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20 Easy Ways to Eat, Preserve and Freeze Apples – with No Sugar!

Apple season is here! If you can buy in bulk, you’ll want to make lots of healthy recipes PLUS preserve apples for later – read on for instructions for freezing, canning, and dehydrating apples in multiple ways plus our best real food apple recipes!

ways to preserve applies with recipes

If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, how many doctors are bored because we’re averaging 2-3 per person around here this fall?

Most people would probably be rolling in the leaves this time of year.

Not our family.

We’re rolling in the apples.

Three weeks ago, we went to the apple orchard and picked 3 full bushels of apples (that’s 6 baskets). This weekend as we prepared to return for the later varieties, I figure we had already eaten more than half. I didn’t preserve a single one and only made one pot of applesauce.

We are a family of six.

Methinks we eat a lot of apples!

This trip, we bought five bushels and really filled the garage…in fact, I’ve done the math in past years and realized that (gulp) we average about 400 pounds of apples each autumn! My goodness!

Anybody want an apple?

RELATED: Making Applesauce in the Instant Pot (with no added sugar!)

Favorite {HEALTHY!} Apple Recipes

Steel cut apple cranberry Instant Pot oatmeal

Apple Cranberry Steel Cut Oats in the Instant Pot

dairy-free caramel


Dairy-Free Caramel Sauce

Apple Squares

Apple Squares – Super freezer friendly and so moist when thawed!!

Fresh backed apple crisp

Easy, Healthy Apple Crisp (the free download from my desserts book, Smart Sweets! Make it in the oven, slow cooker, grain-free and more!) Or try Baked Apples (just core and sprinkle streusel type topping – also a grain-free version in the desserts ebook)

Einkorn spiced applesauce muffins

Einkorn Applesauce Muffins (with peanut butter version that is just divine!)

Grain-free apple almond pancakes

Grain-free Almond Apple Pancakes

Apple cinnamon baked oatmeal

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

Grain-free apple flax muffins

Grain-free Apple Flax Muffins

One pot sweet and savory chicken and cabbage recipe

One-Pot Sweet-n-Savory Chicken Dinner with Braised Cabbage, Fennel and Apples

Carmelized banana-apple dessert topping

Caramelized Banana-Apple Dessert

Fermented apple salsa

Naturally Fermented Apple Salsa (if you’re ok with onions hanging out with your apples, you have to try this!)

Asparagus and apple salad

Asparagus Apple Salad

coco nut almond butter with apple slices

Cocoa-Nut Almond Butter (a dip for apples)

I’ve also recently tried:

But what if you just can’t find time or space to make and eat all those dishes! We know that FRESH food is best, but preserving fresh food (preferably bought in bulk to save money) is second best and well worth your time. Here are…

5 Ways to Preserve Apples and Embrace Fall

5 Ways to Preserve Apples

Some of the best fall smells are associated with apples: the fresh apples filling the garage and Farmer’s Markets, the cinnamon-rich, homestyle smell of applesauce cooking on the stove, and of course the buttery-flaky baking smell of a from-scratch apple pie.

A simple trip to the orchard is one of our family’s favorite autumn activities, hands down.

As I gaze proudly at the dozen or so assorted quarts and pints of canned applesauce on the counter and realize they cost less than $3 total, I pretty much think I’m rocking out the frugal food scene. (Even better yet are some readers who are foraging apples this fall – way to go, ladies!)

In-season apples feel like just about the most frugal snack, fruit, ingredient or food, period, that I can buy.

While prices on everything we eat soar, I’m thrilled that I can still get a huge mess of apples for under $20/bushel U-pick. (Michigan’s a great place to live for healthy, organic food…but we have snow to deal with half the year too, before you get super jealous.) Our favorite organic farmer doesn’t have as many varieties and they’re usually more like $18/half bushel, but well worth it. We love visiting Farmer Todd at Peach Ridge Farms!

Here are some of the ways we will deplete the boxes and bags of apples:

1. Make Unsweetened Freezer Applesauce

Applesauce is incredibly easy to make. It needs no recipe and no special equipment. Just core some apples, peeled or unpeeled, douse in cinnamon and perhaps a few tablespoons of water, and cook until soft. No sweetener needed!

You can do it with skins or without, using perfect apples or mushy, iffy-looking ones.

Freeze or refrigerate – applesauce will stay good in the fridge for weeks.

I made quite a bit this weekend, and my mother-in-law was surprised when I said, “Just apples and cinnamon,” after she complemented it. Her eyebrows raised into the “Wow there’s no sweetener in these?” position.

The trick to the sweetest tasting homemade applesauce with no sugar is to mix different varieties together AND use the best Ceylon cinnamon, which tricks your tongue into thinking “sweet” without needing extra empty calories.

If you skin the apples first, you can even just mix them up with a fork for chunky applesauce, or use a potato masher to get it a bit smoother.

For perfectly smooth sauce, or if you leave the skins on for the fiber (a good idea!), use a hand blender in the pot or a full-sized blender once it cools a bit. Applesauce freezes easily in any kind of container: plastic box, bag, or glass jar. (How to Freeze in Glass Jars)

How do you Wash an Apple?

I tested 8 different kinds of produce wash on apples, including homemade, commercial and rubbing on the jeans. You’ll never guess what was the second most effective!

2. How to Can Homemade Applesauce with No Sugar

Tattler reusable canning lids canned applesauce

If you’ve got a canner, you can just can the homemade applesauce, processing for 15 minutes for pints or 20 for quarts, half an inch headspace. NOTE: That’s the old-fashioned way I learned from my grandmother, which may not be safe every time! 🙁 Check an approved recipe to add some lemon juice or citric acid for safety.

Kate has a fun post over at Keeper of the Home on Making and Canning Applesauce with Kids, and Lindsay included a video in this post covering Easy Canned Applesauce with a Blender.

The greatest purpose for canned applesauce at our house is to mix with homemade yogurt in a crock pot. As I mentioned when I talked about eating plain yogurt with less sweetener, heavily cinnamoned applesauce is a great mix-in, and you can even get away with zero sweeteners.

3. Dry Apples to Preserve as a Healthy Snack

Cinnamon Apple Chips

Apple-cinnamon fruit rolls are a perfect toss-em-in-the-bag-and-forget-them sort of snack. They’re a fun piece of my Healthy Snacks to Go eBook (but I’ll share the secret here, too).

Just spread your homemade applesauce, heavy on the cinnamon, in my opinion, onto parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and bake at 200-250F until thoroughly dry, usually 1-2 hours.

Watch closely so it doesn’t burn. (If you do have a dehydrator, make the rolls on unbleached parchment paper or trays on about 135F for 8-12 hours or until fully dried but not quite crispy.)

Dried Apples (above) are quick and easy and last a really long time. I still have some in my vehicle as “emergency car snacks” from last year’s bounty. Here’s how to dehydrate apples, or how to make apple chips without a dehydrator. We dried one apple of each of our first picking and decided that Macintosh make the best dried apples.

Here are some more ways to pack healthy food when you’re on the go.

Ready to start dehydrating?

Printable guide to dehydrating fruits and veggies

Download my guide to dehydrating all sorts of fruits and veggies!

4. Freeze Apples to Cook With Later

I don’t think I have room in the freezer this year, but I usually freeze at least one bag for later.

How to use frozen apples? Raw apples can be frozen as long as they’re destined for cooked dishes. You can sprinkle a little lemon juice on the slices to help prevent browning. I like to freeze 4-5 large, peeled Golden Delicious apples that can quickly go into a mid-winter apple pie. Don’t even thaw all the way before mixing and baking.

Freezing sliced apples is also an easy way to have a super quick dessert of baked apples: just toss some butter, brown sugar or maple syrup, and oats or chopped nuts on top, bake, and enjoy!

5. Ferment Apples to Preserve and Increase Health Benefits

fermenting apple chutney

I’m not a very experienced fermenter, but I know that adding probiotic foods to our diet is important, so I keep trying. Luckily, I have all the wisdom of the Traditional Cooking School eCourse on fermented foods from which to draw: doesn’t this fermented apple chutney (pictured above) look amazing?

Get a FREE Fermenting Formulas Cheat Sheet to start your journey with good bacteria!

DOWNLOAD THE CHEAT SHEET

What is your favorite way to preserve the apple harvest?
what to do with apples, dehydrated apples
Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

57 thoughts on “20 Easy Ways to Eat, Preserve and Freeze Apples – with No Sugar!”

  1. We were in NC in the Fall & picked a LOT of apples to bring back to FL. I appreciated some of the suggestions for preserving the apples, especially just freezing the slices, because as much as we love apples, we were burnt out on them after a short while.

  2. I’ve a question.

    Great suggestions!

    I don’t usually do such a large amount, but thought I’d try it with apple sauce (apple sauce with skin). I’ve canned apple juice, apple slices, and apple sauce. The question is. How to stop apple sauce going brown? Is it possible?

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      From what I’ve read browning can be caused by too much oxygen remaining in the jar and the enzymes not being killed in the cooking process. It seems you need to heat it high enough to kill all the enzymes. I’ve also seen the suggestion of adding acid (such as lemon juice) to slow the browning, but it won’t necessarily stop it entirely.

  3. How do they make store bought apples last so long in the fridge? The bag usually says some coating like bee’s wax has been applied to help preserve them. Can we get and apply something like this? I like to have a apple on the way to work and have thousands in my yard but only for a few precious weeks.
    Thanks!

  4. Julia @ juliecache.com

    I hope you try the fruit scrap vinegar! Really easy for a lazy gal like me. I blogged about here: http://juliecache.com/2012/10/05/from-scratch-cider-vinegar/.html

      1. Julia @ juliecache.com

        Are you planning to use the mother or start from scratch? I haven’t gotten to that decision point yet.

    1. I forgot a box of apples and they sat outside thru the winter. I’ve pulled all the decent ones out of the box. Some are a bit mushy but not moldy. Can I just cook them up into an applesauce and freeze them in baggies? I’ll just use them for baking. I just am having a hard time throwing them all away.

  5. Beth – so sad! I hate wasting food and all that prep time! 🙁 I do turn mine down to low after it boils initially, but I also have a decently thick-bottomed pot, I think. I hardly stir at all.

  6. I’ve been hitting up neighbors who aren’t picking their apples. Yay for free fruit! I’ve canned apple juice, apple slices, and apple sauce. Also planning to do apple butter.

  7. Beth via Facebook

    Thanks Janet! Great info. I don’t usually do such a large amount, but thought I’d try it with apple sauce. Perhaps not. Maybe next time I’ll try my crockpot. I was just trying to knock it all out while the hubby was home.

  8. Janet via Facebook

    Beth, if I’m making it on the stove, i only make small batches (6 qts or less) and I use a heat diffuser on the stove eye. That’s a kind of metal pad you put between the flame and the pot to help prevent scorching. I use mine all the time, it’s great for oatmeal! Most large Walmart-type stockpots are of thin cheap steel, which does not conduct well and is terrible for hot spots. If you’re serious about large scale cooking, go to a restaurant supply store and buy a heavy stockpot. ($50-$100 depending on size)That said, if I’m cooking a lot of fruit, I prefer to use my large slowcooker. It will almost never scorch anything.

  9. Beth via Facebook

    Okay. Question. I made applesauce this weekend too. But it burnt!! What kind of pot do you all use and how often do you stir? I borrowed a huge stock pot from my neighbor and loaded it full of peeled, cored, sliced apples and a couple of cups of water. I put on medium, put the lid on and stirred it every so often. The sauce in my pot, which is clad, did not burn, but the sauce in that large nonclad sauce pan did.

  10. Gosh I wish we grew apples here! 🙁 I grew up in the pacific NW where they were so plentiful…

  11. Kate via Facebook

    Apple sauce and apple butter…we get seconds from a farmer friend for super cheap. I bought 2 bushels. I peel mine, though, as they are not organic and it skeeves me out to think about pesticides in my baby’s applesauce, and peeling removes a good portion of them. Organically grown fruit is difficult to find in the midwest, and often prohibitively expensive.

  12. Chantelle via Facebook

    About a month ago I made peach applesauce. Yummy! I will try to do the mix from now on. I do mine in a food processor with skins on. It’s a chunkier sauce but I love the idea of the skin nutrition being in the sauce. And it’s super easy. 🙂

  13. Jassica via Facebook

    We didn’t have a lot this year, so what we couldn’t eat, we dried. I think I still have a quart sized freezer bag or 2 of frozen applesauce from last year.

  14. Janet via Facebook

    As I post, I have my first batch of applesauce simmering on the stove! That, and the rye bread I baked this morning, will be my supper tonight. A good old-fashioned German peasant meal… I do hope to be able to pick enough to dehydrate as well, but my main harvest will go into the freezer as sauce.

  15. MaryLynn via Facebook

    We have pears, not apples, but not even close to as many as usual, due to the drought. I juiced some, dehydrated some and cut the rest into chunks and cooked them in the crockpot with spices (no sweetener). I can use them for pies, or cook it down into pear butter. I normally can them, but this year am trying them in the freezer to see which way we like them better.

  16. Michele via Facebook

    I’ve dehydrated some and made a lot of applesauce. I can’t keep homemade applesauce in the house – my husband LOVES it! I’m not worried about canning it – it won’t be in the fridge long enough to go bad!
    I add no sweetener of any kind, just apples (skin on and chopped), cinnamon and ground cloves!

  17. Pingback: 10 Ways to Enjoy Michigan Apples — Eat Local, West Michigan!

  18. Came across your blog whilst surfing for apple preservation recipes ~ looks just delightful! My mom usually provides us with all of the apples & grapes we can pick /want, & of course, every year we are inundated with them. I usually put up apple butter ( that stuff goes fast, my hubby eats it by the jar with a big spoon!) juice them, & freeze apples, but this year I wanted to try something different. I love the applesauce suggestion, & believe I will try some apple pie filling as well. A suggestion on ease of prep for canning ~ check out the Nutri-Steamer. I LOVE this product & use it often. It does cost a bit, but in the time & effort saved, it will have paid for itself the first year! No joke. Anyway, thanks for the awesome blog, feel free to stop by mine as well.. I am also quite fond of being a wise steward over God’s bounty.

  19. I made applesauce in the crock pot the other day. It is so yummy, easy and makes the whole house smell so good!

  20. Adding a few tablespoons of chicken bone broth to applesauce instead of water is a great way to sneak that superfood in. 🙂 If it’s properly full of gelatin, it gives the sauce a nice texture when cold and it’s great for GAPS!

  21. Tara via Facebook

    I am just taking a break from cutting apples to dehydrate and just got a big pot if apple butter started when I sat down to read this! Love apple season!

  22. I love the Foley food mill for making applesauce, because there’s no need to peel, core, or even to remove seeds. You just cook them up, put them into the food mill, and turn the crank. The first time I saw one used, I could hardly believe it.

  23. Laura's Last Ditch--Vintage Kitchenwares

    Have you ever tried a Foley food mill? With one of them, you don’t have to peel OR core your apples. I just cook them (quartered), then run them through the Foley food mill, skins, cores, seeds, and all. It saves a ton of time, especially when you’re trying to process bushels of apples!

    Truly, I don’t want to sound spammy, but if you want to see what one looks like, you can click on my name above and find one in my shop. They’re pretty easy to find at garage sales, though.

    1. Laura,
      How fun that you’re from GR! I’ve heard of those mills…seriously, how awesome! It might have to go on my someday wish list with an ice cream maker…

      🙂 Katie

  24. Thanks for posting this! I have some apple questions b/c we’re going to be planting some apple trees soon. What type/kind to you recommend? When is the best time to plant them [although it may vary since you probably have seasons where you live ;)]. Any tips you could give me before we buy and plant? THANKS!

    1. Brooke,
      I wish I knew something about planting trees, but I have zero knowledge there. Apples are so personal too, as far as what people like. ??? I’d plant one of each of like 8 kinds of trees if it were me!
      Good luck!
      🙂 Katie

    2. Call your local extension office. They are experienced, familiar with local growing seasons, and willing to help the public. If you have a small, local apple orchard, they might be willing to answer a few questions for you – just remember that they are a business, and not necessarily there to educate the public. Best of luck.

  25. Kathryn via Facebook

    Picked ton’s of apples this year. Made applesauce, apple butter, apple cider, and of course my favorite gluten free apple crisp!

  26. Katy via Facebook

    I just picked 3 5 gallon buckets and only had enough gumption to cut up one bucket full for canned apple sauce. Now I am roasting peppers for roasted red pepper spread.

  27. Diana via Facebook

    I’ve been picking them off the abandoned trees around here. I also found about 8 lbs someone was giving away in front of their house! We’ve also found half a dozen pears or so. I love apples!

  28. I am so excited to learn that you can freeze apples. I have already made two trips to a local apple orchard. I buy the 2nds and use them for freezer applesauce. I usually mix 5-7 varieties and then I don’t need to add any sugar. Next time I’m going to have to freeze some batches.

    1. Oh man…I’m totally munching on the cinnamon dried apples, but I should be eating the fresh ones and SAVING the dried ones, you know? They’re just so handy! 😉 Katie

  29. When we made applesauce when i was a child, we did not core the apples, just chopped and cooked them and put them through a strainer to get all the seeds and stuff out. I tried both methods to compare recently and my personal preference is for applesauce made that way, I think cooking the core in with it gives more flavor. Coring first is far easier, though, and will probably be our go-to method for small eat-it-now batches that are done frequently.

  30. We love applesaice over here. I mix 4 varities together to get a sweet sauce that you don’t have to add sugar to. I use golden delicious, empire, mcintosh, and smokehouse. If you can’t find smokehouse, courtlands are similar. Thanks for the tips for dried apple slices, thats next on my list as I have a half bushel of smokehouse left. I also didn’t can 4 quarts of applesauce so I could make some fruit leather. After that its pie filling and then I will be glad its all done so we can enjoy the eating part. 🙂

  31. Did you find a local organic source for your apples?

    Great tips! Looking forward to making sauce this year!!

    1. Shelley,
      No – a friend told me about one last year, but it was 2-3x as expensive as where we pick, and I just couldn’t justify it. We wash them well and take our chances…I figure local is still better than sent all the way across country (and a try to pick the ones as far inside on the tree as possible, hoping they were hit with less spray). Ha!
      🙂 Katie

  32. Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    You can dry the slices in the oven, about 200. I did this before I got a dehydrator last fall. It works fine. 🙂

    My kids, too, would eat five million apples a day. Seriously. When we have a lot of apples, they find a way to get into them and there are apples ALL over my house, each with a couple bites taken out of them. After a day or so I wise up and hide them and bring one out to slice for a snack once or twice a day. 🙂 Soon we’ll go apple picking for the THIRD time because my favorite eating apples are Fuji and they are ALMOST ready!!

    Jonathon make good applesauce, as do Golden Delicious. Cortland are just okay. At least for us!

  33. I just wanted to report that if you don’t have a dehydrator, you can also dehydrate apples in a skillet with a glass lid (put skillet in full sun, outside) or on a cookie sheet/plate on your dashboard (your windshield will work like a solar cooker). That’s what I did before I had a dehydrator – I live in Houston TX and I try not to turn on the oven if the AC is running.

    You could also do a small amount of apple bits by inverting a glass plate over a dark plate and putting in full sun.

    My kids are notorious for *not quite* finishing an apple or all of their apple slices, so I chop up the leftovers into bits to throw into granola, breads, or oatmeal.

  34. My mom freezes the apple slices all seasoned in a bag placed in a pie pan. That way she doesn’t even need to thaw – they fit perfectly in the crust. She does the same with crisps destined for a square baking dish. Freeze until solid, remove the bag from the pan, put pan back in cupboard.

    1. That is GENIUS! I am going to do exactly that. Thank you thank you…from a new owner of three apple trees laden with fruit.

  35. I will have to try freezing slices of apple. I never thought you could do that, but DH loves baked sliced apples, so that would be perfect to make a quick side dish for him. Thanks for all the tips!

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