How to Keep Apples From Turning Brown

(9 votes)
44 Comments
9 minutes
January 16, 2023
Carole JonesJump to Recipe

Learn how to keep apples from turning brown for school lunch box or on fruit trays. It is extremely easy! Do not waste money buying cut apples from the store where they have been sprayed with chemicals to keep them from browning. Apple slices can stay looking great for days with just two simple ingredients: water and salt! Read on to learn all about this easy lunchbox hack, along with the pros and cons of each method.

how to keep apples from turning brown

Why I Tested How to Keep Apples From Turning Brown

If I were the Pinterest Perfect Mom, I would share how sad the start of school makes me every year, but that isn’t me and I would never try to pretend to be. The last few weeks of summer vacation are nothing short of an extreme test of my patience as a momma to six kiddos. The kids are DONE with each other. I am DONE with their lack of interest in anything that doesn’t revolve around electronics.

Have I mentioned that I believe our teachers should be some of the highest-paid professionals out there?

In our house, there is no buying of school lunches. When you have 6 kids, that comes to $18/day, or $90/week, or $4,860/school year. I’d rather keep that $5K and take my kids on vacation, not to mention that school lunches here suuuuuuuuck!

Now, I know that an apple in its natural state is the perfect fruit to toss in lunch boxes, but I’ve discovered that if I pack a whole apple, I will often get a whole apple back. When I pack apple slices, I get zero apples back.

Over the years, I’ve tried all the different “hacks” to learn how to keep cut apples from turning brown but nothing came close to working as well as the salt method, plus I always have the needed ingredients: water and salt!

This winning method will last for 4-5 days in the fridge sealed in a container, so make a big batch for the whole week to save even more time!  And to answer the question I know you are thinking, no….they do not taste like salt after they are finished soaking 🙂 Read on to find out why!

How to keep cut apples from turning brown - sliced apples sitting in salt water

Why Cut Apples Turn Brown 

Apples turn brown fairly quickly after their interiors are exposed to oxygen. This change in color is due to enzymatic browning, which happens when the enzymes on the surface of the newly sliced flesh begin to react with their first exposure to oxygen. These enzymes begin to oxidize and change into an iron-containing compound that has a brown color. Think of it as the apple starting to rust, but technically it is called polyphenol oxidase. 

Apples are not the only fruits that undergo oxidation when cut or bit into. Pears, bananas, and eggplants also have this quick oxidation process and browning. But of course, science is working its magic to cure this very first-world problem. There is currently a genetically modified apple variety going through government approval that won’t produce the browning enzyme, even when you cut it into slices or take a bit of it.

Are Brown Apple Slices Safe to Eat?

Yes, despite their unappealing brown appearance, apple slices that have already begun to turn are perfectly safe to eat. However, just because it is safe doesn’t necessarily mean they are enjoyable to eat. The oxidation process does begin to change both the texture and the flavor of the exposed apple flesh. The longer you expose your apple to oxygen, the browner it becomes so use the color as your cue on how long is too long. 

how to keep apples from turning brown

Ranking 6 Methods to Keep Apples from Turning Brown

There are six available methods to keep apple slices bright white. I’ve tested them all and included below are their rankings from best to worst, and why they received that ranking.

#1 – The Salt Water Method 

Not only was this method the most effective in keeping apple slices from browning, it was also the easiest and lasted the longest out of all 6 methods. Our cut apples stayed good for 5-7 days after a quick soak in the salt water solution. The salt water method also gets bonus points for only needing ingredients that everyone will have on hand at all times. 

#2 – The Honey Method

Similar to the salt water method, you mix honey and water together and let the slices soak. While the honey method didn’t perform quite as well as the salt, it was pretty darn close. The main reason this method comes in second place is that not everyone will have honey in their pantry. And for those that do, honey is a lot more expensive than salt. 

#3 – The Water-Only Method 

While the apple slices stay bright while they are in the water, they begin to brown shortly after sitting on a plate or lunch box container. No one wants to serve apple slices floating in a bowl of water, or send their kids to school with a container of apples bobbing around in water. Practicality is what put this method in third place. 

#4 – The Rubberband Method 

Just like it sounds, this method holds together the slices in the original apple shape with a rubber band. It has a few major downfalls. First, it works best if you can put the pieces of the apple back together in the exact same order they were on the whole apple. When I’m slicing 6 apples, not the most convenient. Second, they still get brown in the center unless you keep the core inside, which my kids do not like. Plus, I am never a fan of sending rubber bands to school that I will never get back because they are being shot across the cafeteria by my kid 🙂 

#5 – The Lemon Lime Soda Method 

Similar to the honey method, the cost, and availability of ingredients are the biggest downfall of this method. Most people don’t keep soda in the pantry for soaking apples. The results were good enough to last 4-6 hours after soaking in the soda, but became brown pretty quickly after that. 

#6 – The Lemon Juice Method 

This last-place method comes in two different versions, neither of which I would recommend:

Brushing lemon juice straight on the surface of the slices – very time-consuming and while effective at keeping away the brown, ruins the taste of the apple. 

Soaking in lemon juice and water mixture was better on the flavor aspect, but worse on keeping the apples white. While it does leave behind a sour flavor, it is a big improvement from the straight lemon juice. 

how to keep cut apples from turning brown - green apple slicer and a sliced fuji apple

FAQs on How to Keep Apples from Turning Brown with Salt Water

Why does salt water prevent apples from turning brown?

Salt naturally contains sodium, which acts as a natural preservative keeping the oxygen away from the flesh of the apple slices. It reduces the amount of water (apple juice) on the cut surface of the apple, allowing less exposure to the oxygen, and less oxidation occurs. When less oxidation occurs, there is less browning of the apple.

Do the apples taste like salt afterward?

Salt naturally contains sodium, which acts as a natural preservative keeping the oxygen away from the flesh of the apple slices. It reduces the amount of water (apple juice) on the cut surface of the apple, allowing less exposure to the oxygen, and less oxidation occurs. When less oxidation occurs, there is less browning of the apple.

Do I rinse the apples after they soak in the salt water?

No, the apples do not require rinsing before eating them. In fact, doing so actually removes the sodium, which is the chemical doing all the work! If the salt is bothering you for some reason, simply wash them right before serving them, not before storing them. Otherwise, the salty soak will be useless, resulting in rusty apples anyways.

What is the best way to store sliced apples?

After soaking the apples in salt water, store them in any airtight container inside the refrigerator. For lunch boxes, package them directly into Ziplock bags or small airtight containers. Makes it super easy for the kids to grab from the fridge when packing their lunches before school. 

Will the salt water method work on all types of apples?

Yes! This method is how to keep apples from turning brown for all varieties. Some fresh apples naturally turn brown faster than others because they have different enzyme levels. Granny Smith apples have the ability to stay bright white the longest, while others like Red Delicious and Gala are much quicker to head for that color change.

Watch How to Keep Cut Apples from Turning Brown

Looking for More Lunch Box Recipes?

Try out these easy recipes for the kid’s lunch boxes but don’t just pass them by because they are delicious enough for your sack lunch at work too!

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how to keep apples from turning brown

How to Keep Apples from Turning Brown

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4.9 from 9 reviews

A simple way to keep apple slices from turning brown in your lunch box overnight or for days!

  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 5 apples 1x

Ingredients

Scale

Instructions

Dissolve the salt into the cold water and stir well.  Add the apples and immerse them in the solution.

Soak apples for 5 minutes, then drain away the water.  Do not rinse them.

Package your apples into individual or one large airtight container then store in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

Notes

You can do this on a smaller scale with just one apple as well, just reduce the water and salt in half.

  • Author: Carole Jones
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Lunch
  • Method: Fresh
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 large apple
  • Calories: 130
  • Sugar: 25 g
  • Sodium: 0 mg
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Saturated Fat: 0 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 34 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg

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Carole Jones

Carole Jones is an Arizona-based cookbook author & food blogger. She's authored The 30 Minute Cooking From Frozen Cookbook and the self-published Take 5: Chicken e-cookbook. For the past 15 years, Carole has shared her culinary adventures cooking and baking for her six brutally honest children here on My Kitchen Escapades. Hot, crusty bread is Carole's love language, but her two adorable grandchildren are a close second. Yes, second. Don't judge.

44 comments

Sima
2 years ago

Does this work for any type of Apple and do you have to dry them off?

Carole Jones
2 years ago

Yes, it works for any type of apple and no, you do not need to rinse or dry them off.

Massiel
10 months ago

Hi! Does this method works for sliced and peeled apples. Thanks in advance, I have a picky eater.

Carole Jones
10 months ago

Absolutely it does! Enoy

Will
7 months ago

You have a typo in the answer to the second question in your FAQ. You seem to have accidentally posted the answer to the first question in the space where the second answer was gonna go. I’m also curious if they’ll taste like salt afterwards.

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