Fall is here and it’s apple season, my friends! If you’re an apple lover like myself, you probably look forward to this time of year all year round. There’s nothing better than biting into a fresh, crisp apple to satisfy your sweet tooth and flood your body with nutrients. Apples are incredibly awesome for you, in case you didn’t know. Forget all that hype about them being high in fructose (fruit sugar). While apple juice may not be the best option since it’s all sugar and no fiber, whole, raw apples make a wonderfully healthy snack and are quite filling at that.

Plus, did you know that Granny Smith apples have even recently been said to be the best for digestion, weight loss, and reducing the risk of cancer? Pretty cool, eh?

Apples are also one of the few fruits that actually taste just as good once they’re cooked and can be used in a variety of ways aside from making the usual applesauce, apple butter, and apple pies you’ve likely heard of. But apples do much more than just add great flavor to your recipes. They can also stand in as a natural sweetener, making them a healthier option than processed sweeteners. Try out some of these awesome ways to sweeten up your plant-based meals with one of fall’s most finest pieces of produce!

1. Smoothies

No need to make things complicated if you don’t need to! Just make a delicious, raw apple smoothie, and call yourself healthy and satisfied! Smoothies are an excellent way to use up produce of any kind, and apples are a great, high-fiber option. Whatever variety you choose, try to choose organic and use one apple as your main source of fruit. It’s high in natural sugars and will add a creamy texture to your smoothies, with lots of Vitamin C and potassium, as well.

2. Muffins

It’s easy enough to use apples in most all baked goods, including muffins, which make an awesome grab-and-go breakfast. You can either use chopped apples, apple sauce, apple butter, or even dried apple pieces. I find using fresh apples is a great way to use up all the excess apples I usually have lying around this time of year. It adds a nice chunky texture that’s ridiculously satisfying. How could anyone miss the bacon and eggs with a tasty apple muffin in hand,!  You can even try making the apple muffins with some pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice to give it some extra delicious fall flavor. Try out these yummy Vegan Carrot Apple Muffins or Apple Cider Muffins as a great place to start, and feel free to sub in some gluten-free flour if you’re a gluten-free eater like myself.

3. Salad Dressing

Intrigued by this idea? Let us explain. Choose a smaller, sweet apple like Granny Smith, Gala, or Macintosh and puree it in your blender with some almond butter or tahini. When you puree it, the water from the apples will help make the dressing extra creamy and help to thin it out. The almond butter and tahini provide a dense texture that’s especially satisfying while the sweetness from the apples adds just the right kick! Feel free to add a pinch of sea salt or even some spices of your choosing. Experiment and see what works for you!

4. Salads

Chopped apples make awesome salad ingredients and can even be used to make things like mock tuna salad. A delicious combination is chopped and washed kale, romaine, one chopped apple, a tiny sliver of avocado, some cucumber, and some grape tomatoes. I like to dress it with an easy vegan salad dressing to give it a full flavor profile that’s truly top notch! Plus, putting apples in your salads is a great way to enhance their fullness factor since apples are so satisfying.

5. Use Apple Butter for Sauces

You can also use apple butter to make your own sauces, just like you would nut butters or anything else. A sweet hummus made with butternut squash is one option, or you could make a fruit dip with some apple butter, cashews, and some maple syrup (or coconut syrup). Other options include using it to make a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce (that you could use with these vegan recipes). Try out the deep, complex flavor of apple butter in whatever sauce you like!

6. Stirred Into Oatmeal

Put away the sweetener and go with apple butter or chopped apples in your oatmeal instead. Oatmeal is a wonderful grain to cook with and is especially awesome with fall fruits like apples and even pears. You can also use applesauce in your oatmeal, as well.

7. As a Replacement to Eggs

The best way and reason to use apples in your recipes is to puree them and use them as a replacement for eggs, oil, and even butter. Many people use applesauce for this purpose, but you can also use apple butter or even pureed whole apples, too. If you use whole apples, however, you can add a tablespoon of chia or flax seeds when you puree them to give them some extra binding power.

8. Dessert

Obviously, we can’t forget the dessert here, right? Apples make AWESOME dessert ingredients. When they cook, they develop a caramelized flavor that’s simply unlike any other. You can also make them in raw desserts as well. Check out these Raw Caramel Apples, Raw Vegan Caramel Apple Pie, Grilled Apple Pie with Coconut Whipped Cream,  or this Vegan Pear Apple Pie.

9. Specialty Nut Butters

Now here’s something we think all of you will be on board with: apple spice almond butter! Sound yummy? You can easily make your own specialty nut butters with applesauce, apple butter, and your choice nut butter. Simple puree them together in a food processor and there you go! Call yourself a vegan chef and pat yourself on the back! Add a touch of apple pie spice and you’ll really amaze yourself. Use this anywhere you would use nut butters. Try oatmeal, sprouted grain toast, baby carrots, and even as a baked good ingredient. Try these Apple Butter Cookies.

Tips for Storing Your Apples

Though they look lovely on the counter, apples will last much longer (well over a month) if you keep them in your crisper in the fridge. Don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them, and if you see a bad apple in the bunch, be sure to set it aside so it’s doesn’t cause the others to spoil faster. Apples shouldn’t be bruised, soft, or turn different colors. They should remain firm and bright in color and should taste fresh and crisp when you bite into them. Be sure your crisper is set to the fruit setting (instead of a veggie setting if your fridge has an option) which will optimize the humidity needed to keep the apples longer. Some apple experts even say you can store them for up to three-six months if they’re freshly picked and stored properly.

Apples make an exquisite ingredient in so many dishes and are one of the best natural ways you could choose to sweeten your foods. Do you use them in your recipes?

Image source:  Vegan Apple-Of-My-Eye Pie with Gluten-Free Crust