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Apple Butter Cinnamon Buns

Cinnamon rolls are given an upgrade with silky smooth homemade Apple Butter, perfect for enjoying with a nice cup of hot cocoa on cool autumn evenings.

I recently attended a screening of the documentary Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, which, as its title suggests, is all about the food waste epidemic that we are currently facing on this planet. Did you know that 1/3 of food produced in the world is not eaten and in the United States alone 40% of all food (the equivalent of 70 billion tons!) is gone to waste? Extremely unacceptable, especially when up to 40 million people live with food insecurity in this country.    Luckily, there are several organizations out there who are making it their mission to lessen the amount of food we throw away and give it to those who really need it, one of them being Rethink Food NYC who rescue uneaten food from farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and restaurants and transform it into amazing meals. I first learned about them when I volunteered at the Food Tank Summit and few weeks ago and their mission of “utilizing excess food for those in need” is one that really resonated with me.

I wanted to see how I could help and noticed that they had organized an apple picking trip with the purpose of collecting apples to be donated to New York City public schools and also to make pies for a homeless shelter. We ended up heading out to a private residence out on Long Island with its own organic apple orchard (can you imagine?) and got to pick to our hearts’ content. The owners didn’t want all of the apples grown there to go to waste, so they instead contacted Rethink to come and pick them so that others could get that chance to enjoy them.

The volunteers were pretty kickass and picked hundreds of apples in no time! We picked so many that I was able bring some home and used them to make the delicious Apple Butter in today’s recipe.

My mom, cousin, and aunt

You absolutely don’t have to make your own apple butter (as Trader Joe’s has quite a few tasty options to choose from), but if you’ve also just recently returned from your own apple picking adventure, it may be the perfect way to use up that bushel you’ve got hanging around. It’s also super easy to make, especially if you’ve got an Instant Pot (if not, make sure to add it to your Christmas list!) I plan to continue learning as much as I can about combating food waste and helping the planet in any way that I can, but in the meantime, I’ll be chowing down on these bad boys. Happy baking!

Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls

  • Servings: 12-14 rolls
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print


  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 ½ pounds of apples, cored plus one peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract



  • I used the Basic Sweet Roll Dough recipe that can be found here. But if you’ve got your own tried and true recipe, please use that instead!

Apple Butter:

  • Add the cored apples and ¼ cup of brown sugar to the Instant Pot and pressure cook for 20 minutes.
  • Once the apples are nice and soft, carefully add them to a blender along with the cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and blend until smooth.
  • Pour the blended apples into a heavy-bottomed pot (i.e. a Dutch oven) and cook on a medium heat for about an hour, until the mixture is nice and thick.
  • Remove from heat and allow to fully cool.

Cinnamon Rolls:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a 9-inch pie dish. Set aside.
  • Roll out the prepared dough on a lightly floured surface, brush on the rest of the melted butter, top with ½ cup of the cooled down apple butter*, and sprinkle with chopped up apples and the leftover ¼ cup of brown sugar.
  • Starting from the long end, carefully roll the dough into a tight log, wiping away any excess filling that comes out. Once completely rolled, tightly press the seams together.
  • Using a string, cut the log into 2-inch cinnamon rolls and carefully place into the buttered pie dish.
  • Put them in the oven and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, until nice and golden brown.


  • Add the powdered sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla to a bowl and mix until creamy. Pour over the freshly baked cinnamon buns and enjoy!

*You will have leftover apple butter that can be stored in a tightly sealed container for up to one month in the refrigerator.

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