Common Apple Varieties

Some apples are better for cooking than others

Three types of apples at a farmer's market

Gary D'Ercole / Getty Images

While the difference in different apples may not go beyond the color for some people, true apple enthusiasts will have a very specific favorite. Some people find red delicious to be far too mushy and an abomination in the name of apples, and will prefer something crisper like a gala. While others may desire the tart flavor of a Granny Smith instead of a sweeter variety. There are also different apples for the task at hand: eating, cooking, or baking. Some don't measure up for a classic apple pie and other desserts but they can taste magnificent when eating out of the hand.

Whether it be a crunch, a tangy or sweet taste, or something else there are plenty of apples to choose from. Here you will learn the common apple varieties and their characteristics, uses, as well as when they're in season.

Common Apple Varieties

  • Baldwin apple: An all-purpose red-skinned apple, mottled and streaked with yellow, with a mildly sweet-tart flavor, fairly crisp texture, from the New York region, available from October to April.
  • Cortland apple: All-purpose red apple with crisp, juicy, sweet-tart flesh that resists browning, smooth shiny red skin, a Northwest favorite good for cooking and hand-eating.
  • Crabapple: Small, rosy red, hard tart flesh, too sour for hand-eating, makes great jellies, jams and good with pork and poultry, available during the fall months.
  • Criterion apple: Slightly tart, bright red skin with green highlights, good for baking and hand-eating.
  • Gala apple: Brilliant rosy red skin. Firm and crisp, sweet and juicy, the Gala apple is good for pies as well as eating out of hand. Available September through June.
  • Golden delicious apple: Yellow to yellow-green, sweet/bland flavor, juicy and crisp flesh that resists browning, all-purpose but does lose some flavor when cooked, available September through June. Refrigerated storage time: 150 days.
  • Granny smith apple: Crisp, juicy, freckled green skin, sweetly tart flesh, excellent for hand-eating and cooking, grown in New Zealand, Australia, California, and Arizona so usually available year-round. Refrigerated storage time: 240 days.
  • Gravenstein apple: Crisp, juicy, sweet-tart, green-skin streaked with red, all-purpose for cooking but not whole, available mainly on the U.S. west coast from August to late September.
  • Jonathan apple: Spicy and fragrant, juicy, sweet-tart, all-purpose cooking except for the whole, good for hand-eating, available September through February. Refrigerated storage time: 120 days.
  • Lady apple: Tiny, ranging from brilliant red to yellow with red blushing, sweet-tart, good for hand-eating or cooking, available canned, used for garnishes, available fresh during winter months.
  • Macoun apple: Small to medium-sized, wine red in color, crisp, juicy, sweet-tart, all-purpose but best for hand-eating, a U.S. east coast favorite.
  • McIntosh apple: Medium-sized, crisp, tart-sweet, bright red skin sometimes tinged with green, all-purpose but doesn't hold up to lengthy cooking, discovered in the late 1700s by Canadian John McIntosh, available September through March.
  • Northern spy apple: Large, sweet-tart apple, red skin with yellow streaking, all-purpose, available October through March, also called spy apple.
  • Pippin apple: All-purpose, good for hand-eating and cooking, greenish-yellow skin, juicy, crisp flesh, slightly tart, also called Newton pippin or yellow pippin, available winter through mid-spring.
  • Red delicious apple: Large, brilliant red, sometimes streaked with green, elongated shape with five distinctive knobs at its base, juicy, sweet, no distinguishable tartness, recommended for hand-eating but not for cooking, available from September through April. Refrigerated storage time: 160 days.
  • Rhode Island greening apple: Medium-sized, green to yellow in color, sweet-tart flavor which intensifies with cooking, good for hand-eating, mostly sold as a commercial crop for applesauce, pies etc., since both flavor and texture hold up well to heat, available October to April primarily in the eastern and central U.S. The western variant is known as Northwest Greening.
  • Rome beauty apple: Deep red skin with some yellow speckling, off-white flesh ranging from tender to mealy, mildly tart to sweet and bland, holds its shape well when cooked and as such is good for baked apples or cooked dishes, available November through May. Refrigerated storage time: 220 days.