Parents have daunting tasks in the fall. They have to get their children up and out of the house in time for school every morning. They have to figure out this year's hottest Halloween costume. And perhaps most stressful of all (not really), they have to find the right applesauce.
That's harder than it seems, because the sheer volume of applesauce brands available at the market is overwhelming. In our recent taste test to find the best among them, we sampled no less than 28 varieties from 17 different brands.
Luckily, we found one way to narrow down the field pretty quickly. Tasting "unsweetened" and "no sugar added" varieties next to "homestyle" and "original" options, it became clear that any applesauce with added sugar should be avoided at all costs. Every sample in this category, no matter how "natural" that sugar source was, tasted shockingly, cloyingly sweet.
We tested 7 lunch boxes to see which one was the best for both the parent who packs the lunch and the kid who eats it.
The good news is, most brands offer wonderful unsweetened varieties. To find them, check the ingredients list: the only thing you want listed is apples (and perhaps apple purée, water, and lemon juice or ascorbic acid—a.k.a. vitamin C, which is used to retain color).
Our favorite applesauce was not just unsweetened but also organic. However, I must say upfront that Vermont Village Organic Applesauce does not taste like a typical applesauce (more on why below). If you're a traditionalist, go for our runner-up, which is almost as delicious.
For our methodology and the full list of applesauces we tasted, scroll to the bottom of the page. First up, the rankings!
Our Favorite Applesauce: Vermont Village
Right away we could see that this applesauce was different from the rest, as it's darker in color than most brands. Many wondered if that meant it was flavored with something, especially after tasting it and comparing its delicious complexity to the applesauces around it. But no—Vermont Village only contains "organic apples, organic apple purée, and vitamin C." (That last ingredient is a preservative found in practically every brand we tried.) Andrew Spena compared the flavor to "the sticky filling that spills out of an apple pie and caramelizes on the tin." That's not to say it's more sugary than the other unsweetened brands, but it does have a robust cooked-apple quality to it—while still somehow tasting fresh and lively, with a lemony finish.
The Best Traditional Applesauce: Tree Top Organic
So many of the applesauces on our roster were watery, mealy, or just downright boring. Tree Top surpassed all of these pitfalls. It has an exceptional—almost creamy—texture and is full of bright, earthy fruit flavor that's not quite as robust as our winner. Tasters who preferred a fresher-tasting applesauce, like Lauren Joseph, praised Tree Top's "smooth, mellow tang," and actually ranked it higher than our winner due to Vermont Village's more overtly cooked quality.
What We Were Looking For
We wanted to find the best-tasting classic applesauce—that meant no cinnamon, berry, or, um, creamsicle variations. We did not include any varieties with "chunky" in the title either.
The best applesauce had to be smooth, but still have texture. We looked for an applesauce that was neither mealy nor so puréed that it ate like baby food. It also had to be flavorful—like a really great apple. Too many of the samples were watery and insipid. Our winners boasted natural sweetness, pleasant tartness, and wholesome fruit flavor.
How We Tested
I chilled all samples overnight and set them out for a team of Epicurious editors and staff to taste plain. All labels were removed so that tasters could go in blind and no distinction was made between organic and non-organic products during testing.
The Other Applesauces We Tasted
- Go Go Squeez Organic Apple Apple Applesauce
- Wild Harvest Organic Unsweetened Applesauce
- Thrive Organic Original Apple Sauce
- 365 Everyday Value Organic Unsweetened Apple Sauce
- Vermont Grown Natural Unsweetened Village Applesauce
- Santa Cruz Organic Apple Sauce
- Seneca Unsweetened Apple Sauce
- Seneca Original Apple Sauce
- Musselman's Unsweetened Apple Sauce
- Trader Joe's Organic Apple Sauce
- Zee Zees Original Unsweetened Applesauce
- Kroger Unsweetened Applesauce
- Go Go Squeez Apple Apple Applesauce
- Tree Top Original Apple Sauce
- Tree Top No Sugar Added Apple Sauce
- Mott's No Sugar Added Apple Applesauce
- Market Pantry Homestyle Applesauce
- Market Pantry No Sugar Added Applesauce
- Kroger Classic Applesauce
- Trader Joe's All Natural Apple Sauce
- Simply Balanced Organic Unsweetened Applesauce
- Musselman's Original Apple Sauce
- Eden Organic Apple Sauce
- Zee Zees Original Applesauce
- Mott's Apple Applesauce
- Field Day Organic Applesauce
All products featured on Epicurious are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn a small affiliate commission.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious