With all the apples there are in the world we’ve got to find a way to put them in order. As I navigate my way through learning about different apple varieties, I have a few questions: What do all these apples taste like? How do you pick the perfect one? What do I do with all these apples!?
Personally, I am very fond of sweet and fresh flavors like those of the Honeycrisp apple. I also enjoy apples with a slightly sour kick such as the Pink Lady®. It’s hard to imagine what flavor and crunch category these two apples fall into amongst the other varieties.
It turns out, there’s a chart to help answer all my questions and perhaps some of yours as well. I introduce to you: The Apple Sweetness Scale!
What is the apple sweetness scale?
The Apple Sweetness Scale or “Sweet-to-Tart Chart” is a placement map of apples ranging from the sweetest to tartest. The apples have been placed in this order based on the individual acidity and sugar levels of each apple variety. For example, the sweetest apple on the chart, Fuji, has naturally high sugar levels inherited from its parents: Red Delicious and Virginia Ralls Janet. The tartest apple, Granny Smith, has high acidity and is best to be cooked down or tossed into a salad due to its extra punch of sour flavor!
How does it work?
How do we decide where to place an apple on the sweet-to-tart chart? Let’s look at the natural acidity and sugar levels of apples.
The reason some apples are more tart compared to others is due to varying acid levels and malic acid in apple varieties. This compound is referred to as “apple acid” and makes up 94% of the total acid in apples. Fun fact: your body naturally creates malic acid, which is the process of converting carbohydrates to energy when you eat and helps build immunity and maintain good health!
Which varieties are considered tart apples?
The apple with the tartest flavor on the Apple Sweetness Scale is the Granny Smith apple. You can spot them by looking for their bright green skin! Other tart apples include: Pink Lady®, Braeburn, McIntosh, Jonathan, Empire, and Cortland apples.
Since higher levels of malic acid in apples are linked to being an immunity booster, tart apples are going to especially aid in promoting good skin and oral health!
Which varieties are known as sweet apples?
If you have a sweet tooth, you’re going to want to head over to the other end of the scale where you’ll find the Fuji, Honeycrisp, Ambrosia™, Gala, Golden Delicious, and Red Delicious apples. These sweeter apples contain more natural sugars and can hide any tart flavors even if they are more acidic!
Sweet apples make for a great snack all on their own. You will often see them paired with salty and savory foods such as sharp cheeses on an appetizer platter!
There’s a recipe for each apple from sweetest to tartest!
Fuji: Fuji is the sweetest apple variety that Stemilt grows. Each crisp bite will remind you of the sweet taste of apple juice due to its naturally high sugar levels! Fuji apples are ideal for fresh applications like snacking, juicing, or freezing. You can also add them to any of your favorite smoothies for extra sweetness! Try Fuji apples in our Dairy-Free Cherry Apple Smoothie.
Gala: The next apple variety you’ll find on the sweeter side is Gala. Gala apples have a mellow flavor including soft floral notes and vanilla. This apple is not as ideal for cooking and baking as others, but it is best for freezing, dehydrating, and juicing! Try dehydrating and snacking on Gala apples with our Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip
Ambrosia™: This apple tastes exactly how it sounds. With floral notes and a pleasant crunch, biting into an Ambrosia apple is like taking a breath of fresh air. It is a sweeter apple due to naturally low acid levels and is not quick to brown, which makes it a great addition to any salad or lunchbox! Sub in the Ambrosia apple to our Salmon and Apple Salad.
Honeycrisp: You might be able to tell by its name, but Honeycrisp apples are where it’s at when it comes to loads of juiciness and honey-like sweetness! One unique feature of this sweet apple is its cells fracture perfectly when you take a bite out of it, resulting in the perfect crunch. While this apple is great for fresh application, it does not belong in the oven! Try pairing the Honeycrisp apple fresh with nut butter.
Red Delicious: A classic favorite and perhaps the apple that has set the tone for all the rest: Red Delicious. The Red Delicious is mildly sweet with a few notes of acidity. Personally, I find it to be on the bitter side, but it is my favorite to be eaten fresh with peanut butter! This apple is high in antioxidants making it a great option for juicing! Try subbing in the Red Delicious in our Apple Cide Vinegar Juice recipe.
Cosmic Crisp®: You’ve heard it before, but we’ll say it again, the Cosmic Crisp® is an apple from out of this world. This dream apple is large, juicy, and beautifully red in color. We present to you, an apple of a perfect sweet to tart ratio and limitless possibilities. Cosmic Crisp® apples are great for snacking, baking, and entertaining! Try it out in our Gingerbread Apple Cookies recipe.
Golden Delicious: Another classic sweet apple is the Golden Delicious. Looking for a versatile apple that you can enjoy fresh, baked, or cooked? You’ll find it all with the Golden Delicious and its mellow flavor and fine flesh. This apple is a baker’s dream! Try it out in our Dutch Apple Pie.
SweeTango®: The SweeTango® brand apple is another variety known for its perfect sweet to tart ratio and is one of the crunchiest apples you’ll ever have! You’ll reach for this apple for its juicy crunch and hints of fall spices. While this apple is great for snacking or pairing with cheeses, you may notice it break down more than others when cooked with. Try the SweeTango® as a snack.
Rave®: This Stemilt signature apple has a zippy attitude and the flavor to match! Meet the Rave® brand apple. This apple is all the “rave” due to its extreme juiciness and snappy flavor! Rave® apples make for a refreshing snack all on their own as they do not hold up well in the oven. Try this apple out in our Raw Apple Crumble.
Pink Lady®: It’s hard not to fall in love with the beautiful Pink Lady® apple! This pink apple has a firm texture and is high in sugar and acids, making it a sweet apple with hints of tartness. This also causes the Pink Lady® apple to oxidize slowly and will keep from browning when sliced. It is a versatile apple that can be used in any fresh snack, salad, or any recipe imaginable! Try it out in our Tart-Apple Strawberry Basil Hidden Greens Smoothie recipe.
Granny Smith: If you’ve had a Granny Smith apple, you know this variety carries a sour punch. The high acidity levels of the Granny Smith will be sure to make you pucker your lips after every bite! It is a very firm apple that doesn’t hold back its tart and lemon-like flavors. The Granny Smith apple is extremely versatile and your go-to apple for anything! As one of the best apples for baking, try it out with our Apple Chai Monkey Bread.
How do you pick the perfect apple using the sweet-to-tart chart?
You might be wondering “how are you supposed to pick the perfect apple with the sweet-to-tart chart?” That depends on your palette and what you’d like to do with your apple. If you’re looking for a tart apple to snack on, you may choose the Pink Lady® or Rave® apple. If you want something to satisfy your sugar cravings, you may want to snack on a sweet Honeycrisp or Gala apple.
Let’s say you’re not big on sugary sweet flavors OR pucker-worthy sourness and you are looking for apples with a perfect sweet to tart ratio. Look no further because we’ve found two apples considered to be the perfect balance of sweet and tart flavors!
Below are two apples with a balanced ratio of sweet and tart:
The Cosmic Crisp® apple is a dream apple of the perfect sweet to tart ratio and out-of-this-world flavor! This apple is a cross between the Honeycrisp and Enterprise apple resulting in a super juicy and crisp apple.
The SweeTango® gives you the best of both worlds: sweet and tangy. When you bite into a SweeTango® apple, you’ll experience one of the crunchiest apples you’ve ever had! It is very juicy with vibrant acidity and notes of fall spices.
Now that we have put all these apples into place on the Apple Sweetness Scale, it is time to choose your favorite and include it in your favorite snacks, baked goods, or smoothies. Whether it’s the tartest apple or the sweetest apple, there’s a variety for everyone! Please let us know how you enjoyed your favorite apple from the Apple Sweetness Scale and leave us a note in the comments below!
For more information on how to pick the perfect apple at your local grocery store: