Empire vs Red Delicious Apples: The Ultimate Comparison


As a Certified Health Coach specializing in nutrition, many clients ask me about the types of apples. The stores have a variety including Empire and Red Delicious. Many people want to know how Empire and Red Delicious compare to each other.

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 thorough look at the differences in origin, taste, cooking, storing and popularity. In addition, I’ll list the pros and cons of each apple to help you make a decision to choose one or both.

Empire Apples vs Red Delicious Apples

What 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.

They 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.

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 while they are mostly locally grown and consumed, they are still one of the best 10 American apples.

When are Empire apples in season? Their availability is September through August.

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 them more commercially successful.  

This variety 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 1. 

It has become an essential commercial apple variety, especially in North America 2. Unfortunately, the flavor doesn’t commensurate with its visual appeal.

empire apples vs red delicious apples

Pros and Cons

Pros of Empire Apples

  • Empire are easy to grow. They benefit growers since they can be easily maintained and have sturdy well-formed trees 3. The trees produce visually appealing apples and have a high yield of crops.
  • They can resist pre-harvest fruit drop and have a low likelihood of developing fireblight.
  • 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.
  • Excellent for salads, sauces and baking. Don’t hesitate to use them in apple pies. They can be roasted, baked or sautéed.
  • They maintain their freshness through freezing. They’ll not lose their freshness in cold temperatures.

Cons of Empire Apples

  • Localized production. They account for about 60% of the apple exports of New York State.

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.
  •  This variety is 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 4. 
  • They are available year-round, with a peak season in the early fall (October through September).
  • They are high in antioxidants and nutrients. Red Delicious apples have more antioxidants in the skin than other apple varieties.
  • They can be versatile as part of a showpiece. They 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.
  • They are 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 apples may no longer have the conical characteristics which consumers associate with them.

Nutrient Comparison 

The following table compares the nutrients of Empire apples and Red Delicious apples:

  Empire Apples (100 g) Red Delicious Apples (100 g)
Calories 52 56
Carbohydrates 14.3 g 14.8 g
Protein 0.32 g 0.19 g
Total Fat 0.19 g  0.21 g
Fiber 2.6 g 2.3 g
Sugar 10.4 g 12.2 g
Vitamin C 2.5 mg  2.7 mg 
Potassium 110 mg 113 mg
Calcium 6 mg 5 mg
Magnesium 4.1 mg  4.7 mg
Phosphorus 9 mg  9 mg
Zinc 0.02 mg  0.02 mg
Iron 0.1 mg 0.1 mg
Copper 0.02 mg  0.02 mg
Thiamin 0.01 mg  0.009 mg
Riboflavin 0.07 mg  0.06 mg
Niacin 0.09 mg  0.09 mg
B6 0.019 mg  0.02 mg

Nutrient Resources 5 6

Examining the table above indicates both apple varieties have a similar number of nutrients. Many people might ask, which is healthier?

Red Delicious apples are better due to their higher percentages of antioxidants. Red Delicious contains 113% more flavonoids per 100 grams than Empire apples. Red Delicious contains 74% more phenolics per 100 grams than Empire apples. Both apples contain a similar number of vitamins and minerals.

Other than the antioxidants, the differences in most of the nutrients are small. Therefore, both apples are a healthy choice.

Antioxidants

The amounts of each nutrient listed in the table above may not look impressive compared to some other foods. Therefore, you may ask, why are apples considered so healthy to eat?

Apples are high in a variety of antioxidants. Apples have been shown in studies to be associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease.

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

Red Delicious apples have a high level of antioxidants compared to other apple varieties. The following graphs below indicate them to be second among 13 apple varieties in flavonoids and phenolics.

The total flavonoid and phenolic content of apple varieties including Red Delicious and Empire apples.
The total flavonoid and phenolic content of apple varieties including Red Delicious and Empire apples 7

Empire apples contain fewer antioxidants although they have a good number and are beneficial.

To take full advantage of both apples’ vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, be sure to eat the peel and flesh. Research has shown the apple peel to contain a good amount of the apple’s nutrients.

In addition, the skin contains half the fiber. Therefore, it’s wise to leave the skin on, whether eating them whole or adding them to smoothies.

Taste, Texture and Color

How a food taste can sway a person’s decision about which one to choose. Regardless of antioxidants or nutrients, if someone doesn’t like the taste, they’ll probably leave it on the shelf.

Therefore, let’s compare the taste and texture of both varieties.

Empire apples have a sweet-tart blend while Red Delicious apples are milder with a hint of acidity and notes like an over-ripe melon.The skin on a Red Delicious apple is tougher and thicker than Empire’s softer skin. The flesh of a Red Delicious is slightly crispy and juicy. The flesh of an Empire apple is crispier and juicy.

Red Delicious apples used to taste better until selective breeding took its toll on the popular apple. By prioritizing aesthetics, apple growers have slowly changed their taste and skin. 

They used to be the most popular apple at one time but is losing its popularity. This is probably because it’s taste is being outshined by other apples. 

I wanted to get the opinion of real people like you and me. Therefore, I wanted to conduct my own research and contacted my clients, readers and members of food groups I belong to. I asked, what tastes better, Empire apples or Red Delicious?

  • 51% said they preferred the taste of Empire.
  • 41% said they preferred the taste of Red Delicious.
  • 8% said they had no preference, or it depended on their mood.

In the battle of taste, Empire tastes better and was the winner in the poll.

Photo comparison of empire and red delicious apples.
Photo comparison of Empire (on left) and Red Delicious apples (on right).

Color

A Red Delicious apple skin has a dark and intense crimson color. It is redder than most apples and is easy to spot in the apple area of the market because it’s the reddest. The flesh is a creamy white.

An Empire apple skin has a crimson to brick red blush with areas of yellow-green. Most of the apples are half red and half yellow-green. The flesh is white to ivory.

Baking & Cooking

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

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.

Red Delicious apples are not good for pies because their flesh turns mushy when baked. Apples good for a pie should taste between sweet and tart and not turn mushy when baked.

Empire apples are good for the following:

  • Making salads
  • Apple pie
  • Baking
  • Apple sauce
  • Eating whole
  • Smoothies

The flesh holds together well and doesn’t turn too mushy which is ideal for baking. They are juicy, crunchy and sweet enough for salads and eating whole.

Red Delicious apples are good for the following:

  • Uncooked dishes like salads
  • Sandwiches
  • Burgers
  • Juices
  • Smoothies

Which Cost More?

Unless you hit the lottery recently, I’m sure the cost of food matters to most people. This is especially true with the cost of everything going up lately.

Let’s take a close look at which one is better for the price.

Empire apples cost 25% more than Red Delicious apples per pound. Red Delicious average cost per pound is $1.66 and the average price for Empire per pound is $2.08.

To conduct my own research, I checked two different supermarkets located in my area. Both supermarkets are on different levels of pricing. Walmart is the most economical and Shoprite being a little more expensive.

Here are my findings:

Walmart:

  • Red Delicious apples cost $1.34 per pound
  • Empire apples cost $1.67 per pound

Shoprite:

  • Red Delicious apples cost $1.99 per pound
  • Empire apples cost $2.49 per pound
shopping for red delicious apples
Shopping for Red Delicious apples.

Storage

The best apples for storing a longer time are ones more tart and thick-skinned 8.

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.

Empire apples should be stored in the refrigerator crisper container between 30-35 degrees Fahrenheit. 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.

Even though apples don’t continue ripening after being picked, 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.

Health Benefits

This section will examine the health benefits gained from the nutrients and antioxidants contained in both apples.

Antioxidants

Red Delicious apples have more antioxidants than Empire. This is what gives them their edge in the battle of healthiness. Why are antioxidants so important? They help fight disease by preventing and repairing stress from oxidation 9. 

During oxidation, cells become damaged and turns into free radicals. Free radicals will cause more damage to cells. The more damage to your body’s tissue can lead to a number of diseases like the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Cancer

One of the ways to battle free radicals and oxidative stress is to increase the number of antioxidants. Many physicians use them for treatments of stroke and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimers.

Of all the foods high in antioxidants berries are on the top of the fruit category. Blueberries top the list of fruits and berries. Red Delicious apples made number twelve. The USDA tested over 100 foods from all categories.

The following is the top 20 foods highest in antioxidants according to the USDA:

  1. Small red beans
  2. Wild blueberries
  3. Red kidney beans
  4. Pinto beans
  5. Cultivated blueberries
  6. Cranberries
  7. Artichokes
  8. Blackberries
  9. Prunes
  10. Raspberries
  11. Strawberries
  12. Red Delicious apples
  13. Granny Smith apples
  14. Pecans
  15. Sweet cherries
  16. Black plums
  17. Russet potatoes
  18. Black beans
  19. Plums
  20. Gala apples

Potassium

  • Red Delicious apples contain 113 mg of potassium per 100 grams.
  • Empire apples contain 110 mg of potassium per 100 grams.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 10. Potassium helps reduce the sodium in the body.

Potassium helps the body reduce excess fluid therefore reducing blood pressure 11.

Some medical experts recommend the potassium to sodium ratio of 4:1. Consuming not enough potassium or too much sodium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 12.

Fiber

  • Red Delicious apples contain 2.3 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
  • Empire apples contain 2.6 grams of fiber per 100 grams.

Fiber is helpful for many reasons 13. Fiber is known for the following:

  • Manage the blood glucose levels which helps decrease the risk of diabetes.
  • Helps avoid constipation and have a more regular stool.
  • Help overall digestive health.
  • Aids greatly in weight management because it allows you to feel full faster and eat less. 

Additional Article Resources 14 15 16

Read More Apple Articles!

Fuji vs. Gala Apples – A Complete Comparison

Gala Vs Empire Apples – The Differences

Fuji Apple vs McIntosh – What’s The Difference?

A List of the 15 Sweetest Apples

A Guide to Choosing Apples

Can Bananas and Apples be Stored Together?

 

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. Washington Apple Commission: Apple Varieties[]
  2. North Carolina State Extension: Malus domestic ‘Red Delicious’[]
  3. Washington State University: Red Delicious[]
  4. Cornell University: Apple expert explains the history of Gala vs. Red Delicious plus what to expect from the 2018 season[]
  5. USDA: Apples, red delicious, with skin, raw[]
  6. USDA: Empire Apples. Empire[]
  7. Nutrition Journal: Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits[]
  8. University of California: Apples: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve, and Enjoy[]
  9. FDA: Can Antioxidant Foods Forestall Aging?[]
  10. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  11. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  12. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  13. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mechanisms linking dietary fiber, gut microbiota and colon cancer prevention[]
  14. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Antioxidant activity of apple peels[]
  15. Nature: Antioxidant activity of fresh apples[]
  16. UCHealth: Antioxidants of Apples[]

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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