There’s nothing better than biting into a crisp, tart apple. Or a sweet, soft apple. So what apple do you turn to when you have a craving for one or the other?
Although more than 100 varieties of apples are grown in the U.S., only a few varieties supply 90 percent of the country’s population, according to the U.S. Apple Association. The most common types of apples you will find in U.S. grocery stores are:
- Cripps Pink
- Paula Red
- Red Delicious
- Golden Delicious
- Granny Smith
Some varieties were discovered in nature while others were concocted in a lab; some are best baked into a pie while others are good to go freshly picked. They range in colors, patterns, texture and taste, but all have one thing in common — their popularity.
This red apple originates in British Columbia, Canada, and was introduced to the apple market in 1987. In Greek mythology, ambrosia is the food or drink of the gods, which is where this sweet fruit gets its name. The red apple can be medium to large in size and, because of its vague honey-like flavor, can be enjoyed as a snack, tossed into a salad or used in baking.
A New Zealand native fruit, Braeburns are rich apples with a peculiar spicy-sweet flavor. They’re a great apple for making pies and tarts because they don’t release a lot of liquid as they’re baked. You can also turn to Braeburns if you want a more tart apple cider.
These apples are derived from the Red Delicious variety, but have a brighter skin and more lemony taste than their cousin fruit. They were first discovered in Washington State in 1987 and are best enjoyed as a sliced, fresh snack.
This apple wasn’t stumbled upon in nature — instead, it was created at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station of Cornell University in 1898. This apple browns slower than most other apple varieties, so it is a great choice to slice up as a snack or put into a salad. And because of its crispness, Cortland apples also do well when baked into pies because they don’t break down.
Cripps Pink Apple
The Cripps Pink is also known as the Pink Lady — a small, sweet, blush apple bred in Western Australia from a Red Delicious and Lady Williams. These apples are best when eaten as a snack or as part of a salad.
This apple was also created at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station of Cornell University and is a cross between the Red Delicious and McIntosh. Empire apples were first introduced in 1966 and take their name from the state where they were created. The taste is somewhere between sweet and tart and it’s good for any use — snaking or baking.
Named after the famous Mount Fuji, these apples are native to Japan and are a Ralls Janet and Red Delicious hybrid fruit. Fuji apples grown in the U.S. began appearing in stores in the 1980s. Fujis are identifiable by their red and yellow striped coloring and their incredibly sweet taste. They make tasty snacks and their crispness makes them great to use in baking.
Fun fact: according to the U.S. Apple Association, the Gala apple (or the Royal Gala) got its name from Queen Elizabeth II, who declared it her favorite on a visit to New Zealand, the apple’s native country. These fruits are a crisp, juicy and sweet cross between the Golden Delicious and Kidd’s Orange Red. They can be kept for up to three months and retain their flavorful sweetness. They’re best to eat fresh as a snack.
Honeycrisp’s red and yellow dappled skin differentiates it from the crowd. This apple variety was developed at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station’s Horticultural Research Center as a cross between a Macoun and a Honeygold apple. Because of its honey-sweet flavor, Honeycrisp is one of the best apples to snack on. It’s also great to use in salads and sauces.
The Jazz apple is a cross between the Royal Gala and Braeburn apples. It was developed in New Zealand in 1985 and is known for being hard and crisp, but also juicy and sweet like a Honeycrisp. It’s best as a snack and can also be great for baking.
Sweet like honey while also tart and crispy, this New York apple made its debut in 1968. Like Honeycrisp and Empire apples, Jonagolds, too, are man-made — they are a Jonathan and Golden Delicious hybrid crafted in the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Cornell University. The Jonagold apple is delicious for snacking as well as cooking.
No, not the tech company. The McIntosh apple was discovered as a seedling in 1811 by John McIntosh in what is now modern-day Ontario. McIntosh began selling the fruit in 1835 and it entered commercial production in 1870. The apple is red with a green blush and, although sweet and juicy, have a tangy taste to them. McIntosh apples are crisp when first harvested but over time become soft, which makes this apple perfect for baking. Just be sure to use thicker slices during food prep, because these fruits have a tendency to break down during the baking process.
A cross between McIntosh and Jersey Black apples, Macouns have a deep red, almost purple color and sweet taste. It was also developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Cornell University back in 1923. It’s a great variety for traditional apple pies because it remains firm throughout the baking process.
Paula Red Apple
Paula Reds were discovered near a McIntosh orchard in Michigan back in 1960. They are a seasonal apple, only available August through October. This apple’s sweet and tart flavor combination makes them great for snacking and making applesauce because they become extremely soft when cooked.
Red Delicious Apple
Red Delicious are one of the most well-known apples in the U.S. Originating from Iowa, Red Delicious apples are identified by their deep, rich red color, crispness, elongated body and pronounced “feet.” Their flavor is more subdued than other varieties that makes them not ideal when it comes to baking.
Golden Delicious Apple
These yellow-green West Virginia native apples are well loved for their sweet, mild flavor — no tart, all honey. Their sweetness makes them perfect for applesauce and apple butter. When mixed with more tart apples, they can also work well when baked into pies, crisps and tarts. And when they’re baked, they don’t need their skin peeled.
This apple was originally known as Mutsu, as it originates in Japan, and was renamed in the 1960s. These sweet, crisp apples are versatile and delicious when eaten as a fresh snack, baked, frozen, used in a salad or cooked into a sauce.
Granny Smith Apple
Granny Smiths are the iconic green apple. They were discovered in Australia in 1868 by orchardist Maria Ann Smith (hence the name “Granny Smiths”). These apples well known for their deep emerald color and very tart taste, and work well baked into tangy pies and tarts or simply eaten fresh.