13 Best Apples for Apple Pie
Some apples are good for snacking, and others are better suited for baking. These are the best apples for apple pie.
Stop right there! Before you break out the apple peeler and pull whatever fruit you have out of the crisper, know that some apples are better for baking than others. The right fruit will yield tastier results and take your pie recipes to the next level.
So what are the best apples for pie? Let’s get into it!
The Best Apples for Apple Pie—and Why
Whether you’re at the orchard or the supermarket, you’ll find that there are so many different types of apples, including heritage varieties. There are a lot of options, but the best apples for apple pie have a few things in common:
- Firm texture: During the baking process, apples soften up significantly. To maintain the right texture for the best pie, start with apples that are extra firm.
- Tart or sweet flavor: Apples with a strong and distinct taste will carry their flavor into the finished product.
These are some of the best apples for apple pie:
If you’re looking for a good balance between sweet and tart, Braeburn is an excellent choice. It has a very concentrated flavor that becomes more pronounced when baked. Add the fact that it naturally contains cinnamon and nutmeg-like flavors, and this apple is a no-brainer to use in an apple pie recipe. It doesn’t hurt that it has a super crisp, firm texture that doesn’t lose its form as it bakes, either.
Cameo apples are sweet and firm, making them a great snack. These qualities also make them one of the best apples for apple pie. When baked, they’ll retain their shape while sweetening up. You can combine these with a tart variety of apple for a never fail pie that will have guests asking for seconds.
Going apple picking for baking apples? Hit up your local orchard in September to harvest Cortlands. These apples have thin skin for easy peeling and a delightfully crisp texture. Use these apples within a week or so of picking as their sweet flavor will fade the longer they sit in the crisper drawer.
Crispin (AKA Mutsu)
These yellow-green apples are a fan favorite for eating as is, but they’re also one of the best apples for apple pie. They’re juicy, crunchy and sweet, and those flavors intensify after they’ve been baked or roasted. Crispin apples are a cross between Golden Delicious and Indo apples. That gives them all the sweetness of Golden Delicious while building in some firmness, so they don’t get mushy as they bake.
If you ask most chefs about their go-to baking apple, this one will be it. Granny Smiths store well so they’re available year-round, and you’ll immediately recognize them by their bright green skin and extra-tart flavor. The high acidity contributes to the apple’s flavor as well as its ability to hold together as it bakes. If you like the texture but want a sweeter filling, try blending them with some of the sweeter apples on this list.
These are one of our favorite snacking apples because they’re so intensely sweet. They’ve become wildly popular in recent years, driving up the price tag, but they’re worth it. When baked, they do break down a little bit, but they don’t get too mushy. Their sweet flavor also intensifies, becoming fun and complex. That’s why we use them in our best apple pie recipe.
This apple is a cross between a Jonathan and Golden Delicious, giving it an appealing greenish-yellow color with red splotches. It has the same honeyed flavor as Golden Delicious, but it’s firm-fleshed and sweeter, with a bolder, more puckery finish. The crisp, acidic apple is a great choice for slow-cooked apple dessert recipes, too, like Apple Comfort.
Granny Smiths aren’t the only green apples you’ll find on this list! Green-skinned Lodi apples are a great option for baking pies. These apples are most commonly found in the South and are harvested early in the season.
While Lodi apples aren’t always the prettiest fruit at the farmstand (they often have a slightly misshapen appearance), they do have a delightful tart flavor and firm interior which make them just right for baking.
These apples have a distinct tart flavor that fades into sweetness. It’s what makes this varietal so popular for cider. Those same characteristics, however, make Northern Spy apples great for stirring into recipes like this cast-iron apple pie.
Sometimes labeled as Early Macs, Paula Red apples are sweet and firm. This means they’ll only need a bit of sugar to make a phenomenal pie.
These apples are immediately recognizable by their bright pink hue, perfectly round shape and firm texture. They may also be called Cripps Pink, one of several cultivars sold under the Pink Lady trademark. You’ll find that Pink Lady apples are more tart than sweet, but they become sweeter as they’re baked. The firm texture remains when heated, so you’ll end up with chunks of soft but full-textured apples in your dessert.
As a bonus, they’re also slow to oxidize, so they won’t turn brown as quickly as other apple varieties.
Rome apples are the ideal baking apple. They have sweet and tart notes, as well as a whisper of pear. When baked—be it in pie, bread or muffins—these apples hold their shape.
After you’ve made your pie, we recommend trying sliced Rome apples in this Dutch Apple Cake recipe.
If you can find Winesap apples, pick up a bundle. They’re one of our favorite heirloom apple varieties for apple pie! They’re very strongly flavored, with a sweet-tart taste and a light spice that reminds us of apple cider. They have thick skin and a firm, crisp texture, helping them hold up well in apple pie.
Winesap apples tend to be juicy as well, so add a bit of cornstarch to your pie filling to prevent it from becoming too watery.
What Apples to Avoid for Pies
Not all apples are destined to become pie. Here are a few varieties to avoid when you’ve got baking on the brain.
Fuji apples feature a gorgeous pink speckle pattern over yellow-green flesh, making them stand out in the produce aisle. They’re sweet and crisp, and they do a decent job of holding their texture as they bake. However, they’re a little too juicy for apple pie, so we recommend eating them out of hand instead of baking with them.
These bright yellow apples aren’t the right pick for apple pie. During baking, the flesh breaks apart too easily. This will leave you with an apple pie that’s more like applesauce in a pie crust.
These apples are among the first harvested for the season. While trees produce prolific amounts of fruit, the apples are delicate. This softer texture makes them more challenging to peel. It also means that these are not the best apples for apple pie since the fruit disintegrates when cooked.
While Macoun apples are wonderfully sweet, these apples are just too juicy to turn into pie. The white flesh breaks down too easily when heated which can cause your pie to turn out too wet.
McIntosh is a classic apple that’s bright red with green splotches. The early harvests tend to be more acidic, while late-season McIntosh are sweeter and juicier. They have an incredible warming spice flavor, but they break down as they cook. That makes these apples too mushy for baked goods like apple pies or galettes.
However, McIntosh apples do have their place in the kitchen. They are phenomenal for making applesauce.
Red Delicious might be the worst apple to use for apple pie. It’s a fine snacking apple, with a lightly sweet and mild flavor, but it has a thick skin and naturally grainy texture that many find unpleasant. When it’s baked, it falls apart, making it a poor choice for any baked good.
Spartan apples are closely related to McIntosh apples. As such, they possess many of the same qualities including the soft texture. Spartan apples are best for snacking and sauce-making.
While you can certainly use apples for apple pie, there are of course many other ways to use apples for baking. Why not try out making homemade apple cobbler? Or simple baked apple slices. You can’t go wrong with any of these 82 best apple recipes either.