The wonders go so far beyond your morning toast.

By Stacey Ballis
January 29, 2021

If you are anything like me, you were all in this summer and fall at your local farmer's markets; supporting those independent businesses to keep them going and grateful to shop safely outside and get their terrific products directly. And if you are also like me, chatting with those purveyors and learning about their offerings meant you may have bought slightly more than you would have otherwise.

Which is why you now have three to five jars of artisanal apple butter taking up space in your pantry, and not nearly enough toast on the horizon to make a dent.

Good news: Apple butter is for far more than toast.

But don't despair! Of all the pantry items to have in abundance, apple butter is actually one of the most versatile, and its benefits go well beyond breakfast. To begin, it's a wonderful ingredient in baking, where it can offer both sweetness and moisture to bakes like cakes or muffins or can be a filling flavor-boost in pies or cookies. And who can say no to a cider doughnut, especially when boosted with apple butter?

Credit: Getty / © Michael Grayson

But wait! There are more uses for apple butter!

Apple butter's uses go far beyond. It is a great natural way to replace sugar in cooking without the bitter aftertaste or effects of sugar substitutes (especially in savory applications, like soups, stews, and sauces). It is often difficult to cut back on added sugar in recipes, especially when that hit of sugar is there to help balance the rest of the flavors in a dish. But apple butter, with its intense natural sweetness, but also fairly subtle flavor, can be a perfect way to bring that balance without reaching for the sugar bowl.

Adding a spoonful of apple butter to tomato sauce (which needs some sweet to counteract the natural acidity); soups like sweet and sour cabbage, rich pumpkin, or butternut squash; and curries can smooth the rough edges while still letting the primary flavors shine. Do you usually use a pinch of sugar in your vinaigrette? Try a teaspoon of apple butter and watch how it sweetens and helps your dressing emulsify. Making homemade barbecue sauce and trying to cut back on the molasses? Swap out half the volume for apple butter and see if you miss the original version. Do your baked beans rely on a ton of brown sugar? Apple butter will sweeten without making them taste cloying and let the actual bean flavor shine through.

How to substitute apple butter in recipes

In general, for non-baking recipes that call for two tablespoons or less of sugar, you can swap out apple butter 1:1. If you have larger volume of sugar, start by replacing half, and see how you go. You can always adjust up or down as you experiment. For baking recipes, try to stick to recipes that already call for apple butter as an ingredient, since the chemistry can be affected when making substitutes.

And wait for next fall, when you may double down on this sneaky pantry hero!