What’s the Best Apple for Making Applesauce?

There are things that simply taste better when they’re homemade – applesauce falls firmly into that category. Warm from the stovetop with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream melting into the nooks and crannies, or simply dusted with cinnamon for a healthy afternoon snack, I challenge you to find a cozier fall treat.

But which apple varieties are best for making sauce? With so many options available to us, selecting the right apple can feel overwhelming. The good news is that many will work – you just need to decide if you want yours sweet, tart, chunky or smooth. Here’s a breakdown of several delicious options:

Golden Delicious

Golden Delicious apples are one of the most popular for applesauce. They’re on the sweet side, meaning you don’t have to add any sugar at all if you don’t want to, and their soft flesh breaks down quickly resulting in a smooth sauce.

McIntosh

McIntosh are a kitchen’s all-purpose apple. Great for baking and for applesauce, they are fairly tart, but still with a good amount of sweetness. You may find you need to add a little sugar, which is best done at the end of cooking, and to taste.

Fuji

Choose Fuji if you like a sweet applesauce with a bit of texture. These crisp apples will hold their form a little longer than several others, and will produce a thick, chunky sauce.

Honeycrisp

Aptly named, these apples are sweet and crisp, with a wee bit of tartness. They’ll behave much like Fuji apples, making a sweet sauce with some texture and bite.

Granny Smith

Granny Smith apples are beloved by bakers, often used in conjunction with other apple varieties in pies and tarts. They are very tart and hold their shape when cooked, so best used for a chunky sauce. Plan to add sweetener and other flavorings (e.g., cinnamon, vanilla, etc.) for the best results.

An Apple to Avoid: Red Delicious

Picked your own at the orchard, and have no idea what you’ve got? Don’t fret, more than likely it will turn into good applesauce. One apple to avoid is Red Delicious, with a distinctive rich, red color, making it easily identifiable. When cooked, Red Delicious apples turn mealy and don’t impart much flavor.


A Few Tips for Making Applesauce

  • Using a variety of apples to make your sauce is a great way to balance flavor and texture. Don’t feel like you’ve got to choose only one type.
  • Cook your apples first, and add sweetener at the end. Once you taste you can decide how sweet you want it to be. White sugar helps retain a pale color, and brown sugar will provide deeper caramel notes to the sauce. Maple syrup is another flavorful option for sweetening the pot and deepening the color.
  • Use lemon juice. Adding a squeeze of fresh lemon will help the apples from browning, while providing a brightness and balancing sweetness.
  • Enhance the flavor by adding whole cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice berries, vanilla beans or orange zest. Just make sure to fish them out at the end before consuming.

And a Recipe to Try…

Chunky Baked Applesauce

Adapted from Ina Garten
Peeling and coring the apples takes a little effort up front, then it's hands-off as the apples bake in the oven, becoming meltingly soft and sweet, slightly spiced from the citrus and cinnamon. If you prefer a smoother applesauce, simply take a potato masher to the mix after they are finished cooking. My favorite way to enjoy is hot from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream oozing into all the nooks and crannies, but it can of course be enjoyed as a healthy snack as well.
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