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10 BEST Apple Butter Substitutes + 2 To Avoid

I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of apple butter substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.

Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured I’ve got you covered.

The best substitutes for apple butter are cooked-down applesauce, homemade apple butter, and pumpkin puree. Apple or apricot jam are good choices if you’re looking for something a little less sweet. And if you need a quick fix, make a fall-inspired compound butter.

Ready? Let’s jump right in.

The experiment

I made buttermilk waffles to try out different apple butter substitutes (psst… here’s how I reheated all the waffles leftovers!). 

Apple butter is a spread made of apples that have been cooked down until they’re sticky and caramelized. The spread has an intensely sweet, spiced flavor that will remind you of the holiday season. I was looking for a substitute that had the same delicious sweetness and depth.

Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:

SubstitutesHow to SubstituteVerdict
ApplesauceReplace in a 1:1 ratio10/10
Homemade apple butterReplace in a 1:1 ratio10/10
Apple jamReplace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
Pear ButterReplace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
Butter (mixed with spices)Replace in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Pumpkin ButterReplace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
Date PasteReplace in a 1:1 ratio7/10
Other Fruit PreservesReplace in a 1:1 ratio8/10

Common uses for apple butter and the best substitutes

Here are some popular ways to use apple butter and the best substitutes for those situations:

  • As a spread/topping: Try using cooked-down applesauce, homemade apple butter, apple jam, or pumpkin butter.
  • Baked goods: Try using cooked-down applesauce or homemade apple butter. You can also use butter or yogurt, but you’ll have to add more sugar. 
  • For fillings: Try using cooked-down apple sauce, homemade apple butter, pear butter, or pumpkin butter. 
  • For charcuterie boards: Try using cooked-down applesauce, homemade apple butter, or date paste. You can also use other fruit preserves, but make sure they complement the cheese and cured meat you have on your board. 


Transforming store-bought applesauce into apple butter is as easy as pie! 

Check out the ingenious recipe from The View From A Great Island. All you have to do is cook down your applesauce for about 45 minutes.

I usually start with unsweetened applesauce so I can personalize the sugar content, but you can use the sweetened version if it’s what you have.

And you can add different spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves to give your applesauce that warm, cozy flavor that makes apple butter oh-so-irresistible.

How to substitute: Replace store-bought apple butter in a 1:1 ratio with cooked-down applesauce. 

Homemade apple butter

There’s nothing quite like homemade apple butter, especially when you have an abundance of apples. 

There are lots of ways to make DIY apple butter, but my go-to recipe comes from Chef John of Food Wishes

He uses a slow cooker, which does all the work for you and means the apples can cook for hours on end, resulting in a perfectly caramelized spread.

I like using Granny smith apples because they have a bit of tartness to them. But any apples are fine.

Pssst… don’t have a slow cooker? Check out Baking A Moment for the stove-top method! 

How to substitute: Replace store-bought apple butter in a 1:1 ratio with homemade apple butter

Apple jam

Apple jam is an easy, accessible substitute for apple butter.

It’s got a lighter color and a less sweet flavor because the apples aren’t caramelized.

You also get a chunkier spread with tender apple bits running through it. I liked this because it was a nice contrast to my waffle’s crunchy exterior. 

Apple jam is available in most food stores, but you can also make it from scratch – it takes less time than making apple butter! 

Pro tip: apricot jam is great too.

How to substitute: Replace store-bought apple butter in a 1:1 ratio with apple jam. 

Pear butter

Pear butter is strikingly similar to apple butter. So much so you might have trouble telling them apart!

The only difference was that I thought the pear butter was a tad sweeter.

Pro tip: I recommend trying the Simply Recipes version if you want a more adventurous flavor.

Instead of the traditional spices like cinnamon, it calls for ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom for a zingy bite.

How to substitute: Replace store-bought apple butter in a 1:1 ratio with pear butter

Pumpkin butter

Pumpkin butter is made in the same way as apple butter but using pumpkin puree. It’s a solid substitute if you’re looking to switch things up. 

The pumpkin, combined with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, offers a similar autumnal feel but the flavor is less fruity.

Pumpkin butter is only typically available during fall, but you can also make your own, so you can enjoy it any time. 

The process is far easier and quicker (it only takes about 20 minutes) than DIY apple butter because the puree already has that silky smooth consistency.

How to substitute: Replace store-bought apple butter in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with pumpkin butter.


If you’re in a bind and need something ASAP, check if you have any butter in the fridge.

You can mix it with some sugar to make a quick and dirty spread for toast.

Or you can go the extra mile and make a fall-inspired butter compound with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to replicate apple butter’s spiced flavor.

Butter is also a great substitute for apple butter in baked goods. 

How to substitute: Replace store-bought apple butter in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with pumpkin butter.

Date paste

Date paste has a smooth, caramel-like texture and a natural sweetness, making it a decent substitute for apple butter. 

It won’t have a fruity apple flavor, but it has the same deep, caramel notes.

Pro-tip: add a pinch of cinnamon to your date paste to give it a “spiced” flavor reminiscent of apple butter. 

How to substitute: Replace store-bought apple butter in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with date paste. 

Other fruit preserves (jam, marmalade etc)

Though other fruit preserves won’t be an exact flavor match for apple butter, they still work well as accompaniments for bread and pastries. 

And you have loads of options to choose from!

Go with strawberry preserves for a summer vibe. Or try lemon curd if you want a citrusy kick. 

How to substitute: Replace store-bought apple butter in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with other fruit preserves. 

Other substitutes to consider

The list above are my top choices for apple butter substitutes, but here are some other alternatives you can use if you already have them. 

  • Nutella or peanut butter – moving away from the fruity flavors into chocolate. Nutella or a nut butter spread over your toast or hidden inside your cupcakes is never going to be disappointing and will satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Yogurt – this is a healthy alternative to apple butter that’ll bring a subtle tangy kick. You can spread it over bread and top with honey or maple syrup for sweetness. And it makes a decent substitute for apple butter in baked goods, though you’ll need to add some extra sugar.

Substitute to avoid

I came across these suggestion during my research, but I don’t recommend using them as a substitute for apple butter. 

  • Olive oil – this is so different to apple butter i’m not sure why it was suggested! It can’t be used as a spread. You can use it in baking to add moisture but you won’t get any sweetness from it.
  • Buttermilk – this is mostly used as an ingredient in baking and it has a prominent tangy flavor that’s far away from the warming flavor of apple butter. It also definitely can’t be used as a spread for your toast.

Homemade Apple Butter [+ 9 other substitutes]

I tested loads of apple butter substitutes to find the best one.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: American
Keyword: apple butter substitutes, substitutes for apple butter
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 hours
Total Time: 10 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 32 servings
Calories: 29kcal


  • 5 lbs Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • cups white sugar
  • cups brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 splash of water


  • Transfer the apple pieces in a large slow cooker. Add the white and brown sugar, the spices, and a splash of water.
  • Mix everything and make sure the apple pieces are well-coated. Cover and cook on high for about 1 to 2 hours. The apples will start to soften and release their juices then.
  • Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking uncovered for 5 to hours. The apple flesh should be dissolved. Stir occasionally.
  • Puree the apples using an immersion blender until smooth. Continue cooking for about four more hours until you have a dark, thick mixture. To make this extra smooth, you can pass it through a strainer.
  • Seal in a glass container and leave to cool before using.


other options: cooked-down applesauce, apple jam, pear butter, pumpkin butter, date paste, other fruit preserves, mashed avocado, butter, yogurt 


Serving: 1tbsp | Calories: 29kcal

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