It’s hard to imagine a world without apple pie. The unmistakable apple flavor makes for delectable desserts the whole family loves. Between the heirloom apples passed on through generations and the newer types discovered through breeding programs, there are ultimately hundreds and even thousands of apple varieties to consider.
With so many tart apples to make fabulous apple pie, home growers have some hard choices on their hands. If you’re ready to find the best pie apple, our detailed guide is here to help. Consider these tips and suggestions on awesome apples to use for your next super crisp pie.
Top Apple Varieties For Mouthwatering Pie
Before diving into the best apples for apple pie, there are a few key things you should look for. These rules apply whether you’re growing sweet apples in your backyard or picking up a few from local grocery stores when you’re short on time. Basically, taste and texture are what make a good apple for apple pie.
So what do you need to look for in terms of taste and texture? Well, ideally you will have a mix of sweet yet tart apples, but this may depend on personal preference if you lean toward sweet apples naturally or prefer more savory apple pies. Many home growers find they get the best results with several different varieties. It’s usually a good idea to stick with the same texture, so choose apples that are similar. Ideally, you can use crisp, firm varieties instead of mealy ones.
Keeping those ideas in mind will help you make apple pie that’s better than the rest. In no particular order, here are the best apples we highly recommend for home-baked pies.
1. Golden Delicious
Many apples look good in the grocery store, but a Golden Delicious apple pie on the menu is tough to beat. Golden Delicious apples are favorites due to their incredibly refreshing and fresh flavor. These ones are large, super sweet yellow apples that have been on the market for more than a century.
One thing to keep in mind with Golden Delicious is that their softer texture means the pie filling may not be as firm as with other varieties. The good news is you don’t need to peel the thin skin or worry so much about sugar, as these apples have less added sugar. Just let the natural flavor work its magic and you’ll be ready for brilliant baking with crispy Golden Delicious apples.
2. Red Delicious
Like Golden Delicious fruit, the firmer and fresher Red Delicious apples are, the better. The flesh is mild and sweet and these apples hold their shape better than some. Although they are fairly juicy and break down more quickly than other varieties, they work just fine if you like your pie on the softer side.
For the best results, pair with another baking apple to give you a firmer filling. If you need an extra kick in the flavor department, try mixing with Granny Smith apples or another favorite variety for a tart taste that really packs a punch.
3. Granny Smith
Many home growers don’t go past Granny Smith apples, and with their flavor profile, it’s easy to see why. What’s great about Granny Smith apples is that they are super tart and firm, holding their shape for a rich, mouthwatering pie.
As the world’s most popular green apple, the Granny Smith variety is widely recognized as a top-notch baking apple. It has a signature tart, sour green taste with a good crunch, and they are typically available year-round for seasonal baking. With high acid content, Granny Smith apples rarely brown prematurely and maintain their shape even in the oven.
4. Pink Lady
Pink lady apples are another go-to for delectable pie-making. Like Granny Smith, the Pink Lady apple tree produces fresh, firm fruit that adds a sweet tart flavor to baked goods. It’s lighter in color than the red delicious variety, with its namesake blush shade that looks great and tastes even better.
As a combination of Golden Delicious and Lady Williams apples, the Pink Lady apple variety lasts for a long time, maintaining its tart flavor for a wide range of baking dishes. If you’re growing these apples in your home garden, you can pick them and store them for a few weeks before whipping up a deliciously crisp pie or other apple desserts.
McIntosh apples are another popular choice when looking at the best apples for apple pie. Many home growers like the sweet and tart flavor that tastes a lot like old-fashioned cider. It’s a hardy apple that does well in cooler climates to give you amazing autumn apple crisp. With a touch of tanginess, these apples offer a slightly spicy, sweet tart taste.
If you’re growing this apple at home, keep in mind it has the best aromatic flavor straight off the tree. Pick this sweet tart apple variety right before you start baking, or if you need to store them, use the refrigerator instead of room temperature. The earlier you harvest them, the more acidic they will be for dessert baking, while apples harvested later in the season are extra juicy and sweet.
Jazz apples are also strong performers in baked goods, not only for traditional pies but also for galettes, tarts, bread, muffins, and cake. These tart apples are a cross between Royal Gala and Braeburn. The sweet sharp flavor includes an unmissable peardrop fruity note that isn’t obvious in its parent varieties.
Currently, only commercial growers are legally allowed to grow Jazz apples, so you can grab these varieties at the store, but you won’t be able to find trees to grow at home. A Jazz apple recipe is certainly worth a try, with a sweet and tangy filling that perfectly complements the warm crust.
7. Honeycrisp Apples
For a super crisp homemade apple pie, the Honeycrisp variety is a fan favorite. Honeycrisp apples combine sweet and tart flavors that elevate apple pie recipes to the next level. The sweet flavor strengthens during the baking process for a mouthwatering filling. These apples also hold their own for a firm pie and other baked goods.
Think of Honeycrisp apples as team players – they work just as well on their own as they do with other apple varieties. For instance, consider pairing these extra sweet apples with the tart tastes of Jonagold or Granny Smith apples to get a beautifully bold dessert, whether it’s for special occasions or just a nice treat.
8. Braeburn Apples
Braeburn apples are another favorite due to the natural balance between juicy sweetness and crisp tartness. If your garden growing experience has included Braeburn apples, then you’re in luck when it comes to seasonal pie baking, as these apples maintain their texture and get a flavorful boost thanks to the oven heat.
Nutmeg and cinnamon flavors naturally appear in these apples for a more complex finish than some milder varieties. If you’re up for a powerful pie with unforgettable flavor, try combining Braeburn and Honeycrisp apples. Spicy and sweet delights are on the menu when pie making with Braeburn apples and similar apples like McIntosh and Fuji.
9. Cortland Apples
With the satisfying sweet tart flavor of this apple variety, yummy desserts are all yours. Not only is it a great pie apple, but the Cortland also creates fantastic apple crisp and cobbler. Thanks to the generous tartness and resistance to bruising, this variety can be used on its own for a sweet pie or paired with Granny Smith or one of the other more complex varieties.
What’s unique about Cortland apples is that they hold their color extremely well after slicing. There’s no need to worry about them browning prematurely, making these ones not only an excellent choice for apple pie, but also cheese platters, salads, and spreads.
10. Roxbury Russet Apples
Crispy pie crust and flavorful filling made from this kind of apple are undeniably good. This pie apple is used for crisp baked goods and cider, thanks to its firm, juicy qualities, and coarse flesh. Considered the oldest apple tree variety in the U.S., this cultivar produces fantastic baking fruit, although it’s not as common commercially due to the dull color and heavy markings.
Those external blemishes don’t diminish their sugary sweet flavor. Growing this heirloom apple in your backyard gives you yellow-green fruit that can be eaten fresh when picked or stored for several months. September and October mark the ripening season, making this fruit ideal for autumn desserts and holiday baking traditions.
11. Northern Spy
Lastly, this list wouldn’t be complete without this popular apple hailing from upstate New York. A lot of people enjoy the Northern Spy pressed into yummy apple cider, but this variety is awesome in apple pie too. With a pale red or green color, this crispy, juicy fruit holds up well for baking purposes.
Let these ones sit in cool dry storage for a couple of months if you can’t make your pie straight away – they are long-lasting and retain their flavor well. The creamy flesh is a terrific balance between crisp and tender for a hearty homemade pie that deserves a dollop of ice cream.
Simple Apple Pie Recipe
Apple pie is perfect year-round with complex flavor profiles as long as you have the best apples for apple pie. Whether you make it from scratch or take a few shortcuts in the kitchen, you can ensure a mouthwatering pie that’s even better than one from the grocery store. Just follow this quick and simple baking recipe for one of the best homestyle apple pies.
The pastry is one part and the fruity filling is another. Here’s what you need to make both!
- 2 cups plain flour
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2/3 cup chopped butter
- 2-3 tablespoons cold water
While it’s relatively quick to make shortcrust pastry with just these four ingredients, you can also use premade pastry dough or pie shells to save time.
- 7-8 peeled apples
- 1/3 cup raw sugar plus a few tablespoons for sprinkling
- 1 lightly beaten egg
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
Of course, the apples are the most important part here. Whether you opt for Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, or another tart apple, your filling is sure to be delicious. Feel free to experiment and use just one variety, or combine a few for a complex flavor. Alternatively, you can use canned pie apple if you’re in a pinch for time or already can your apples each season.
1. Using a food processor, combine flour, sugar, and butter for the pastry. Once it resembles fine crumbs, slowly add water and mix into a smooth dough.
2. Knead dough into a ball with light flour, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
3. Once chilled and ready to use, divide the dough into two parts – 2/3 for pie base and 1/3 for pie top.
4. Roll each portion to desired thickness. If you’re using store-bought pastry, just defrost on the counter.
5. Grease pie dish and preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Heat apples and water in a saucepan on medium, stirring occasionally until the fruit softens slightly, usually five minutes. Add lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar.
7. Put larger pastry over the pie dish and firmly press down to fully cover it. Trim excess pastry and drain extra liquid out of apple mixture. Spread apples across the dish.
8. Brush beaten egg over pie top and add a sprinkle of raw sugar. Cut several slits into the top of the pie before baking until crispy and golden, usually 30-45 minutes.
More Creative Apple Pie Recipes
You don’t need to commission a world-class baker to produce the sweet tart pie you and your friends or family are craving. While of course you can keep it simple and sweet, there are ways to dress up your apple pie and make it fancier. We recommend recipes with Getty Images or personal snapshots of the best apple pie taken by the writer to give you a better idea of what you could whip up in the kitchen. Each one of these online recipes listed below brings something a little bit new and different to the table, so consider giving them a try.
- Golden Delicious Apple Pie – cornstarch, apple pie spice, and vanilla extract make for a wonderful crust.
- Salted Caramel Apple Pie – homemade salted caramel sauce adds a new dimension of flavor to a trusted favorite.
- Bacon-Bourbon Apple Pie – brown sugar and two tablespoons of bourbon add a rich flavor, combined with crispy bacon pieces.
- Deep Dish All-American Cinnamon Apple Pie – this rich, syrupy pie lets the apples take center stage with a hint of cinnamon goodness.
- Upside Down Apple Pie – switch things up with the traditional crust on top, and add pecan and other nuts as you wish.
What are the best apples for apple pie?
Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Pink Lady apples are just a few of the varieties commonly chosen for pie and other desserts. Consider your personal preferences whether you like a more mild, sweeter dish or something with a lot of tart and tang.
Can you mix different apples for apple pie?
Yes, you definitely can. Some of the tastiest apple desserts out there include several types, although if you find your favorite and want to stick to it, that’s just fine too.
What can you find with a close search of apple pie?
The internet is a pot of gold when it comes to baking inspiration. Regardless of if you’ve made lots of pies in your experience or you’re just getting into homestyle baking, there is something for everyone. Each site should have photos and some even have videos to give you a better understanding of what you could make. Check for Getty Images and other reputable resources for photo evidence of the best recipes to try.
What should you serve with apple pies?
Vanilla ice cream or another flavor is legendary with fruit pies, but you can totally make these your own with any of your favorite desserts, toppings, or main meals.
Apple Pie Filling With Homegrown Apples
Making apple pie is even sweeter when you grow the apples yourself. Excited for more apple content? Visit my apple trees page to learn more about apple planting, growing, picking, cooking, and more!