Gala Vs Empire Apples – The Differences

Two of the most popular varieties are Gala apples and Empire apples, which have unique characteristics. Therefore, let’s examine their differences.

Empires are sweet and tart while Gala is sweet with no tartness. Gala’s texture is soft and crisp while Empire is hard and crisp. Gala is lighter with orange, pink and red while Empire is a deeper red with green spots. Empires are better for apple pie than Gala due to them holding together better when baked.

As a Certified Health Coach many clients ask me about food comparisons including apples. I purchase and consume an apple everyday. Therefore, I have researched this topic in the past and present. In this article I’ll examine their tastes, textures, color, nutrition, prices and what each one is good for. 

Empire apples on the left and gala on the right.
Empire apples on the left and gala on the right

Gala Apple Facts

According to the US Apple Association, the Gala apple is the most popular apple cultivar in the USA, and for a good reason ((Washington Apple Commission: Apple Varieties)). These versatile apples are perfect for snacking and cooking.

Gala apples are a cultivar invented by J.H. Kidd, who crossbred Kidd’s Orange Red apples and Golden delicious apples to create the very first Gala. These apples have a crisp texture and light, sweet flavor with an orange and red appearance.

Empire Apple Facts

Empire apples, named after the Empire State, New York, have a unique taste and texture ((Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Comparing apples to apples)). They’re the quintessential New York apple making up 60% of the state’s apple exports1. What are Empire apples? 

Empire apples are a hybrid cultivar created by researchers at Cornell University in the 1940s. These apples are a cross between Macintosh and Red Delicious apples. Empires are crisp and sweet with a hint of tartness. They have red and green-streaked skins with a white, dense interior. 

Gala vs Empire Apples: Taste, Texture and Colors

Although these apples are both popular cultivars, they have some essential differences which might make one or the other the better option for you. 

 Let’s examine the differences: 

 Gala ApplesEmpire Apples
TextureSoft, dense and crispHard and crisp
TasteSweet, no hint of tartnessBoth sweet and tart
ColorOrange, pink and redDeep red with green spots
NutrientsMore calories and calciumMore fiber and iron
Comparing the texture, taste, color and nutrients of Gala and Empire apples.

Gala Apples Texture

Gala apples have a crisp texture, although the water and fiber content can make them less crunchy than some other apples. They are dense with plenty of water contents giving them their fresh-tasting crunch.

Gala apples change in texture when they’re overripe or out of season ((Cornell University: Apple expert explains the history of Gala vs. Red Delicious plus what to expect from the 2018 season)). Sometimes, when the apples aren’t fresh, they may become grainy, bitter and softer. That’s why it’s essential only to purchase fresh, high-quality Gala apples. 

Empire Apples Texture

Empire apples are very crisp and rarely get soft. Their skins are a bit thicker than those of Gala apples, although they’re still thin enough to easily bite into. They don’t need peeling to enjoy their fantastic texture. 

Empire apples are dense and crunchy. Therefore, they don’t bruise easily, making them the perfect lunchbox variety of apples.

Gala Apples Taste

Ripe, in-season Gala apples have a mild sweet taste with floral notes. The taste doesn’t overpower other flavors. They apples don’t have any tartness since they’re low in acidity. 

Since they don’t overpower, Galas are popular for cooking or combining with other foods. Many people compare the taste to pears because they have a subtle taste with a unique texture2.

They have a very aromatic quality, often described as floral or honey-like. This gives them a unique and desirable flavor.

See how Empire compared to another famous apple in my article, Empire vs Red Delicious Apples: The Ultimate Comparison.

Empire Apples Taste

Empire apples combine sweetness and a low level of tartness for a uniquely complex taste. They have a touch of the tangy taste found in melons or pineapples. 

Their superb sweetness is compared to Red Delicious apples and their tartness to McIntosh apples. Most people compare the taste of Empire more to McIntosh. They have sweet skins easy to bite into.

My Poll and Taste Test at Home

I wanted to conduct original research and get the opinion of real people like you. Therefore, I contacted my clients, readers and members of food groups I belong to. I asked them which of the two apples they preferred.

  • 42% said they preferred the taste of Empire.
  • 41% said they preferred the taste of Gala.
  • 17% said they had no preference, or it depended on their mood.

I set up a blind test taste at home. Five people were given a full apple of each to bite into and an individual slice of each to taste again.

Three of the five, 60%, chose the Empire apple over the Gala. Therefore, Empire was the winner in my poll and blind taste test.

Gala Apples Color

Gala apples at my local supermarket.
Gala apples at my local supermarket

The delicate skins of Gala apples are usually yellow or orange with red or pink streaks. These apples should have little to no green color, which signifies they aren’t yet ripe. The skins are thin, which makes them very edible. 

Fresh, high-quality Gala apples won’t have any brown spots on them, also called russeting. 

Russeting is a quality to avoid in apples, so don’t purchase Gala apples with brown spots, especially if the russeting is around the apple’s stem. 

The inside of a Gala apple is usually cream-colored to yellow, and these apples brown rather quickly when they’re cut. 

Empire Apples Color

Empire apples have green to red skins with plenty of pink and red streaking. The red color is deep and dark, like its parent, the Red Delicious apple. Although it has characteristic bright green spots fading into pink and maroon. 

Inside the apple, the color is a very light white that resists browning after cutting it. 

Gala and Empire Apples Nutrition

The following table compares the nutrients of Gala and Empire Apples:

NutrientGala Apple
(1 medium apple)
Empire Apple
(1 medium apple)
Carbohydrates23 g22 g
Fiber3.2 g4.9 g
Sugar16 g16 g
Potassium163 mg169 mg
Calcium10.78 mg9.24 mg
Iron0.09 mg0.29 mg
Vitamin C4.8 mg4.8 mg
Comparing the nutrients of Empire and Gala apples.

Nutrient Sources (Nutrition Value: Apples, raw, with skin, gala))3

As you can see in the table above, there is not much difference between Gala and Empire apples.

Empire apples are better than Gala apples due to its greater number of fiber, potassium and less calories. Empire contains 230% approximately more iron than Gala apples. Empire has a crisper texture and more red color.

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. 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.

Gala vs Empire Apples for Baking and Cooking

When baking apples most people think of apple pie. A good apple pie filling should consist of apples with a tart and sweet taste. The filling should hold together and not turn too mushy. The wrong apples can ruin a good apple pie.

Empire apples are good for making apple pies due to its sweet and tart flavor which is needed for a good apple pie. The Empire apple holds together well when baked which is good for a pie filling.

Gala apples are not good for apple pie due to its sweet flavor and the flesh will break down too much from the high heat of the oven. Apple pie needs a sweet and tart flavor plus a flesh that will hold together better than Gala.

Empire apples are good for apple pies because they hold together well and have a sweet and tart taste. They are also good for juices, sauces, baking and salads.

Gala apples are good for apple crumble and apple sauce due to the flesh which will break down when being cooked or baked. They are a good addition to salads because they are not tart.

Gala vs Empire: Prices

Checking prices of apples at my local supermarket.
Checking prices of apples at my local supermarket

Both Empire and Gala apples cost about the same. But this depends on your local store.

To conduct more research I visited my local supermarket to check the prices of each apple. I found the following costs:

  • Empire apples:
    • $1.99 per pound
  • Gala apples:
    • $1.99 per pound

Both Empire and Gala apples cost were the same, $1.99 per pound. These prices were for non-organic varieties.

If you have any questions to ask me about this article don’t hesitate to comment below or email us. You can find an email on our contact page.

Read Next – More Apple Articles!

Fuji vs. Gala Apples – A Complete Comparison

Fuji Apple vs McIntosh – What’s The Difference?

A List of the Sweetest Apples

A Guide to Choosing Apples

Can Bananas and Apples be Stored Together?

  1. Wikipedia: Empire (apple) []
  2. NC State Extension: Malus domestic Gala []
  3. Nutrition Value: Empire apples by Meijer, Inc. []

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