Sweet or savory, fried apples work as a side for most anything | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Sweet or savory, fried apples work as a side for most anything

“Fried apples are a do-what-you-like situation.”


Some say that this dish was first prepared in the Deep South — especially since a traditional recipe usually calls for at least a stick of butter, pork renderings and maybe a cup of white sugar. But my grandmother, born and raised just above the Mason-Dixon line, used to toss these apples together on weekends.

My brothers and I would race to the table, waiting as my grandmother served a mound of fluffy scrambled eggs, crispy strips of bacon, buttered-to-perfection biscuits and a big skillet of syrupy apples. After breakfast, we’d nap for a couple hours, and once awake, my brothers and I would be off to the river to catch dinner.

I’ve tried to recreate my grandmother’s recipe, but realized that fried apples are a do-what-you-like situation. Make them sweet for breakfast and serve with biscuits, or prepare them spicy to accompany grilled pork chops for dinner. However you wanna play it, fried apples are easy to make and pair well with anything.

With this recipe, I’ve made a few changes. Coconut oil will make you feel better about yourself, and instead of just cinnamon and nutmeg, I added ras el hanout — a Moroccan spice mix that includes ginger, fenugreek, cinnamon, nutmeg and some pepper powders. Lastly, I suggested white cheddar cheese with caramelized onions be crumbled over top. Not how my granny made it, but I know she’d approve.


  • 5 apples (any firm variety)
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • ½  cup brown sugar
  • 1½ tsp. ras el hanout, or ½ tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract 
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup of crumbled English Cheddar with caramelized onions (Trader Joe’s brand works fine.)


Leaving the peel on, wash, core and slice apples into 12-16 narrow wedges. Melt coconut oil in a skillet or cast-iron pan. Add apples. Cover skillet and cook apples 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Stirring continuously, add the brown sugar, ras el hanout and vanilla. Continue cooking apples, covered, for 10-12 minutes or until apples are tender; check every few minutes. Add additional coconut oil or water, if needed to prevent apples from sticking. Serve warm with crumbled cheese on top. 

Terry Gibson works at Umbrella Café, 951 Liberty Ave., Downtown.

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