What Are the Best Apples for Apple Pie?
And what are the worst?
The first step in baking the perfect apple pie? Using the right apples. Here’s what you need to know:
What Makes a Good ‘Apple Pie’ Apple?
The best apples for apple pies are firm, dry, and have a sweet-tart flavor. Softer apples are great for snacking, if that’s what you're into, but will quickly turn mushy and soggy when baked.
As far as taste goes, we believe balance is key. There are super sweet apples (like Golden Delicious), there are mouth-puckeringly tart apples (Granny Smith, for instance), and there are apples that have elements of both flavor profiles (Honeycrisp is a great example of a multidimensional apple). You can achieve this balance by using a single sweet-tart apple variety or by using a combination of apple varieties.
Of course, some pies are meant to be distinctly sweet or tart. If that’s the case, don’t feel bad about leaning fully into one flavor (a Granny Smith Pie can be both sour and delicious at the same time).
Best Apples For Apple Pie
These are the balanced, sweet-tart apples we were talking about. Hard and dry (but still juicy), they’ll stand up to the heat of your oven.
- Honeycrisp: Talk about the ideal apple. The delightfully complex flavor works well for just about any purpose, from salads to baking. They can be a bit pricier than other varieties, but trust us, they’re worth it.
- Pink Lady: Here’s another universally crowd-pleasing choice. There’s a reason its flavor is so pleasant: It was bred by crossing the acidic Lady Williams with the sweet Golden Delicious.
- Braeburn: The bold flavor (and subtle spiciness) of Braeburn apples make them ideal for autumnal baking projects.
- Jazz: This variety, which has surged in popularity in recent years, has a sweet, tart, almost floral flavor. You can find it in just about any grocery store.
More Great Options
These apples are great for mixing-and-matching with complementary varieties.
- Granny Smith: Granny Smith apples have long been associated with pie-baking because of their wonderfully firm texture and acidic flavor. While they do work well on their own (again, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with an intentionally tart pie), pairing them with sweeter varieties produces more nuanced results.
- Golden Delicious: This is another classic, time-tested apple pie apple. These sweet and mellow apples are practically made for baking.
- Fuji: This apple variety is quite sweet—and we’re certainly not complaining. Use it alone or pair it with some Granny Smiths for a more balanced pie.
- Gala: Here’s another super crisp and super sweet option. They are a bit mild compared to other varieties, so keep that in mind before baking.
What’s Wrong With Red Delicious?
Believe it or not, there are people out there who enjoy the bland mealiness of Red Delicious apples—and that’s fine. Different strokes for different folks, we like to say.
But it’s best to keep that particular variety away from your pies. They’ll break down much too quickly during the baking process, and you’ll end up with something more similar to applesauce than pie filling.
How Many Apples For Apple Pie?
It depends on the length and depth of your pie pan and crust. Generally, six to eight large apples will do the job—but always follow your recipe.