Apple cake, apple strudel, apple slaw — apples are superbly suited to dishes both savory and sweet, not to mention being a crisp, delicious snack all on their own. There are so many varieties to choose from, and each has its own unique qualities.
Apples, along with pears, are members of the pome fruit family. They grow all spring and summer and are ready to harvest in the fall, but you can find them in stores year-round. That’s why so many fall recipes include apples. Nothing ushers in the holiday season quite like the scent of an apple pie baking in the oven.
Apple growers come up with new varieties all the time, so there are scores of different types to choose from. Some have become favorites that you can find in any local grocery store, while others are produced in limited quantities and can be harder to find. Each apple has a particular color, texture, and taste that might make it more suited to baking or use in sauces or savory dishes.
Here’s the lowdown on 26 popular types of apples.
1. Granny Smith Apple
Granny Smith apples have long been the bright green queens of the supermarket. They have a crisp texture and pack a slightly tart bite, so they are great for serving alongside sweet dips or used in savory dishes. They are best during October and November. Their firmness and tough skin make them easily adaptable to just about any apple recipe.
2. Fuji Apple
Fuji apples are perfect for when you need just a little bit of sweetness . They are quite mild, which makes them the ideal choice when you want to give your dish a little crunch, but you don’t want the apple flavor to steal the show. They are fantastic raw or served in salads or slaw.
3. Pink Lady Apple
Pink lady apples start off tart and tangy but finish sweet and mild. In order to earn the title, “Pink Lady” they have to meet certain standards for tangy acidity and sweetness, so you get a little of both. If they don’t quite meet those standards, they’re labeled as Cripps pink apples in stores.
4. Honeycrisp Apple
As its name suggests, this apple’s stand-out feature is its crispness, both in texture and taste. With its blush red and light green skin, it’s sweet, tart, juicy, and perfect for fall. To get them just right, producers have to temper them at a mild temperature before they can be refrigerated. For this reason, they can be a little more expensive than other varieties. Honey crisps are perfect for making cider, and they’re a favorite for baking because they hold their shape nicely. Use these versatile apples in sweet or savory dishes, or for making sauces.
5. Envy Apple
Envy apples are round and red with tiny yellow spots, and a yellow patch near the stem. They are known for having a firm skin, which gives each bit a crisp crunch. Their ivory flesh is sweet, slow to brown, and very fragrant. They are great for snacking, sauce, cider, and baking.
6. Gala Apple
Gala apples are generally small, but long and slim in stature. They have pale yellow skin with a stripey red blush, and creamy, almost yellow flesh. Galas are known for their mild, sweet taste with a hint of vanilla, so they’re great for snacking, salads, and baking.
7. Pazazz Apple
Pazazz apples have a crisp mottled yellow and red skin and, dense, pale creamy flesh. They are a nice balance of sweet and tart, and have a good crunch. Their sweet taste makes them ideal for snacking and baking, and they can give salads a delicious tangy crunch.
8. Jazz Apple
Jazz apples are known for their crunch and floral, fruity flavor. Their dense flesh has a pear-like quality that won’t get mushy while baking, but if you’re going to snack on a Jazz apple, you might want to cut it into wedges before taking a bite.
9. Red Delicious Apple
These aptly named apples are both red and delicious. They are broad at the top and taper toward the bottom. These apples have a very mild, melon-like flavor which makes them lovely for a light snack. Because they are so mild, however, their flavor is easily lost in baking or cooking applications.
10. Braeburn Apple
Braeburns are similar in appearance to Gala apples. They are quite juicy, and are equal parts sweet and tart. They have a strong apple flavor with a hint of cinnamon, so they’re great raw or in your favorite fall desserts.
11. Cameo Apple
Cameo apples have a thin yellow skin with red striping. They have a fragrant, floral aroma, and a mild, sweet flavor. Their dense flesh is good for baking, and because their flesh is slow to oxidize, they are a fantastic choice for salads.
12. Holstein Apple
Holsteins have yellow to orange skins with a red blush. They are known for being fragrant, sweet, and their ability to remain fresh for long periods in cold storage. They are a versatile variety that does well in recipes and raw.
13. Golden Delicious Apple
These lovely yellow apples are well known for their sweetness, but also for their thin, easily bruised skin. Because they are so sweet and juicy, if you bake with them, you can use less sugar in your recipes.
14. Lady Alice Apple
Lady Alice apples are round, squatty, and a deep pink hue. They are a favorite all purpose apple for chefs and connoisseurs because they are fragrant, flavorful, and are scrumptious both raw and in recipes. They also don’t brown as quickly as other varieties, so they’re great for salads, parfaits, and charcuterie boards.
15. Hidden Rose Apple
Hidden Rose, which have pale yellow skin, get their name from their distinctive pink flesh. They are tart, with just a little bit of sweetness, like strawberry lemonade. They are typically eaten raw, but stand up well enough for baking too.
16. Ambrosia Apple
More than two decades ago, Ambrosia apples were discovered growing in the wild, and ever since they have been a fall favorite. They have thin buttery yellow skins with blush red patches. They are low in acid, so they have a sweet, mild flavor that is reminiscent of honey. They are good multipurpose apples.
17. Jonagold Apple
Jonagold apples are a cross between the tart Jonathan apple, and the sweet Golden Delicious. As a result, these large apples are a juicy balance of tangy and sweet flavor. They are typically a greenish yellow hue with patches of red, but may be mostly red as well. Because of their large size and balanced flavor, these apples are a good choice for baking, though they are wonderful raw as well.
18. Empire Apple
Empire apples are a blend of McIntosh apples and Red Delicious apples. Their thick dark red skin and firm texture have made them famous for their crunch. Empire’s bright white flesh is juicy and sweet. Empire apples do not bruise easily, so they are a good choice for lunch boxes.
19. McIntosh Apple
Round McIntosh apples are a pretty blush color with greenish yellow patches near the stem. Their tender flesh is sweet with a slight tang. Because of their soft texture, they can get mushy when cooked, so they are best eaten raw.
20. Gravenstein Apple
Gravestein’s have soft pale green and yellow skin, often with a red blush. They are more tart than sweet, so they are great for balancing out sweet desserts like pie and apple crumble. These are an heirloom variety, and are irregularly shaped. They range from tall and round to flat and oblong.
21. Liberty Apple
Liberty apples have a lovely and distinctive deep red or maroon color. They have a crunchy, tart white flesh that is great for slicing thinly for pies, or chopping into small bits for muffins or chicken salad. Their tartness makes them an excellent choice for apple sauce as well.
22. Pacific Rose Apple
As their name suggests, these apples have a beautiful rosy pink skin. They are low in acidity, so they are quite sweet. Their sweetness pairs beautifully with savory accompaniments, like cheese, pork, and salty nuts.
23. Opal Apple
Gorgeous Opal apples have pale orangish yellow skin. They are a good balance of sweet and tart, so they are wonderful eaten as is. Beyond the taste, the best thing about Opal apples is that they do not brown the way that other varieties do. This makes them ideal for dipping, charcuterie boards, and sliced for lunch boxes.
24. Mutsu Apple
Mutsu’s can range from almost white, to yellow, to green with a slight pink blush. They are irregularly shaped, and are initially sweet, followed by a spicy, tart bite. They are great eaten out of hand or used for cooking and baking.
25. Winesap Apple
Winesaps are available from late fall through winter. They are bright red, with a sweet and tangy taste, a bit like a sip of tartly sweet wine. They are a great choice for apple cider, apple sauce, apple butter, and baking, and are lovely raw as well.
26. Rockit Apple
Rockit apples might be the most adorable of them all. These tiny treats are a little bit smaller than a golf ball. They are packed with sweet flavor too, so kids love them. They look lovely on snack boards, in centerpieces, and atop holiday cakes.
When shopping for apples in the grocery store, choose fruit that is firm and plump, regardless of the apple variety. Avoid any that have soft spots or broken skin. Keep in mind that heavier apples hold more juice.
When trying to decide on a particular variety, go for what you love! Fans of tart apples will enjoy a Granny Smith, Empire, or Braeburn apple. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, go for a Honeycrisp, Fuji, or McIntosh. If you’re planning to cook with apples, choose a variety with dense flesh that won’t turn to mush.
Apples love cool temperatures, and will keep best when they’re stored at around 30 to 32 degrees. They can last for up to a month in the refrigerator, but won’t make it more than a few days to a week on the counter.
Most apple varieties will oxidize and begin to turn brown when they are cut, though a few will do so very slowly. Opal apples will not brown at all. To keep your sliced apples looking fresh, toss them with a bit of lemon or lime juice to slow the oxidation process.
Health Benefits of Apples
According to the USDA, 1 cup of sliced apples contains .2 g protein, .19 g fat, 16.6 g carbohydrates, 2.2 g fiber, and 12.7 g sugar. Color only makes the slightest difference. Green apples have a little bit more fiber, while a red apple may contain more antioxidants.
Apples have been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. They are also thought to help lower cholesterol and to have anti-inflammatory properties. One note though, you should avoid eating large quantities of apple seeds. A few are okay, but if you manage to eat 100 grams or more, they can be poisonous.