Apples very well might be the perfect fruit. Not only is this fruit sweet, crispy, crunchy, juicy, but it’s also good for you. Apples just so happen to be a great source of fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C. They’re a perfect fall superfood. But if you’ve only eaten Red Delicious apples all your life, then you’ve really been missing out.
Using information from the U.S. Apple Association, a lobbying and advocacy group that represents 7,500 apple growers nationwide, we identified the 15 most popular apple varieties in the country, which account for almost 90 percent of all the apples grown in the country. Here’s a handy guide to what those 15 apples are, what their taste and texture is like and what is the best way to use them based on helpful info from produce wholesaler specialtyproduce.com.
If you’re an apple aficionado, you already know that some apples are best for eating out of hand, while others are best for baking or turning into applesauce. Some are available year-round at every supermarket, while some are only available seasonally at farmers markets and local fruit stands. There are about 200 unique apple varieties grown in the United States, according to the U.S. Apple Association, but these are 15 that you really should know about.
Since its discovery in 1811 by John McIntosh, the McIntosh apple has gone on to become one of the most popular and beloved apples in the country. It’s super-juicy with a tart and tangy flavor and tender, bright white flesh.
McIntosh apples break down easily, which means that they’re best eaten out of hand or in applesauce. They’re also great for juicing or turning into cider.
Developed in Japan in the 1930s, Fuji apples didn’t catch on in America until the 1980s. They’re sweet, crisp, firm, low in acid and have notes of honey and citrus.
Red Delicious are the most widely recognized of all apple varieties, and they originated in Iowa in the 1870s. They’re crisp, juicy and have a mild sweetness but can tend to have a mealy texture.
Red delicious apples break down easily when cooked, so unless you’re making applesauce, you should stick to only eating them fresh. They work especially well in salads.
Gala apples originated in New Zealand in the 1930s, and first made it to the U.S. in the 1980s. They’re dense, creamy and mildly sweet with a nice floral aroma.
Galas are ideal snacking apples due to their delicate flavor and texture and are best when used in fresh applications like fruit salad.
Originally named the Mutsu apple when it was discovered in Japan in the 1930s, these apples were renamed Crispins when they were first brought to the U.S. and the U.K. in the late 1940s. They’re big, juicy and super-crisp and have a sweet, slightly tart flavor with notes of honey.
Crispin apples are very versatile as they’re both great for eating out of hand but can also be baked, cooked in pies or turned into applesauce.
Bi-colored Braeburn apples were discovered in 1952 in New Zealand, and today they are one of the top apples produced in Washington state. Their pale yellow flesh is sweet, crisp and juicy with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Because these apples’ sweetness mellows when cooking, they’re great for both sweet and savory applications. They hold their shape well when cooked, so they can easily be used in pies and cakes and also make for good baked apples. They’re also great when sauteed and served alongside pork.
Honeycrisp apples were developed in Minnesota in the 1960s and have been growing in popularity since first being sold commercially in the 1990s. They’re incredibly crisp with a pleasing balance between sweet and tangy.
Honeycrisp apples retain their sweetness when cooked, which makes them ideal for crisps and pies. And because they’re so crisp, they’re perfect for slaws, salads and sandwiches when raw.
Jonagold apples were first developed in New York state in 1968. They’re big, crisp and juicy with a tart sweetness and notes of honey.
Jonagold apples are ideal for cooking and can be baked or used in pies, cakes and tarts. Their flavor also lends itself nicely to jams and sauces as well as being roasted along with root vegetables.
The Granny Smith apple was discovered by someone actually named Granny Smith; “Granny” Maria Ann Smith found the seedling in the compost pile of her Australia orchard in the 1860s. These popular green apples have a famously tart flavor and are firm and juicy.
While Granny Smith apples taste great out of hand, their firmness and acidity means that they’re best when used in recipes ranging from pies, tarts and pancakes to soups, stuffing and salads. They also pair well with cheese.
Empire apples, which were developed in New York in the 1960s, are actually a cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh apples. They’re crisp, juicy and have a nice sweet-tart flavor.
Like their parents, Empire apples break down easily when cooked, so they’re best suited for eating out of hand or in applesauce.
Golden Delicious apples are actually not related in any way to Red Delicious apples; in fact, these apples are parents of Gala, Jonagold and Crispin apples. They’re firm and crisp with a honeylike, mildly sweet flavor.
Because of their lack of acidity, Golden Delicious apples serve as a great counterpoint to Granny Smith when baked alongside them into pies. They’re super-versatile and can be juiced, dried, cooked into preserves or used in plenty of classic autumn dishes. They’re also great in salads and delicious out of hand.
Cameo apples, which were discovered in Washington state in the 1980s, are crisp and juicy with a bright, citrusy flavor with notes of honey.
Cameo apples don’t brown quickly when cut, so they’re ideally suited to fresh applications like salads and cheese boards. Their sweetness is enhanced and their texture holds up when cooked, so they’re also great for pies, cobblers and pastries.
Jazz apples were developed in New Zealand and have only begun to catch on stateside in the past 10 years. They’re dense, firm, juicy and super-crisp. They’re low in acid, and the flavor has hints of pear.
Jazz apples’ texture holds up when cooked, so they’re ideal for pies and tarts. They also work well with savory dishes like root vegetables, pork, roast chicken and cozy autumn soups.
A fall favorite, Macoun apples were discovered in New York in 1923. These apples are super sweet and very crisp with a mild flavor with notes of berry.
Macouns are best enjoyed out of hand, but their sweet flavor also takes well to pies and cheese plates.
Ambrosia apples were discovered in British Columbia, Canada, in the early 1990s. These low-acidity apples have a sweet, honey-like flavor, a pleasing floral aroma and plenty of juice.
Ambrosia apples are great for use in sweet and savory recipes because they brown slowly and hold their shape when cooked. They can be roasted with root vegetables, sliced raw into salads or incorporated into a perfect fall dinner recipe.
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