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The Best Apples for Baking Pie + More Apple Desserts

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The best apples for baking pie and all your favorite apple desserts.

Read on to learn the best apples for baking pie, cakes, apple crisps, and apple recipes for dessert, from a pro pastry chef.

best apples for baking pie

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 with tart flavors, 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 and crisp filling and baking, and which apples should not be used for pie.

best apple pie baking apples

The Best Apples for Apple Pie and Apple 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.

I also avoid Gala, McIntosh, and Fuji apples for similar reasons.

best apples for baking

Are Fuji or McIntosh apples good for baking?

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.

best apple pie baking apples

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!

easy apple crisp recipe with oat topping

Apple Crisp With Oat Streusel Topping

This sweet and easy apple crisp recipe with oat streusel topping laced with sugar and cinnamon has all the deliciousness of apple pie -- with a lot less work thanks to this sweet and simple topping; no pie crust necessary.
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Course: brunch, Dessert
Cuisine: American, english
Keywords:: apple crisp, apple crisp oatmeal, apple crumble, apple pie, easy desserts, fall desserts, how to make streusel, oat topping, thanksgiving, winter desserts
Servings: 1 deep-dish 9" apple crisp
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Ingredients

For the Apple Crisp Oat Topping (a.k.a. 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; they're too bready)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal brand)

For the Apple Crisp Filling 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)

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F, and lightly grease a deep-dish 9" or standard 10" pie plate.

For the Apple Crisp Oat Topping

  • In a mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon, and salt in a mixing bowl. 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.
    oat crumble streusel for pie

For the Apple Filling and to Finish the Apple Oat 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.
    PRO TIP: Almost a secret ingredient, lemon juice subtly enhances and brightens the flavor of fruit, much like how coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate.
  • Pour the apples into the deep-dish 9" pie pan, or a standard 10" pan, or similarly sized baking dish. Press the apples lightly to settle them evenly into the pie plate and eliminate any large air pockets.
    apple crisp apples in pie plate before baking
  • Use a large spoon or your hand to cover the apples completely with the apple crisp oat 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.
    unbaked oat topping on apple crisp.
  • 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 a scoop of vanilla ice cream or generous dollop of fresh whipped cream.
    easy apple crisp with oat streusel topping

Notes

This lovely apple crisp recipe with oatmeal streusel topping is apple pie's easier, sweeter cousin. You can make the oat topping several days in advance if you'd like; it will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week.
The best apples for baking apple crisp, pie, and so on are Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Pink Lady, and Golden Delicious. Granny Smith and Braeburn are my favorites because I like a crisp, tart apple.
Serve warm but not hot, ideally with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or dollop of fresh whipped cream. 
This apple crisp can be baked up to two days in advance, and stored (covered with aluminum foil or plastic wrap) in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature or warm in a 325 degree F oven until warmed through.
I do not recommend freezing, which will change the consistency of the apples.

4 comments

  • 5 stars
    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!

    • Unpeeled

      Oh that is a wonderful call! I love Northern Spy. I’m going to add that to the list right now.

  • Leslie

    5 stars
    Thank you! Great recipe. I always use Macintosh but will look for braeburn.

  • 5 stars
    I’ve always wondered this. Thank you!

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