This guide to readily available apple varieties will help you choose the best apples for baking, sauces, salads, savory dishes, and more.

A basket filled with some of the best apples for baking, including Granny Smith, McIntosh, and Golden Delicious.

The key to a great apple dish, whether it be sweet or savory begins with choosing the right apple variety for your recipe. Before you roll up your sleeves and start baking, take a moment to learn a little bit about some of the most common types of apples and how to make the most of their flavor and texture.

Apple varieties essentially fall into four basic groups: firm tart, firm sweet, tender tart, and tender sweet. Here we’ve listed two of the most commonly found types from each category

Firm, tart apples hold their shape during cooking and add balance and acidity to rich baked goods and other dishes. This makes them a top choice for pies, cobblers, and crisps. Readily available varieties include:

  • Granny Smith: Granny Smith apples are crisp, tart and full-flavored. Try mixing them with a firm, sweet variety in your next apple pie, cobbler, or Apple Brown Betty.
  • Rome: Rome apples are mildly tart, firm and slightly dry in texture. In addition to being a good choice for baked desserts, they also hold up well when sautéed and combined with savory ingredients.

Firm, sweet apples also hold their shape when cooked and are good for both sweet and savory dishes. When baking, we like to use one of these varieties along with a firm tart apple for a nice balance of flavor. Look for:

  • Golden Delicious: Golden Delicious apples are soft textured and quite sweet with pale yellow flesh that resists browning. They’re great for baking, but if you use them alone (like in our Easy Apple Coffee Cake), you may want to reduce the sugar in your recipe slightly to compensate.
  • Jonagold: Jonagolds are a good multi-purpose apple. They are juicy, crisp, and have enough sweet-tart flavor balance to make a great apple pie without introducing a tart, firm variety for balance.

Tender, tart apples are good for making applesauce, salads, and any other dish that calls for raw apples. Common varieties include:

  • McIntosh: McIntosh apples are juicy, tart and tangy with soft white flesh that cooks down quickly. Delicious when eaten fresh and a top choice for homemade applesauce.
  • Cortland: Cortland apples are tender and slightly tart with white flesh that resists discoloration and holds together when cooked. They’re a good choice for salads and garnishes as well as baking.

Tender, sweet apples: These apples are best used raw because they lose their shape and some of their flavor when cooked. They’re best for fruit salads and eating out of hand, but can be mixed with tender, tart apples for making applesauce. Varieties include:

  • Fuji: Fuji apples are sweet, crisp and firm fleshed and work well in a fresh apple smoothie or as a component of a cheese board.
  • Gala: Gala apples are juicy, crisp and actually a little sweeter than the Fuji. They do hold their shape better though, so they’re okay to use in a quick-cooking dish like apple pancakes.
A lettuce-lined serving bowl of Waldorf salad with two whole Granny Smith apples in the background.

This updated version of a classic Waldorf Salad is made with Granny Smith apples because their tart flavor and crisp acidity lend perfect balance to the richness of the mayonnaise in the recipe.

How to Store Apples

Apples are interesting in that they remain alive after they’ve been picked. They actually continue to “breathe” and will spoil more quickly at room temperature. Storage temps close to but not below 32°F with high humidity are ideal, so in other words, they’re best kept in the crisper section of your fridge.

Apples bruise easily too, so handle them carefully and only plan to store ones that are blemish-free. The old adage does remain true: one bad apple will spoil the bunch, so remove any apples that show signs of deterioration and use them immediately.

Apple Nutrition Information

Regardless of which apple varieties you enjoy, “an apple a day” is still worthwhile advice.

Relatively low in calories and free from both fat and sodium, apples contain a healthy quantity of dietary fiber as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants, Vitamin C, and potassium.

In addition, the water-soluble fiber in apple pectin has been shown to lower cholesterol.