Applesauce is a classic harvest-season treat as the crisp days of autumn arrive. And like most things, applesauce is best when homemade with the best ingredients!
The best apples for applesauce are freshly-picked juicy varieties with smooth, fine flesh that cooks quickly. Varieties like McIntosh, Gala, Pink Lady, and Fuji are known for making excellent applesauce. Home recipes often mix different types of apples to create a custom blend of sweet-tart sauce.
There’s quite a lot to consider when picking the best apples for applesauce. Read on to learn all about the best varieties for sauce-making and how best to use them!
1. McIntosh Apples
The McIntosh Apple is truly the classic apple variety for making applesauce. It has fine, tender flesh that cooks down quickly into smooth applesauce. These apples have a tart, zippy, balanced flavour perfect for those who don’t like their applesauce too sweet.
While you can make McIntosh Applesauce with peeled apples, its now more common to include the peel. Boil cubed apples (with the peels on) in just enough water to float them, then blend the mixture in a high-powered blender. The peel disappears into the creamy Mac Applesauce, adding more flavour and nutrition to the already-excellent applesauce.
Read all about McIntosh Apples
2. Honeycrisp Apples
Honeycrisp apples have firm, sweet flesh that’s perfect for a chunky, rustic applesauce. These apples are known for their complex and balanced sweet-tart flavour. Honeycrisp apples are naturally quite juicy and tend to keep their shape well when cooked.
For a rustic Honeycrisp Applesauce, skip the blender and just lightly mash the cooked apples with a fork (or even a potato masher). Use peeled apples or strain the peels out after cooking. Peels can be added to smoothies or blended up into mixed sauce or salad dressing (or just add them to your homemade compost).
Read more about Honeycrisp Apples
3. Ambrosia Apples
Ambrosia apples make terrifically-sweet and smooth applesauce. These tender, honey-like apples truly are divine when gently cooked into sauce. They can be blended into a creamy sauce or mashed into rustic stewed apples.
Look for apples that are neither under-ripe nor over-ripe, as both the flavour and texture of the applesauce can be negatively affected.
Read more about Ambrosia Apples
4. Cortland Apples
Cortland apples have fine-textured pulp that’s perfect for smooth, sour applesauce. The taste of applesauce made with Cortland apples is quite tart, making it a favourite of sour-apple lovers.
Cortland apples have pale acidic flesh that resists browning, creating a creamy-white applesauce when the apples are peeled before cooking. Applesauce that includes the peels will have a tad more colour. For the smoothest, creamiest, Cortland applesauce, use a high-powered blender after cooking the apples.
5. Gala Apples
Gala apples are an excellent all-round apple that makes appealing, balanced, sweet applesauce. Galas are juicy and have fine, tender flesh that keeps its shape well when cooked (if desired).
Peeled apples can be blended into a creamy-white smooth and sweet Gala Applesauce. They can also be mashed by hand into a chunkier, rustic texture.
To include the lovely red colour of the peel, cook the apple chunks with the peel on. The peel can be strained or simply blended right into the applesauce for a deliciously-wholesome applesauce.
Read more about Gala Apples
6. Braeburn Apples
Braeburn apples make a unique, spicy-sweet pudding-like applesauce. Their firm texture makes for a thick applesauce that is incredibly flavourful. Look for perfectly-ripe Braeburns and try not to overcook them, as the flesh is naturally quite firm.
Read more about Braeburn Apples
7. Granny Smith Apples
Granny Smith apples make a thick and tart sour applesauce. When the peel is included, Granny Smith Applesauce has a lovely green colour to it. Use these tart apples on their own for a crisp and sour applesauce, or blend them with a sweeter variety for a more balanced flavour.
Read all about the Granny Smith apple variety
8. Golden Delicious Apples
Applesauce made with Golden Delicious apples is mild and sweet. These apples are among the most popular in the world due to their all-round appeal. They can be used on their own to make a subtly-sweet applesauce, or they can be blended with a more aromatic variety for increased complexity of flavour.
Read more about the Golden Delicious Apple
9. Pink Lady (Cripps’ Pink) Apples
Pink Lady apples make a zippy sweet-tart applesauce with a pretty pink hue (when the skins are left on). These apples are excellent for eating fresh, but can also be used for a delicious, beautiful applesauce. Like other crisp varieties, try not to overcook Pink Lady apples (Cripps Pink) whenever cooking them.
Read more about the Pink Lady Apple (Cripps’ Pink variety)
10. Envy Apples
Envy apples make a flavourful, well-balanced, sweet-tart applesauce. This name-brand apple was bred as a cross between Gala and Braeburn, and retains the excellent qualities of both parents for making applesauce. Envy apples can be used to make a chunky country-style sauce or blended into a creamy smooth applesauce.
Read all about the Envy Apple
11. Fuji Apples
Fuji apples make incredibly sweet, fine-texured applesauce. Perfect for those who love a juicy, sugary applesauce, these apples rarely need added sugar when used for applesauce. The fine flesh and pretty red peel blend in perfectly in a high-powered blender to make a rosy pink, sweet, applesauce that’s perfect for dessert.
Read all about Fuji variety apples
12. Empire Apples
Empire apples tend to create high-quality, smooth applesauce with a well-balanced and rich sweet-tart flavour. Empire apples are descended from the classic McIntosh applesauce apple, but are less tart and have a sweeter flavour. The bright red peel of these apples can contribute a pretty pink hue to blended applesauce when the apple skins are included.
13. Idared Apples
Idared apples make a mild-tasting, balanced applesauce. These apples are known more for their long storage shelf life than for their strong flavour, making them perfect for out-of-season applesauce.
Idared apples can be used on their own to make subtly-flavoured sauce or blended with different varieties listed here to make a custom applesauce blend! They’re also perfect for naturally pink-hued sauce.
14. Piñata Apples
Piñata apples are perfect for a sweet and fruity applesauce with an almost-tropical taste. The pale flesh and red-yellow peel create an orange-coloured applesauce that has a full-bodied flavour. Piñata apples are excellent for apple-only applesauce (with no added sugar) as their flavour is strong and unique enough to stand on its own!
15. Crispin (Mutsu) Apples
Crispin/Mutsu apples make wonderful sweet and juicy applesauce with a mild spice flavour. These apples are an excellent choice for a rich, chunky sauce as they maintain their quality when cooked. The peel colour of this variety can vary quite a bit. Applesauce made with the peels on generally has a light tan natural hue.
16. Jonathan Apples
Jonathan apples are wonderful for a classic, tart, autumnal applesauce. Available only around harvest time, these heirlooms from New York are quite tart, with just enough sugar to keep the sauce from being sour.
Jonathan apples are sweeter in some years than in others, but they’re always unique and delicious. Use on their own for a heritage varietal applesauce, or blend with sweeter varieties for a balanced flavour.
17. Jazz Apples
Applesauce made with Jazz apples is juicy and richly flavoured, with a nice balance of sweet-tart flavours. Like Envy apples, Jazz apples are a cross between Gala and Braeburn, and combine many of the best applesauce traits of both types. The flavour is sweet yet spicy, and can be blended into a wonderfully-smooth and satisfying fruity applesauce.
18. Macoun Apples
Macoun apples make a high-quality, rich applesauce with a tart flavour and a hint of fruity sweetness. This heritage variety is an offspring of the McIntosh, and makes a similar smooth applesauce that’s slightly sweeter and maybe even more juicy. Macoun apples can be hard to find outside the Northeastern states (and out of season), so snap them up in the fall if you see them!
19. Cox’s Orange Pippin Apples
Cox’s Orange Pippin apples create a smooth and sweet applesauce with a subtle fruity, citrusy tang. This British favourite can be a bit hard to find in North America, but its another variety that’s worth seeking out if you can find it. As a popular heirloom variety, Cox’s Orange Pippin was used in breeding for several modern varieties, including Piñata apples.
20. Jonagold Apples
Jonagold apples make a honey-sweet applesauce with a warm orange hue. An all-American cross between the Jonathan and the Golden Delicious, these apples are wonderful for sweet, country-style applesauce. The skin can be a bit tough, and is generally strained out or blended into the sauce with a high-powered blender.
21. Gravenstein Apples
Gravenstein apples make flavourful, nicely-balanced classic applesauce. These apples are a favourite at fall fairs and farmers markets, and can often be bought in bulk for sauce-making.
Both the peel colour and the sweetness of this heritage variety can vary quite a bit from year to year and from growing climate to growing climate. Gravenstein applesauce is always a bit different from batch to batch!
22. Rome Apples
Rome apples create a thick, tart applesauce with a stronger colour than most other varieties. While not as juicy as some other varieties, the flavour becomes more complex as the apples are stewed in a bit of water. Use Rome apples on their own or blend them with a sweeter, juicier type for a more balanced sauce.
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