Published March 1, 2009. From Cook's Illustrated.
Our runaway favorite contains a surprising ingredient.
Few things seem more wholesome than applesauce. We spoon it into the mouths of babes, pack it in school lunches, and serve it as a companion to pork chops and potato pancakes. Imagine our surprise when we tasted seven brands from the daunting array of styles crowding the shelves (“natural,“ ”original,” and ”home style,” to name but a few)—and found that our runaway favorite contains sucralose, the same artificial sweetener in Splenda. A minute amount was enough to boost the applesauce’s sweetness without overpowering its fresh, bright apple flavor (or adding calories—not our concern at all). An artificial sweetener with 600 times the potency of sugar, sucralose turned out to have another benefit: It doesn’t contribute to the slimy consistency our tasters noticed in applesauce sweetened “naturally” with corn syrup. According to an expert in apple sauce processing at Cornell University, a thicker but somewhat mucilaginous texture can be produced when the sugars in corn syrup bond with the pectin and fructose in apples. But absence of added sugars was also not a good thing: With one exception, these unsweetened renditions tasted bland and washed-up with a watery consistency.
The other key ingredient in our top applesauce (and shared by our two other recommended brands)? A pinch of flavor-boosting salt.