The 11 Best Apples for Outrageously Tasty Applesauce

Whether you like your sauce sweet, tangy, or tart, there's an apple on this list for you.

August 25, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

The air is starting to feel crisper, the sun is setting earlier, and the leaves are slowly turning golden brown. That can only mean one thing: Fall is coming! Arguably one of the better seasons, fall brings with it a wealth of seasonal produce like butternut squash, sweet potato, and pumpkin. But, quite possibly the most versatile, popular, and favorite of them all is the modest yet timeless apple. Though apples can be found in the supermarket almost all year round (thanks to high-tech, controlled storage environments), this humble fruit is typically only harvested between early August and mid-November.

Note that not all apples are created equal, especially when it comes to making applesauce. With over 2,500 varieties in the U.S. (of which 100 are commercially grown), picking the right apple might not be as easy as initially expected. Good news is, there is no need to fret. Make your next trip to the grocery store or local farmer’s market a breeze with this easy guide for choosing the best types of apples to make the perfect applesauce all season long.

The best applesauce is made with fruit that's distinctly flavored and not too mealy in texture. The flavor profiles of the apples can skew sweet, tangy, or tart, depending on your preference and what spices or sweeteners you're hoping to add to the mix. For a full guide to making applesauce, head here—but for now, take a gander at the apples you can pick for the job.


1. Cortland

Cortland apples are bright red over a pale yellow background and have crimson red dark streaks with bright yellow sporadic patches. This highly popular apple is sweet, similar in flavor to its relative, the McIntosh, and has crisp white flesh that does not quickly brown. Cortlands are best during mid-to-late September and are ideal for cooking, eating fresh, juicing, or making applesauce or apple butter.

2. Crispin

Crispin apples, also known as Mutsu apples, are a cross between Golden Delicious and Indo apple cultivars that originated in Japan in the 1940s. These apples are sweet and juicy and have coarse, grained flesh that makes them withstand cooking well. As their name suggests, these apples are in fact very crisp and add a delightful crunch and bite to salads, pies, and sauces. They are medium to large in size and vary in shape. These greenish, yellow apples are perfect for baking or eating fresh and are best from September to October.

3. Fuji

Of the bunch, Fuji apples are on the sweeter end of the scale. This fan-favorite apple originated in Japan and is a cross between the American Red Delicious and Rawls Jennet. It has firm, creamy flesh that is fine-grained; the fruit is typically large in size and has a very long shelf life, making it ideal for enjoying year round. This crisp and sugary-sweet apple is ideal for snacking, baking, and, most importantly, making applesauce.

4. Golden Delicious

Ranked in the top 15 most popular apple varieties in the U.S., Golden Delicious apples hail from Clay County, West Virginia. They are large, pale yellowish-green, have thin skin, and are mellow yet delicately sweet in flavor. The tender, white flesh cooks down well and is ideal for making applesauce from scratch. Golden Delicious apples are harvested in September to October, but are available for your sauce-making needs throughout the year.

5. Gala

Gala apples are small to medium in size and have pinkish-red streaks over a light yellow background. This aromatic apple is sweet, mellow, and has notes of vanilla. Though Gala apples are primarily best for eating fresh or juicing, their mild-tasting flavor pairs well when combined with other tangy and tart apples.


6. McIntosh

This tangy, sweet and extremely juicy apple is considered the “all-purpose” apple used for baking, juicing, and making applesauce. McIntosh apples have bright red and green skin that is easy to peel and does not require extensive cooking times, making them great for dessert recipes. If you’re looking to balance out the tang of these apples, add in a sweeter variety, like Gala, to balance out your sauce base.

7. Honeycrisp

This highly refreshing and explosively juicy apple has a very pleasant sweet, yet tangy flavor. Due to its extreme popularity, Honeycrisp apples are at the pricier end of the bunch; costing almost four times more than apples like Gala, Granny Smith and Red Delicious. If you’re looking for quality, flavor, and texture, this apple may be worth the splurge.

8. Cripps Pink (Pink Lady)

This beautifully colored pink blush apple with green and yellow undertones has high sugar and high acid levels with a slightly effervescent mouthfeel. Its bright, white flesh does not oxidize easily and maintains its texture while cooking. Add par-cooked chunks of this apple to your finished sauce for an extra bite.

Tart & Crisp

9. Braeburn

This crisp and tasty apple holds its shape well when cooked and can be used for both savory and sweet recipes. When cooked, this boldly flavored apple mellows out and has aromatic hints of nutmeg and cinnamon perfect for fall-weather baking.

10. Granny Smith

This citrusy and tart apple adds zing to make delicious, lip-puckering applesauce. With notes of lime and grapefruit, this native Australian, crisp and firm apple holds well when cooked and can be paired with other more mild apples to make a perfectly sweet and sour sauce. Granny Smith apples have bright green skin and are available for your cooking and eating needs all year long.

11. Idared

This old-fashioned American apple originated in 1942 out of Moscow, Idaho. This apple really never fell far from the tree, as it is very similar in flavor to its parent variety, the Jonathan. With firm, juicy flesh, Idared apples are perfect for making your traditional-style applesauce.

Applesauce-Making Tips

  • Stay away from Red Delicious apples when making sauce. They don’t mix well with heat and get undesirably mushy and unpalatable.
  • If you’re looking to add a little color to your sauce, keep the skin on while it cooks. Once complete, pass the apples through a medium-mesh sieve or a food mill with the fine disk to remove the skins.
  • To add some variety to your sauce creations, complement your sweet apples with fruits and veggies like lemons, pears, strawberries, or even beets.
  • Spice things up with unexpected ingredients like curry, cardamom, black pepper or ginger to elevate your traditional go-to cinnamon applesauce recipe.
  • Freeze leftover applesauce for up to two months in individually portioned ziplock bags to thaw as you go, when ready to eat.
  • If you’re running short on time, use a pressure cooker to make applesauce in under 20 minutes without even breaking a sweat.

What's your favorite apple for applesauce? Let us know in the comments.
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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Cindy Foreman
    Cindy Foreman
  • coachtfp
  • KLE
  • Julesmf
  • Gala79
Maki Yazawa

Written by: Maki Yazawa

Food Writer & Recipe Developer


Cindy F. September 30, 2022
Jonathan was my go to apple for pies and cooking. They are hard to find now. Tried to swap out honeycrisp, it's just not the same.
coachtfp September 28, 2021
As a lifelong resident of Massachusetts (well, to my mid-seventies), I would like to bring your attention to the apple I see as the best all-round apple, replacing the Macintosh, which is the Macoun. The problem is there aren't enough of them grown because of their short market season, rendering them not economically profitable. But if you truly love apples, then search the western Massachusetts orchards for them. You won't be disappointed. AND if you get enough of them to make a batch of applesauce, you'll see what I mean. They're just like the wild Maine blueberries - absolutely no substitute.

BTW; It ould be interesting to see the list of 200 viable commercial apples, Hint! Hint!
KLE September 24, 2020
I like to use Freedom apples, but can't always find them. McIntosh and Romes also work well, since I cook the apples skin on with some apple cider to prevent sticking and burning, and then pass them through a food mill. Pretty color, great flavor, and easy prep!
Julesmf August 26, 2020
Great article and tips! Can't wait to make some.
Gala79 August 26, 2020
Great article !!! Will be making some apple sauce this season !