Condiments Side dish

Ancho chile applesauce

Ancho chile applesauce | Homesick Texan

I went apple picking in Connecticut with my mom last weekend. It wasn’t the first time I’d picked apples—we have apple trees at the family farm and every August they need to be harvested. (Though this year, some creature ate all the apples so there weren’t any for us to eat.) But it was the first time I’d been apple picking in New England.

When we arrived at the farm, I was struck by how the air was fragrant with apples, made prominent by the recent rains. My mom said, “I wish there was a way to photograph this smell so I could keep it with me forever.”

And everyone was so happy! The orchards were filled with teenagers, young families, grandparents and little kids, with nary a frown to be found. While ostensibly, apple picking could be construed as work, it’s definitely joyful work. Is it because apples are so round and cute? Or is it because apples are the hallmark of a new season? I don’t know, but having pulled vegetables out of the ground and plucked apples from trees, I can attest from personal experience that apple picking is definitely the superior farm task.

Ancho chile applesauce | Homesick Texan

My mom was in Connecticut for a job interview. This is a very important job that I hope she gets, but at the same time I have mixed feelings about it as it would mean she would have to move away from Texas. And as my brother and dad have moved away from Texas, too, I told her that I just might have to move back home so someone in our immediate family would still live there. Of course, this would be highly ironic since if she does move to Connecticut she will only be a train ride away. She wasn’t pleased with this bit of information.

When you live in New York City, you have very limited storage space. My mom has been gracious enough to store both a large trunk filled with all sorts of grade-school mementoes (photos, yearbooks and old papers) and my library of children’s books ever since I moved out the house many, many years ago. But she told me this weekend that if she got the job that I’d have to reclaim these items as she would probably downsize. I was speechless—where would I put all this stuff?

As you can probably gather, I’m going through a bit of a crisis by her possible move. OK, so it’s not really a serious crisis—I just have issues with change, even if it’s for the best. But no matter, I needed some solace from all this news.

Ancho chile applesauce | Homesick Texan

If my mom moves to Connecticut, one of the books I will be reintroducing into my library is an old childhood favorite, “Rain Makes Applesauce.” But despite my love for this book, for some reason I’d never made applesauce.

When I returned home, I took a few of my apples and threw them in a pot with some spices, ancho chile powder and lemon zest. For a first-time attempt, it was pretty darn good. And while I’m a bit anxious not knowing how this Connecticut story will end, at least as I ate my applesauce I felt content and warm.

You can serve the applesauce as a side dish or as a condiment. (It’s terrific on pancakes). And this spicy applesauce cake would work well with it, too.

Ancho chile applesauce | Homesick Texan
5 from 1 vote

Ancho chile applesauce

Servings 6
Author Lisa Fain


  • 1 1/2 pounds red baking apples, about 4, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • Pinch cayenne


  1. Place the apples, ancho chile powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, lemon zest and water in a pot, and cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. After about half an hour, the apples should be cooked down to almost mush. Stir in the sugars, vanilla, cayenne, and salt and cook on low for 5 minutes. Serve warm or cold. Will keep refrigerated for 1 week.

Recipe Notes

If you use really sweet apples, such as Honeycrisp, Fujis or Galas, you might find you don’t need as much sugar. I used more-tart Winesap and Liberty apples, which is why I used this amount of sugar.

  1. Mmmmmm Lisa, you just gave me a great idea for brunch! Homemade applesauce and pancakes. It's rainy and chilly in Austin and this'll hit the spot. Good luck to your Mom on her new opportunity.

  2. "Oh, you're just talking silly talk!"

    I've never encountered anyone else who loves (much less has heard of) Rain Makes Applesauce!

    I love your blog, and even though I live in Texas, I've rarely had to make a lot of the things you write about since I can get them here without having to expend any effort at all. But I'm branching out. I've recently tackled chicharrones and marranitos. Thanks to your blog, I feel I must try molletes (which I'd never heard of, but which sound delicious). I think I might even make bolillos!

    I love your blog.

    Paula, Dallas

  3. Corrine ATX

    agreed on the rainy cold Austin day! I was just making grocery list…. sounds like this is going to be on it!! Thanks!

  4. I love going apple picking, and it makes living in Michigan almost enjoyable. I've already been 3 times this season, and have made several batches of applesauce. I've never thought to add chile powder, though, and I can't wait to try it next time.

  5. Have made applesauce many times, but never added ancho chile powder. What a great idea! Can't wait to try it… if only I had the benefit of freshly-picked apples. Gonna have to get 'em at the old HEB. Thanks for the inspiration and good luck with your storage crisis.

  6. Ancho in applesauce? I'm going to have to make this. This looks great.

  7. Spiced apple sauce, brilliant!

    Change is always a little hard, even if it is good change. I hope everything works out for you and your Mom!

  8. Lisa, I've been mulling the idea of making applesauce ever since I saw the first apple drop from the trees. This post has inspired me to proceed.
    I've got one question, in your list of ingredients you make mention of cayenne pepper. When in the preparation of the sauce do you add that to the pot? I'm willing to assume that it goes in with the ancho chili but just want to make sure…
    My plan is to not only make enough to serve 4 to 6 but I hope to put away several jars for the winter. I'll process according to normal canned applesauce recipes unless someone warns me otherwise. Love your creative spirit.

  9. Musingegret–I think this would be wonderful on pancakes!

    Paula–That's the one! Perhaps the book is a Dallas thing. And I bet you'll love the molletes!

    Corrine–It's perfect on a cold day. Warms you and the house up quite well.

    Katie–The ancho gives it a nice kick.

    StuffCooksWant–Even the apples at HEB right now are likely very fresh. It's the season, after all!

    BBQ Dude–I think you'll enjoy it!

    Whitney–And while it cooks, it's amazing autumnal aromatherapy.

    czken–I actually added it at the end, along with the sugars and vanilla. Thanks for noticing its omission–I've now corrected the recipe. And I think your canning plan is sound.

  10. Love that ancho addition–you are goooooooooood.

  11. I'll have to try this recipe as it is downright dreary in Big D right now! I love your blog, you have repeatedly inspired me to make things I've never made before 🙂

  12. Lisa-

    home made apple sauce is the best! Try it still warm on top of vanilla ice cream. And if you own a food mill, you don't need to bother with peeling the apples, just run them through one of those six-slice apple slicer/corer thingys and then you can run the cooked apple sauce through the food mill to strain out the peels and mush up the last bits of apple. I've never tried the ancho chile powder, but I will have to give it a go!

  13. Wow. We are heading into Spring here in Australia, so I'll have to save this one for next year when it's apple season again. In the meantime, I'm quite concerned about your trunk of stuff. I've got more than a trunk of stuff at my Mom's place back in Texas and if she decided to downsize, how the heck would I get all that stuff to Australia (where houses, like mine, have very little storage). I totally understand your dilemma.

  14. Denise–Awww, why thank you!

    BonneT–I'm sorry to hear it's downright dreary in Big D. If it's any consolation, it's not much better here.

    dinbatdc–I don't own a food mill, but that's an excellent tip. Peeling apples isn't much fun!

    suzinoz–I have no idea where I'm going to store this stuff. My small apartment is already filled to the brim. I'm glad someone understands!

  15. For my fellow A-Towners, Sprouts and Newflower Farmer's Market have been having some awesome sales on apples. Thanks Lisa for this idea! Your recipes are always a smash hit in this Austinite's household and beyond. Your DP sauce is totally going to be Christmas gifts for family and friends. Some day I hope to share something in return with you. Cheers, and mucho good luck to your mama!

  16. My grandma made applesauce when I was little but I seem to remember her having some fancy machine, so I had thoughtlessly put it in my "I need fancy equipment to cook" pile. No longer! Now if I can just convince the bf to stop at an orchard on our NE trip next weekend…

  17. Those pictures are so beautiful, I have not been apple picking yet, I'm a Florida girl, so hopefully, I will have the opportunity to take an apple picking trip up north in the not so distant future!

  18. Wow — I *love* this idea! (Also: Love your blog, I've been a lurker for maybe a year now.) I live in Mexico, so I think it might be easier for me to find dried ancho chiles, rather than ancho chile powder. Do you think that would work, if I zap it in a food processor or blender?

    The possibilities are really endless with this combination… ancho chile apple pie… ancho chile apple ice cream… your applesauce, served on a big ol' pork chop…

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  19. I like the sound of a spicy apple sauce!

  20. As a person who shares your struggle with change, I feel for you.

    I think I'd wear black for a solid year if my Mama moved out of state, so you're in my thoughts.

    The applesauce looks delicious; hope it comforted you a little.

    I've never heard of the book, but as a mom of two small children, I'm going to check it out. I love the title!

  21. Lisa,
    This sounds amazing. As a Texas transplant, I enjoy your posts. I'm in the NY area as well. Look forward to making this. Seems as if I'm always buying ancho or cayenne or chipotle, or…

  22. Corrine-Austin TX

    This was amazing thank you!! I also made some apple crisp and used the chile in that too… uhm amazing..with vanilla icecream! This smelled so good while cooking!

  23. Isn't apple picking fun? I love that sweet fragrance too, the smell of ripe apples infused with bubbly hard cider in the air from the apples fermenting on the ground.

    I'm sorry to hear that your mom might be moving. My parents moved so often that I never felt rooted any place. Don't worry, there's plenty of storage in Texas, and it'll always be there for you!

  24. That is such a good idea! The ancho powder must be great with the other spices. Must try.

  25. Great sounding recipe! My grandmother always served a batch of fried apples with every meal. I will try using your spices for my fried apple recipe. Should be delicious!

    Keep us posted on your mom. I know the feelings you are having. I am the "token" Texas in my family and I sure wish I had some relatives back there!Luckily I do still have a lot of friends who stayed put!

    Lisa R

  26. We discovered the book "Rain makes Applesauce" almost 22 years ago. It was our son's favorite to check out from the local library! To this day when it rains, or we make or eat applesauce I have to say "and rain makes applesauce, oh you're just talking silly talk".
    Love the book! Thanks for the helping me remember some great memories. I think I'll got to Amazon and order it for my two new nephews!

  27. Those apples look beautiful. Life changes can be challenging. Applesauce is definitely a comfort food.

  28. that sounds DELICIOUS!

  29. Mmm…this looks delicious! I enjoy your blog so much and as we are preparing to move from Texas next week, I know I'll be visiting here even more than usual. Another homesick Texan in the making.

  30. darling blog !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  31. Not so sure I 'd eat this on it's own, but sounds like it would be a hit on meat or with cheese.

  32. Celeste

    Where I grew up, grannies put a few "Red-Hots" in homemade applesauce to give it a little kick of heat. Your idea is really intriguing.

    If you moved back to Texas you'd no longer be a Homesick Texan.

  33. Ancho chile in applesauce? What a wonderful idea! I made 10 pounds of apples into a version of my grandmother's applesauce this weekend — unsweetened, with tart apples from our local orchard. But now I'm thinking of another few pounds, of applesauce that's a bit more, well, Texan.

  34. I always read "Rain makes Applesauce" with my kindergarten class the we would go pick apples and make applesauce….good memories!

  35. Lisa, this sounds amazing. Will give it a try this weekend. This sounds like a thanksgiving dish!

  36. I love homemade applesauce. I've never had it with added chilies. Sounds tasty!

  37. We are the Guerras–You're very welcome. And just hearing you like my recipes makes my day!

    Charli–I wonder what kind of fancy machine she had? Maybe a food mill–but really, no special equipment is necessary.

    Angie–I hope you get to take one, too!

    Steve–Thanks, I do the same!

    Lesley–Yes, toast them on a comal or in a skillet first and then zap them until they're powder. A coffee grinder works, too.


    TKW–I already wear a lot of black, so I'll have to come up with another way to mourn! And the book is delightful–you're kids will love it!

    Corrine–Yay! I'm so happy you enjoyed it!

    Fresh Local and Best–I love apple picking, too. A wonderful way to spend a fall day.

    Lisa–It does indeed play well with the other spices.

    Wlydtxn53–I'll definitely keep you posted. I think she finds out next week.

    KrisGrif–I still use that phrase as well!

    Farmer Jen–It is indeed a comfort food.


    Kristin–Hope your move goes smoothly. Welcome to the club!

    Celeste–Oh, yes! I'd totally forgotten about red hots in applesauce! I'll have to buy some and do that! And thanks for the storage ideas. Very handy.

    Queen B.–Thanks!

    Tommy–It's great with pork.

    Lydia–I love tart applesauce as well. It's a great way to put those apples to work!

    Diane–What a wonderful tradition!

    Garrett–It would make a fine addition to the Thanksgiving table!

  38. Photographing that smell… I LOVE the thought of that. Someday, maybe technology will let us capture things like smells…

    As for the applesauce — awesome. I love the idea of adding the ancho to the apple. This is my kind of sauce.

  39. Apple-picking season is great, and it wouldn't be bad having Mom a train ride away…

  40. As a Texan who grew up in Western Massachusetts near an apple orchard, this recipe really warms my heart. Waiting for this weekend's cold front to turn the stove back on to make this. I am a new reader of your blog and a big fan.

  41. Anonymous

    Hi Lisa,
    Native Texan here.
    I just noticed your link at Robbie's blog.
    J. and I lived outside TX for only 4 months back in 1985 but I swore that if I ever lived outside TX again I would have a big TX flag hanging somewhere inside. I would not leave the state without one again. I don't know if that would help or not.
    Picking apples and the air smelling like apples sounds wonderful !

    SB Smith
    College Station TX

  42. Well it did occur to me that if everyone in your family had moved out of Texas, then you would really be a Homesick Texan (hope that doesn't make you feel worse!) I think it might be very nice to have your mom so close. Love the applesauce too!

  43. My childhood fave book was the Rascally Cake but the recipe in that one is kind of gross. Good luck to your mom. Thanks for another interesting and inventive recipe.

  44. You are so selfish! 😉 You can visit Texas anytime and stay in a nice, luxurious hotel, while you may soon be able to jump on the subway and have your mom's home cooking! Look on the bright side, Lisa!

  45. Serve mine over a pork chop please! Wow – what an ironic story about your mom. I'm in Fredericksburg right now and the weather is gorgeous. My sisters and I ate at Rather Sweet yesterday – SO good. Good luck with your decision Lisa – I know I will be crying on the plane ride back to NY next week:(

  46. Lo–I bet technology will indeed advance one day to help us capture smells, which will be awesome!

    Kelsey B.–You are so correct. I would adore having my family more close.

    Amy E.–Welcome! And a cold front is a perfect time to turn on the stove and start cooking. I love this time of year for that reason alone!

    SB–I have a Texas map but not a flag–I should probably get one! I reckon it would help!

    Kalyn–I agree. Mom being close would be very cool. And it's not like I don't still have a ton of family still in Texas. I reckon it's just my immediate family no longer being there that sort of freaks me out.

    Haberogal–I don't know Rascally Cake. Will have to look that one up and see how gross the recipe is!

    Hagan–Indeed, I am selfish! And yes, having Mom only a train ride away would be very, very wonderful. Thanks for putting it all in perspective!

    Miss Meat and Potatoes–Have a blast in Fredericksburg! And I hear you on the crying front, but we do live in a pretty cool place so it's not ALL bad!

  47. Thanks for this recipe. It turned out AWESOME. I was listening to the new Bob Dylan Christmas album while making it, and the scents and sounds transported me forward a few months and back many years.

  48. Great recipe and I will need to try it sooner than later

    btw what would be your best suggestion to heat corn tortillas for tacos? I tried the steam method but they just cool down to quickly and/or fall apart.

  49. I never thought of chile in applesauce. I'll have to try this.

    We do homemade applesauce every once in awhile–I mix sweet and tart apples and don't add sugar–and it's darned near addictive. One of those things you can eat until you're sick and not really regret.

  50. Never heard of apple picking before. It was interesting and sweet to read this post.

  51. We live in Connecticut and would love to invite your mom to some of our barn parties if she gets the job and is up for some fun. Always good food and good friends…new and old!

  52. Stuck in Wisconsin in the coldest weather in 20 years. Cooking is a nice way to warm the house. I made this and threw in a few spoonfuls of chipotles in adobo and a bit of pimenton. Very good!

    • Lisa Fain

      Texan in Exile–That sounds super spicy and very good! May it keep you warm!

  53. Margaret

    You’re right about Honeycrisp apples not needing sugar. I simply cut in chunks, skin included and process in my Cuisinart — they make a delicious snack.

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