How to Make Apple Butter (Vegan, Paleo)

How to Make Apple Butter (Vegan, Paleo)

I love making this slightly sweet, slightly tart, spiced apple butter with seasonal Jonathan apples. It’s so easy in the Instant Pot, whether slow- or pressure-cooked. Here I share how to make apple butter!

Every year I look forward to late September or early October when the Jonathan apples are in season. They are usually one of the earliest apples to be harvested. To me, these are the best apples for apple butter, bar none. For this reason, I wanted to share how I make apple butter. 

chopping apples for apple butter on a wood board

I’m more likely to find Jonathans at a farmer’s market or at a you-pick operation than at a grocery store. If I live near either of those options, my fall fruit-butter making is blessed. If you don’t you will have to keep an eagle eye out! 

The Jonathan has a lovely red color, sometimes shading into gold or green. They are delightfully tart and slightly soft, which makes them ideal for cooking down into a butter. They are also great for making stuffed apples! 

chopped apples and spices in the Instant Pot ready to cook

Fun fact: There is no butter in apple butter. The name comes from the fact that the apples are cooked down to make a thick spread. 

How long does it take to make apple butter?

It depends on whether you use the pressure-cook OR the high slow-cook setting on your Instant Pot. 

The pressure process takes about 1 ½ hours and the slow cook process takes just about four hours, so you can set the timing to your preference. Be sure to add the recommended amount of water if you pressure-cook so that you don’t get a “burn” message on your Instant Pot. The water will be well mixed into the apple butter, or you can simmer to reduce it later. 

cooked apples in the Instant Pot being mashed for apple butter

What are the best flavorings for apple butter?

You can spice your apple butter with pumpkin pie spice, use my blend or mix your own. You can sweeten it if you want, but I prefer not to. If I do use any sweetener it will be coconut sugar. 

Often Jonathans are tart enough without lemon juice, or with very little. But you might like lemon in your apple butter to bring out the natural tartness of the apples. 

delicious apple butter almost thick enough on a spoon

I taste each batch to be sure I’m getting the flavor I want. In fact, LOTS of tasting goes on, since you can really get an idea of the flavor as it cools in the Instant Pot.

Tasting is especially fun if I’ve planned in advance and made some biscuits, mmm. Try my easy gluten-free biscuits!

Or, coming soon, pumpkin apple butter thumbprint cookies like the ones below. 

Three jars of fresh apple butter and apple thumbprint cookies

Why should you buy your apples organically grown?

One reason is to reduce the quantity of pesticides we consume. I don’t peel my apples, because the natural pectins in the peels help the apple butter to thicken. I know that there are some pesticides allowed for use on organic fruit but as far as I’ve read, I’m better off spending extra, if need be, so I can worry less about synthetic pesticides on the peels. 

Two is to make a healthier environment for bees and other pollinators by reducing the quantity of pesticide THEY are exposed to. Neonicotinoids are especially toxic to bees, so it’s important that these chemicals not be used on apples or other crops the pollinators visit. 

I feel fortunate to be able to buy wonderful organically-grown produce from Ela Family Farms, and I appreciate the quality! No sponsorship, just great fruit.

two jars of fresh apple butter on white background

Other apples to use for apple butter

Can’t find Jonathan apples, or not making apple butter during the early Fall? I like these apples too:

MacIntosh – the most like Jonathans, available around the same time

Braeburn – a little less tart but also soft and a great eating apple, available later in the Fall

Granny Smith – have the tartness that will give the flavor you want, though they are a firmer apple, available much of the year from various places around the world

As always, if you make this recipe, please leave me a comment so I know how it went!


pinterest collage of two images showing uses for apple butter

Other recipes you may enjoy

Slow-Cooker Peach Butter 3 ingredient

Almond-Flour Biscuits 5-Ingredient

Apple-Apricot Fruit-Sweetened Muffins

Shop How To Make Apple Butter (Vegan, Paleo)


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apple butter in jars with fall leaves

How to Make Apple Butter (Vegan, Paleo)

  • Author: Beth of A Meal In Mind
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 7 cups 1x
  • Category: Spread, side dish
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: American


I love making this slightly sweet, slightly tart, spiced apple butter with seasonal Jonathan apples. It’s so easy in the Instant Pot, whether slow- or pressure-cooked. Here I share how to make apple butter!



  • 7 pounds washed, unpeeled apples (3.5kg, about 24 small to medium); pare out any bruises or spots, remove cores
  • 5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2/3 cup water
  • ¼ cup coconut sugar, optional, for very sour apples (I do not use any with Jonathans)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, more for very sweet apples


  1. Core and cut the apples into chunks.
  2. Place the apples, spices, water and lemon juice into your Instant Pot. Then follow one of these two methods:

Instant Pot Pressure-Cook Method: Cover and cook on the Pressure-cook or Manual setting for 15 minutes. When timer is finished, turn off power and let pressure in pot release naturally for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the dial to the Vent position and let remaining steam release, if any remains. 


Instant Pot Slow-Cook Method: Cover and slow-cook on high heat for 3 hours.

3. Remove the lid, and using a potato masher or something similar, smash the apples as much as possible. Stir well. 

4. Puree with an immersion or stick blender. If you don’t have a hand-held blender, allow the apple butter to cool for about 30 minutes, then transfer it in batches to a standing blender. Puree until lumps are gone. 

5. If you want it a little thicker, and it’s still in the IP, let the Instant Pot sit open on medium heat for another 30 minutes or more, stirring every 10 minutes or so. If not, pour it back in. 

6. When the apple butter is thick enough, it should mound up when you dip a spoon into it. Or, when you drag a fingertip through it on the spoon, the apple butter should not fill in the space. Careful – wait until the spoonful is cool enough to touch before you try this! 

7. When the apple butter has cooled, pour it into containers and refrigerate for up for 5 days. Freeze any apple butter that you won’t use within 5 days; or use safe canning practices, as this is a very low-sugar product. Makes about 7 cups. See note. 


If you plan to freeze your apple butter, use straight-sided canning jars like the ones shown in the photos. That way if the food freezes and expands, it is less likely to crack the jar.

Keywords: apples, fruit butter, apple butter, Instant Pot, slow cooker, fruit spread, low added sugar, easy recipe

pinterest collage of four images showing stages in making apple butter

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