The golden topping is important, but the right apple is the key to this fabulous fall treat.

By Patricia S York
September 04, 2020
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Credit: Lew Robertson/Getty Images

The fall months are finally here!  Even if you can’t attend the traditional fall festivals or county fairs, you can still gather your family for a small outdoor party and enjoy the iconic flavors of fall, such as hot mulled cider, a warm pot of soup, and caramel apples. These sweet treats have always been a fall classic, combining the crisp and juicy texture of apples with sticky, indulgent caramel for a treat kids of all ages enjoy. Apples and caramel are as much a part of fall as pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and pecans. This wonderful combination can be enjoyed in cakes, pies, and sweet breads.  Whether you buy a caramel apple-making kit, melt store-bought caramels, or make your own caramel sauce, you need to give some serious thought to the type of apple you use, because the apple is just as important as the sweet topping. The best apples to use when making caramel apples are those that are easy to bite into, maintain a juicy crunch, and has a slightly tart flavor to help balance the sweetness of the caramel.  

The Best Apple Variety to Use for Caramel Apples

A tart Granny Smith apple is a good choice and is the standard go-to apple for many caramel apple makers. It definitely counters the sweetness of the caramel topping and the pretty green color of the apple is a nice complement to the golden color of the caramel. If you think Granny Smiths are too tart for your taste, keep this in mind: the best apples for making caramel apples are the same apples you might use for making an apple pie - those that are firm with a sweet-tart flavor profile. Look for Honeycrisps, Pink Ladys, Pippins or Jonagold apples at your farmers’ market or grocery store.  Avoid overly sweet apples or those that tend towards softness or mealiness, such as Red Delicious apples.

You can melt store-bought caramels for use in caramel apples, but making your own sauce is easy and oh-so delicious.

Pro Tips for Picking the Best Apple

Choose smaller apples if you can find them. The really big apples look impressive when they are first coated in caramel, but the smaller ones give you a better ration of apple to sweet topping.

For the sake of appearance, choose apples that are as perfectly round as possible with an even bottom. This will help them sit nicely on a platter and they won’t topple over into each other.

Choose apples that are firm with no spots. If they have a waxy coating, be sure to wash that off before using.