If you’re looking for the best apples for apple pie and you don’t want to dig too deep, go ahead and pick up a bag of Granny Smiths. They’re everyone’s go-to apples for baking (mine included) because they’re tart and firm, keeping their shape while providing a perfect balance to the sweet ingredients.
That said, they’re certainly not the only option. There are a ton of different types of apples, and they all have a different flavor profile. Some are sweet while others are tart, and their textures can vary from crisp to mealy. How do you know which ones will hold up well after a stint in a hot oven? Pick from one of our favorites below.
If you’re looking for a good balance between sweet and tart, Braeburn is an excellent choice. It has a very concentrated apple flavor that becomes more pronounced when it’s baked. Add the fact that it naturally contains cinnamon and nutmeg-like flavors, and this New Zealand apple is a no-brainer to use in apple pie. It doesn’t hurt that it has a super crisp, firm texture that doesn’t lose its form as it bakes, either.
Unlike most apples, Cortlands don’t turn brown after they’re sliced, so you don’t have to worry about storing them in water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. That said, you’ll want to use these New York-grown apples soon after they’re harvested because their super sweet, slightly tart flavor fades quickly. This McIntosh variety is extra juicy and has a crisp texture, making it perfect for something like Mom’s Fried Apples.
These bright yellow apples certainly don’t stand out as an eating apple; they have a mealy texture and a not-too-sweet, not-too-tart flavor. The heat of the oven coaxes out their sweetness, though, and they take on honeyed notes. Golden Delicious will break down and lose their shape more than some of the apples on this list, so don’t reach for these if you’re hoping for firm chunks of apples. They’re absolutely perfect in softer recipes like custard apple pie.
If you ask most chefs about their go-to baking apple, this one will be it. Granny Smiths are 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.
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 sweeter with a bolder, more puckery finish. The firm-fleshed, crisp, acidic apple is a great choice for slow-cooked apple desserts, like this Apple Comfort recipe.
These are one of our favorite snacking apples because they’re so intensely sweet. They have become wildly popular in the last few years, driving up the price tag, but they’re worth it. When baked, they don’t break down too much but their sweet flavor intensifies, becoming fun and complex. That’s why we use them in this wow-worthy apple pie recipe.
McIntosh is a classic apple with 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 do tend to break down as they cook. That makes them the ideal sweet apple to pair with something tart (like Granny Smith) for pies and baked goods.
Don’t be afraid to blend a few of these apples together, marrying tart apples with sweeter ones to create a flavor profile that’s unique to your kitchen. Give it a try with our favorite apple crisp, crumble and cobbler recipes.