Recipes that use applesauce as a secret ingredient

All by itself, applesauce is a pretty fabulous food. It pairs deliciously with everything from meats and cheese, to nuts, and a wide range of grains, and works as a side dish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It can range from sweet to tart with textures that are either chunky or smooth.The most alluring characteristic about applesauce, however, is that it has transformative powers that can take a recipe from just alright to amazing. Check out the many ways to cook, bake, and grill with applesauce.

Barbecue sauce

It makes good sense to include applesauce as a component of whatever secret elixir you concoct to baste ribs, chicken drumsticks, shrimp, and vegetable kebabs when you grill. The sweet-tart and tangy apple essences will intensify as they cook and coat the food, and the sugars from the fruit will caramelize, making the tasty flavors stick. You can simply doctor up a ready-made barbecue sauce by adding applesauce, or start from scratch using applesauce as a main ingredient. Brush meat and vegetables with barbecue sauce toward the end of cooking to prevent the sugary sauce from burning as it cooks.

Pumpkin pie

Applesauce in the filing of this pumpkin pie with an oat-almond crust brings sweetness to the recipe without adding more refined sugars, and cuts down on fat by ditching the heavy cream. Since applesauce isn't as dense as pumpkin, it also brings a somewhat lighter consistency to the baked pie.

Mac and cheese

OK, you're probably curling your lip in disgust, but give me a chance here. Adding applesauce to your mac and cheese is actually a really great idea — especially when you add bacon, too. Savory Nothings has the perfect recipe to make it work, with smoky bacon and sweet applesauce combining perfectly with the cheesy pasta. Plus, this dish is all about ease, so the cooking takes place in one pot.

Burgers

If you're looking for a way to keep burgers juicy, add a little applesauce to the ground meat — an especially great trick for leaner beef patties, and those made with turkey. Both meats are notorious for drying out while they cook, so we'll take all the help we can get. Be careful to add only enough applesauce to keep the burger succulent without comprising texture and taste. The goal is great meaty flavor, with a hint of sweet apple flavor in the background. For a simple recipe, add it to your basic beef burger. If you feel like being a little more adventurous, cook up turkey burgers with Asian flavors, or go vegetarian,with a black bean burger that uses applesauce as a binder.

Cocktails, smoothies and milkshakes

Adding chopped or sliced apples does add a touch of apple taste to your sangria, but you'll get an even bigger punch of flavor — and some texture — when you add applesauce. You can also add it to your next smoothie, like this one, that also includes, kale, coconut water and and pineapple. Even ice cream welcomes an applesauce mix-in with this caramel-apple milkshake that will make you think you're drinking your pie a la mode.

Marinated chicken

Chicken breast, which can dry out easily during cooking, gets a juicy boost from an applesauce-based marinade. The applesauce brings naturally sweet flavor to the chicken after just a quick 20 minutes in the marinade. Make sure to use unsweetened applesauce — the added sugars in the sweetened version might throw off the balance of the marinade. You can also prep this recipe ahead by letting the chicken soak in marinade overnight.

Glazed vegetables

Put a glossy finish on your next veggie dish with the help of applesauce. Choose any combination of your favorite vegetables to create this gorgeous stir-fry. The glaze is super simple and is made with mix of applesauce, brown sugar and spices. As the applesauce mixture simmers, it reduces to a syrupy consistency that clings to the veggies. If you want to reduce some or all of the brown sugar that's called for in the recipe, the applesauce can take over and bring its own sweetness to the dish.

Stuffing

Adding applesauce to stuffing brings fruity flavor to a savory side. Stuffing is pretty simple to make and this recipe is no different. Stir the applesauce into the torn bread along with chopped aromatic vegetables, broth and seasoning, then bake until moist inside and crusty on top. Since applesauce pairs well with many foods, you can customize the stuffing a number of ways. Stir in chorizo or sweet Italian sausage, add raisins, dried cherries or fresh cranberries, or stir in toasted chopped pecans or walnuts — all great companions to apple flavor.

Steak sauce

The next time you're serving steak, try blending a batch of homemade steak sauce to serve alongside the savory meat. With a hint of applesauce in the formula, this steak sauce is pungent, tangy, and spicy all at once. A homemade batch is a refreshing alternative to the store-bought stuff, and it's a lot tastier, too. This recipe makes a big batch, so if you aren't planning to feed a large crowd, cut it down by half. Make sure to plan ahead — once blended, the ingredients need to sit together overnight so the flavors can marry.

Baked beans

Give store-bought baked beans a lift with the addition of applesauce (and some other add-ins). This easy recipe is ready in just 35 minutes. As the dish bakes, the absorbent beans soak up the other flavors to become delicious comfort food.

Fruit jelly candies

If you ever want to make this homemade version of those popular French jelly candies, applesauce can replace fresh apples to and shave off hours of work. Apples have natural gelling properties thanks to their pectin which, when heated, thickens and firms up as it cools. Starting with applesauce shortens the easy, but still lengthy recipe process. The apples don't need to be peeled, cored, chopped, cooked or milled since the applesauce has already gone through those steps. You can play with flavors by adding different fruit purees such as strawberry, mango, or apricot to the applesauce base. Reminiscent of those vintage candies, Chuckles, these jellies (called Pate de Fruit in french) boast a more refined taste and softer, delicate texture that's somewhere between gelatin and a gummy bear.