I clearly remember the first time I saw pumpkin butter. I was in elementary school, and we were on our yearly field trip to a local apple orchard. My parents had given me a crisp five dollar bill to buy something from the gift store there, and while the other kids had gravitated to the cookies, coloring books, and little plastic toys with their allowance, something more culinary caught my eye—pumpkin butter!
I’d had apple butter before—my parents did a lot of home canning, and apple butter was frequently on our food storage shelves—but pumpkin butter was a mystical, magical thing I’d never heard of, and I was too intrigued to pass it up. I handed over my five dollars and a life-long love affair with pumpkin butter was born!
The easiest way to make pumpkin butter is in the slow cooker
It wasn’t until just a few years back that I realized how easy it is to make pumpkin butter at home (and for a heck of a lot cheaper than five dollars a jar). In fact, this recipe is so easy that your slow cooker does all the work for you. Just put all the ingredients into your slow cooker, set it, and forget it. After a few hours, out comes a sweet, spiced pumpkin butter that is perfectly creamy and ready to be slathered onto toast or, my personal favorite, fluffy buttermilk biscuits.
Making pumpkin butter without refined sugar
I’m sure my original jar of pumpkin butter contained both white sugar and brown sugar—staples in most pumpkin butter recipes you see out there—but since I eat SO much pumpkin butter in the fall (it’s impressive, really), I knew I wanted to try to make my pumpkin butter free from refined sugars and instead focus on more natural sugars like maple syrup.
It turned out to be a wonderful decision because adding maple syrup gives the pumpkin butter another level of flavor that is absolutely incredible! I also add sweetness by adding pure, unsweetened apple cider (not juice) to the mixture. You’ll never miss the brown sugar.
But don’t make the pumpkin butter mistake I did!
Getting a perfect pumpkin spice flavor can be tricky, mostly because just a touch too much cloves or nutmeg can take a dish from pumpkin-tastic to inedible! The first time I tested this recipe, I used way too much cloves (which overpowers almost everything) and way too much nutmeg (which can taste soapy if you use too much, especially when using freshly ground, which it is always recommended you do). Combine this with the fact that all the spices intensify during the long cooking time in the slow cooker, and I ended up with a totally inedible pumpkin butter! It took a few tries to land on the right combination. So you might see the small amount of cloves listed in the recipe below and be tempted to up it, but promise me you’ll try it as listed first! You can always add more spices at the end of cooking if you find it needs a bit more to be to your liking.
Making pumpkin butter WITHOUT a slow cooker
Don’t have a slow cooker on hand? No worries. You can make this pumpkin butter on the stovetop as well, it just requires a bit more babysitting than the slow cooker would. I’ve included full stovetop directions in the printable recipe down below.
Also, don’t forget: your Instant Pot doubles as a slow cooker
Most electric pressure cookers have a slow cooker setting, which turns the pressure cooker into a perfectly-sized slow cooker for making pumpkin butter. In fact, I find myself using my Instant Pot as a slow cooker more than I use my actual slow cooker!
How to use this slow cooker pumpkin butter
So you’ve got yourself a beautiful jar of creamy, rich pumpkin butter. Now what in the heck do you do with it? Here are some of my favorite ways to use pumpkin butter:
- On toast or English muffins, especially when combined with goat cheese
- On top of biscuits with butter
- Swirled into a bowl of oatmeal
- Swirled into a bowl of yogurt
- In a cocktail (it sweetens and adds flavor)
- Slathered onto french toast, waffles, or pancakes
- As a pizza sauce (TRUST ME), combined with red onion, blue cheese, and bacon
- In the middle of a grilled cheese (especially if that cheese is brie)
- As a dip for apple slices
- Spread onto pumpkin bread for double the pumpkin!
- As a topper for cheesecake
- As the filling inside cinnamon rolls
- With a spoon (because YUM)
My protips for making GREAT pumpkin butter
- Try making your own pumpkin puree: Using canned is easiest (and will give you great results), but making your own at home will up the flavor of this pumpkin butter even more!
- Remember that the spices intensify: As this pumpkin butter cooks, remember that the spices intensify, so go light on them to begin with.
- Grind your nutmeg fresh: Nutmeg is one of those spices that loses flavor incredibly quickly. Instead of having a jar of pre-ground nutmeg that you only use a few months out of the year, buy nutmeg whole and use a spice grater or a zester to grind as much as you need each time you use it.
- Skip the pre-blended pumpkin pie spice: A lot of stores carry pre-blended pumpkin pie spice, which is great for a lot of uses, but here, it tends to get WAY too strong once the cooking time is up. This is a recipe that needs you to measure out each spice individually.
- Feel free to adjust the sweetness: Play with how much sweetness you like in your pumpkin butter by adding more or less maple syrup. The recipe below makes for a medium-sweet pumpkin butter that is slightly less sweet than the store-bought kind.