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Can I Substitute Applesauce in Baking?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Applesauce is a popular alternative to sugar in baking, which offers a natural sweetness and added moisture. According to the US Apple Association, applesauce can reduce fat content by replacing oils. It also enhances nutritional value with its fiber and vitamin C content. 

However, the substitution isn't always straightforward. While applesauce can replace sugar in recipes, adjustments are often necessary to maintain the desired texture and flavor. Bakers may need to experiment with ratios, as applesauce interacts with other ingredients differently than sugar. For those looking to reduce refined sugars, substituting applesauce requires careful consideration to achieve the perfect balance in your baked goods.

Reasons to Substitute Applesauce

Baked goods like cookies, cakes and muffins are well loved by most people, but not usually for their healthy qualities. Substituting applesauce for ingredients like eggs or oil, which contain cholesterol and fat, can help make the result more nutritious. It can also reduce the overall calorie count, a must for people who are trying to diet without giving up all of their favorite treats. Cooks with certain food allergies or dietary restrictions, including people who do not eat animal products, may also choose to substitute applesauce for problematic ingredients such as milk or butter.

Adding applesauce can also improve the flavor or texture of certain baked goods. Cooks looking for these attributes may look to replace half of the oil in a recipe, or one of several eggs. Many believe that the apples make a great addition to baked goods for taste alone, even if they not taking the place of anything in particular.

Substitutions That Do Not Usually Work

Cooking experts do not recommend using applesauce to replace any dry ingredients. People hoping to avoid substances like flour or sugar are better served looking for comparable dry alternatives. In most cases, applesauce is only an acceptable substitute for ingredients that have a similar wet consistency.

As a Milk or Water Substitute

Replacing liquids like milk or water with applesauce is usually the most straightforward, since these ingredients are usually only included to add moisture. In most cases, a “straight” replacement — essentially measuring the same amount of applesauce that the recipe wanted for water or milk — works the best, though slightly more may be required depending on how wet the batter needs to be. Cooks usually develop a certain degree of expertise over time, and can often tell just by looking at mixed ingredients whether more or less moisture is needed.

As an Oil or Butter Substitute

Oil, butter, and other fats tend to inhibit the separation of gluten in baked goods that contain flour, which keeps them tender and moist when exposed to heat. Applesauce, which is high in pectin, has a similar effect. There are a number of important differences between apples and oil, however, which makes substitution a bit more complicated than simply swapping one for the other.

Oils and fats act as binding agents, which means that they help the dough stick together during baking. Applesauce, on the other hand, is made largely of water, which has no such binding effect. Pectin can help promote cohesion, but does not usually appear in high enough quantities to affect overall dough consistency. Most experts recommend reducing the amount of butter or oil to start, and filling in the gaps with applesauce. In some recipes, straight substitutions may work, but it is usually best to start slow and watch how things progress.

As an Egg Substitute

General kitchen wisdom teaches that one egg can usually be substituted with 0.25 cup (about 60 mL) of applesauce. Recipes that call for just one egg usually turn out quite well with this substitution, though things can be harder to predict with more eggs involved. In small quantities, an egg may not be missed; the more eggs that are required, however, the more likely it is that applesauce versions will taste — and often look — much different.

Baked goods made with applesauce are usually quite dense. Eggs tend to fluff and lighten a batter, but fruit sauces can weight things down.

Tips and Tricks

One of the best ways to help applesauce integrate into a batter is to keep it separated until the very end. Many cooks will mix their dry ingredients separately, only adding the wet components just before baking. The longer applesauce sits in a batter, the more likely it is to grow soupy or cause separation.

Substitutions tend to work best in baked goods that are made in sturdy pans, such as muffin tins or bread loaves. Trying to substitute applesauce in more free-form foods like cookies or scones may end poorly. The sides of a pan will hold muffins and loaves up until the heat of the oven sets them, whereas items placed on sheets may run and spread.

Consistency is also something to watch. If an applesauce cake or cookie seems overly dense, it may be worth adding a few splashes of juice or milk to the batter in the future. When sweetened applesauce is used, it may also be a good idea to reduce the amount of sugar added. Inexperienced bakers may grow frustrated when they try to substitute applesauce in baking because it so often changes the way a recipe behaves. Experimentation and proportion tweaking is usually the best path to success.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon988702 — On Feb 13, 2015

How much applesauce would you use to replace a stick of butter? Keep in mind the recipe calls for 1 stick so I'm probably going to try substituting half.

By elvira — On Mar 16, 2014

Why, when I warmed applesauce, butter and milk, did it get a little stringy like melted mozzarella cheese? Any suggestions or ideas?

By burcinc — On Jan 19, 2013

@MikeMason-- You can, but applesauce is not as sweet as sugar so you will need a lot more. This will give the batter a very liquid consistency.

A better idea is to use some applesauce in addition to a natural sugar-free sweetener. This way, you'll get the right sweetness and the right consistency. Applesauce can also be used in place of sweet cream or vanilla yogurt in recipes.

You can use homemade applesauce but it shouldn't be very fresh or it will release a lot of water in the batter.

By stoneMason — On Jan 18, 2013

Can I substitute applesauce for sugar?

I have diabetes and I'm trying to make my sweet recipes diabetic friendly. Just wondering, has anyone tried using applesauce instead of sugar?

Does it matter if I use homemade applesauce or store-bought applesauce?

By SteamLouis — On Jan 18, 2013

@anon47055-- I think applesauce does work in baking but it depends on what you're substituting and which other ingredients are included. It's definitely not the easiest thing to figure out, especially for people like me who have little experience in baking.

I personally think that applesauce works best as an egg substitute. I have substituted butter with it as well but it didn't turn out good. When I replaced eggs with it however, it turned out great. I think it may have to do with consistency. The consistency of applesauce is more similar to eggs than butter.

By anon135420 — On Dec 18, 2010

Applesauce makes a very poor substitute for flour. No one tries to use applesauce as a substitute for flour.

By anon113850 — On Sep 26, 2010

I use applesauce for cookies all the time and I always end up with great results! And I can get a crisp texture with it. And I never have a problem with them spreading out into a big mess on the pan.

By anon111422 — On Sep 16, 2010

I'm not sure what kind of cookie recipe you made with applesauce as an egg replacer, but I do it all the time and they turn out great. They hardly spread at all (much less spreading than with eggs). They do tend to turn out a little more cake-like than cookies made with eggs, but most people seem to like that. Maybe you need to add more flour?

By anon67811 — On Feb 26, 2010

I have a great recipe for oatmeal applesauce muffins that call for eggs, but I just use extra applesauce and they come out great. Still fluffy because it has baking soda and powder, and I've heard that's the secret to getting applesauce things to poof!

By anon59342 — On Jan 07, 2010

The phrase 'two tablespoons (10 milliliters) of oil' is incorrect. To be correct, 1 tablespoon is equal to 15 milliliters therefore 2 tablespoons are equal to 30 milliliters.

By anon47055 — On Oct 01, 2009

I have tried the applesauce replacement with limited success. I plan to keep experimenting, but I think the solution is to eat baked goods the same as we eat anything. Moderation is the key.

By calea — On Jul 07, 2009

I've used applesauce to replace oil in cookie recipes, and the cookies always end up heavy and chewy. I'll stick to the full-fat, I think.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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