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Most children will eat apples, even if they avoid all other fruit and veggies. This delicious fruit is available year-round, and although it’s usually eaten as a hand-held, raw snack, apples are versatile and ideal for meal prep. If you’re worried about the dreaded browning issue, read on to find out how to banish this problem forever.
How to Meal Prep Apples Without Browning
No meal prep is required to pack a whole apple as a handy snack. However, younger kids prefer their apples sliced, especially if you’ve packed some nut butter for dipping. Apple is also a great salad ingredient and makes a quick crumble, so it’s helpful to know how best to meal-prep apples.
Buy the Freshest
To have the most success and highest nutrient value when meal-prepping, choose the freshest, best-quality apples you can find. Tart apples tend to store longer: Granny Smith, Fuji, McIntosh, and Winesap all have thicker skins that protect them.
Apples need to be handled as gently as eggs. Although they won’t smash, dropping apples damages the skins and bruises the flesh, shortening their shelf life.
Store whole apples in the fridge’s crisper drawer for up to eight weeks. They should be wrapped in a loose – not airtight – plastic bag with a piece of paper towel to absorb moisture.
Apples naturally release ethylene gas as they ripen, ultimately causing the fruit to rot. For this reason, don’t store whole apples with any other fresh produce, as the gas will make them go bad.
Avoid storing apples at room temperature, as they will only last a week.
You can eat apples with the skin on, so it’s vital to wash them thoroughly, to remove any wax, pesticides, and dirt from handling.
- Before meal prep, place the apples in a basin of cool, clean water.
- Gently scrub the apples with a soft brush.
- Rinse the apples in lukewarm water and dry them with a paper towel.
Core and Slice
Decide how you want to chop or slice the apples depending on how you plan to use them. Use a sharp paring knife or coring device to remove the core.
- Cut chunky wedges for dipping in nut butter or hummus.
- For galettes or dehydrating apples, slice them with a mandolin into ½-inch slices.
- Dice apples for pie, crumble, or crisp.
I like chopping and freezing when I’m meal-prepping extra apples. I keep it on hand for a spontaneous dessert: I can whip up a crumble or crisp and transform an ordinary weeknight dinner into something special.
Treat the Apples for Browning
There are many ways to prevent apples from browning. Most of which use ingredients you’ll already have in your kitchen.
This natural preservative is commonly used when you’re canning fruit or veg. The powdered brand Fruit-Fresh also contains ascorbic acid and works well for stopping an apple from oxidizing. Here’s how to use it when meal-prepping large quantities of apples.
- Combine one teaspoon of citric acid for every four cups of water. Stir together.
- Soak the sliced apples for 10 minutes.
- Drain the apples in a colander and rinse to remove the acidic taste.
- Lay the apple pieces flat and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Your apples can now be stored.
Citrus and other acidic fruits contain citric acid, so you can use their juice to prevent browning. This method will keep your apples from browning for a few hours, so it is best done if you’re meal-prepping in the morning for lunch:
- For a small amount of apple, toss the slices in lemon juice.
- Soak a larger batch of apple pieces in ¼ cup of lemon juice and four cups of water. After 10 minutes, drain and rinse.
Some kids love the tang of lemon juice on their apple slices; my youngest complained about her apple tasting sour. I tried pineapple juice, which is yummy, and means the lunch box comes home empty.
If you don’t have lemon juice, you can grab a can of 7-Up or other lemon-lime-flavored soda instead. Soak as you would with lemon juice, but there is no need to rinse as the sweet soda flavor will probably be as appealing as the plain white apple slices.
This natural preservative was used in ancient Egyptian times and can still help to keep your apples from browning. Honey is acidic, despite the sweet taste.
- Combine one teaspoon of honey per cup of water.
- Soak your apple slices for five to 10 minutes.
- Rinse the apple thoroughly.
Salt is another ancient preservative, still used for ham and beef. It is the best method of stopping an apple from browning. Oddly enough, these may taste salty right after soaking, but the taste seems to disappear after a while.
- For every cup of water, add ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. Stir to dissolve.
- Soak the apple slices in the brine for 10 minutes.
- Rinse if preferred.
- Shake the apple pieces dry.
Once you’ve treated your apples for browning, you can store them airtight in the fridge for five to seven days.
You can also freeze apples, which will preserve them for several months. Store the apples airtight. Freezing does change the apples’ texture, so use frozen and defrosted apples for smoothies or for baking.
Another great storage method for apples is dehydration. Not only do dried apples last far longer than fresh, but they also take up much less space and can be flavored with spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. Dehydrated apples will last six months and up to a year if frozen. After treating the apples for browning, you can dehydrate them in a purpose-made device or even in an oven or air-fryer. Rehydrate apple slices in hot water or enjoy them dry.
7 Ways to Use Meal-Prepped Apples
There are multiple ways to use apples once you’ve taken the time to meal prep them. Apples go especially well with sweet, starchy veg, bacon, and cheese.
- Pack apple slices in a small container with a dip for lunchbox snacking.
- Make a batch of apple and cinnamon-baked oatmeal: this is a tasty make-ahead breakfast.
- Add grated apples to muffins, bread, and meatballs.
- Apples are delicious in salads. Add chopped apples to tuna salad, pasta salad, coleslaw, or chicken salad. (Keep the apple and dressing separate until serving, or eat within 24-36 hours.)
- Roast apples with pumpkin and sweet potatoes and serve with sausages.
- Apple adds sweetness and bulk to pumpkin or butternut soup.
- Even if you haven’t got the crunchiest, tangiest apples, they always make a good dessert: a buckle, cake, pie, or fritters.
Why Do Apples Go Brown?
I avoided meal-prepping apples for ages, as my family won’t touch a slice of apple that’s even remotely brown. I’ve tried various methods to keep apples fresh and crisp, and today I’ve shared the ones that mean a fridge full of apple-rich meals.
The scientific term for the unappetizing transformation of apples is enzymic browning. This is a chemical reaction that takes place when the inside of the apple is exposed to air. The nutritious phenols or antioxidants that make apples such a healthy fruit react with oxygen, and the enzyme phenolase turns the phenol into melanin, a brown pigment.
Can You Eat Brown Apples?
You can eat browned apple slices safely despite their appearance. However, enzymic browning can affect the taste and fragrance of the apple, making it less crisp and sweet.
Oxidization also impacts the nutrient level of the fruit: vitamin C and phenol antioxidants are lost the longer the apple is exposed to air, while dangerous free radicals develop.
How Can You Stop Apples From Browning?
The skin of an apple prevents the tender inside from enzymatic browning. You can also slow down or stop an apple from browning by using heat (e.g., baking) or acid (e.g., lemon juice), which prevents the enzyme from working. I’ll look at these methods in detail below.
Apples are packed with vitamins and are a healthy way for children to enjoy a sweet treat. Meal-prepping apples is much easier once you learn how to halt the unappetizing browning process, allowing you to have snacks, a salad ingredient, or a near-instant dessert on hand.
Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.