Baby, Recipe

first applesauce

And so we started with applesauce. Well, technically my baby’s first “foods” were some impossible-to-resist crinkly paper from the examination table at his pediatrician’s (or whatever I missed in Mama’s First Tiny Mouf Fingersweep) and some diluted, organic, no sugar added prune juice, but we don’t really need to get into the rationale behind that, do we?

apples for a tiny belly
peeled, peeled and peeled some more

Despite having baked more apple pies, tarts, crumbles, grunts, brown bettys, muffins and cakes in the last five years than most people do in their lifetimes, I’d actually never made applesauce before. Needless to say, mastery of applesauce is a great trick to have up your sleeve when you a) have a wee one underfoot and b) live in an area where apples are pretty much the only locally-grown fruit available from October through April. I knew Elise would never steer me wrong, thus I turned to her recipe for guidance, nixing the sugar and lemon juice, as I understand we’re supposed to ease into the citruses further down the road.

ready to cook

However, I used the suggested citrus peel and I’m so glad I did. I was surprised by how well the delicate lemon perfume worked in the applesauce — you get the fragrant oils, but not the sharp acidity so it is particularly fitting to introduce into tiny mouths. Actually, I was taken aback by the deliciousness of all of it. I’d been worried that applesauce cooked from busted, post-season apples with no added sugar would be kind of grainy and blah and it was anything but. Whizzed in the food processor, it became smooth and velvety, but packed with flavor. I won’t lie, the hardest part has been sharing it with its most eager customer.


First Applesauce
Roughly adapted from Simply Recipes

I know people say this a lot about homemade food, but in this especially there is absolutely no comparison in the flavor from this applesauce and the stuff from the jars. They may as well be different food groups; this one smooth and velvety, and not nearly as sour and one-note-y as its packaged sugar-free counterpart. Now that I know how easy it is to make — the hardest part is the peeling and coring — if I make no other baby food, I’m pretty sure I’ll always make homemade applesauce going forward.

Yield: About 12 3/4 to 13 6 to 7 cups.

4 pounds apples, peeled and cored (I used a mix of Ida Red and Rome apples from my farmer’s market that had been in cold storage since the fall)
4 strips of lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water

Peel, core and chop your apples into large chunks, about 8 pieces per apple. Put all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce it to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for approximately 30 minutes, or until apples are quite soft. (I like to see that I can squish them with the back of a fork.) Fish out the lemon peels and whole cinnamon stick, if you used one, and let it cool.

Puree in a food processor, blender or food mill and freeze in small portions. It will be difficult, but try to remember to share the deliciousness with your baby.

Check out the Tools page for more on the ABC’s of preparing, storing and serving baby food.

77 comments on first applesauce

  1. There is no comparison in homemade apple sauce and store bought. Homemade is the best!! Is it wrong that the applesauce is making me want pork chops too? Jacob is so so SO cute!

    PS where was this site 3 years ago when I needed it for my (now 3.5 yr old) baby? LOL :)

  2. Annie

    Congrats on this side blog! I’ve made my baby’s applesauce using Elise’s recipe, too! My baby is already 18 mo now I use the same recipe, but don’t cook it as long so she can chew some pieces.

  3. Diana

    wonderful!! i am beginning the baby food journey as well – so glad ill be able to get some tips from you….im trying to figure out how to start proteins like chicken, ill check back soon!!

  4. Nicole

    My grandmother always used to throw in an italian plum (the little oblong ones), peel and all – it gave the applesauce a lovely rosy hue.

  5. I have a wee one about the same age as yours so this is a welcome subject! I highly recommend the food mill route so you can skip the peeling and coring completely…couldn’t be easier! You can always whiz it in the food processor after milling it if you want it to be smoother, but I’ve found the food mill on its own to work just fine. Can’t wait to try it with a bit of lemon peel and cinnamon stick next time. Thanks!

  6. dori

    i havent bought a single jar of applesauce since making my first baby-intended batch about a year ago. homemade is SO much better! i cant wait to see what other delicious yums you come up with for your wee one.

    also, i steam my apples. for some reason i dont like boiling them dont know why. it makes for a slightly thicker consistency i think.

  7. Sharon

    Good luck with the baby food making. I made all my older son’s food, til he started downing the purees like crazy. My husband came home one day and I was in tears, the squash wouldn’t freeze, and I had to get the papaya in the freezer, and the peaches were getting soft…Organic jars from then on in our kids! Except meat, thats just gross. And applesauce, because, well you know!

  8. Jackie in TN

    Excited to see this Deb – I’ve been making this for more years than you are old! My husband’s grandmother gave me the lemon hints in 1955 and I threw in the cinnamon sticks on my own. I don’t process it because I’m a big girl now – but it cooks down to a lovely consistency much like what is labeled ‘chunky’ in the glass jars at the store.

  9. Jackie in TN

    p.s. I don’t take out the lemon strips or the cinnamon stick after cooking – I leave them in the applesauce while it is in the fridge.

  10. Elizabeth

    Congrats on the new site! I have zero children, but I’m loving this despite that fact.

  11. Becca Porter

    Deb, is there any reason why you have to peel the apples? It could of course add a lot of fiber and extra nutrition. I have a Vita-Mix and I was hoping to use it for this, but perhaps there is another reason why it should be removed?

    Thanks and I love the blog!

  12. Emily

    If you have a food mill, you don’t even need to peel and core! You can get one for like $20 from Amazon.

  13. Becca, The reason for removing the peel is it would not be a smooth puree when using a food processor, with a Vita-Mix go ahead and leave it in.

    I use the fruit and veggie strainer attachment for my Kitchen Aid when I make applesauce, I only cut up the apples and remove the stems, no peeling or coring. The strainer takes them out after it is cooked and the finished sauce is a pretty rosy color.


  14. Elizabeth Mommy of 2

    When my daughter (now 5) started solid food we went through several weeks of her rebelling against the fancy organic baby food I was buying her. It didn’t take me long to throw up my hands and make everything from scratch. It really wasn’t hard. I just had to remember to be careful about spices and seasonings until I was sure there weren’t any allergies to worry about. But, I think think that this is part of why when my daughter started on official “table food” her first foods were spinach and feta quiche and roasted cauliflower soup. Nothing like homemade, right?

  15. Sarah

    I made my pretty much all of my own baby food and it was so easy. She is now a great eater!

  16. Terri

    I made basically the same recipe (just found you – but am on second baby, so new recipes are good). I however, made mine in the crockpot. Just dumped everything in there and then walked away for the afternoon. I also did this for carrots and it was so easy!

  17. I know someone else already said it, but this makes me want pork chops to go with it! I have a feeling I’m going to be commandeering more than one of your “baby” food recipes for my own enjoyment…

  18. Leslie

    If you think homemade apple sauce is divine, wait until you try pear sauce. I made gallons of the stuff for my son but I don’t think much actually made it into him because there would suddenly be three cooks in the kitchen (my husband, my step-daughter and myself) when it was ready all stealing a bite or a bowl.

  19. Cali

    I made all our babyfood and found the website to be VERY helpful! Peeling apples didn’t…appeal to me (hardy har har) so I cut the apples around the core and steamed them skins on and just scooped the flesh out once softened.

  20. Lucy

    A stick blender is awesome for baby food, btw. And a baby food keeping secret: freeze in ice cube trays and then move to freezer bags, defrosting a cube as needed. Each cube is about 1 oz (depending on the size of your ice cube tray).

  21. ProudMary

    I always used to just quarter the apples and throw them in the pot, cores, peels and all…then put them through a food mill at the end…so much easier and just as good (actually, better if the skins made the sauce pink!)

  22. Mr. Danger and I have no kids as yet, but when we do, I plan to make as much of their food as I can from scratch, to hopefully offset the genetic tendency toward picky eaters in my family (myself included). This applesauce looks awesome, and I can’t wait to see how this section of the site grows!

  23. I’m getting my wisdom teeth pulled next week so I’ll be definitely be making this! Also, I have a newborn niece and was contemplating making a ton of baby food and canning it, but a few people have advised against this. Do you have any opinions on this? I see that you freeze your baby food rather than canning so I’m assuming you do…

  24. Incredible! :) I am SO EXCITED about this site; if mega baby food manufactures can whip up “roasted banana” and other exotic goodies, who are everyday moms to “lag behind” in their quest for only the best for their bebe? Your first recipe looks amazing, and I’m very excited about Goo. Yes, baby goo; I guess we might as well call it what it is! :)

    Congrats on the new site! And Jacob looks so sweet on that table; as always!!!

  25. Deb – you really are too much! I have no kids but just found myself reading through your new site just because you make it all so enticing. Just promise not to tell. :) I will however be sending my preggo friends your way – I’m sure they are going to be very thankful. And I may be picking up some of those ice trays – I think they may be just what my (adult) beverages have been lacking.

    First the book and now SK Goo too… boy – I hope there is some bourbon waiting for you at then end of all this!

  26. Susan

    Deb, I think this is going to be a wonderful place for Mothers of young kids. You are the ideal person to bring it. You don’t judge on your sites, have good common sense and you have a sense of humor; that is exactly what a Mom needs when looking for a foodmaking resource. Too bad for me that the internet and you weren’t around when I needed some help! Congrat’s and keep up the good work!

  27. Amy

    Wish you had been here a few months ago! I made all of my baby’s food this time (third) around. It was a lot of fun! When it got to the protein stage, I roasted bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in the oven with a little olive oil and then added the cooked meat to whatever veg I was making that day. One of her favorites was chicken and sweet potatoes. Another was orange cous cous and chicken from Blender Baby Food – a great book for ideas! Enjoy this stage as it ends pretty quickly. Now she is eating whatever I make for the rest of us. Can’t wait to see what else you explore.

  28. Courtney S.

    Deb, thanks so much for this! I’m a longtime SK reader and am 8 weeks into my first pregnancy. So excited to have this coming from a familiar voice! It definitely makes me feel like homemade, awesome baby food is well within reach. Happy Mother’s Day!

  29. Kristen

    This looks great, I can’t wait to see more! This baby should be coming out in a few weeks and I can’t wait to start cooking her very own smitten meals! Thanks, Deb. Happy Mother’s Day!

  30. I’m so excited about this new part of your site! I just started a “Baby Foodie” section on my blog – I love watching my 10 month old experience new foods! I can’t wait to see what new and exciting recipes I find here.

  31. I’ve been following your blog for years, was excited when I read that we were pregnant at the same time and this is the reason why!

  32. Alexis

    so happy to see a smitten kitchen baby section! My little girl is only 3 months old, but I’m going to start freezing a few items in preparation for the months ahead.

  33. Alyssa

    You will never want to eat jarred applesauce again after having homemade… nor will your little one for that matter! Once you can introduce more complex flavors to him, I am begging you to please try Ina’s recipe for applesauce… it is divine… I add a scraped vanilla bean and a nice glug of maple syrup and it’s heaven. I made all of my son’s baby food (he’s 2) and can proudly say he’s never had a jar of baby food. I am so happy you have started this part of your site! Enjoy… and for what it’s worth, Annabel Karmel has some great books on baby food!

  34. Nancy

    My baby food making days are far in the distant past, but I clicked on this out of curiousity. I’d highly recommend picking up a copy (used, probably — I’m sure it’s long since out of print) of ‘Canada Cooks: Baby’s Choice’ by Becky Paris-Turner. It was my go-to cookbook when my oldest son (now 21) was a baby. I spent many happy Sundays making ice cube trays full of wonderful delights thanks to that book.

  35. I keep a very similar applesauce on hand for my 8.5 month old baby. The trouble is, my husband loves it so much, it dissappears when I’m not looking.

  36. I don’t have any children yet, but I look forward modifying my favorite applesauce recipe for kidlings. My recipe is for a gingered apple sauce, and I will have to keep in mind being sugar free. I forget that the recipe doesn’t necessarily need the sugar it calls for.

  37. Yaaaaaaay!! I’m so excited to see a SK baby food blog! We have a toddler and one due in July, and when I saw this, I yelled “holy s*$t!”, and my husband ran in the room expecting labor to be happening. Keep up the great work, Deb!

  38. Soph

    YAY! I just found your new baby site! I am having so much fun cooking for my 10 month old – it is amazing to watch them discover taste and texture! I can’t wait to see your creative ideas when it comes to blends and meats. I have made a few mistakes along the way – like giving Baby a mild chicken curry… he liked the first bite … and the second… but the 3rd made him gag… and the 4th… well I will leave it to you to guess what happened!!! Poor thing! My hubby and I just want him to like tasty food… but we will wait a while before trying that again!
    Thank you for your lovely blogs! You do inspire me to cook new exciting dishes! (and your Jacob is beautiful!)

  39. Laurie

    Picked up a nice assortment of apples this morning at our local (and fantastic) farmers market today and made your applesauce for my six month old. He had it for dessert (after delicious pureed local peas and chicken). He was making some funny faces, but clearly loved it! He couldn’t get it down fast enough…and I’m pretty sure he was already full. I loved it, too, and I don’t even care much for applesauce.

    I’ll be making your pears this week, and am going out in search of those silicone ice cube trays tomorrow!

    Thanks for your recipes! This could not have come along at a better time for me and my baby!

  40. Monique

    Great baby food recipes. I am expecting in November and you have convinced me to make my own baby food. I look forward to more posts :)

  41. Nicci

    LOVE this blog. Have made almost all the recipes to date. My son is about the same age as yours so this came at perfect timing for me. Really looking forward to seeing how you start to introduce more complex flavors and proteins. I LOVED the nutmeg with peaches. My son took to the carrots like yours took to the peaches. He SCREAMS for them. I’ve also made: blueberries (even pureed they’re a little chunky but he eats them just fine), roasted tomatoes, roasted yellow squash, and broccoli. He loves it ALL.

  42. Maggie

    I made your applesauce for my 6 mo old new-to-solids-food eater and she loved it! She won’t touch the cans I’ve purchased, so am trying other purees. We made pumpkin puree and tonight mixed it with your applesauce – it was a great combination! I’m really looking forward to your other baby food posts! PLEASE continue!

  43. I made it with Granny Smith and I’m afraid it was rather bland–have you experimented with most apples? I should probably stick with the red!

  44. sara

    my son (and i!) can’t get enough of this applesauce and other foods you’ve posted. please continue to share — we’re eager to try more of your recipes! thanks for the inspiration!

  45. Alicia

    Long time reader, first time commenter… loving these easy ideas for the baby food! I accidentally left the lemon peel in on my first batch of applesauce – the baby didn’t get any unfortunately. But! I put it in our popsicle molds and made apple-lemon popsicles. My 3 and 6 year-old LOVE them.

  46. My wee one is 5 months, and we’re starting to think about some real food (wahoo!) My mother used to make applesauce regularly (a requirement of a Maine mother I think) and she always cooked the apples simply halved with the peals on… then ran the mushy mess through a food mill. This gave the applesauce a beautiful red hue and cut down on the sticky peeling/coring work. Just an idea…

  47. jen

    i make lazy applesauce. wash and chop coarsely. into a big pot, skin, cores and all. cook till mushy, then through food mill. all the skin and seeds and hard bits stay in the mill. not sure if this is an ok method for baby, but definitely easy for general use, and so so good.

  48. Katie

    I just saw on the comments of the applesauce cake recipe you said this applesauce recipe makes around 4 Cups. Sorry for the double comments!

  49. unsightly

    Just made this tonight with 5 different varieties of apples, both green and red. It is tart and delicious! It actually yielded almost 7 cups, not 4.

  50. MMorgan

    I just made this to eat on its own (with pork chops) and for use in your spiced applesauce cake. This was truly a revelation!! I had no idea that applesauce could be so good.

  51. Super good! I made this to go with the easiest mac and cheese. My dad says applesauce is a requirement for homemade mac, but I never made applesauce before today. Thanks!

  52. Dearest Deb,

    I’ve been following and loving Smitten Kitchen for years. I just realized you had opened this other site. I love it too and, I can tell it’s going to be very useful for me. See, I’m learning to eat from ground zero as well, almost like I’m a baby… so baby foods come in extremely handy! My tummy is right now very weak and cannot tolerate a lot of foods, so these simple and nutritious recipes are just what is in order for me!

    Thank you very much, you don’t know the inpact this has on me!

  53. Manda

    Okay, Deb, you rock! While being directed to your site for several pregnancy cravings (cookies, seven layer cookies, do you know that it is so hard to find a seven layer cookie just like the first one you ever had? And you have a recipe that fits the bill!) I found this page. Kiddo won’t be born til’ February but man, writing some of these down, and trying them with my mom, has really made the waiting that much easier. I love your approach to introducing baby food! (Oh yeah and the apple sauce is amazing- I’ve just been eating it, gotta product test before I settle on a apple sauce recipe right? :))

  54. Julie

    Just tried this recipe and was a bit worried that it wouldn’t be sweet enough (no sugar added), but it so was and it’s completely delish. Thanks again for another wonderful recipe to use and enjoy.

  55. Grace

    This recipe is so tasty, however I’m bummed that I can’t give it to my 5 month old, as I read after I made it that babies shouldn’t have cinnamon until they are 8 months old. Ah well, more for me!

  56. Nora

    Okay, so my baby is only ten weeks old (still a good ways off from starting solids) but I was so excited to see these lovely baby food recipes that I got a little ahead of myself and made this one just to try. YUM. After being forced to sample canned baby food at a baby shower, I decided that my initial impulse not to feed my baby anything I wouldn’t eat was completely correct. I used an old fashioned foley mill to puree the apples at first, but the texture was too grainy so I just threw it into my mini-blender and it came out silky and delicious. Warmed up, it made a very cozy addition to breakfast the next morning! This baby has some good eats to look forward to!

  57. Nadia De Leon

    My almost 2 years old son loves lentils, I usually make them in soup with veggies, but I don’t want him to grow tired of them. Do you have any ideas on how to prepare them for a toddler? Thanks! Love your blog btw!

  58. anna

    everything looks amazing. you are so creative and clever.
    just as a little heads up, new dietary guidelines suggest nothing pureed anymore for babies who are old enough to eat solids. they are supposed to have a little texture in their foods to strengthen tongue and swallowing muscles(IE fork-mashing, not blending). it also eases the transition to more regular food as they get older as they don’t get hung up on the texture. and yes, babies do gag, but that is expected and normal. choking, however, isn’t.

    I know, it’s a radical concept (I have always given my babies puree) and I had a hard time wrapping my head around it, but as a public health nurse I am lucky to be privy to the latest info handed down by research done by many medical professionals…:)

  59. anna

    oops! I also forgot to mention- that same study suggested that we don’t hold off on ‘known allergy’ foods anymore ie eggs, strawberries, peanut butter etc. study after study has been found to show that holding babies off these foods just delays the inevitable allergy development, it doesn’t stop the allergy from happening. the key is to introduce these new foods one at a time for two to three days (along with already accepted foods) to make sure you know that if there is a reaction, you know where it is coming from. in fact these new guidelines handed down by the province of BC say the only food a baby can’t have before the age of 1 is honey. (whole cow’s milk is ok from age 1 as well). CAVEAT peanut butter only in a very thin smear of course, as it is so thick and can cause choking.

    I realize this has nothing to do with your beautiful recipes, but there are lots of mom’s getting fantastic ideas from this site…so I thought I’d add it to my last post:)

  60. Mistey

    This recipe sounds awesome! I am looking for a good baby food recipe that I can prepare this fall and freeze. Any suggestions?

  61. anne

    Oh, wow, hilarious!!! Thank you so much for putting forth into the blogosphere the notion that babies should eat REAL FOOD too, and by real food I do NOT mean the recipes on all the cutesy mom sites with little bunnies in the margins. For me, the baby-food-gourmand, apparently, who went toe to toe with my pediatrician when he said my little man was constipated and potentially malnourished because I’d started him on yams instead of iron-fortified rice baby cereal (WHAT???) I am sick to death of baby recipes that nobody who had any sense would feed their canine friends, let alone tiny humans they were resposible to nurture! Not only that, but the spicy little notes about this and that related to trials and tribulations of raising said tiny human definitely resonate and I’m sitting here laughing hysterically about a recipe for spinach and yams! Awesome. Thanks.

  62. I’m surprised you made a full post about this. You really think it’s that important? Don’t get me wrong, I love your stuff, but this is kind of crazy.

  63. Jenna

    Holy crap, girl! You got mad spammed.

    I have no baby but I make this for myself frequently. Haven’t bought a jar of applesauce since I found this recipe. It makes the house smell wonderful. Thank you again!

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