The Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating

With so many apple varieties, it can be hard to know which ones to pick! Here's your guide to the best apples for baking, cooking and snacking.

Whether you eat them picked straight from the tree at a local orchard or in a comforting homemade recipe, apples are the classic fall fruit. But with thousands of different types of apples grown in the U.S. and worldwide (and with new apple varieties cropping up every year), how do you choose one?

The good news is, many of the most popular apple varieties are good for practically any purpose. But sometimes, the best apples for baking aren’t necessarily the best apples for eating raw (and vice versa). Here’s how to use different types of apples, as well as recipe ideas for each apple variety.

The Best Apples for Baking, Cooking and Eating

Many types of apples are great for multiple purposes, from baking pies and making applesauce to eating whole or on salads. If you’re not sure how you’ll use your apples, any of these all-purpose apple varieties are a good choice.

Braeburn

Originally from New Zealand, Braeburn apples are what you think of when you conjure the smell of autumn. Their flesh is sweet and tart, with underlying hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. This variety is fairly common throughout the U.S., and while it’s most delicious fresh from the branch, it also does well in the oven. Try using Braeburn apples in this Cinnamon Swirl Apple Pie or in our Potluck German Apple Cake.

Cameo

Cameo apples are thought to be a cross between Red and Golden Delicious varieties, since they exhibit the best qualities of both. They were discovered in the state of Washington in an orchard of Red Delicious apple trees. Cameo apples hold their shape well in pies and deliver a satisfyingly sweet and tart flavor. Try using them in your next apple cobbler.

Cortland

If you like McIntosh apples, give Cortland apples a try. They’re a little bit tart and have a wonderfully crisp, finely grained flesh that will help your pies keep their shape. You can often identify Cortland apples by their bright red color and rather flat shape. Try using them in this Autumn Apple Torte.

Empire

A relative newcomer to the apple scene, the Empire apple was introduced in New York in the 1960s. This apple stands at the intersection of tart and sweet, crisp and juicy. Calling the Red Delicious and McIntosh apples its parents, it’s an apple designed to satisfy every eater, no matter their preference. Enjoy it out of hand or cook with it—it’s as irresistible sliced raw as it is in our Apple Butterscotch Crisp.

Fuji

Originally from Japan, Fuji apples are the offspring of two American apple varieties: Red Delicious and Ralls Janet. Extremely crisp, they’re among the sweetest apples and a great addition to salads and baked treats like this Apple Rhubarb Crumb Pie. Widely grown, Fuji apples have a firmness that makes them durable and long lasting. (Here’s how to store apples so they last all winter.)

Golden Delicious

If its name is any indicator, this apple variety has a lot in common with Red Delicious. Flavor-wise, it’s straightforward: mild and sweet, but more versatile than its blushing cousin. You can bite into a raw Golden Delicious apple or toss it up in a salad. Since it juices very little when cooked, it’s also great in the oven or on the stovetop—try these apples in this Apple Pie Jam.

Granny Smith

One of the most popular cooking apples, green Granny Smiths are tart and crisp, perfect for adding depth to desserts. Granny Smiths are one of the best apples for apple pie—try them in any of our best apple pie recipes. For bold eaters who enjoy a super tart snack, Granny Smith apples are awesome paired with peanut butter or this Fluffy Caramel Apple Dip.

Honeycrisp

What you see (and read) is what you get! As their name implies, Honeycrisp apples are sweet with firm, crisp flesh and flavors that aren’t too overwhelming. Minnesota’s official state fruit is a star performer, and it thrives in a pie. Try it in our Blue-Ribbon Apple Pie.

Jazz

Jazz apples are a cross between Braeburn and Royal Gala varieties. With subtle pear undertones, this sweet and crisp variety works well in everything from sweet baked goods to savory roasted meat and vegetable dishes. Try using Jazz apples in your next apple crisp.

Pink Lady

Pink Lady apples have crispy flesh, a tart first bite and a sweet aftertaste. Primarily grown in Washington and California, they’re a versatile variety. Enjoy them however you choose, whether that’s raw or in treats like our Dutch Cranberry-Apple Pie. Their firmness also makes Pink Lady apples a wonderful addition to any charcuterie board.

The Best Apples for Baking

While the apples above are great all-purpose apples, other apple varieties are best reserved for baking only. Also known as cooking apples, these varieties often have a tart flavor that helps offset sugary baked goods. The best cooking apples can generally hold up to baking without becoming unpleasantly mushy or too wet.

Gravenstein

Known for their tartness and a touch of honey flavor, Gravenstein apples are known as a great variety to use in homemade applesauce or apple cider—try them in our Chunky Applesauce. Native to Denmark, Gravenstein apples are also one of the best apples for apple crisp.

Rome Beauty

With thick skin and a firm texture, Rome Beauty apples are notable because they hold their shape well when cooked. They’re not known for having a memorable raw flavor, but they become sweeter when cooked. Use this variety for baked apples, applesauce and other apple baked goods.

Northern Spy

Native to New York, Northern Spy is an heirloom apple variety that tastes sweet, juicy and slightly tart. With a crunchy, hard texture, it’s a great choice for cider and baked goods such as Marlborough Pie, which is a custard apple pie.

The Best Apples to Eat Raw

Apples that are grown primarily to be eaten raw are known as table apples, dessert apples and eating apples. While these varieties can be used for cooking, they’re best enjoyed fresh as a snack or in salads. Generally, these apples have a naturally sweet flavor and often, their texture doesn’t stand up well to cooking.

Gala

Queen Elizabeth II may have loved it first, but after this New Zealand apple variety made its way to the U.S. in the 1970s, it became a national favorite here. With golden flesh feathered with pink and orange, this variety is very sweet and crisp. Get the most out of Gala apples by eating them raw, juicing them or adding them to this Spinach, Apple & Pecan Salad.

McIntosh

McIntosh apples have soft flesh, and a flavor that balances sweet and acidic. Grown primarily in the upper Great Lakes states and eastern Canada, they’re best raw but can hold their own when tossed into fruit salads or turned into sauces (like our Easy Homemade Chunky Applesauce). Although some people enjoy the tart taste of McIntosh apples in pies, they tend to shrink down quite a bit when they’re baked.

Red Delicious

Red Delicious apples are perhaps the most ubiquitous in grocery stores, earning their spot as America’s best-selling apple. They have the simplest flavor among all of the apples on this list, but with almost crumbly flesh, they won’t hold up well in baked goods. This classic apple variety is tastiest as-is or eaten raw in recipes like this Company Fruit Salad. With Red Delicious apples, fresh is always best.

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Teddy Nykiel
Teddy is an associate digital editor at Taste of Home specializing in SEO strategy. As a home cook herself, she loves finding inspiration at the farmer's market. She also enjoys doing any sport that involves water and taking long walks with her black lab mix, Berkeley.