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

118 comments

  1. I follow my mothers recipe. I use 7 MacIntosh and 8 Northern Spy. The mixture of sweet and tart apples are great and makes a well balanced pie. You can find the recipe at tastebook. Deep dish apple pie. Actually as weet apple and a tart apple balance each other out.

  2. I like the combination of Fuji’s, Granny’s and Empires, usually 2 of each!

  3. In my book, the 20 ounce apple makes the best pie, and I’ve eaten a lot of Apple Pies.😃

  4. Lorraine Bomphray

    how about using spartan apples, but I can’t find them in the store, perhaps certain stores will sell them

  5. Honeycrisps are my favorite! But they are really only available in the fall. :(

  6. I tend to go for either granny smith, pink lady or rome apples! I casually tried rome apples because someone made a crumble with them and they are SO sweet and tasty and don’t lose their shape. It’s a nice option if you don’t like tart or acid apples.

  7. I know that a lot of people prefer to use a firm apple for baking pies, but I do not. My favorite apple for pies if I’m choosing just one apple, is the Macintosh. I do not care if you see the slices when you serve the pie. I have never had a Macintosh turn to applesauce but it is soft & that is the way we & many others like their pies. I have won several apple pie contests & had people ask which apple I used and they were shocked because they had always used Granny Smith’s. Just sayin’ different tastes for different people.

  8. Rome apples have always been my favorite baking apple, they have an excellent flavor and stands up well to baking.

  9. We are reading Joy of Cooking doesn’t want us to use Granny Smiths but wants us to use Golden Delicious. We went picking this weekend and got a assortment. I guess we will try whatevers in the bag. This website is very helpful and gave us plenty of great ideas. I am sure we will enjoy are pie.

  10. The best apples to make a pie are absolutely, positively, most definitely Gravensteins… they are only available in Northern California.. if that fails, you can always listen to grandma when she says, Spy’s for Pies.. but mix with a honey crisp and Jonathan.

  11. The best apples for baking anything and everything under the sun are “Gravensteins”. They are ready usually around mid-August in the Northeast and are difficult to find. Grocery stores rarely have any but check with your local orchids. They are a tart,tasty apple, worth hunting for. They have been around for decades and my Grandmother won many pie contests long ago. She always used Gravenstein apples.

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