Sweet, tangy, juicy and flavorful, the apple is nature’s perfect treat, especially when you’re lucky enough to pick them straight off the tree in the fall. Plus, you can feel good about eating them—apples are low in calories and are a good source of fiber, particularly the soluble kind linked with heart health. Apples are great for snacking, but they are also versatile in the kitchen.
When cooking with apples, texture is just as important as flavor. Some apples cook down to “mush,” while others hold their shape after baking. For most apple baked good recipes we like to use a combination of apples for the best texture. For example, the best apple pie filling combines “saucy” apples (varieties such as McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Mutsu (Crispin), Paula Red or Empire) and “shapely” apples (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Jonathon, Jonagold, Northern Spy or Ida Red).
See our apple descriptions below to help you find the perfect apple.
Braeburns have muted greenish-gold to red skin and pale yellow flesh. Fragrant and smooth, these medium-to-large fruits have a well-balanced flavor—sweet with just a hint of tartness.
If you want to include fresh apples in a dish but don’t have time to assemble it á la minute, Cortlands are the best bet—they don’t turn brown as quickly as other varieties and the bright red skin and snow-white flesh look striking against a contrasting backdrop. Juicy and mildly tart, this apple softens nicely when cooked, making it as well suited for baking as it is for salad.
The delightful child of the McIntosh and Red Delicious varieties retains the sweet-tart flavor of the Mac with a crisper bite and creamier flesh. This shiny red apple with a hint of green is perfect for baking and freezing, but can be eaten out-of-hand just as well. Smaller fruits are perfect for packing in lunchboxes.
A relative newcomer to the American public, these baseball-sized beauties have become hugely popular due to their sweet flavor and incredibly crispy texture.
One of the earliest available varieties, the Gala apple takes its sweet, succulent nature from two Delicious cultivars (Golden and Kidd’s Orange Red). Its thin skin and tender, pale yellow flesh makes it a great out-of-hand eating apple or sauce ingredient.
This golden orb has creamy, firm yellow flesh and lightly speckled skin. The flavor is absolutely sweet and mellow, making it a versatile cooking apple. It holds its shape well when baked, but take care when storing and handling—the skin bruises easily.
Lime-green speckled skin that resists bruising and very firm, crisp flesh characterize this popular apple. Its sharp, tart flavor holds up well in recipes with spicy notes, and the flesh is firm enough to retain its shape when cooked.
What’s in a name? This one says it all. This apple has exceptionally crisp, juicy, sweet-as-honey flesh with just a hint of tartness that makes it a tasty treat any time of the day. You can also use this apple for baking (if you can resist eating them all!). Pale yellow flesh is surrounded by mottled red-and-gold skin.
This rosy, brightly colored apple is a cross between two New York cultivars, Jonathan and Wagener. The firm, tart flesh ranges from yellowish-green to faintly pink, and holds its shape well during baking. With its well-developed aromatics, this fruit contributes a strong apple flavor. Cook with the skin on and then strain to make a beautiful pink applesauce.
A cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious, this bumpy, stripy fruit isn’t super fragrant but tends to rank very high in taste tests. The skin is gold with orange-blush stripes, surrounding a creamy, pale yellow flesh with a juicy, crisp texture that shares the shape-holding characteristics of its parents. This fruit is sweet with a nice balance of tart.
Sporting a bright, sweetly tart flavor, this red-striped greenish-yellow fruit boasts a smooth, tough skin and firm flesh that retains its shape well during cooking. This New York native apple doesn’t store as well as other varieties, so use it within a few weeks of purchasing.
A crossbreed of the McIntosh and Jersey Black cultivars, the Macoun apple is regarded as one of the best all-purpose cooking apples around. This dark red fruit with creamy white flesh is soft, tender and perfect for sauce. It has a sweet, rich apple flavor with hints of berry.
This apple has been loved since John McIntosh discovered seedlings in Ontario in 1811. The tender white flesh is crisp when freshly harvested, but soon adopts a softer consistency, making it perfect for cooking into pies or sauce. Macs are sweet and juicy with a pleasant tanginess.
The Mutsu apple, also called Crispin, is a large, yellowish-green fruit with an orange blush and juicy, tender-crisp, coarse-grained flesh. This cross between Golden Delicious and the Japanese Indo has a complex, spicy-sweet flavor reminiscent of anise and is great for eating or baking.
This red-, gold- and green-striped apple has a limited availability in the U.S.—while growing, the fruit is fragile and susceptible to several common afflictions. A Northern Spy tree may take up to 14 years to bear fruit, so it is frequently grafted onto other apple trees to encourage growth. It’s worth the wait, though—this apple is tart and juicy-crisp, with finely textured flesh that holds its shape well, perfect for pie and other baking uses.
This early-ripening variation of the McIntosh is soft and nicely balanced between sweet and tart, cooking down perfectly into sauces. Its dusty red skin with gold and tan spots yields to tender, slightly mealy white flesh with a flavor evocative of strawberries.
Choose unbruised apples that feel firm and heavy in your hand.
Look for richly colored fruits with smooth skin and no signs of russeting—tan or brown streaky, corky, protruding marks that can be near the stem or base of the apple, caused by excessive wetness or fungus.
Store apples in the refrigerator. In general, firmer apples like Gala and Fuji last longer (sometimes more than 3 months) than softer-textured cultivars like Macintosh or Golden Delicious (which hold for about 3 weeks).