The Most Common Apple Varieties and What They’re Best For
Apples are one of the most well-loved foods in America. Apple pie, apple cider, apple sauce, and caramel apples — there is something delicious for everyone to enjoy. Plus, there are so many apple varieties to enjoy on their own as well.
If you typically pick up whatever variety is on sale, there is so much more to learn about these diverse and delicious fruits. From which types to try to how to store and use them, check out our guide on all things apples!
How Many Apple Varieties Are There?
According to the US Apple Association, there are up to 3,000 varieties of apples grown all around the world, both in orchards and in the wild. However, many of these apples may not taste like the apples we are used to getting at the grocery store.
When it comes to commercially grown apples in the United States, there are still over 100 varieties to choose from. Sweet, tart, juicy, or firm, there are apple varieties for everyone to enjoy.
Red Apple Varieties
Red is the most common color of apple, but there are subtle differences between each and every species. Here are a few of the common varieties of red apples:
McIntosh apples are tart and very juicy. They are in season from September through May in most regions.
Honeycrisp apples are a favorite among kids for their honey-like sweetness. They are also in season from September until May.
Pink Lady or Cripp’s Pink apples are tart and firm. They are relatively dense, making them a quick and filling snack. They’re available slightly later in the year, from November through July.
Red Delicious apples are mild and watery. While some don’t like their plain taste, they can be appealing to kids because they aren’t overly tart. They are available in the summer and early fall, from July to October.
Gala apples are super crisp, sweet, and juicy. They are a great all-around apple and are available all year long with a major harvest in mid-July.
Kiku apples are also very sweet, with a delicious crunch that makes them great for salads and snacking. They are also available year-round.
Fuji apples are deliciously sweet and on the firmer side. They are very versatile when it comes to baking, and are in season all year, with a major harvest in September.
Green Apple Varieties
While there are many species of green apples being harvested by farmers around the world, there is one common variety that dominates all of the rest.
Granny Smith apples are super tangy and tart. Whether you love them or hate them, they’re super versatile when it comes to baking, cooking, and snacking. They are available year-round, with a major harvest in August.
Yellow Apple Varieties
Much like with green apples, farmers all over the world are working on new species and varieties. In the meantime, there is one variety that stands above the rest.
Yellow or Golden Delicious apples are sweet and crisp with a unique, buttery taste. While not quite as sweet as a Honeycrisp, many say that Yellow Delicious apples also have a honey-like taste. These apples are often juiced to create apple juice or apple cider and are available year-round.
What to Look for When Buying Apples
No matter which types of apples are your favorite, you want to select the best of the bunch. When you’re shopping in the produce section, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you pick the freshest apples.
A good apple should be firm to the touch. Apples that feel soft or indent easily when squeezed are past their prime and won’t have the same delicious, juicy taste. Apples should also have a fresh, pleasant smell. Apples that have an overpowering or musty smell should be avoided.
While you might want to stay away from apples with blemishes or scratches, not all blemishes are bad. Avoid apples with major bruising or signs of decay, but don’t let a little bruise or scratch deter you. Many less-than-beautiful apples will still taste great! And while you may be tempted to choose the biggest apples, apple size has no correlation with taste. Depending on the type of apple, it may naturally ripen at a smaller or larger size.
How to Keep Your Apples Fresh
Apples are a great produce option because they don’t spoil as fast as many other fruits. While you can store your apples at room temperature for a week or two, they can last up to 4-6 weeks in your refrigerator. We recommend storing them in a high-humidity produce drawer in your fridge at around 32-33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Apples also produce ethylene, a ripening gas that can cause produce stored nearby to ripen faster. For this reason, keep apples in their plastic produce bag from the store, and avoid storing them around other produce.
Once cut, apples will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator. To avoid browning, drizzle lemon juice onto your apple slices, and store them in an airtight container. However, it’s always preferable to cut and wash your apples right before you eat them. This will keep them at peak freshness for you to enjoy.
Which Apple Varieties Are the Best?
While there’s no wrong answer to this question, there are types of apples that are better in some recipes than others. Here are some of our favorite apple varieties for baking, cooking, and snacking!
Best Apples for Baking
You may be tempted to bake with whatever bruised apples are left at the bottom of your produce drawer. You can always use these leftovers, since baking gives you the flexibility to cut around bruises and scratches. But, you can maximize your flavor and texture by choosing a variety bred with baking in mind, like:
- Jonagold apples are a hybrid variety of Johnathan and Golden Delicious. Their marbled red and yellow skin make them a colorful and delicious choice for baking.
- Braeburn apples are firm and sweet with a tart edge. If you like a firmer filling for an apple pie or crumble, they are an ideal choice.
- Honeycrisp apples are a great sweet apple for baking. Their honey-like sweetness can help balance spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Pink Lady apples have a very balanced flavor, making them a great all-around choice for baking.
Best Apples for Salads
Apples can bring sweetness and interesting texture to salads. Here are a few of the best apples to try as a salad topping:
- Granny Smith apples can offer a unique tartness to salads and grain bowls.
- Honeycrisp apples, on the other hand, can bring an extra sweetness to an otherwise savory dish.
- Fuji apples can add a delicious crunch to your salad. Their firm texture means they can hold up well, even in a meal-prepped salad to eat later in the week.
Best Apples for Applesauce
Making applesauce at home is a great family activity. Children can help wash, peel, and stir the apples as they cook. Check out some of these apple varieties for delicious applesauce at home:
- Fuji apples make delicious applesauce. They are on the firm side, so they make especially good homestyle applesauce that is somewhat chunky.
- Honeycrisp apples are another great choice for applesauce. Due to their natural, honey-like sweetness, you may not even need to add any sugar for a tasty snack.
- Granny Smith apples can also be an interesting choice for making applesauce. They boast a unique color and tartness that few other apples can match.