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How To Keep Apples From Turning Brown

Do you love packing apples in your lunch (or your kids lunch) but hate when they turn brown? Do you wish you could save leftover sliced apples for the next day? What about when you’re baking a pie, don’t you hate it when your apple slices turn brown before you’re ready to use them? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here you’ll find lots of great ideas for how to keep apples from turning brown using things you most likely already have at home!

Keep reading to find out why apples turn brown, how to keep sliced apples fresh longer, and we’ll even give you a tip for what doesn’t work to prevent apples from browning.

Closeup of small bowl of fresh apple slices.

What Causes Apples to Turn Brown Once Cut?

Before we get into ways to keep apples from turning brown it may be helpful to know why they turn brown in the first place. Apples contain antioxidants called polyphenols and an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase or PPO for short. The polyphenols and the PPO are stored in different areas of the plant’s cells.

When apple skin is cut or damaged in another way, such as bruising from getting dropped, the cells themselves are damaged and the polyphenols and the PPO combine causing the oxidation process to begin ,which is what turns apples brown. The chemical reaction is sped up by oxygen in the air. You can slow it down in a number of ways that we’ll get to in a moment.

Overhead view of browned apple slices.
Keeping apple fresh-looking and nutrient-rich is why you want to know
how to prevent apple browning,

When apples start to turn brown, not only is it unsightly but the PPO is also neutralizing the polyphenols, causing your apples to lose nutrients as well. The good news is, there are ways to slow down oxidation to protect those nutrients and keep your apples fresh for longer!

Below you’ll find 10 methods to keep apples from turning brown and why they work.

How to Keep Apples From Turning Brown

1. Sprinkle With Salt

This is a really simple way to keep your apples looking and tasting fresh. Simply sprinkle kosher salt (up to 1 Tablespoon per apple) over freshly cut apple slices then store them in a container or sandwich bag until ready to use. If you don’t overdo it, they won’t taste too salty. Sodium is a natural preservative that works by slowing down the oxidation process.

2. Sprinkle with Citric Acid

This method works in much the same way as kosher salt. Sprinkle citric acid over sliced apples and store them until you’re ready to use them. Citric acid is a natural antioxidant that works to significantly slow the oxidation process and keep apples from turning brown. This method works, but the citric acid can make the apples taste sour, even after they’ve been rinsed off. If you don’t mind extra tart apples this method could be a good choice for you!

You can get citric acid in the canning section of your grocery store.

3. Soak in Salt Water

Make a quick salt water bath for your sliced apples. Use 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per 1 cup of water. Soak apple slices for 5-10 minutes then drain and rinse. Your apples won’t taste salty at all after rinsing and they’ll stay fresh and crisp all day! This is one of the easiest and cheapest methods to keep apples from browning and it works amazingly well!

Closeup of apples in salt water, one method for how to keep apples from turning brown.
Apples in salt water.

4. Squeeze a Lemon

Fresh lemon juice contains citric acid, a natural antioxidant that helps slow down the oxidation process. Squeeze half a lemon over apple slices to keep them from turning brown. You’ll taste a slight lemon flavor, or more depending on how much juice you use. If you love the taste of lemon go ahead and squeeze a lot of juice on there! To reduce the lemon flavor rinse them off before eating, or just go light when you’re squeezing the juice onto the apples. A little goes a long way to help slow down browning!

Person cutting lemons.

5. Squeeze a Lime

Just like lemon juice, lime juice also contains citric acid. Squeeze half a lime over one sliced apple to keep it fresh for several hours. The lime flavor fades over time and isn’t too strong if you don’t go too heavy on the squeezing. If you like the flavor of lime don’t be afraid to use a lot, it can make the apple slices taste like limeade!

Lime cut in half and in wedges.

6. Soak in Honey Water

This is one of the best and easiest methods for how to keep apples from turning brown. Most people already have honey on hand so it’s convenient too! Honey is a natural preservative that has been used for centuries in different ways. Honey contains a compound that prevents the PPO from reacting with the polyphenols so oxidation can’t happen.

To use honey to keep apples from browning, stir a small amount of honey into a bowl of water and soak your apples for a few minutes. Use 1-2 tablespoons of honey per 1 cup of water. Soak apples for 5 minutes, then drain and give them a quick rinse. Store apples in a container or plastic baggie, or even leave them on the counter on a plate. This method works so well apple slices will stay fresh, beautiful, and crisp for up to 12 hours!

Jar of honey and wooden honey dipper.

7. Use Plain Water

For a super simple method to prevent apple browning, slice your apples and put them in cold water. You can leave the container uncovered but it works even better when you cover the container to keep more oxygen from getting to your apples. Leave the apple slices soaking in the water until you’re ready to use them. They’ll stay crisp and fresh for several hours.

This is a great method to use if you’re baking a pie or a tart! Just place a bowl of water next to you and drop apples in as they’re sliced and peeled. Use the apples as soon as you’re done slicing all of them, or cover the bowl and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready.

8. Soak in Lemon Lime Soda

This is probably not one of the cheapest options but soaking sliced apples in soda actually works pretty well because of the citric acid in the soda. Lemon lime (like Sprite or 7up) is most commonly recommended but any soda with citric acid will do. Many sodas contain citric acid including ginger ale and even Pepsi, though we should note that Coca-Cola does not (sorry Coke lovers!).

To use this method, pour some soda into a bowl and soak apple slices for 3-5 minutes then drain and rinse, or don’t rinse to keep more of the sweet flavor from the soda! Apples will stay fresh for several hours.

9. Use Plastic Wrap

This method works by keeping as much oxygen as possible away from your sliced apples. Lay out a piece of plastic wrap, then tightly wrap the slices as you cut your apple. Try to have as much of the exposed flesh of the apple touching the plastic as possible. The tighter you wrap it the less oxygen will be able to get in and the slower your apples will brown. This method is cumbersome when dealing with lots of apple slices but it works great if you’re just slicing one or two apples to pack in a lunch!

10. Try a Rubber Band

Like using plastic wrap, this method to prevent apple browning works by keeping as much oxygen as possible away from the exposed flesh of the apple. After slicing your apple, hold all of the pieces together and wrap a rubber band around it to hold it together. A round apple slicer works well for this method if you have one. Keep the core in the middle when you wrap the rubber band around the apple. Another option is to cut your apple in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Here’s a video that shows how to do it.

Overhead view of an apple cut with a corer and slicer.

A Popular Method that doesn’t actually work

Lemon water

A lot of people recommend using a quick lemon water bath to keep apples from turning brown but unfortunately, this one just doesn’t work that well. There are so many methods that work better, don’t even bother with this one! If you want to use lemon, try sprinkling your apple slices with lemon juice instead. If you want to try one of the soaking methods, salt water or honey water both work much better and will keep your apples fresh longer.

Do Some Apples Turn Brown Faster Than Others?

The short answer is, yes! Because different apples contain different amounts of polyphenols and PPO, they will oxidize and turn brown at different rates. Carefully choosing your apple variety can definitely make a difference in how fast your sliced apples turn brown. Red Delicious and McIntosh are two varieties that will turn brown the fastest. Granny Smith and Cameo apples turn brown much slower.

Final Takeaways For How To keep Apples From Turning Brown

Person slicing apples.

There are lots of options when it come to keeping apples from turning brown and the great thing is, many of these methods are quick and easy and use ingredients you already have at home! You don’t have to let apple browning keep you from enjoying tasty and nutritious apples whenever you want to.

Use one of these methods to keep your apples fresh today then come back and let us know how it went!

Excited for more apple content? Visit our apple trees page to learn more about apple planting, growing, picking, cooking, and more!