It’s no secret that when you cut an apple, they start to turn brown on the surface. This is due to oxidation. After testing several methods to prevent apples from immediately changing color, the best solution may surprise you!
Table of Contents
- Why do apples brown once cut?
- How to keep sliced apples from browning
- Watch how to pick, cut, core, and more!
- Apple treatments
- Water Treatment
- Acidulated water treatment
- Honey water treatment
- Salt water treatment
- The best method to keep apples from turning brown after cutting them
- Apple recipes to try
- How to Keep Sliced Apples from Turning Brown Recipe
A fresh apple is a delicious and healthy snack. It’s also a popular fruit to slice or dice and add to baked goods like cakes, pies, and muffins. When cutting an apple, a dark hue usually appears on the white flesh. It’s common to experience this when making an apple pie. The color change can happen within 15 minutes!
Apple slices that have turned brown on the surface are safe to eat. However, it’s unattractive, especially when the fruit is the star of the dish. If you’re not eating or using the apples right away, there are a few simple tricks to slow down and reduce color change. Below are the results of the four tested methods: plain water, acidulated water, honey water, and salt water.
Why do apples brown once cut?
The cell walls are ruptured when you cut the apple’s side, and an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase is released. When the flesh is exposed to oxygen, the enzyme reacts with polyphenols in the apple, causing a chemical reaction. The result is visible brown pigments called melanins. Browning cannot be reversed, but oxidation can be slowed.
How to keep sliced apples from browning
There are several ways to stop the oxidation process. You can create a protective barrier between the exposed flesh and the air or add an ingredient to slow down browning. After testing different levels of ingredients and soak times to reduce browning, I recommend these simple anti-browning methods:
- Submerge in water: Add cut apples to a bowl of cold water, then place a paper towel on top to reduce exposure to oxygen.
- Acidulated water: Combine 1 teaspoon of lemon juice with 1 cup of cold water. Submerge the apples for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse well.
- Sweetened water: Combine 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 cup of cold water, and stir to dissolve. Submerge the apples for 5 minutes, then drain and rinse well.
- Salted water: Combine ½ teaspoon salt with 1 cup cold water, and stir to dissolve. Submerge the apples for 10 minutes, then drain and rinse well.
Watch how to pick, cut, core, and more!
Several types of apples are available at the store, but I used a red apple to test the anti-browning methods for consistency. It’s prone to browning faster than other varieties due to its lower level of malic acid. I sliced them 1/2-inch thick for the tests.
I ensured a control, looked at the color change at room temperature for 24 hours, and refrigerated immediately after treatment for five days. Below are my findings.
Apples left on the counter at room temperature start to see a color change around the 15-minute mark. This simulates how long a home cook typically takes to prepare the ingredient for a recipe. After an hour, there was an intense, unappealing brown hue.
Even after storing in the refrigerator covered, the apples were unattractive. Unless you’re ready to eat for a snack with peanut butter (my kid’s favorite!), you’ll need another method to stop browning.
Covering the apples with tap water immediately after slicing greatly protects against oxidization. Pair that with placing a paper towel on top of the water, which prevents the slices from floating on the surface and coming into contact with the air.
I recommend doing this method when cutting a pound or more of apples. The water-covered apples also did well when stored in the refrigerator, compared to no treatment.
Acidulated water treatment
I tested levels from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in 1 cup of cold water, soaking for 5 minutes. The sour taste was highly noticeable with the increased amount. Although the ascorbic acid in the lemon acts as an antioxidant, and the citric acid in the juice creates a low pH environment to slow down enzyme activity, too much is not always better.
At 1 tablespoon, the apples softened too much and turned even more brown compared to the control. The cell walls were breaking down and getting mushy from too much acid. I found that just a tiny amount, 1 teaspoon was ideal for keeping the apple from browning and retaining texture.
Honey water treatment
You will love this method if you like a hint of sweet, floral taste to your apples. There is a peptide compound found in honey that deactivates the polyphenol oxidase enzyme to prevent browning. I tested 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey in 1 cup of cold water, soaking for 5 minutes.
The 1 tablespoon amount keeps the flesh brighter white, whereas double the amount, the golden hue starts to soak and transfer to the fruit. Honey is not cheap. I recommend using the lower amount for a more effective method.
Salt water treatment
Salt is a known preservative, so it made for an exciting choice to prevent browning. The sodium inhibits the activity of the browning enzyme, and it worked! I added a small amount, ½ teaspoon, to 1 cup of cold water. I soaked them for 5 to 10 minutes and found the longer time prevented browning longer.
Don’t soak longer than 10 minutes, or the apples will start to take on a briny flavor. Make sure to rinse and drain before storing in the refrigerator. This method was the best for keeping the apples freshest, with no noticeable flavor or texture change.
The best method to keep apples from turning brown after cutting them
For short-term storage (within 12 hours): Submerge in water with a paper towel on top. It’s easy and economical. Beneath the water, the apples are not exposed to air, and the paper covering the surface creates a physical barrier. I use this method when slicing pounds of apples that I will cook or bake the same day.
For long-term storage (12 hours to several days): I recommend the salt water method. This is great for storage in the refrigerator, especially if you are prepping ahead of time or packing school lunches. Salt is a preservative; even a tiny amount helps to interfere with oxidation. The flesh was a lovely bright off-white, even after 24-plus hours, with little effect on the taste or texture.
Apple recipes to try
- Apple pie
- Apple crisp
- Apple crumble
- Dutch apple pie
- Apple strudel
- Fruit salad
- Apple butter
- Baked apple chips
- Spiralized apple salad
Yes! It’s best to submerge the apples in a saltwater solution for 10 minutes, then give them a rinse with water before storing them in the refrigerator. This will prevent browning for at least 24 hours and up to several days.
Soak sliced apples before storing them. Use ½ teaspoon salt mixed with 1 cup of water, soak for 10 minutes, then rinse with water. Alternatively, use 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 cup cold water, soak for 5 minutes, then rinse. Portion the slices, and place them in an airtight container or resealable bag, pressing out as much air as possible for 3 to 5 days.
Immediately soaking the apples in either water, lemon juice and water, honey diluted with water, or lightly salted water for at least 5 minutes helps prevent browning. Rinse, cover, and store in the refrigerator as soon as possible to reduce oxidation.
Can you cook apples to prevent browning?
Enzymes like polyphenol oxidase are proteins that denature when exposed to extreme conditions like low pH or high temperature. That is why citric acid or acidic lemon juice is added to store-bought apple products to reduce enzyme activity. Blanching sliced or diced apples for a few minutes in boiling water stops the browning reaction. Unfortunately, it will soften slightly in texture. Make sure to plunge immediately into an ice water bath if going the cooking route.
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How to Keep Sliced Apples from Turning Brown
- 1 apple, sliced or diced
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 tablespoon honey, optional
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice, optional
- ½ teaspoon table salt, sea salt, or kosher salt, optional
- Water Method – In a medium bowl, add water and apples. Place a piece of paper towel on top of the water to create a protective barrier. Drain when ready to use or store.
- Lemon Juice Method – In a medium bowl, add water and lemon juice, stir to combine. Submerge the apples for no more than 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain.
- Honey Method – In a medium bowl, add water and honey, and stir to combine. Submerge the apples for no more than 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain.
- Salt Method – In a medium bowl, add water and salt and stir to combine. Submerge the apples for no more than 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain.
- Serving Size: Based on a large apple (approximately 3.25″), about 2 cups slices.
- Storing: Place sliced or diced apples in an airtight container or plastic bag with the air removed for 3 to 5 days.
- Freezing: Store in a single layer in a large resealable bag. Fruit can be frozen for up to 6 to 9 months.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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