Apples are one of the most popular and beloved fruits, and for good reason. With thousands of different varieties grown worldwide, apples offer something for everyone. Two of the most iconic and popular apple varieties are Red Delicious and Golden Delicious. These sister cultivars share many similarities but also have distinct differences that make each one unique. This comprehensive guide will compare and contrast Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples to help you decide which variety best suits your preferences.
An Overview of Red Delicious and Golden Delicious Apples
Red Delicious and Golden Delicious belong to the “Delicious” family of apple cultivars. They originated as chance seedlings on Iowa farms in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The original Red Delicious tree was discovered on the farm of Jesse Hiatt in Peru, Iowa in the 1870s. It quickly became popular for its striking red color and sweet flavor. The Golden Delicious was later discovered as a mutant limb on a Red Delicious apple tree on the farm of Anderson Mullins in Clay County, West Virginia in the early 1900s.
Both Red and Golden Delicious apples are grown worldwide, especially across the United States, China, Turkey, Italy and Chile. The top US states for Delicious apple production are Washington, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania and California.
Red and Golden Delicious apples are available year-round, but the peak season is September through November. thanks to controlled atmosphere storage that regulates temperature, humidity and gases. This storage technology allows crisp, fresh-tasting Delicious apples to be enjoyed 12 months a year.
Appearance, Size and Shape
Red and Golden Delicious share a classic apple shape but differ significantly in color.
- Vibrant, deep red skin covering most of the apple.
- Oblong, conical shape that tapers at the blossom end.
- Medium to large size, averaging 7-8 cm in diameter.
- Pale greenish-yellow to golden yellow skin.
- Round, globular shape with flattened base.
- Medium to large size, 5-8 cm in diameter.
The vibrant red color of Red Delicious versus the pale yellow of Golden Delicious is the most obvious distinguishing feature. Red Delicious also tends to be slightly more elongated while Golden Delicious is rounder. However, size can vary significantly depending on growing conditions.
Beneath the skin, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious offer similar crisp, juicy flesh but some notable variations:
- Bright white flesh occasionally stained with red streaks.
- Dense, crunchy texture.
- Juicy and mildly sweet flavor.
- Prone to mealiness if over-mature.
- Pale cream colored flesh.
- Very crisp, juicy texture.
- Sweet yet mellow flavor.
- Slow to brown when cut.
While both are crisp apples, Golden Delicious tends to have a tender, softer crunch compared to the dense firmness of Red Delicious. The flavor also differs, with Red Delicious being mildly sweet and Golden Delicious being a perfect balance of sweet and mellow tartness.
Both varieties provide an array of vitamins, minerals and important nutrients:
| Nutrient | Red Delicious (1 medium) | Golden Delicious (1 medium) |
| Calories | 81 | 77 |
| Carbs | 22 g | 20 g |
| Fiber | 3.7 g | 3.1 g |
| Vitamin C | 8.4 mg | 9.8 mg |
| Potassium | 195 mg | 170 mg |
The two varieties are very similar nutritionally but Golden Delicious contains slightly more Vitamin C. Overall, apples offer a nutritious snack or addition to any diet.
The crisp texture and balanced flavor of Red and Golden Delicious makes them extremely versatile:
- Eaten raw as a fresh snack
- Sliced on sandwiches and burgers
- Added to salads, wraps, tacos and grain bowls
- Baked into pies, tarts, muffins and other desserts
- Used to make applesauce, juice, cider, jam and jelly
- Dried into apple chips and rings
- Infused into tea, cocktails and mocktails
Both varieties work beautifully for any raw application. Golden Delicious is favored for baking due to its heat resistance and sweet-tart flavor. Red Delicious softens more when cooked.
Proper storage is key to preserving texture and freshness:
- Store unwashed apples in a perforated plastic bag in the fridge.
- Keep away from foods with strong odors.
- Use within 2-3 weeks for best quality.
- To extend shelf life, store in a root cellar or cool basement away from sunlight.
Red Delicious tend to have a shorter shelf life than Golden Delicious. Avoid leaving apples at room temperature, which hastens spoilage.
Use these tips for selecting fresh, crisp Red or Golden Delicious apples:
- Look for firm apples without soft spots or wrinkling.
- Opt for vibrant red (Red Delicious) or yellow-green (Golden) skin.
- Avoid apples with bruises or puncture marks.
- Pick apples by the stem rather than grasping the body.
- For Red Delicious, greener stripes indicate less sweet flavor.
- Golden Delicious should feel heavy for their size.
- Ask growers about their harvest dates and taste samples.
Whether picking apples yourself or buying them, follow these guidelines to get the best quality fruits.
As two of the most commercial varieties, Red and Golden Delicious have an affordable price point:
- Red Delicious: $1 – $1.50 per pound
- Golden Delicious: $1.25 – $1.75 per pound
Pricing can vary based on your region, season, organic certification and where you purchase them. Buying direct from orchards in autumn offers the best value.
Red Delicious vs. Golden Delicious: Key Differences
| Factor | Red Delicious | Golden Delicious |
| Color | Deep red | Yellow-green to golden |
| Shape | Oblong, conical | Round, globular |
| Texture | Very crisp, dense | Crisp, tender-crisp |
| Flavor | Mildly sweet | Sweet, slightly tart |
| Best Use | Raw, added to salads | Baking, sauces |
| Shelf Life | Shorter | Longer |
While the two share the Delicious name and many attributes, from color to preferred use, the varieties differ in several notable ways.
Which is Better?
The better apple comes down to personal preference:
For Red Delicious fans:
- Striking red color
- Super crisp, juicy bite
- Mild sweetness
- Holds shape when sliced
For Golden Delicious fans:
- Bright, cheery yellow color
- Tender crisp texture
- Sweet-tart taste
- Excellent for baking
Both offer classic apple flavor and satisfaction. Try each fresh to determine your favorite. Mixing several varieties also adds beautiful color and texture.
Beyond the original Red and Golden Delicious, new genetic strains have emerged:
Red Delicious varieties:
- Scarlet Delicious – Deep crimson red
- Richared Delicious – Firm, intense red skin
- Starkrimson Delicious – Sweet-tart, aromatic
Golden Delicious varieties:
- Gold Rush – Dense, sweet-tart yellow flesh
- Golden Supreme – Very crisp, rust resistant
- Smoothee Golden Delicious – Low acidity, super smooth
Sampling different strains provides fun apple taste-testing opportunities.
Home gardeners can grow their own Delicious apple trees:
- Plant in early spring in full sun (6+ hours).
- Space standard trees 25-30 ft apart, dwarfs 15-20 ft.
- Plant in well-draining soil, avoid wet areas.
- Fertilize in spring and water regularly until established.
- Prune annually for shape and air circulation.
- Harvest in autumn when apples detach easily from branches.
- Enjoy fresh or store properly in cool cellar.
With ample space and sunlight, both Red and Golden Delicious can thrive in a backyard orchard.
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Get answers to the most frequently asked questions about Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples:
1. Which is sweeter, Red or Golden Delicious apples?
Golden Delicious apples are generally sweeter than Red Delicious. They have a honey-like sweetness balanced with subtle tartness. Red Delicious tend to be mildly sweet with less complexity.
2. Are Red and Golden Delicious apples related?
Yes. Red Delicious and Golden Delicious are sibling cultivars that originated from chance seedlings discovered on separate Iowa farms in the late 1800s/early 1900s. They likely share parentage.
3. Why are Red Delicious apples losing popularity?
Many modern Red Delicious apples lack flavor and texture, associated instead with mealy, bland qualities. However, well-grown heirloom varieties offer excellent sweet flavor and firm crispness. Seek out heirloom Red Delicious or try Scarlet or Richared strains.
4. Can you bake with Red Delicious apples?
Yes, Red Delicious apples can be baked but may better in combination with firmer apples like Granny Smith. Their softer flesh can turn mealy more easily. Reduce baking time and add lemon juice to compensate. Goldens are better for baking.
5. Are Delicious apples good for juicing?
Both Red and Golden Delicious yield an excellent sweet apple juice. Goldens offer the best depth of flavor. Blend with tart apples like Granny Smith for balance. Avoid mealy Red Delicious specimens. Use ripe, mature apples and filter pulp for clearest results.
6. How long do Red and Golden Delicious apples last?
Properly stored, Red Delicious last 2-3 weeks in the fridge while Golden Delicious can go up to 8 weeks. Keep refrigerated in plastic bags away from strong odors. For longest shelf life, store in a cool root cellar away from light. Avoid leaving at room temperature.
The Final Word
Red and Golden Delicious offer the quintessential apple experience every crisp bite. Both varieties have earned popularity and commercial success for good reason – their timeless, satisfying flavor and texture when ripe. Choosing between them comes down to personal color, shape and taste preferences. Sample each fresh to pick your perfect Delicious apple match.