The 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 (and other apple-packed bakes).

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 are 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 each have different flavor profiles. 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. Or don’t pick just one: 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, or pair your apple mix with the perfect apple pie crust.

Braeburn

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 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.

Crispin

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. Originally called Mutsu apples because of their Japanese heritage, 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.

Cortland

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 great for apple pie, but also perfect for a recipe like Mom’s Fried Apples.

Granny Smith

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. (Not using them right away? Here’s how to store apples so they last.)  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.

Jonagold

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.

Honeycrisp

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.

Pink Lady

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 maintains as its 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.

Winesap

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. They’re also exceptionally juicy, so you may want to add extra cornstarch or flour to keep the filling from getting too watery. Of course, that juiciness makes them perfect for other baked goods like breads and muffins.

What Apples to Avoid for Pies

Fuji

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.

Golden Delicious

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. Of course, they’re absolutely perfect in softer recipes like custard apple pie and applesauce.

McIntosh

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, unless you mix them with other types of apples that are firmer.

Red Delicious

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.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.