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How to fry apples

Classic fried apples are a basic southern staple. Don’t get yours from a can–make ’em yourself with this easy version. Use a tangy or tart cooking apple for the best results. 

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a bowl of fried apples on a table

If I had to guess, you probably don’t think of frying apples as a side dish with dinner but they are a delicious option!

They add the perfect bit of acidic tang to pork and fried chicken dishes, and they are a breakfast staple piled on a buttermilk biscuit.

What types of apples make the best southern-style fried apples?

You can go a variety of different directions here, but I tend to lean toward granny smith and pink lady apples. They are firm and tart and will hold up well through frying.

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    You can certainly use other varieties such as McIntosh apples. Just know that the sweeter and softer the apple, the quicker it will break down in the cooking process.

    This will leave you with a mushier finished product. 

    Should you peel the apples?

    Yes you should peel them. The peel does not cook down the way the rest of the apple does.

    I know it sounds like a lot of work but it won’t take long. If you are making a large batch or peeling apples frequently for one reason or another.

    I suggest using an apple peeler to save some time. 

    What are fried apples fried in?

    The word “fried” is misleading here. Making these easy fried apples does not require a deep fryer or anything of the sort.

    All you need is a large pan and a bit of butter. Some choose to use a combination of avocado oil and butter but the choice is yours. The apples are sauteed in the cooking fat until tender. 

    How do you know when fried apples are ready? Should they be soft?

    You will know your southern fried apples are done when they are tender but not yet mushy. You aren’t trying to make applesauce here, so avoid overcooking and over-stirring.

    If you start to see the apples fall apart stop stirring and turn off the heat.

    melted butter in a skillet
    a skillet of sliced apples
    apple slices in a skillet with sugar poured on top
    a skillet of apples that have been fried

    How to sweeten fried apples

    While you can opt out of adding a sweetener to your fried apples, I think it greatly enhances the flavor. I suggest using organic cane sugar, but white or light brown sugar will do as well.

    In most cases, I am a fan of swapping refined sugar for less inflammatory options such as coconut sugar, maple sugar or even a bit of honey is great. I find coconut sugar a bit bitter though–it’s not my favorite.

    Handy tip: Don’t burn your apples

    Some varieties of apples are naturally juicy and release their liquid quickly when cooked. Others are drier and may not break down as fast. To prevent burning and scorching, try adding 1/4 cup of water to your apples in the first 5 minutes of cooking. It will simmer away later.

    Do fried classic apples need a thickener?

    I get it. You are looking for an ooey-gooey, delicious dish. Don’t worry. You don’t have to take any extra measures to get there.

    It might be tempting to add cornstarch or arrowroot to these easy fried apples but it’s not necessary.

    Have a little patience and watch as the apples release their juices and as that juice thickens naturally during the cooking process. 

    Fried apples do not have a thick sauce like canned pie filling does so if that’s what you’re looking for.

    Spices you can add to fried apples

    In the south, you may or may not find fried apples with spices in them. In restaurants they usually have some cinnamon but at home we fry ours with just some sugar.

    If you want to add spices, my favorite is just a dash of cinnamon. We aren’t baking a pie here so no apple pie spice or any of that jazz.

    Just let the clean flavor of the apples shine through.

    a close up of cooked fried apples

    What do you do with fried apples?

    One great thing about these easy apples is how versatile they are. From a delicious side to a dessert topping to a breakfast treat you won’t run out of ways to use them. Here come some of my favorites. 

    How to store classic fried apples

    Fried apples are best when served right away. If you find yourself with a need to save them for later, seal them in an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

    I strongly recommend against storing them in the freezer. The apples will release water, ending you with a watery mess when you thaw them out.  

    a bowl of fried apples on a table

    How to fry apples

    Fried apples are a southern classic. Pair them with biscuits for breakfast or with dinner.
    Prep Time 10 minutes
    Cook Time 20 minutes
    Total Time 30 minutes
    Servings 4
    Author Rachel Ballard

    Ingredients
      

    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 tablespoon avocado oil canola or vegetable will substitute
    • 6 apples Granny Smith or Macintosh; peeled and cored and cut into 1/2 inch wedges
    • 2 tablespoons water optional, if apples are not juicy; see note 1
    • 1/3 cup sugar organic cane sugar, coconut sugar, or half honey half sugar may substitute
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon optional

    Instructions
     

    • Heat the oil and butter in a medium skillet until the butter starts to melt and bubble.
    • Add the apples and toss them gently to coat. Cook on medium-high about 5 minutes.
    • Add the water if using and cook the apples 5 minutes more, stirring once.
    • Add the sugar and stir gently. Reduce heat to low.
    • Simmer the apples gently until they are soft. This may take 15 minutes or so stirring gently every 5 minutes. If they look like they are drying out in the bottom, add another tablespoon or two of water.
    • Serve warm with biscuits for breakfast, or with dinner. They’re also good cold.

    Notes

    Note 1: Sometimes Granny Smiths apples and apples purchased in winter when they are out of season are not as juicy as they should be. If your apples are not juicy, add a couple of tablespoons of water in the beginning of the cook time to help prevent scorching. 

    Nutrition

    Calories: 263kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 1gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 26mgPotassium: 294mgFiber: 7gSugar: 45gVitamin A: 236IUVitamin C: 13mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 0.4mg
    Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
    Course Side Dish
    Cuisine American
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    how-to-fry-apples

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    About the Author

    Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.