require more sugar than I like to use.
- Golden Delicious are good for applesauce, but their flavor is more muted.
- Honeycrisp are a little too watery.
- Fuji apples have a complex flavor and are soft enough to break down quickly. Good for applesauce.
- Red Delicious — excuse me, but what are Red Delicious good for?
- Galas are good for applesauce.
- Jonagolds are good too.
- Pink lady apples are sweet and tangy and add a pink blush to the sauce.
McIntosh apples are the best.
Steps For Making Homemade Applesauce
- Peel, seed and roughy chop the apples.
- Add brown sugar, lime juice and water.
- Stir together and heat to boiling.
- Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the apples are softened.
- Transfer to a blender (or food mill) and pulse several times until you have the consistency you like.
- Can be eaten warm or refrigerated.
How To Make Chunky Applesauce
Chunky Applesauce is really a matter of how long you cook the apples and how much processing you do. If you like chunky applesauce, cook the apples so their tender, but not falling apart and only briefly pulse them in the food processor (2-3 pulses should do it). Note: If you’re using a food mill to puree the applesauce, and still want chunks, reserve a bit of the cooked apples and stir them into the pureed apples.
For Smoother Homemade Applesauce
Cook the apples a little longer, until you see them just starting to break down. Transfer to the food processor or food mill and puree until smooth.
Can You Can Applesauce?
The simple answer is “yes”. Both my mother and my grandmother used to can vats of homemade applesauce. I don’t do it because we generally don’t get a large enough crop here in South Florida to make it worth our while. Instead, I make a fresh batch whenever I spy the McIntoshes in the markets.
Many people like to embellish their applesauce with cinnamon, nutmeg and the like. I can see why you’d want to do that with other varieties of apple, but not for the McIntosh. Trust me on this one. McIntosh has a flavor that’s so unique, it absolutely can stand on its own, without the frou-frou add-ins that you’d normally reach for. Try this homemade applesauce once on its own WITHOUT the extras — then if you still need them, add as you like.
What To Serve With McIntosh Applesauce Recipe
- Pork Chops with Pan Gravy
- Brined Grilled Pork Chops
- Crunchy Breaded Pork Cutlets
- Grilled Veal Chops with Garlic Herb Crust
- Dry Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
- Grilled Chicken Thighs with Herb Spice Rub
Recipes That Use Homemade Applesauce
- 4 pounds McIntosh apples peeled, seeded and cut into 1" dice
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 1 lime juiced
- 2-4 tablespoons water
- Into a medium saucepan, add the apples, brown sugar, lime juice and water. Cover the pot tightly and heat to boiling.
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5-8 minutes, until apples are tender.
- Transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse 3-4 times to desired consistency. If you like it chunky, process it less -- or for uber-smooth -- pulse a few more times.
- Serve chilled, warm or at room temperature.
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David Fiedler says
I LOVE McIntosh applesauce! We are fortunate to have an organic orchard just north of us where we get them. I put all my apples whole into my largest stock pot with an inch of water in the bottom and turn the burner on high for 18-20 minutes until the skins split and start to fall off. I then put the softened apples through my Victorio food mill which is fit with a motor instead of the hand crank and push them through the apple/tomato screen with 1.35mm holes. The applesauce comes out the screen and all the peels, seeds and stems go out the end! I then dump the water in the pot through a fine sieve to get the apple that fell into the pot and run that through the sieve. Takes about 30-35 minutes from start to finish, including clean up, to process a peck of McIntosh. For a little twist try adding some pomegranate extract. Linder & Co. makes a great one without any sweeteners or additives (Grenadine extract).
I’m making this for the first time and I think the lime juice is a good idea. I brought some McIntosh apples back to CO from Massachusetts, and I’ve mixed them with the WA apples I got here in CO. Very different textures and flavors! Thanks for the recipe.
Just tried this recipe warm and can not stop eating it! You really taste the flavors of the apples. I may never eat store bought apple sauce again. Be careful not to over blend as I did, and get a “baby food” consistency.
I am using the peel and core to make apple jelly, so not to waste one part of these delish apples.
Susan Stringfellow says
Red Delicious are great for just eating! They’re really crisp and have a just slightly sharp sweetness. I love that they are not bland.
Discovered canned Mc Intosh apple sauce in the grocery stores of Canada! Now in Colorado I Make my own when I can FIND Mac’s. They are more expensive but worth it!!
Marti Bowland says
5 Stars for this recipe! We have several old MacIntosh growing on our place and we’ve had a pick-n-press cider party every October for 30+ years. I’ve never tried lime juice or brown sugar in applesauce before your recipe. I found it just as you said; fresh tasting while enhancing the Mac’s natural flavors. I even preferred the color of the canned applesauce. I canned 9 jars yesterday and had a bowl of it as my reward. So delish warm! It’s my new favorite. Getting ready to can a few more jars while it’s snowing, blowing, and 23 degrees October 2020. Thanks for sharing your recipe.
I was looking for an applesauce recipe to make my grandson 22 months old. So easy. He loved it as did Darling husband and a few neighbors. I’ve made it twice since. Makes the house smell awesome,added benefit.
So glad your grandson liked it — as well as the rest of the clan! It’s my FAVORITE!
This is the same way I’ve made my applesauce for years. It needs nothing else unless you desire. APPLESAUCE FREEZES very well. I’ve done it for years. I have a 5 lb batch cooking now. I freeze in pint size containers from the deli.
Jeanie Moore says
Can you make Apple Butter with McIntosh apples? What would the amount of sugar be to make apple butter? Thank You.
Apple butter uses about 2-3 tablespoons of sugar per pound of apples, but it also uses a blend of spices and needs some additional liquid for the longer cooking time… Like apple juice or cider.
Just wondering if you can taste the lime in it? I only have frozen lemon juice, so would it be a whole lot different using the lemon in place of the lime? Thanks! And thanks for the recipe. I hope mine turns out as light-colored as your picture.
You can’t “taste” the lime per se — but I find it a little less stringent than the lemon. That said, I wouldn’t rush out to the store to get limes — the lemon will work.
Can this applesauce be canned?
This was delicious! I really like MacIntosh apples! This was my 1st time making applsauce. I didn’t have to use a blender. They broke down during cooking.
Excellent ! I used a squeeze bottle of lime juice came out great! A keeper! Thanks!
So glad you enjoyed it, Jane!
My grandma always made her applesauce with McIntosh apples. She cooked all fall and, when my brother and sister and I went to stay with her in the summer, she had enough for us to eat it every day for a month! No sugar added. Sometimes we added cinnamon. It is my favorite applesauce and McIntosh apples are so hard to find. I live in SE Idaho and haven’t been able to get them for the last few years. Such good sauce!! Lime sounds like a fun twist.
i love how you added lime into this applesauce! it looks amazing 🙂
Glad you like it! I think the lime is a little softer than lemon. Try it!
I never have thought to make my own apple sauce before so thanks for the easy recipe & idea.