Not all apples are created equal. Some are blessed with sweetness and juiciness, others are pleasantly tart and crispy. Each apple variety has its own unique characteristics, and that’s what makes them such a versatile fruit.
It also means that while some are delicious eaten out of hand, they might be best left out of an apple pie; one may work perfectly for juice, but fail miserably for becoming a sweet, hearty sauce for your pork roast.
There are thousands of different types of apples in the world, but we’ve rounded up 12 apple types that are found commonly in most markets. Apple breeders and farmers are constantly coming up with new varieties, some examples being the Redlove Apple that is red-skinned and red-fleshed, or the “It” apple of the moment, the Cosmic Crisp. Many are genetically modified to highlight specific properties, such as being slow to brown and making them easier to grow.
Which ones are ideal for hand eating, making sauce or baking? Here are 12 apple varieties you'll love having fun with in the kitchen.
Types of Apples
1. GRANNY SMITH
Photo Wikimedia Commons, Nicole-Koehler, CC BY-SA 3.0
Have you ever bitten into a gorgeous green Granny Smith only to be turned off by its tart flavour? This apple with its bright green skin is originally from Australia, and a bakers’ favourite: when fresh it is hard, super crisp and extremely tart, but all of this sweetens up beautifully when cooked. Ideal for any baked preparation, but also to accompany savoury dishes such as onions and cheese.
Key characteristics: tart, crisp, juicy
Good for: cooking, hand-eating, juice
Ripens: late October
Photo Wikimedia Commons, Laurabrager
McIntosh apples have soft, mealy flesh that you either love or hate - for the former, this is a great snack apple, eaten raw, but keep it far away from the oven if apple pie, bread or cake is something you are after. Meanwhile, its creamy flesh makes McIntosh apples a great candidate for applesauce or apple butter.
Key characteristics: soft, juicy, sweetly tart
Good for: cooking, hand-eating, salads
The Cortland is also a soft apple, but not as soft as the McIntosh (in fact, it is a cross between a McIntosh and a Ben Davis apple). A sweet, tart apple, the Cortland has a very white flesh that is slow to brown, and crisp when fresh. Unlike the McIntosh, this is a better all-purpose apple that is popular for desserts, baking and snacking raw.
Key characteristics: crisp, juicy, sweetly tart
Good for: baking, hand-eating, salads
Gala apples generally come with a non-uniform red skin that shows hints of orange or even yellow. There are many varieties of the Gala, including the popular Royal Gala, each slightly different in redness. Gala apples are mildly sweet with a crisp texture. It is a good overall apple for cooking, baking, and eating raw.
Key characteristics: firm, mildly sweet, crispy
Good for: firm, sweet, snappy
Ripens: late August
5. GOLDEN DELICIOUS
Photo Assianir, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons
Crisp and sweet, the Golden Delicious apples are a good choice for any recipe, whether it’s in pies, sauce, baking, or juice. It’s thin-skinned and will bruise and shrivel quickly, but the thin skin also makes a great snacking apple. This is a soft apple, but not as soft as the McIntosh or Cortland.
Key characteristics: mildly sweet, juicy, crisp
Good for: sauce, pie, cooking, hand-eating
Photo Hugowolf at Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0
Braeburns are firm, crisp and tangy with a sweet-tart flavour and a hint of spice. These are firm apples that are also good for baking. Its skin colour varies from orange to muted red with yellow undertones.
Key characteristics: rich, tart, spicy, crisp
Good for: baking, hand-eating
Ripens: late October
7. RED DELICIOUS
The Red Delicious comes with a dark red skin and elongated shape that is larger on the top. This apple is best eaten raw as its soft flesh doesn't fare well when cooked. In the market since 1874, this is one of the most popular apples in the US.
Key characteristics: mildly sweet, juicy
Good for: hand-eating
Ripens: late September
Photo Superbass, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
The Fuji apple is a crunchy, super sweet apple that can add extra texture to salads and slaws but it also works in cooking for pies, sauces and baking. The juicy fleshed, all purpose apple is originally from Japan and was created by crossing Red Delicious and Ralls Janet apples.
Key characteristics: super sweet, crisp
Good for: cooking, hand-eating, sauce, pie
Ripens: late October
Created by crossing the Golden Delicious and the Jonathan, the Jonagold is a large, sweet-tart apple with a thin, red skin with hints of yellow. The Jonagold can be used for most purposes and recipes where apples are asked for. Great for eating fresh.
Key characteristics: firm, crisp, sweet-tart
Good for: salads, baking, juice, hand-eating, pies, sauce
The Empire apple is one of the most popular apple varieties in the US. It is a cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious, with a crisp texture that is ideal for snacking and in salads. This juicy, round apple with bright red skin is firmer than the McIntosh, making it a good apple for cooking.
Key characteristics: crisp, juicy, sweet, spicy
Good for: fruit cups, hand-eating, salads
Honeycrisp apples are great for baking and their sweet yet slightly tart flavour pairs well with pork and potatoes, as in the case of this hearty casserole. This is a super juicy, crisp, and sweet apple that is delicious in both sweet and saovury dishes.
Key characteristics: sweet, slightly tart
Good for: salads, baking, juice, hand-eating
12. CRIPPS PINK (PINK LADY)
Developed in the 1970s in Australia as a cross between the Golden Delicious and Lady Williams, this pink-blushed apple has a unique sweet-tart flavour and crunchy bite that is perfect for both as a hand eating apple and baking. Try it also in salads, pies, and sauces.
Key characteristics: sweet, tart, crunchy, crisp
Good for: salads, baking, juice, hand-eating, cooking
Now try these delicious apple recipes!
Try with McIntosh apples: Fillet Steak With Apples Poached in Red Wine
Try it with Granny Smith: Dutch Apple Pie
Try the Honeycrisp apples in: Potato And Apple Gratin With Smoked Pork in a Baking Dish