Skillet Southern Fried Apples Are The Warming, Sweet Treat To Try This Season

Apples are the harbinger of fall: We go bobbing for them at Halloween parties, drink them in hot cider to warm up on a chilly evening, and bake them into apple pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Another delicious and comforting dish for the apple harvest is skillet Southern fried apples.

Apple-centric dishes have been deeply ingrained in the cuisine of Southern Appalachia since the mid 1800s. While apples were originally cultivated to produce cider and to feed farm animals, Southerners began to appreciate them more during periods of war and economic hardship. Southerners would resort to eating apples for breakfast instead of imported oranges and bananas during the Civil War, Great Depression, and World War II. Since cider apples are bitter and sour, they would be sliced and fried in butter, sugar, and baking spices for a sweet, tender, and hot breakfast dish.

Today, Southern fried apples are a treasured dessert that's as delicious as apple pie and requires half the effort. Sugar, butter, and spices thicken into a rich and luxurious syrup to coat softened apples and compliment their tartness. You won't have to turn on an oven or buy a pie shell, and it only takes fifteen minutes to fry apples until tender. The best apples to use for frying are sour and firm, similar to baking apples. As a recipe born of necessity, fried apples are amenable to other sweeteners and spices and are welcoming to culinary creativity. 

How to serve fried apples

Fried apples are delicious on their own but they're also a versatile dish to spruce up with sweet or savory accompaniments. Since you're essentially making apple pie without the crust, the most obvious pairings for skillet-fried apples are vanilla ice cream or a dollop of fresh whipped cream. You can serve the apples in a bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top to melt over the apples for a decadent dessert. A sprinkle of ginger snap cookies, Nilla wafers, or oatmeal raisin cookies and walnuts over fried apples would create a deconstructed apple walnut cobbler.

For a true Southern experience, you could spoon fried apples over flakey biscuits with whipped butter. Drawing inspiration from the dish's historical role as a breakfast food, you could eat them with sour yogurt and a handful of granola or use them to top a bowl of oatmeal. You could also eat them alongside crispy bacon or stuff them into a breakfast sandwich with ham, eggs, and sharp cheddar cheese.

Fried apples would also complement savory meals as a side. Apples are commonly paired with winter veggies like cabbage in a stir fry or blended into parsnip purees and soups. Swapping in fried, spiced apples would be a major flavor upgrade in those dishes. They'd complement the savoriness of a pork chop, and would also make a wonderful side dish to accompany a Christmas ham.