If you’ve ever surveyed an embarrassment of gorgeous fall apples at the farmers’ market only to be left a little nonplussed—about which is best for baking, which is best for snacking, which is best for leaving at the farmers’ market—this is your guide. While there are no hard and fast rules (snacking on a baking apple is often quite delicious, in fact), these categories represent our favorites in the goop test kitchen. We’ve broken down which apples will be best fresh with almond butter and sea salt, mixed into a cheese plate, or cooked into pies, compotes, and more.
BEST FOR SNACKING
Cameo: Cameos have thin skin, delicate texture and they’re delightfully crisp—super tasty with a little almond butter. Add a light sprinkle of cinnamon and flaky sea salt for a truly epic snack.
Cortland: These bright red apples have a nice tart acidity to them, making them brilliant for cheese plates. Use them to mellow the funk of a ripe Camembert or balance the salt of a cave-aged Gruyère.
Honeycrisp: A good Honeycrisp has the most quintessentially apple flavor there is, we think. Their super juicy crunch is satisfying in and of itself but also next-level in salads with fennel and walnuts. (Double down on the apple flavor with an apple-cider vinaigrette.)
BEST FOR BAKING
Jonagold: These apples have a dense texture and a mild, honeyed flavor that work beautifully in all baked goods but especially in cakes.
Granny Smith: They make a fantastic snack, but we love to use Granny Smiths’ pronounced tart flavor to balance the sweetness of a pie. Add some sharp Cheddar cheese to the crust of your Granny Smith apple pie—trust us.
Melrose: Definitely sweeter than a Granny Smith, but not too sweet to cook with, Melroses also have a firm flesh that’s wonderful in compotes with warm spices and citrus zest, served warm over ice cream.
GREAT FOR BOTH
McIntosh: Sweet, with a delicate flavor that’s almost spiced, these apples are so versatile—they’re brilliant baked, sautéed, in salads, or juiced. (A combination of ginger, carrot, and apple is excellent with a McIntosh.)
Braeburn: A classic juicy snack, the Braeburn is also a great cooking apple, since its sweet notes tend to really deepen when cooked. Braeburns are amazing in a savory dish, like roast pork tenderloin.
Empire: These are crisp and tart enough for cooking but also fantastic to toss in your bag for a snack because they don’t bruise easily. (Bruised apples are a bummer, but you can always cook them down into a delicious apple jam.)