The best apple pie deserves the best apples.
Read on to learn the best apples for baking pie, apple crisps, and anything else apple dessert, from a pro pastry chef.
What Are the Best Apples for Apple Pie Baking?
If you are making a homemade apple pie or apple crisp recipe, the most important component is (you guessed it) the apples. But with so many apple varieties out there, which apples are the best for baking apple pie, crisps, or anything else?
The best baking apples taste sweet but a little tart, and hold up well and stay firm when baking and don’t get mushy. Read on to learn which apples to use for apple pie filling, and which apples should not be used for pie.
The Best Apples for Apple Pie and Crisp Baking
The best baking apples for pies, tarts, crisps, and crumbles are apples that keep their structure and don’t turn to applesauce when baked. The key is to find a very crisp apple with some note of tartness, not overly sweet.
My favorite baking apples are tart, crisp Granny Smith apples. But if a very tart apple is not for you, I also love:
- Honeycrisp: Widely available, sweet, crunchy, and holds up when baked
- Braeburn: If you can find it, use it. It’s a sweeter version of the go-to Granny Smith
- Pink Lady: Sweet and crisp
- Golden Delicious: Tart but more mellow than Granny Smith
- Northern Spy: Less common, but great if you can find them.
The Worst Apples for Baking Apple Pie
Now that we’ve covered the best apple pie apples, it’s time to cover the worst apple options for baking.
Not to hate on this widely-available apple, but if you have an option, do not bake an apple pie with Red Delicious apples. I think this is true of eating them in general, but especially for baking. The pale color and often mealy texture of Red Delicious, combined with a blandly sweet flavor, will not make an apple dessert with the flavor or texture you deserve.
Are Fuji or McIntosh apples good for baking?
I also avoid McIntosh and Fuji apples for pie, which I find turn mealy due to their high sugar and water content.
How Many Apples Do You Need for Apple Pie?
A standard, fairly shallow 9-inch pie tin requires about 6 to 8 apples. I like to err on the side of too many, so that you can layer the apples into a mound on top to give some height to the pie.
A deep-dish apple pie will use between 8 and 10 apples, maybe one more if you really want to pile the pie high with apples.
Apple pie pro tip: Press the apples down slightly when you add them to the pie pan. This helps them settle, and prevents air pockets between the apples and the top pie crust.
Now that you know which apples are best for baking…
…Here are some of our best apple dessert recipes, from an easy apple crisp with an oat topping to a traditional, deep-dish caramel apple pie. Happy baking!
- Deep Dish Apple Crisp
- Caramel Apple Pie With Homemade Butter Crust
- Stovetop Chunky Applesauce
- Apple Sage Gruyère Scones
Apple Crisp With Oatmeal Topping
For the Oatmeal Crisp Topping (Crumble or Streusel)
- 1 cup light brown or dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 stick (1/2 cup; 1/4 pound) cold, unsalted butter, diced
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Apple Crisp and to Finish
- 7 or 8 medium apples, such as Honeycrisp or Granny Smith
- 3/4 cup sugar (maybe more depending on the tartness of the apples)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- pinch salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F, and lightly grease a deep-dish 9" or standard 10" pie plate.
For the Oatmeal Crisp Streusel Topping
- In a mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to mix.
- Add the diced, cold butter. Work the butter into the sugar-flour mixture with your fingers until the texture resembles coarse, damp sand. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Apples and to Finish the Apple Crisp
- Peel the apples and cut them into wedges. Put the apple slices in a large mixing bowl as you go. PRO TIP: Here's how to cut apples for apple pie or crisp. Using a sharp knife on a cutting board, place each apple right-side up so that the stem faces upward. Slice the apple on either side of the core, creating two halves. Place the remaining apple on the cutting board, and cut the remaining flesh on either side of the core. Discard the core. Cut the two apple halves into thirds or so, creating wedges. It doesn't have to be perfect.
- Combine the sliced apples with the sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and lemon juice.
- Pour the apples into the deep-dish 9" pie pan, or a standard 10" pan. Press the apples lightly to settle them evenly into the pie plate and eliminate any large air pockets.
- Use a large spoon or your hand to cover the apples completely with the crisp topping. Use it all up; you want it to be a substantial layer. Do not worry if some of the crumble falls into gaps in the apples.
- Bake the apple crisp for 45 minutes to 1 hour on the center rack of the oven, until the apples are bubbly and the crisp is a golden brown. PRO TIP: Many apple pies are baked at 425°F. But this bakes at 400°F to slow browning, due to the high sugar content of the oatmeal topping. If your crisp starts too brown too much before the apples are cooked, lightly tent the top of the crisp with foil. PRO TIP #2: Place a rimmed baking sheet or aluminum foil beneath the crisp as it bakes to catch any juices that bubble over.
- Let the finished apple crisp cool, uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Really delicious! But there’s an apple missing from your “Best Apples” list. Northern Spy is a terrific apple for pies and crisp–firm, tart with a bit of sweetness that holds up well in baking. It’s great eating out of hand, too.. They are commonly available here in New England in late October into November, and not to be missed!
Oh that is a wonderful call! I love Northern Spy. I’m going to add that to the list right now.
Thank you! Great recipe. I always use Macintosh but will look for braeburn.
I’ve always wondered this. Thank you!