Apple varieties are as individual as people, with their own quirky flavors and textures. Some perform best in long-baked desserts; others are best eaten fresh. You can’t tell by simply looking at them, and they don’t come with a label. I’ve taken the guesswork out of matching apples to recipes by organizing some popular and worthy varieties into four categories—firm-tart, firm-sweet, tender-tart, and tender-sweet—which correspond to their best use in the kitchen. Acidity and texture are the two most important characteristics that determine how any apple performs in a recipe, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.
Wondering about the best apples for apple pie? We recommend a combination of firm-tart and firm-sweet. Try them in our Blue-Ribbon Deep-Dish Apple Pie recipe.
The Expert Apple Guide:
How to Match the Apple to the Recipe
Best Apples for Baking
Firm apples work best for baking and can be sorted into two groups: Firm-Tart and Firm-Sweet
These apples hold their shape when cooked and have enough acidity to balance rich baked desserts, such as pies and tarts. They also perform well in many savory dishes. We love them in our Apple & Mustard Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
Calville Blanc d’Hiver
Rhode Island Greening
These are best in sweet and savory baked dishes that need a firm apple with more sweetness than sourness, such as tea cakes, baked apples, and compotes.
Best Apples for Applesauce & Soup
Because they break down quickly during cooking, tender-tarts are ideal for soups and sauces, as well as for eating by hand. Try our favorite Easy Applesauce recipe.
Best Apples for Snacking
Tender-sweets are well suited to salads, applesauce, and such quick-cooking dishes as pancakes and muffins.
Cox’s Orange Pippin
Apples That Won’t Brown | Best Apples for Salads
Looking for apples that don’t brown quickly when sliced? These varieties are a good choice for salads.