Emblematic of autumn, apples start coming into season in mid-September, and although they’ve become a year-round fruit for most of us, they are best around this time of summer changing into fall (and through the winter). Many grocery stores now stock several varieties of apples, even beyond the familiar Gala, Red Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith, et al, but you’re likely to find even more interesting specimens at farmer’s markets. There are over 2,500 types of apples grown in the US alone, and there’s been great interest in bringing back heirloom apple varieties from the early days of our culinary history.
When using apples in savory dishes, you can either cook them to varying degrees of softness so they meld more into the other ingredients, or leave them raw to provide a sweet, tangy, crunchy counterpoint (as in gremolata or slaw). You can slip raw apple slices onto sandwiches in lieu of lettuce, or mix them into salad (don’t forget chicken salad, and even tuna), and toss chopped apples in with whatever root vegetables you’re roasting. They add a lovely sweet spark, not to mention extra nutrition, to all sorts of meals. Working them into your repertoire is easy, too.
Steps to using apples in savory dishes
1. Choose the right apple for the dish. Flavor is important, of course—apples range from super tart Granny Smiths to honey-sweet Braeburns and Ambrosias—but if you’re cooking your apples, it’s important to consider their texture too. If you want firmer, more discernible chunks in a cooked dish, be sure to choose a variety that holds up well, like Cortlands and Galas. If you’re indecisive, you can always use a mix of apples to get several different dimensions of the fruit in your finished dish!
2. When you’re ready to use them, clean them well. Conventional apples are perennially part of the so-called Dirty Dozen, or produce with high pesticide levels, so run them under water (while rubbing the surface of the fruit) for at least 30 seconds. If it makes you feel better, you can use a vinegar and baking soda solution or commercial wash, but water and mechanical action should do it. If your apples are coated in wax, rethink your life choices, while also scrubbing that film off with a brush. Naturally, organic apples are your best bet, but you should still clean them to be safe (because who knows how many hands have touched them).
3. It’s not necessary to peel your apples. You will want to remove the seeds and tough inner core, but this has nothing to do with poisonous compounds, and everything to do with the fact that these parts are just not very palatable. (However, you can also save your scraps and cook with apple cores.)
4. Prevent browning by sprinkling your apples with lemon juice. Or don’t! Although your apples will start to brown once cut open, in cooked dishes that won’t be a concern (and it’s only aesthetic anyway), so go ahead and skip the citrus. If you’re using apples raw and want to preserve their color a little longer after slicing or dicing, use the juice, but be aware that it will (no surprise) affect the flavor.
5. Cut your apples on the chunkier side if they’ll be cooked. Otherwise, they might disappear. Even hardier varieties will collapse somewhat after long enough in the oven or sauté pan.
6. Store any leftover apples in a cool, dry place. Do that, and they’ll last a remarkably long time—so you can easily set yourself up for quick, healthy snacks and more apple-jacked meals whenever it strikes your fancy.
Put away your pie plate for just a little while, and try one of these savory apple recipes to welcome fall.
Pork chops go Gallic in this homey dish that’s particularly perfect for fall. Sautéed apples join bacon, white wine, cream, and mustard for a sensational sauce. If you don’t eat pork but do eat chicken, try the French classic Poulet Vallée d’Auge, with very similar flavors. And to up the apple ante, you can use Calvados apple brandy in place of the Cognac or Armagnac in this recipe. Get our Pork Chops with Apples and Mustard Sauce recipe.
Sauerkraut and apples beautifully demonstrate the “opposites attract” theory: the one’s sweet complements the other’s sour, and vice versa. This casserole adds kielbasa for heartiness (you can substitute your favorite sausage, like chicken-apple, or even go meatless), and although it’s sliced potatoes shingling the one-pot meal here, you could overlap sliced apples on top instead. (And if you really can’t enough of them together, try making this red cabbage kraut with apples and cloves and then using it in this dish.) Get the recipe.
Sheet pan dinners are wonderful in every way—chop up your ingredients (here, chicken thighs, apples, and vegetables), toss everything with your seasoning (classic lemon, garlic, and thyme in this case), and pop it in the oven to roast until crispy, juicy, and caramelized. We’re also eyeing this rosemary-balsamic sheet pan chicken with apples and bacon, but you can customize to your heart’s content. Foil-lined pans make clean up easy too. Serve with simple mashed potatoes or wild rice on the side. Get the recipe.
You may have put apples in your stuffing, but have you ever stuffed the apples themselves? Clearly, whether you try them on the grill, with a vegan walnut-herb stuffing, or with goat cheese and bacon, it’s a great idea. This version uses a pork and breadcrumb stuffing with sage and onions, and would obviously be great at Thanksgiving, but also makes a nice meal by itself, maybe with a salad on the side. It’s basically the autumn answer to the stuffed tomatoes of summer. Get the recipe.
Apples and cheese get along famously, so it’s no wonder you can find tons of grilled cheese recipes containing the fruit (like a version with caramelized onions and tart green apples, one with brie and roasted chicken in addition to the apples, or an apple, ham, and cheddar melt), but this open-faced version lets you really appreciate the beauty of the pairing. Gooey, nutty smoked gouda pairs perfectly with the sweet apples and honey, and the hit of extra salt makes everything more piquant. Leave off the bacon if you must, but don’t skip the fresh thyme if you can help it. Get the recipe.
This Persian dish has everything you love about beef stew in general (mainly, tender hunks of meat and thick, savory sauce), but dried apricots and fresh apples take the place of carrots and potatoes—which the French happen to call pommes de terre, or apples from the earth, in case that makes you feel any less hesitant about adding fruit to stew. Make sure you use apples that retain their shape during cooking, and cut them into large chunks so they don’t disintegrate. Turmeric, cinnamon, rose petals, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves lend a gorgeous warm fragrance to this delicious dish. Get the recipe.
Fish with apples isn’t something you see too often, but it makes perfect sense. A pan sauce of apple cider and bourbon is a great contrast to meaty salmon, and would be good served with a simple warm apple slaw (just skip the kielbasa—and the bacon, if you wish). This is how pescatarians do fall. Get the recipe.
For a cold soup you can enjoy before summer’s over, try this intriguing ajo blanco that adds apples to the classic almond and garlic formula, but when the nights get chillier, tuck into this curried cauliflower and apple soup from Daniel Boulud. The chef suggests adding shrimp to make it more of a meal, but we also like the idea of toasting slices of our Apple and Cheddar Quick Bread and serving them on the side. Get the recipe.
And now for something completely different: apple curry! This vegan Sri Lankan dish lets the apples shine, and perks them up with mustard seeds, bay leaves, jalapeños or serranos, dried chiles, curry powder, and garlic. It’s really spicy, but brown sugar and coconut milk smooth out a little of the spikiness, and using apple juice or apple cider in place of water is inspired. You’ll actually be better off using slightly unripe apples here, and can choose to leave in some of the core to help the apple pieces hold together. Get the recipe.
Apples are great on-the-go food and we’ve all grabbed one for breakfast at some point, but if you’ve got more time in the morning, try making these grilled breakfast sandwiches with maple-glazed breakfast sausage patties (the apple slices get the same treatment). Sharp cheddar cheese caps it off, and toasty English muffins hold it all together. Honestly, these are great for lunch or dinner too, or even a midnight snack if you need one. Get our Apple and Cheddar Breakfast-Sausage Sandwich recipe.
Apples on pizza may be old hat by now, but that doesn’t make the phenomenon any less tasty. Add bacon and blue cheese and you have a flawless flavor combo, but this version also adds roasted garlic and coats the apples in maple syrup for something extra special. Bringing caramelized onions to the mix would amp up the sweet, savory, melty goodness even further, but maybe that would push it over the top? The only way to know is to try it! Get the recipe.
Related Video: How to Make Skillet Apple Chicken Thighs
Header image courtesy of Half Baked Harvest.