Empire vs Red Delicious Apples: A Complete Comparison

Red Delicious is one of the parents of the Empire apples. The Empire variety has been rising in popularity and can be found in supermarkets more often. Since they are related, can they be very different or are they the same? Let’s compare Empire and Red Delicious apples.

Empire apples are firmer and have a sweeter, tart taste. Red Delicious apples have a dark, intense crimson color and optimal shape which makes them more popular. Red Delicious is one of the most widely grown while Empire is grown and consumed more locally in the northeastern United States.

In this article, you’ll learn more about both options as we take a more thorough look at the differences in origin, taste and popularity of both apples. In addition, I’ll list the pros and cons of each apple to help you make a decision to choose one or both.

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Empire Apples vs Red Delicious Apples

What Are Empire Apples?

What kind of apples are Empire apples? Empire apples are the offspring of the Delicious and McIntosh varieties. They originated during the 1940s in the Cornell University laboratory located in New York State. Empire apples are grown in the northeastern United States.

What does an Empire apple taste like? Empire apples are sweet and have a crisp texture. They have a McIntosh flavor with a hint of melon, pineapple or elderflower flavor 1.

Empire Apples originated in a laboratory at Cornell University in New York state in the 1940s. The classic North American varieties, Delicious and McIntosh, are parents of the Empire Apples.

When cut, they stay white much longer than most apples. Empire is an ideal lunch box apple because it does not bruise easily.

Empire apples consist of 60% of apple exports from New York State, yet it only consists of only about 2% of American apple production nationwide. This means that while Empire apples are mostly locally grown and consumed, they are still one of the best 10 American apples.

When are Empire apples in Season? Empire apples are grown in the northeastern United States and their availability is September through August.

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What Are Red Delicious Apples?

Red Delicious is one of the most famous American apples and one of the most widely grown apple varieties. In the 1870s, they were discovered in Jesse Hiatt’s farm in Peru, Iowa. Their bright red color and ideal shape make it more commercially successful.  

What do Red Delicious apples taste like? Red Delicious has a sweet but very mild flavor, similar to a slightly overripe melon. The flesh of the Red Delicious is juicy, has a light crispness and the skin is tough.  

Red Delicious dominates American apple production, mostly taking place in Washington State. Red Delicious is “sport” of the original Delicious apple, the bright red color making it more commercially successful 2. 

It has become an essential commercial apple variety, especially in North America 3. Unfortunately, the flavor doesn’t commensurate with its visual appeal 4.

Pros and Cons Of Empire and Red Delicious Apples

Pros of Empire Apples

  • Empire apples are easy to grow. Empire apples benefit growers since they can be easily maintained and have sturdy well-formed trees 5. The trees produce visually appealing apples and have a high yield of crops. Empire apples can resist pre-harvest fruit drop and have a low likelihood of developing fireblight.
  • The classic Empire apple taste is juicy and has a sweet-tart blend. There’s undeniably a bonus of crispy, creamy white flesh.
  • The perfect lunch box apples. Every childs or parent’s favorite way of following the adage of “eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away.” Their size and low tendency to bruise make them a suitable snacking apple.
  • High in nutritional value. A great soluble and insoluble fiber source, proven to lower cholesterol and aid digestion, with approximately 70-80 calories per apple. Empire apples also have vitamins A and C.
  • Excellent for salads, sauces, and baking. Don’t hesitate to use them in apple pies. Empire apples can be roasted, baked or sautéed.
  • Maintain the Empire apples’ freshness through freezing. They’ll not lose their freshness in cold temperatures.

Cons of Empire Apples

  • Localized production. Empire accounts for about 60% of the apple exports of New York State, but nationally accounts for only about 2% of American apple production.

Pros of Red Delicious Apples

  • Red Delicious apples have a perfect deep red finish and conical appearance due to the cooler autumn climate in Washington State.
  • Red Delicious apples are resistant to fire blight and cedar apple rust. They are extensively used in breeding programs because of their attractive red and crisp flesh and valuable growing qualities 6. 
  • Red Delicious apples are available year-round, with a peak season in the early fall (October through September).
  • Red Delicious apples have a lot of dietary fiber and have vitamin C, with a small number of vitamin A and sodium and traces of calcium and iron. Additionally, Red Delicious apples have more antioxidants in the skin than other apple varieties.
  • They can be versatile as part of a showpiece. Red Delicious apples look great for a long time, so they’re ideal for holiday centerpieces and wreaths.

Cons of Red Delicious Apples

  • Over-breeding for visual appeal. Some enthusiasts believe in the development of highly-colored variants, the tasty flavor of the original Delicious was bred out.
  • Red Delicious is starting to decline in popularity. The lack of flavor may be one of the factors.
  • Red Delicious not grown in Washington State does not have the same red coloration level. Since growers then use some of the redder sports, some Red Delicious apples may no longer have the conical characteristics which consumers associate with them.
  • The best recipes to use Red Delicious apples are fresh preparations e.g. salads. Their juicy flesh will not stay in form in cooked food. Red Delicious can be used as a garnish on burgers and sandwiches. Since Red Delicious flesh breaks down quickly, it can be slow-cooked and puréed to make soups and sauces. 
  • Red Delicious apples can maintain their freshness in the refrigerator for a month.

Empire vs Red Delicious Apples: Nutritional Value

(One Cup)
Red Delicious
(One Cup)
Calories 57 64
Carbohydrates 15 g 15 g
Fiber 2.8 g 2.5 g
Sugar 11 g 11 g
Potassium 113 mg 113 mg
Vitamin C 2.5 mg 2.7 mg

As you can see in the table above, there is not much difference in nutritional value between the two apples 7. While apples have a great reputation for being good for you, you may be wondering why after looking at the table. 

The answer is in the apples’ skin which contains many antioxidants 8. In addition, the skin contains half the fiber. Therefore, it’s wise to leave the skin on the apple, whether eating them whole or adding them to smoothies.

In fact, the apple’s antioxidants are so powerful, scientists have calculated it’s equal to more than 1,500 milligrams of vitamin C.

Empire vs Red Delicious Apples: Baking & Cooking

A good apple pie filling should consist of apples tasting between sweet and tart. They should hold together and not turn all mush by releasing too much liquid when baked. Not all apples fulfill these requirements. Using the wrong apples can ruin a good apple pie.

Are Empire apples good for pies? Empire apples are good for pies. Their taste falls between sweet and tart required to make a good apple pie. The flesh of the Empire apple holds together and doesn’t turn mushy when baked.

Are Red Delicious apples good for pies? Red Delicious apples are not good for pies. Red Delicious taste too sweet and turn mushy when baked. Apples good for a pie should taste between sweet and tart and not turn to much when baked.

What are Empire apples good for? Empire apples are good for making salads, apple pie, baking, apple sauce and eating whole. The flesh of the Empire apple holds together and doesn’t turn too mushy which is ideal for baking. They are juicy, crunchy and sweet enough for salads and eating whole.

What are Red Delicious apples good for? Red Delicious apples are best for freshly prepared, uncooked dishes like salads. They make good garnishes for sandwiches and burgers. Red Delicious makes good juices and smoothies because of their sweeter taste.

Storing Empire and Red Delicious Apples

The best apples for storing a longer time are ones more tart and thick-skinned 9. Red Delicious is more sweeter and thin skinned but can still be stored 10. Therefore, what’s the best way to store Red Delicious apples?

The best way to store Red Delicious apples is keeping them at a cool temperature between 30-35 degrees Fahrenheit in a dark place. The refrigerator is the best place stored in the crisper drawer. The apples should be covered with a damp cloth or in a storage container with holes for venting.

If you have Empire apples, you may be wondering, how do I store my Empire apples?

Empire apples should be stored in the refrigerator crisper container. They should be kept away from other ethylene producing fruits and vegetables. It’s best to cover the apples with a damp paper towel or cloth. 

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Empire and Red Delicious Apples Ripening

When do Empire apples ripen? Empire apples ripen on the tree. Once harvested, Empire apples do not continue to ripen. 

When do Red Delicious apples ripen? Red Delicious apples ripen on the tree. The ripening process ends once the apple is picked off the tree.

Even though apples don’t continue ripening, they emit an ethylene gas which speeds up the process of them turning bad. For this reason, apples shouldn’t be stored in a closed paper bag or with other ethylene producing fruits or vegetables.

Which One Should You Choose?

Your choice of apple will likely depend on the occasion, the time of the year and recipes. Think about the kind of meals you cook most of the time.

Choose between taste and flavor, particularly since both of them have similar nutrients. On the other hand, some may say the Empire apples retain some flavor and visual appeal of the Red Delicious apples, making them an excellent choice.


Are Empire apples good for apple crisp? Empire apples are good for apple crisp because they taste sweet with some tart. Apples used for a good apple crisp should be a combination of sweet and tart apples or apples between sweet and tart.

Why Are Red Delicious Apples So Bad? Red Delicious apples are not bad. Although they are not good for baking or pies, they are nutritious and contain a good number of antioxidants and fiber.

Wrapping Up The Empire and Red Delicious

Empire and Red Delicious apples are merely two out of hundreds of apple varieties out there. Nothing can become a suitable apple substitute as they remain a necessary part of many people’s lives.

Select your favorite based on what you need to use it for and you won’t be disappointed. 

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Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Comparing apples to apples[]
  2. Washington Apple Commission: Apple Varieties[]
  3. North Carolina State Extension: Malus domestic ‘Red Delicious’[]
  4. Huffpost: This Is Why Red Delicious Apples Suck So Hard[]
  5. Washington State University: Red Delicious[]
  6. Cornell University: Apple expert explains the history of Gala vs. Red Delicious plus what to expect from the 2018 season[]
  7. Nutrition Value: Apples, red delicious[]
  8. Nutrition Value: Apples, empire[]
  9. University of California: Apples: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy[]
  10. University of California: Postharvest Center: Apple, Red Delicious[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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