Homemade apple cider is easy and delicious, and a great way to make your house smell good for the holidays. Today, I’ll show you how to make apple cider on the stove top, as well as in the Instant Pot, and in a slow cooker!
What’s the difference between apple juice and apple cider? Apple cider is made by simmering the fruit in water and mashing it when it’s tender, almost like homemade applesauce.
Then you’ll drain out the solids and lightly sweeten it, leaving behind a warm, flavorful beverage.
Apple juice, on the other hand, is made by processing the apples through a juicer, removing the pulp. The only liquid in apple juice is the juice directly from the apple, while apple cider includes added water, so you’ll be able to make a much larger quantity, with fewer apples.
Ingredients You’ll Need
What’s in apple cider?
How you sweeten this homemade apple cider recipe is up to you. I usually add maple syrup the end of the process, after the solids have been drained out, so you’ll have complete control of the sweetness.
You can also use honey, or cane sugar, if you prefer. Or omit the sweetener, for a more spicy drink.
How to Make Apple Cider on the Stovetop
How do you make apple cider at home?
1. Slice the fruit. Start by cutting the apples into quarters. You don’t have to remove the seeds or stem, because you’ll be draining out everything later.
You’ll also need to slice an orange into quarters. If you can’t find a large orange, use two smaller ones instead. I leave the peel on, for extra flavor and potential benefits, but you can remove the peel if you’re concerned about it adding bitterness to the final drink.
(I don’t think it’s noticeable once you add the sweetener.)
2. Simmer. Add the apple slices and oranges to a large stockpot (at least 8 quarts or larger), along with cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and a whole nutmeg.
You can use ground spices if you prefer (see the substitution notes below) but the whole spices are easier to strain out later, without any sediment left behind. Add in enough water to fill the pot, and bring it all to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and cover, simmering for about 1 hour.
3. Mash. When the timer goes off, remove the lid and use a potato masher to mash the cooked fruit. It should start to make the liquid look cloudy, with lots of mashed pulp inside. Return the lid and simmer for 1 more hour.
4. Drain. When the timer goes off, remove the lid and carefully drain the solids out of the apple cider. You will most likely have to do this in batches, as there is a lot of pulp to remove!
For the most smooth results, I recommend double-straining the apple cider. Once you think you have removed all of the pulp, strain it again! I don’t have any creative ways to use the pulp, so I discard it, but let me know if you have any genius ideas.
5. Sweeten & serve. Once the apple cider is totally strained, add the maple syrup and adjust the sweetness to your liking.
Serve the apple cider warm, with extra sliced fruit, if you’d like a pretty presentation for a holiday party.
Expert Tips & Common Questions
Can I use ground spices? Yes! The first time I ever made apple cider, I used ground spices and it’s totally fine. The ground spices aren’t as easily strained-out of the cider later, so you may have some sediment in the bottom of your mugs, but it’s no big deal.
Ground spices for 1 batch of apple cider:
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
You can always add more to taste, but I’ve had great results with this amount.
Which are the best apples for apple cider? It’s best to use a combination of apples, for a balanced flavor. I like to use 60% sweet apples, like Gala, Jonathan, Pink Lady, or Fuji (Honeycrisp is also great, but I won’t spend that much money on apples I’m going to mash!), and 40% tart apples, like green Granny Smith. You can use any kind of apple you have on hand, though.
This is also a great way to use bruised apples that you might not have served otherwise. Just cut off any bad spots and toss them in the pot!
What else can you add to apple cider? The variations are endless, but here are some other delicious options to can add to this apple cider recipe.
- 1 cup fresh cranberries
- Sliced lemon (a citrus flavor with more tartness)
- 1 to 2 inches of fresh sliced ginger
- 1 star anise (for a licorice flavor)
Feel free to experiment with these flavors. I always start with a half batch of cider when I’m experimenting with flavors, and then you can make a bigger batch when you are confident with your add-ins.
What can I do with the apple solids? Typically the mashed pulp is discarded after making apple cider, because the flavor should be left behind in the beverage. It’s not super appealing after you strain it! With that being said, I imagine you could add the leftover pulp to homemade applesauce or apple butter, if you don’t mind experimenting with it. I’d love to hear what you try in the comments below!
How to Make Instant Pot Apple Cider
Want to make apple cider faster? You can make apple cider in your Instant Pot, instead. Keep in mind, this version won’t make your home smell quite as good, because the apples won’t be simmering for hours… but that’s also the point. It doesn’t take hours to make it this way!
To make Instant Pot apple cider, combine the sliced apples, orange, and spices, and fill the pot to the MAX fill line of your Instant Pot. (Don’t ever go past the max fill line, for safety.)
Cook at high pressure for 15 minutes, then let the pressure naturally release for 20 minutes. (If you try to release the pressure early, the apple cider might start to spray out of the release valve, so don’t rush it!)
Mash the cooked apples and spices, then strain and sweeten as directed in the recipe. You can keep your apple cider warm in the Instant Pot for up to 4 hours if you plan on serving it the same day, or you can keep it chilled in the fridge for up to 7 days.
How to Make Slow Cooker Apple Cider
If you’d rather not watch the stove for 2 hours, the slow cooker is the way to go. It will still make your home smell amazing!
To make apple cider in the slow cooker, add the sliced apples, orange, and spices and cover them with water. My slow cooker can hold about 10 cups of water, but yours might vary.
Cook on high for 3 hours, then mash the apples and strain out the pulp. Just like the stove top version, I recommend double-straining the cider for the smoothest results.
Return the cider back to the slow cooker, and add in the maple syrup. Let it cook on low for another 1 to 2 hours, or until you are ready to serve it. The slow cooker can keep it warm for up to 4 hours.
How long does homemade apple cider last? You can keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or you can freeze it for up to 3 months.
When freezing a liquid like this, be sure to leave at least an inch of room at the top of the jar, to allow for expansion. That way the lid won’t pop off the jar when you freeze it!
Homemade Apple Cider
- 8 apples (mix of green and red; about 3 1/2 pounds)
- 1 large orange (12 ounces)
- 4 cinnamon sticks (or 2 teaspoons ground)
- 1 whole nutmeg (or 1/4 teaspoon ground)
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
- 10 cups water
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- Slice the apples and oranges into quarters. (No need to peel them or remove any seeds or stems.) Add them to a large stockpot, at least 8 quarts or larger, along with the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and water.
- Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer until the apples are very tender, about 1 hour. Use a potato masher to mash the apples and oranges to a pulp, then cover and simmer for 1 more hour.
- When the cider is done cooking, use a fine mesh strainer to strain out the pulp. (I have to do this in batches, because I don't have a huge strainer.) I recommend double-straining the cider, to get it as smooth as possible, with very little sediment. Return the strained cider back to the large pot, and add in the maple syrup. At this point you can adjust anything to taste, adding extra water if you want to dilute the apple flavor, or you can add a squeeze of lemon juice if you'd like a more tart flavor. Serve warm, with sliced fruit in each glass, if desired.
- Leftover apple cider can be stored in an airtight container for up to 7 days in the fridge. For longer storage, you can freeze it for up to 3 months. Be sure to leave at least an inch of room at the top of your storage jar, to allow for expansion as the cider freezes.
- Combine the sliced apples, orange, and spices, and fill the pot to the MAX fill line of your Instant Pot. (Don't ever go past the max fill line, for safety.)
- Cook at high pressure for 15 minutes, then let the pressure naturally release for 20 minutes. (If you try to release the pressure early, the apple cider might start to spray out of the release valve, so don't rush it!)
- Mash the cooked apples and spices, then strain and sweeten with maple syrup. You can keep your apple cider warm in the Instant Pot for up to 4 hours if you plan on serving it the same day.
- Add the sliced apples, orange, and spices and cover them with water. My slow cooker can hold about 10 cups of water, but yours might vary.
- Cook on high for 3 hours, then mash the apples and strain out the pulp. Just like the stove top version, I recommend double-straining the cider for the smoothest results.
- Return the cider back to the slow cooker, and add in the maple syrup. Let it cook on low for another 1 to 2 hours, or until you are ready to serve it. The slow cooker can keep it warm for up to 4 hours.
If you try this Apple Cider recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below and let me know how you like it.