Cracker Barrel's Fried Apples Aren't Even Fried

Look up old-fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food in the dictionary and you'll find a picture of Cracker Barrel. The casual restaurant chain — which has more than 600 locations across the United States — is famous for its down-home cooking, from "chicken n' dumplins" to country fried steak. No matter which entree you choose, you can pair it with any one of Cracker Barrel's popular side dishes, including turnip greens, macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes. Another customer favorite, as long as you're craving something sweet, are the fried apples. 

A popular Southern dish, fried apples are traditionally made with slices of apple and a blend of spices, resulting in something that tastes like the filling of apple pie. But don't let the name fool you — it turns out that fried apples aren't actually, well, fried after all. Here's how the fruity side at Cracker Barrel gets all of its flavor and texture, and how you can recreate them yourself.

Fried apples are made in the oven or in a skillet

Despite how shocking it might seem that fried apples aren't even fried, it's not really a secret. On the Cracker Barrel menu, the restaurant plainly describes the side dish as "sliced fried apples seasoned with cinnamon and baked in the oven." While the national chain's OG recipe is kept a secret, Southern Living explains that you can make similar fried apples by slowly baking them in the oven (à la Cracker Barrel). And for a quicker treat, Mashed's copycat Cracker Barrel fried apples recipe has you cook the fruit in a skillet with butter, sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon to taste just like what you'd order at the Country Kitchen.

As for what gives fried apples that ooey gooey texture? "Cornstarch helps to thicken the sauce created from the apple juice and apples as they break down," per recipe developer Susan Olayinka, which means they're a rich and sweet accompaniment to mains rather than a liquidy mess. Psst: If you want to enjoy Cracker Barrel fried apples at home without doing all the work, you can just buy them in a 28-ounce jar online on Cracker Barrel's website.