Erica’s Guide to Apple Varieties

by Erica Layne on October 3, 2012

I used to be so clueless when picking apples at the grocery store, but over the years I’ve grown to know our tastes better and have become less hesitant to ask my produce guys about different varieties. Particularly if you shop occasionally at a fine foods grocery store, they’ll be happy to tell you all about different varieties and even cut some for you to try. Farmers’ markets as well. Nonetheless, this little guide should take a bit of the mystery out of apple shopping. :)

Honeycrisp – My favorite variety! They have a relatively short season, and I look forward to them every fall. (I had my first sighting of the season the other day, at Target!) They are crisp, sweet, and juicy. Their crispness makes them great for raw preparations, but they also maintain their sweetness when cooked. The skin is yellow covered in red or pink flush.

Ambrosia – Another variety I keep an eye out for in the fall. Sweet, with little to no acidity—similar in flavor to Golden Delicious. Medium sized with orange/red flush over a yellow background. Crisp texture, though not as crisp as a Braeburn or Jazz. Crispness fades quickly at room temperature, so store in fridge.

Braeburn – One of the most crisp apple varieties. Juicy. Sweet-tart in flavor, which makes it great for salads, paid with mild cheese. It also maintains its shape when cooked. Red skin with green under-piping.

Gala – Crisp (but not super crisp), juicy, sweet but fairly mild. Bright yellow skin airbrushed with red striping. Often small in size.

Golden Delicious – Sweet/bland flavor. Juicy, crisp flesh that resists browning. Best eaten raw, because they lose some flavor when cooked.

Red Delicious – The quintessential apple based on appearance. Medium sized with a tall, conical shape. Crimson red. Sweet but very mild in flavor. Some say they barely have a flavor at all! Tough skin. As far as texture goes, they’re on the soft side, which makes them not ideal for cooking.

Granny Smith – The queen of tart! Juicy, crisp, and tangy, with green speckled skin. Great raw and in pies! Available year-round.

McIntosh – Tart-sweet, also described as “generally sweet but with refreshing acidity, usually with a hint of wine—often referred to as ‘vinous.’” (source) Crimson skin sometimes tinged with green, with very white flesh. They don’t hold up well to long cooking times.

Pippin – Crisp and slightly tart. All purpose, so it’s good for hand-eating and cooking. Yellowish green. They come on late in the season, usually winter through mid-spring.

Jonathan – Spicy and fragrant, also described as having a good sweet/sharp balance. Good for cooking but not whole.

Fuji – Aromatic and spicy. Sweet and crisp. Pink speckled flush over a yellow-green background. This is my go-to apple yearround.

If you’re curious about an apple I didn’t include, check here for a very thorough (almost scientific!) compilation. And feel free to pin this post for future reference! Now tell us – What varieties do you buy the most? 

All linked up with Grace at Home.

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Ashleigh October 4, 2012 at 2:26 am

I buy gala apples, since they’re usually cheaper, and I love how crispy they are.

I also love fuji apples, but they’re pretty pricey around these parts.

Ashley Ditto October 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm

I LOVE apples, thank you for sharing this!

Rachel Thueson October 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

This is so useful! I always just buy Gala because I have no clue what else to buy. Thanks!

Emily S. October 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Thanks for the great list! I must be a southern apple lover! My favorite are Rome Beauties (for baking) and Stayman Winesaps (for eating). (Can’t wait to go apple picking this weekend!)

marcella October 4, 2012 at 9:55 pm

I love honeycrisp apples too. Jonathan or Jonagold are my favorite for caramel apples – just tart enough to go with the sweet caramel. Have you taken your boys apple picking in Watsonville? My son used to love that, and the trees were low so kids could reach without ladders.
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Shelley @ Calypso in the Country October 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Oh I love those honeycrisp too! Thanks for the informative list!
-Shelley

Little Wife October 6, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I love Honeycrisp apples, but they always seem to be so expensive! We usually go for the Gala at our home. I love having an apple during my commute- I cut them up, stick them in a ziplock baggie, and I’ve got a great driving-to-work snack!

susan@avintagefarmwife October 6, 2012 at 9:53 pm

We are big apple eaters around here. I generally eat one every day, and fuji’s are my fav! So sad that the apple crop was really decimated here by the cool weather this spring and the drought this summer. I feel bad for the orchardists.

Leslie A October 7, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Gala Apples are my family’s very favorite healthy snack! If I buy a bag of them, they disappear very quickly. Everyone loves them – even my “non-healthy” eaters! ;)

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