Healthy Apple Pie Filling

While apple pie is generally associated with holiday times, I find a slice of apple pie is a special treat that can be enjoyed throughout the year.  Apple pie is a sweet and simple dessert that seems to be on the top of everyone’s pie list.  It can be eaten plain or topped ice cream.  One of my personal favorite apple pie toppings is shredded sharp cheddar cheese.  If you have not tried apple pie topped with cheddar you must put it on your to do list immediately!

To create a pie from scratch can seem like a quite daunting task for sure.  I can recall the first time I created a pie from scratch and how I was so incredibly nervous.   Thankfully the pie turned out pretty good and the process was not as bad as I thought it would be.   The biggest challenge for me was finding the right pie filling.  Most, if not all, of the apple pie filling available at the grocery where filled with sugar, preservatives and ingredients to help maintain the apple color.  I really wanted an apple pie filling that was low (if not free of) sugar and had minimal added ingredients.

My quest to create a healthy apple pie filling recipe started with researching pie fillings.  I wanted to make sure I understood the basics of what went into pie filling recipe.  I knew, of course, I would need apples for the base.  For my apple pie filling recipes I prefer to use the Braeburn or Gala type of apple.  They seem to hold up the best while baking and have the best flavor profile.  If you wanted a more tart apple pie then the Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apple types would be your best best.  I have a serious sweet tooth so I stick to the sweeter red apple variety.

For the rest of the apple pie filling, I knew instead of sugar I wanted to use pure Stevia extract.  I did some more research to find an ingredient to help bind the apple and Stevia together to create a traditional gooey like filling.   I found that cornstarch was going to work the best for my apple pie filling recipe.  Some recipes use butter to create a rich texture.  I have replaced the butter with unsweetened applesauce.   The unsweetened applesauce will provide a fresh, somewhat rich, texture and help assist the cornstarch in binding the apple and Stevia.

For the apple pie filling, there are two options for cutting the apples.  You can either cut the apples into slices (the traditional method) or you can mince the apples into smaller chunks.  I have done both methods and they are both great.  Most of the time I like to double the recipe and mince the apples into chunks.  By doing this I use half of the filling for my pie and then store the other half in the refrigerator.  I like to use the filling, instead of jam or jelly, on toast in the mornings or on top of a vanilla wafer cookie as an afternoon treat.

Healthy Apple Pie Filling

5 Braeburn or Gala apples (peeled, cored and cut into slices or mince into smaller chunks)

3 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce

1 cup of water (or unsweetened apple juice if you want a super apple flavored pie)

1 tablespoon lemon juice (I prefer fresh but you can use bottled, just read the ingredients, it has a lot of them for something so simple)

1 teaspoon cinnamon (you can add more or less depending on how spicy you want it, I actually add more because I love cinnamon)

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

a dash of nutmeg (optional but recommended)

1/2 teaspoon pure stevia extract (add more or less depending on how sweet you want the pie.  Can also use cane sugar which would be 1/3 cup cane sugar)

In a large bowl, toss apple slices or chunks with lemon juice and set aside. In a medium sized saucepan combine water and cornstarch.  Over medium heat, using a whisk, quickly whisk together the cornstarch and water.  Keep whisking until the cornstarch is completely dissolved.  Add the stevia, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg to the cornstarch mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil.  Boil on medium heat for about 2 minutes.  Make sure you stir (or whisk) constantly or else the corn starch will stick to the bottom and clump up. Add sliced or minced apples to the mixture and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the apples are tender, about 6-8 minutes. If you minced your apples, the time it takes for the apples to get tender will be about 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and either use in your prepared apple pie crust or store in the refrigerator to use at a later date.

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