So simple it’s almost not a recipe, this uber-healthy, sugar free applesauce gets a flavor boost from boiled cider, a little known ingredient that produces the most intensely apple-y applesauce you’ve ever had.
After you read about the potential health benefits below, you're going to want to keep a container of this sugar free applesauce in your refrigerator for a quick breakfast, snack or even a healthy dessert. Along with fresh berries, it is also a wonderful side dish for Healthy Eggs Benedict (with no-cook Hollandaise!).
Is sugar free applesauce good for you?
These days, there is a lot of discussion about the importance of a healthy gut microbiome for overall health. The gut microbiome is a complex community of microorganisms that inhabit the human digestive tract. It is comprised of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms, which play a crucial role in maintaining our overall health and well-being. The gut microbiome is now recognized as a vital organ, as it performs essential functions such as digestion, absorption of nutrients, and the production of essential vitamins and neurotransmitters.
Eating a balanced diet rich in fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics, avoiding unnecessary antibiotics, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep can all help promote a healthy gut microbiome. Apples, in particular, can be beneficial to the gut microbiome:
Rich in fiber
Apples are a good source of dietary fiber, including both soluble and insoluble fibers. These fibers can act as prebiotics, providing food for the beneficial bacteria in the gut, promoting their growth and improving gut health.
Apples are also rich in polyphenols, which are plant compounds that have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds can help support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, while reducing the growth of harmful bacteria.
Apples are a good source of vitamin C, which can help strengthen the gut lining and improve the absorption of nutrients. A healthy gut lining is essential for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
Chronic inflammation is known to disrupt the balance of gut bacteria. Apples contain compounds like quercetin and catechin that can reduce inflammation and promote a healthy gut microbiome.
May reduce risk of disease
A healthy gut microbiome is associated with a lower risk of several chronic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Apples have been shown to improve gut health and may help reduce the risk of these diseases.
For these reasons, I make a point of eating at least ¼ cup of sugar free applesauce every day. I’ve only recently started making my own. And it’s so worth it, given that I can include the nutritious apple peels and I can control the amount of added sugar (none) and cinnamon (lots!) that I want.
Boiled cider is a syrupy, concentrated apple cider made by slowly boiling down fresh apple cider until most of the water has evaporated. This produces a strong and intense apple flavor, with a sweet and tangy taste that is reminiscent of fresh apples. The syrup is darker in color and thicker in consistency than fresh apple cider, with a rich caramel-like flavor that comes from the slow cooking process. In this sugar free applesauce recipe, boiled cider adds super-charged apple-y oomph. But you can also use it as a glaze for baked goods, a sweetener for sauces and dressings, and as an ingredient in marinades or brines. Woods Cider Mill in Vermont makes a lovely boiled cider with nothing added. It's pricy but lasts a long time in the refrigerator. You can buy it online here on Amazon.
Cinnamon is optional, but I personally love the flavor with apples. The sweetest, most intensely flavored cinnamon that I have found is Royal Cinnamon from Burlap and Barrel. Their Royal Cinnamon, harvested in the mountains around the ancient Vietnamese capital city of Huế. is an heirloom variety not widely harvested or exported. Use it in place of ordinary grocery store cinnamons in pastries and baked goods. You’ll thank me for the tip. And for savory dishes that call for cinnamon, I like Burlap and Barrel's less sweet and more citrusy Cinnamon Verum.
For this sugar free applesauce recipe, choose an apple variety that you enjoy eating as a whole fruit. For me, that’s honeycrisp. I find that honeycrisp apples have that perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. If you choose a sweeter variety of apple, such as red delicious, you will probably need to add a tablespoon or so of lemon juice to counter the sweetness with a bit of acidity. Conversely, if you choose a cooking apple, such as Granny Smith, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of sugar or maple syrup to balance the tartness of the apple.
Slice the apples into four large quarters around the core. Chop these quarters into bite-size pieces. No need to peel the apples. The peel is nutritious and adds great texture!
Place the chopped apples, boiled cider, and cinnamon in a large Dutch oven or saucepan and stir to mix. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat.
Partially cover the pot and lower the heat until you have a moderate simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very soft. Remove from the heat and set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly.
Place the cooked apples in a food processor and pulse until you get the desired smoothness. (I like my sugar free applesauce to be chunky!) Eat right away or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
Hint: If you don't have a food processor, a potato masher does a pretty good job of producing a chunky applesauce manually.
Variations on sugar free applesauce
- Smooth - peel the apples before chopping and run the food processor until the sugar free applesauce is very smooth
- Sweeter - if your apples are on the tart side, add a tablespoon or two of sugar or maple syrup
- More tart - super sweet apples will require a tablespoon or two of lemon juice to add a bit of acidity to counter the sweetness
Store the cooked and cooled sugar free applesauce in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Enjoy some every day to contribute to your good health!
Monitor the apples while they are cooking. If things get too dry, add a little more boiled cider or a tablespoon or two of water.
Sugar Free Applesauce
- Slice the apples into four large quarters around the core. Chop these quarters into bite-size pieces. No need to peel the apples. The peel is nutritious and adds great texture!
- Place the chopped apples, boiled cider, and cinnamon in a large Dutch oven or saucepan and stir to mix. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Partially cover the pot and lower the heat until you have a moderate simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very soft. Remove from the heat and set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly.
- Place the cooked apples in a food processor and pulse until you get the desired smoothness. (I like my sugar free applesauce to be chunky!) Eat right away or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.