The best apples for making pie

Apples in Pie Crust

There are so many varieties of apples available in stores and at farmers markets these days, that it can be challenging to choose apples for baking. In the past, a baker might have reached for sweet-tart Granny Smith apples without a second thought, but there are many different kinds of apples that will work just as well, if not better, in baking pies, crisp and other apple desserts.

Texture and taste are the two most important qualities to consider in a baking apple, and the apple that you like best for everyday snacking might not hold up when put into a pie. Apples need to retain their shape and not turn into applesauce during baking. The best apples will be able to offer a little bit of resistance (keep a little hint of crunch) even after a long time in the oven. Baking apples should also not be too sweet, since most pie recipes call for a fair amount of sugar. The sugar serves as flavoring and helps thicken the juices of the apples as they cook, and cutting it down to compensate for super-sweet apples can sometimes change the outcome of the final pie.

Granny Smiths are always a decent choice for pie, as they are easy to find, will hold up during baking and can take a lot of extra flavor from sugar and spices. Jonathan, Jonagold and Pippin apples are other excellent sweet-tart choices. Gravenstein, Braeburn, Fuji and Pink Lady Apples are all crisp and sturdy, as well. Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, despite their promising names, are not good choices for baking, and neither are Gala and Cortland, since they tend to become mealy in pie fillings.

If the recommend apples aren’t available in your area, or if others not mentioned here are (this is the case in many apple-growing areas), try experimenting a little with different types of apples. One way to do this is to blend together several different kinds for a pie filling, giving your pie a mixture of textures and flavors – and covering up any apples that bake up less-than-perfectly.

I personally like to use a mix most of the time no matter what and, at the moment, my favorite is a blend of Granny Smith, Braeburn and/or Pink Lady. If you have a favorite blend, or if I missed your favorite type of baking apple (because there are so many to choose from), leave a note in the comments below!

pie apples

111 comments

  1. Northern spy, or Wolf River apples. Add one Mac per pie.

  2. Yesterday my grandson played ‘bowling down the basement steps’ with 7 Honey Crisp apples, right from the grocery store bag. I had purchased them for munching, but they were pretty bruised up. They are expensive apples, and I didn’t want to waste them, so in a pie they went. The pie was delicious! The apples retained their shape and had a wonderful consistency and flavor. I’m going to try a mix of Honey Crisp and Granny Smith in the next pie I bake.

  3. Granny Smith are WAY overrated! That is, unless you like crunchy apple pie.

  4. Early Golds

  5. The best by far is summer rambo apples, and they make the best applesauce also. They are difficult to find and can only be found in late summer/early fall. My family “thinks” I am the apple pie & applesauce queen…

  6. Without a doubt Stayman Winesaps make the best apple pies however only on market for a very short time in Fall.

  7. No replacements for Jonathan. They are just too hard to find in the summer.

  8. Used to use Rome Beauty, but can’t find any more. Recently saw an apple called Rome, but only once. Going to get some Gravensteins today, which are hard to get also.

  9. A mix is always the best with Haroldson, Honeygold, and Honeycrisp topping the list!

  10. I simply stop making apple pie when Cortlands stop being available. They are THE best for apple pie. And they have the advantage of not turning brown after you cut them open. Granny Smiths are way too crunchy and sour.

  11. I like Romes which hold their shape well, mixed with Granny Smiths for tartness and one MacIntosh, which will mush up and add a nice juiciness around the rest.

  12. For pies, Northern Spy and Pippin, good texture and just the right tart. Yummm

  13. I know it was in the article that Golden Delicious is not a good apple to make a pie with, but that is the only apple I have used for years!

  14. Very hard to come by and when they’re in, and it’s only briefly, but the old variety of Rhode Island Greenings are my (and many old-timers) absolute favorite. These treasures keep so well, that if I’m lucky enough to find them in September/October, I store them until Thanksgiving pies or crisps. Not good for eating fresh – too tart – but baked? Heavenly.

  15. I’m not a pie baker (cookies are my thing), but my mother was renowned for her apple pie. She disdained Granny Smiths. She would use Cortlands, or occasionally Greenings, but they weren’t her favorite. Her absolute, all-time favorites were Macouns. They were almost impossible to find for a while, but I understand they’re making a comeback. Mom would have been pleased to see that.

  16. Northern spy or Macintosh.
    Getting hard to find but oh so good!

  17. I like Macouns which were easy to find in fall in Wisconsin and they have a good shelf life so you can have peis from Oct through Jan if you get a big box. I live in North Carolina now and I can sometimes get them but I’ve had fairly good pies with a mix which may include Stayman Winesaps, Granny Smith, and Cortlands. I do occasionally see Macouns and will make pie with them when I find them. Arkansas Blacks are good added to the pie but are a bit on the dry side so they need to be in a mix. Never tried Honeycrisp but I have one I need to use up so I’ll try it.

  18. I always use 8 Northern Spys and 8 Johnagold along with 4 Rome Apples for a deep dish pie. They make a terrific pie. Equal balance of sweet and tart. Never got a complaint yet on my pies. I do not like Granny Smith, they are to crunchy.

  19. Northern spy, Wolf River and Gravenstein make a wonderful pie and applesauce.

  20. What ever happened to the FUJI apple?

  21. Either you like your pie al dente, are used to nasty commercial pie fillings or you aren’t cooking it right — Cortlands are by far my favorite apple for pies (and unfortunately hard to find in the Midwest…

  22. The best apple pie I’ve ever had has been in England, where they use Brambley apples in their pies. They are too tart to eat raw (so it’s said), but provide and excellent flavor in pies and hold their texture nicely. When I moved back to the US, I was sad to find that Brambley apples are incredibly rare here, only available for a small time in few areas in the early Fall. If you ever get a chance to make a pie from them, do it!!

  23. Nicole, the writer of this article, is awfully opinionated. Not everyone likes a “little hint of crunch”. I’m with those who like Cortland apples for pie.

  24. Northern Spy is the best but I’ve only found them in Michigan. Huge which cuts down on pealing and the right mix of tart and holds its texture/shape when baked. I live in Colorado now and miss Michigan apples. We have fabulous peaches though.

  25. My personal favorite – if a bit costly – are Honeycrisps. They tend to be larger, hold up very well in pie, and have great flavor, especially with cinnamon!

  26. I run a restaurant in Torremolinos and we are very well known for our apple pie. In my own experience the best sort of apples would be Reinet but Golden Delicious is all right too

  27. If you are ever in Northeast Georgia in the fall, try to find some YATES. They are tiny red apples that will fill up a room with their scent, and the pie will send you to heaven. Very hard to find now that the growers have to plant the same varieties sold in supermarkets.

  28. I like to use half Golden Delicous and half Granny Smiths for apple pie. The Golden Delicous cook down around the Granny Smiths. Tastes great too!
    Gravensten maks great applesause and apple crisp. Northern Spy is great in apple crisp and I’m sure they woyld make wonderful apple pie. Yellow Transparents are excellent for applesauce. Tompkins County King is also a great cooking apple.

  29. Pie apples that are available in my supermarket right now include Granny Smith, Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Gala, Macintosh and Fuji. One of each should make a nice pie blend. I precook the apples for my pie, one apple at a time in a pie plate in the microwave carefully, adding seconds until the texture is cooked but still firm. I strain them to capture any cooked-off liquid which I then boil with the peels from the apples. Those peels have a tremendous amount of pectin which will help set the pie. The apples are mixed in a bowl with spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, and grains of paradise) and the apple peel juice is strained over them. Tapioca ground to a fine powder in a spice grinder is used for thickening. The crust for the pie is similar to a vodka crust, except I substitute 1/4 cup finely ground almonds for part of the flour, and use Amaretto instead of vodka.

  30. The Gravenstein is the best apple for pies and apple crisp but they are not widely available and their season is short.
    I usually use cortlands after the gravensteins are gone .

  31. One apple I did not see mentioned here is the Rome apple. Our recipe uses Granny-Smith, Rome, and Cortland, but it is very difficult to find the Cortlands, so we recently tried the Jonagold. To my surprise, the pie was even better, with a more fruity taste.

    Thanks for the good recommendations. It is amazing how 1 ingredient change can alter the taste for the better.

  32. Seven large Rome Beauties have always been my staple for Apple Pie, but they have been very hard to find lately. As a result I’ve had to try others with the results being no where near the Romes. But, I’ve never tried Braeburns.

  33. For my family here in Michigan, there s no other then McIntosh appls for an awesome apple pie, with some sugar to take the tartness away, theeee best!

  34. Many folks who have commented seem to have forgotten that what tastes best to one does not necessarily taste best to another. Opinions are like….. yes, well. At least now I have several different varieties to try the next time I bake.

  35. The Fuji

    The Fuji was developed in Japan by crossing Red Delicious apples and Ralls Janet, an antique apple cultivated by Thomas Jefferson in 1793. Though not the best choice for baking, Fuji apples’ spicy, crisp sweetness makes them excellent for out-of-hand eating or for applesauce. The color varies from yellow-green with red highlights to solid red.

    Golden Apples: Quince

    This ancient fruit, related to apples and pears, has been considered sacred and a symbol of fertility. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite received a quince–a golden apple–from Paris. Some scholars believe it was a quince, not an apple, that tempted Eve in the Garden.

    If you can find them, quince make perfect partners to apples in desserts: they are deliciously fragrant and turn a deep pink when cooked. Quince are extremely firm in texture and cannot be eaten raw. Try half quince, half apple in your next apple crisp or pie.

  36. Very interesting reading about the various types of apple but I was surprised that the good old British ‘Bramley’ wasn’t mentioned. I was surprised too that ‘Granny Smith’s’ were highly recommended as in some recipes Granny’s were said to remain too hard when cooked. I recently mad an apple and strawberry crumble using Granny Smiths, the finished product was of excellent taste and texture although I was quite worried at first when the apples weren’t cooked thoroughly. I did, however, become used to the texture and everyone who tasted it said that it was delicious. Experiment with various varieties but keep off the golden delicious, they just end up as a mushy mess.

  37. I like a mix of apples in my pies and find galas and golden delicous work perfectly well without getting “mealy”.

  38. Jonathon apples all by them selves make a Great apple pie. They cook down a bit, but you can really load the apple slices in there with spices.

  39. I have lived in the Okanagan for 12 years, having moved from Montreal, Que. in 2001

    I have yet to find an apple here – in apple country that makes a great apple pie. Either the apples don’t cook enough – we have always liked them well-cooked and certainly not crispy, or secondly you don’t get that applie pie smell the minute you walk in the door.

    Back in Ontario and Quebec you could get Cortland apples, and for any of we easterners Cortland were the BEST apples for making pies. The aroma alone filled the entire house, and real estate agents used to tell people before an open house, bake a Cortland applie pie, it definitely helped to sell the house :)

    We have certainly missed them for the past 12 years and only wish we could get our hands on them again. Your comment re Cortland apples is way off the charts!

  40. Hey. I live in UK and best ever pies are baked with Bramley and of course I grow my own.
    I was surprised to see also eating apples used, but I will try in future.

  41. I mix 3 Granny smiths /3 Fufi and 1 Macintosh. since i dont know where they come from i sweat them on the stove with 1/4c of water and 1/4c brown sugar til i can tell water content of the apples… about 8 min on a med heat. then when i use um in the pie i can just focus on the crust… the filling is always right.

  42. I mix Granny Smith (4) for texture with Golden Delicious (2) for taste. I always cook apples first on stovetop with white and brown sugars to determine ‘wetness’ then bake in pie crust with added flour

  43. We have a small orchard with Cortland, Sweet 16, Harrelson & Regent. Any of them make wonderful pies by themselves or mixed. I use “Clear Gel” for thickening & everyone loves the pies!! Most every fall you would find 30 or more pies in our freezer!

  44. What, no one mentioned the BEST baking apple…Rome Beauty!!!

  45. Going shopping tomorrow for my pie apples – always try to use at least 4 varieties: always some Mutsu (Japanese – have only been able to find at a local farmstand in MA) and Cortland, usually Rhode Island Greening and Jonagold. May try Honey Crisp and or Braeburn this year. Going to make 10 pies (and freeze) next week as I can only find the Mutsu in the early fall and I can’t imagine my pies without them!!

  46. This is so off base. Grannys are horrible for pie, way way too crunchy. Cortlands are by far the best.

  47. I think it is hard to decipher what kind of apples are best for apple pies since everyone has individual tastes. Apples that my family has been using for 40 + years are our favorites, even though articles say these choices are not good. They are: Cortland, Rome, and Granny Smith. This combination along with the cooking time creates an apple pie that is tasty, not crunchy, and not too soft. We also make the crust from scratch

  48. My dad always raved about Winesap Apples making the best pies and cakes, what’s your thought?

  49. I live in Windsor Ontario and I find the best apples a royal gala for baking everyone says no but they are the best for me and my family everyone raves about my apple pie!

  50. Northern Spy is the best, but having moved to an area of the country where these are not available, I was forced to find an alternative. On the advice of a kindly produce manager I tried Pacific Rose apples and fell in love. I find the texture and sweetness almost identical to the Spy. They still are of limited availability but I can generally request them when needed.

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