Apple Guide | How to Match the Apple to the Recipe

From the best apples for salads and baking to the best apples for applesauce and snacking, our apple guide is here to help you pick the perfect variety.

By Amy Traverso

Sep 30 2022

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 Apple Orchards in New England
Rocky Brook Orchard in Middletown, RI | Best Apple Orchards in New England
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Rocky Brook Orchard

Best Apples for Baking

Firm apples work best for baking and can be sorted into two groups: Firm-Tart and Firm-Sweet

Firm-Tart Apples

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
  • Esopus Spitzenberg
  • GoldRush
  • Granny Smith
  • Northern Spy
  • Rhode Island Greening
  • Rome
  • Roxbury Russet
  • Sierra Beauty
  • Stayman Winesap

Firm-Sweet Apples

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.
  • Baldwin
  • Black Oxford
  • Blue Pearmain
  • Cameo
  • Ginger Gold
  • Golden Delicious
  • Honeycrisp
  • Jazz
  • Jonagold
  • Mutsu
  • Pink Lady
  • Sweet Tango

Best Apples for Applesauce & Soup

Tender-Tart Apples

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.
  • Cortland
  • Empire
  • Jonathan
  • Macoun
  • McIntosh

Best Apples for Snacking

Tender-Sweet Apples

Tender-sweets are well suited to salads, applesauce, and such quick-cooking dishes as pancakes and muffins.
  • Ambrosia
  • Cox’s Orange Pippin
  • Fuji
  • Gala

BONUS! 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.
  • GoldRush
  • Stayman Winesap
  • Ginger Gold
  • Golden Delicious
  • Cortland
  • Empire
  • Fuji
  • Gala
Download the Printable Version of the Apple Guide.This post was first published in 2013 and has been updated. 

SEE MORE: Best Apple Orchards in New EnglandBest Apple Recipes | 10 Fall Fruit Favorites