The very best pie apples: how to choose

Which are the best pie apples?

With apple-picking season hard upon us, it’s time to dust off your favorite apple pie recipe, sharpen your crust-rolling skills, and get ready to enjoy fall’s favorite dessert: apple pie.

You may be tempted to make your pie from one of the six apple varieties that dominate the domestic market year-round: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and McIntosh.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

But when fall rolls around, farmers’ markets and orchard farm stands offer an abundance of choices.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

Like Calville Blanc d’Hiver.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

And Hudson’s Golden Gem.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

Northern Spy is a classic pie apple, popular in New England and New York since the early 1800s.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

And I’ll confess ahead of time that my favorite apple is any of the brown-green russets — Golden Russet, Roxbury Russet, et al.

You’ve probably identified your favorite eating apple. But what about the best pie apples? They’re not necessarily the same.

Red and Golden Delicious, for instance, are reliably crisp, sweet eating apples. But when you bake them into a pie, they can become mushy and lose some of their sweetness.

Your favorite eating apple probably isn't great for apple pie. So what's the best apple for pie? Click To Tweet

Let’s see how to choose ahead of time which of the many apples out there are best for pie.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

We’ll put six different apples to the test.

I decide to put two of my favorites, Golden Russet and Northern Spy, up against a couple of classic pie apples: McIntosh and Cortland.

I also add Granny Smith because, if there’s one ubiquitous, year-round apple, Granny Smith is it. They’re like dandelions: if Granny Smiths weren’t so pervasive, we’d love them!

Ginger Gold — a Golden Delicious cross with Albemarle Pippin — is another variety that’s often available in fall, and a worthy representative of the Delicious family.

OK, I can hear voices ringing from across the land: why don’t you test Fuji? Gala? Honey Crisp? [Name your favorite apple]?

Limited time, limited resources — and a pan with space for just six pies, so I’m sure I’ve left out a lot of worthy contenders. Which simply means you can have fun doing this same test at home with your own favorites.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

The first thing I try is making apple mini pies in our pie and burger bun pan.

The resulting pies are totally delicious — but between crust and streusel topping, the apples get lost.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

For test #2, I smarten up, simply baking apples sweetened with a bit of sugar.

To mimic apple pie (sans crust), I pile sliced apples high in the pan. Then I bake them in a preheated 425°F oven for 20 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 375°F, and continue to bake the apples until they’re bubbly, about 40 minutes.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

I had no idea there’d be such significant differences in both texture and flavor.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

For example, Russets and Macs are sweetened with the same amount of sugar, bake at the same temperature, for the same amount of time —  and offer WAY different results.

Let’s sum up the results of our best pie apples test.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

The best pie apples

Cortland
  • Texture: very soft; bordering on unpleasantly mushy.
  • Taste: Distinct apple flavor; nice balance of sweetness and tang.
Russet
  • Texture: Very firm, with pleasant bite and little loss of structural integrity.
  • Taste: Mild, unassuming, not overly sweet.
Northern Spy
  • Texture: Medium firm; slices were distinct, yet soft.
  • Taste: Sweet, mildly “apple-y.” Not much nuance.
McIntosh
  • Texture: Extremely soft; slices turned to chunky applesauce as soon as I touched them.
  • Taste: Very similar to Cortland; classic apple taste.
Ginger Gold
  • Texture: Distinct slices, but very soft; softer than Northern Spy.
  • Taste: Undistinguished; not too sweet and little apple flavor.
Granny Smith
  • Texture: Crisp/tender, a bit firmer than Northern Spy; slices held their shape.
  • Taste: Medium sweetness with a touch of tang.

So, Granny Smith looks like the best combination of both taste and texture. Does it make the very best apple pie?

Not necessarily. I’ve baked many pies with this all-purpose apple, especially during the winter when other apples are scarce or pricey. A pie made 100% with Granny Smith apples is a mighty fine pie.

But in fall, when every apple variety in the world is seemingly at your fingertips, why not take advantage of one or two (or more) of your own local favorites?

At the end of the day, choosing the best pie apples is a personal decision. My best apple pie would include a combination of these three: Cortland, for flavor; Russet, for texture; and Granny Smith, for its combination of the two.

What apples would fill your best pie? Bake your favorite varieties side by side and see what happens; the results may surprise you.

Please share your favorite apples for pie — and your favorite apple pie tips! — in comments, below.

Best pie apples via @kingarthurflour

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Cindy

    Maine bakers love macs and Cortland for pies. We love the mushy texture and the taste. Biting into a firm apple in a pie is not what we are accustomed to.

    Reply
    1. Sharon Haile

      Amen! Love my Macs! I am from Maine. I live in Utah now. No Macs here. Have to settle for Honey Crisp, Fuji or seasonal Sweet Tango (which is the closest I can get to a Mac.)

    2. Neverhalves

      Absolutely. My New England grandmother’s apple pies were divine and she made them with thinly sliced Macintosh apples (arranged *just so* in the crust so as not to puncture it!). Soft, buttery, cinnamon-laced, brown sugar-kissed perfection. Firm apples in pies are as fingernails on a chalkboard to me.

    3. Brenda Tyus Faust

      I am using a combination Granny Smith, Cortland and either McIntosh, honeycrisp, Fuji, northern spy fifth generation recipe

    4. Josh

      Concur! I don’t like firm apple slices in a pie. Usually, I’ll pre-cook my apples (Granny Smith or Cortland) just a bit.

    5. John Simmonds

      Cortland apples are my favorites for apple pie. I am from upstate NY and love the melted apple/cinnamon flavor. Firm chunks of apples in my pie does not cut it.

    6. H. Webster

      I always use two kinds and one of them is usually granny smith. I have not yet found a single type that makes as good a pie as combining two. Love it when the fall varieties are available.

    7. Jackie Igliozzi

      Yum! I’m from Connecticut and vote for Macs. I use them in both pies and applesauce. Baked in a flaky crust, their sweetness, soft texture, and rich apple flavor, makes the most delicious pie. And if they are especially juicy, so much the better. A pie baked with Macs, never lasts long enough to make the bottom crust soggy! Cortlands are close runner up, but in the fall, I reach for the Macs.

    8. Becky

      We agree here in NW PA–Macs and Cortlands are best! Those firm apple pies are very disappointing in flavor and texture.

    9. Cindy

      I’m another one from NW PA that always goes to Cortland and Macs. I use the Ball recipe to precook ahead of time; adding all the spices, sugar and thickener. Then, I freeze it in containers. When I need them, I pull one out, and most of the work is already done!

    10. Beck Penzkover

      Best pie apple–heirloom Wealthy. Alone or mixed with Macs or Cortlands. It’s an upper Midwest variety and is semi-soft and sweet-tart. Perfect!

    11. Chanel

      I agree Cindy I’m from Jersey and I love McIntosh apple pies. I do not like firm apples in my pies:)

    12. Shirley Boyken

      My very favorite all-time apple for baking is Wealthy. This is a very old variety and difficult to find but often I can get them in Minnesota and Iowa. They are an early variety so mid-September is about the end of the season for them. They cook up soft and have a great flavor in my opinion.

    13. Lorinda

      I too am a Mac lover and this year I came upon Paula apples, a little crisper. I like a variety if apples in a pie, and will often put Granny Smiths around the outside and on bottom with macs in the middle

    14. PJ Hamel , post author

      Interesting, Lorinda – the Grannies insulate the Macs a bit so they stay crisper, I’d guess? Thanks for sharing! PJH

  2. meedee

    I am ready for KAF classic apple crisp. With boiled apple cider and apple flavor. Love this blog. Here in southwest ,Texas ,I don’t have the good forturne for allthe choices in New England ,but a few in our stores, but we have KAF in the stores. LOVE KAF!!!!

    Reply
  3. Carol

    I love reading your blog and drooling over the recipes and photographs. My 31 year old son is the pie baker in our family. He uses Granny Smith apples in his pies, muffins and breads.

    I have been thinking about buying your pie and burger bun pan and now that I see mini apple pies in it, I want it more than ever. Would you please share a recipe for a mini apple pie. I am thinking we could make the pies and freeze them for snacks.

    Thank you for your inspirational work.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You’re lucky to have a pie baker in the family! We hope your son shares his delicious work with you often. While we don’t have a miniaturized apple pie recipe, you can use your favorite apple pie recipe or one of our highly recommend recipes like The Best Apple Pie. One full recipe will make enough crust for 4 mini single-crust pies (no top). If you’d like to top them with crust too, double the crust recipe. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. tina in No Va.

      I agree 100% with the Honey Crisp. I buy them only on sale since they are very pricy here in No. Va.
      In fact…I have a pan of apple crisp in the oven right now made with Honey Crisp.

  4. Marti

    PJ, I’ve always had good success with Jonagold and Jonathan apple varieties. GInger Gold and Golden Supreme are great pie apples, but they are early varieties, and much much better flavor when just picked. I think I’ve thrown in an Empire apple too, when it’s available.

    Reply
    1. Jean Dee

      Agreed. My mother always said Jonathon apples made the best pies. They had the best flavor. Hard to find them now so I use Jonagold when I can get them. I think they are a cross of Jonathon and golden delicious. So many kinds of apples I remember from my youth are not available now….Roman Beauty, Winesap, Jonathon, etc.

    2. Lynn Baumert

      I second or third the Jonathans. Not available up here in the Twin Cities, but I can get them 25 miles away in Apple Valley, MN. The U of Minnesota developed the Honey Crisp, Zestar, Sweetango, and Harrelson, so those are the most popular apples up here.

    3. Xin

      Totally agree! I love Johnathon and Johnagold for baking and cooking. Very pleasant aroma with balanced texture. Honestly, I really don’t understand why granny smith got so many fans for baking. It indeed holds its shape well, but the flavor is flat and the texture is not that great (I dislike the bouncy or spongy feel). My perfect cooking apple texture should be barely holding it’s shape but melting in your mouth when chewing it. To me, Granny smith is more like a snacking apple because of the tartness and crunch.

    4. Elizabeth Growel

      I like jonagold and Jonathan apples and now the have a gonamac that is a good mix also. Like to use three different kinds in a pie.

    5. PJ Hamel , post author

      Marti, you originally opened my eyes to Ginger Golds many years ago. They’re native to your area, right? I haven’t seen any around this season, but will continue to look… Thanks for connecting, good to see your name again. PJH

  5. KJ

    I haven’t gotten to the point where I can evaluate what kind of apple to put in a pie. I’m still just trying to successfully make an apple pie – crust and all!

    Reply
    1. Sarah Graffagnino

      My mother always praised Jonathon apples for all baking including pies. I’ve tried other varieties but Jonathons are by far the best.

  6. John

    I learned about the differences in apples the year I bought 3 lbs of 6 different types to make apple sauce. First I remember tasting the various types with my daughter and really noticing the differences. Second, it was obvious the cooking time differences when they were in the pot. The Mac’s went to mush first the granny smith’s last. I leave the peels on when making sauce, separating them with a food mill at the end, so it was easy to see which were which. Now I know how to sequence them into the pot so the sauce is mostly done at the same time : )

    Reply
  7. sandy

    Very nice post. Our local fruit stand sells baskets of “mixed apple seconds” each year. We buy these especially for pies. The apples have little blemishes but nothing that impacts their use in pies. Typically we get macs, galas, johnny-golds, and probably a few others I cannot id. Each pie gets a combination of the varieties.
    I always precook my apple pie filling – adding the sugar, spices, and thickener. I undercook it a bit and then pour it into the crust and bake. Because it is precooked, I can taste and adjust the sugar if the apples are too tart. I think a combo of apples adds extra interest to both the texture and the taste of the pies.

    Reply
    1. Mainesqueeze

      I also pre-cook my apples because I find it makes a better looking pie without a great big air space between the apples and the crust. Sometimes I have enough for another small apple pie to give to a special person. I do also use a combination of apples. Whenever possible, Cortland and Granny Smith. When I’m in Florida, Cortland is hard to find so I use other kinds of apples, still with great results. Everyone loves apple pie .

    2. Molly

      The post was great but I am learning so much more from these comments! My mom said her mom always used at least 3 varieties of apples for pie and one always had to be Golden Delicious. I’m thinking it was so that she’d have the mushiness and the other apples would contribute taste and substance. Where I live in Eastern Washington state our apples are different than on the East Coast so it is difficult to decide which to choose each autumn but it is definitely an adventure.

  8. Monica

    My favorite pie apple is the Macoun. It’s tart and sweet at the same time, and crisp, but not as crisp as the Granny Smith. I usually combine Macouns with a few Cortlands in pies. The Macouns hold their shape nicely without becoming leathery like Granny Smiths sometimes do, and the Cortlands provide a little “mush” factor and add to the general overall flavor. Macouns are pretty popular here in the Hudson Valley, and with good reason. They are very flavorful, make great applesauce and pies, and are delicious just eaten out of hand.

    Reply
    1. Virginia Small

      I love Macoun as well but add Northern Spy and Cortland to the mix. Because of this mix of varieties, I get so many questions and compliments on apple pie. I feel the same way about Northern Spy as you do Macoun. Isn’t it nice we have such wonderful apples here in the Fall!

    2. DBC

      I agree about the Macoun apple. It is grown in Ohio too. A very good all-purpose apple. Next for me is the Northern Spy. A contraction of the Northern Some-Pie apple, grown from New England, Ontario to Michigan and very hard to come by. Honeycrisp is a raw eating apple and doesn’t produce the juice needed for an excellent apple pie. I also think it helps to use more than one type of apple. One to cook up for juice and thickening and an apple that will hold its shape.

    3. Kristen

      I loved to eat Macouns when I was growing up in Upstate NY, but I really love Mutsu (sometimes called Crispin) apples for pies. They are huge and hard as rocks, but they make wonderful pies and apple sauce. Both varieties are nearly impossible to find in NC where we live now.

  9. Mary

    Jonathan’s are what my Mom used and my 3 sisters and. I do too. Mom made wonderful pies and my youngest sister does too although we all bake pies. We snap up the Jonathan’s and freeze them since there is such a short time in the fall we can get them..

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sarah, apples can be frozen a number of different ways depending on how you intend to use them later on. Some people simply core their apples and freeze them whole in ziplock bags while others peel, core and slice before freezing. Dipping the sliced apples in water with a little lemon juice can help prevent browning, and freezing slices on a parchment lined baking sheet before bagging can help prevent the slices from clumping. However you do it, be prepared to use your frozen apples in baking or cooking, rather than snacking, as the flesh will be a little mushier than that of fresh apples. Mollie@KAF

  10. David F Emery

    In my area here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont,for at least the last 100yrs,the DUCHESS apple has always worn the Crown for “best pie apple”.

    Reply
    1. Jorun Meierding

      My grandmother, who was a world class pie baker from Wisconsin, also favored Duchess apples for pie, although they are hard to find here. In later years, she substituted Wealthies which, like the Duchess, “mush” while baking. Also, Grandma skipped the traditional cinnamon and spiced her apple pies with a touch of nutmeg. Delicious!

  11. Lily

    Huge fan of the Golden Russet, like you. Hard to get in Central NY even tho we are in tne heart of apple country. I usually do about 7 or so apples for a pie, combination of Golden Russet, Empire, and a couple Snapdragons (newer licensable variety from Cornell). I think Granny Smiths are highly overrated. I don’t think I have tried Cortland for pie but will go for it based on your research!

    Reply
  12. Glen

    I use 50/50 Granny Smith and Macintosh, adding sugar, a touch of cinnamon, and juice from half a lemon. The result is a nice chunky pie with sweet-tart applesauce between the chunks. Tastes like home.

    Reply
  13. GaryO

    Interesting that I don’t see any mention of my favorite pie apple : The Winesap.
    It comes in later that most others – end of September.
    Winesap is on the sour side for eating by itself, but that very thing is why I like it so much for pies.

    Reply
    1. Beth

      I like the turkey winesap and King David’s for pie because they both are tart. I usually go to the orchard and buy 15 pounds of a variety of apples and start peeling. No two pies are the same.

    2. Kate Powell

      Winesap (Stayman) are the BEST apples for pie. That’s ALL My GrandMother Ever Used. If I can’t get them I use granny smith and add more sugar.

    3. Polly Morgan

      My favorite too. Also great great sliced into quarters, cooked in cinnamon butter sauce and finally baked to perfection in oven

    4. Whitney

      I load up the freezer with Winesaps (northern KY) in the season. They’re my favorite standalone pie apple, but they also blend well with Jonagold. Granny Smith are my emergency backup.

  14. Mark

    When I can find them, I use Rhode Island Greening apples. I generally mix them with Northern Spy for a truly superb pie. And of course, no pie is complete without a slice of NY extra sharp cheddar.

    Reply
    1. Patricia

      I love that too! I can never find Greenings anywhere. When I was a Kid they were easy to get and made the best apple pie and applesauce and so right with a slice of sharp cheddar!! mmmmmmmmmm so good and we always made pie crust with lard. So tender and melt in your mouth!

  15. Daniel Brown

    I always use a blend of apples in my pies/crisps. Right now I am using a combo of Macs, Holsteins and Gingergolds. As the season progresses, I will switch to other bends. I use what is fresh and local. I find a blend of apples gives me a more complex flavor with a great texture.

    Reply
  16. Sharon L. Higaki

    I have baked with Ginger golds and Honey crisp apples. Since their availability overlaps a little, I combine the two when I can. I have had no issues with the honey crisp apples, in fact I think that they taste a little better in the pies and apple cake I make.

    Reply
  17. Sue Kempton

    I use Granny Smith apples in my pies. Why do I get a large gap between my apples and crust once it’s baked? I haven’t switched crusts yet, but have been using an all Crisco crust. Thank you so much for doing this “best pie” series. Y’all are my “go to” on baking.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Sue, we’re hoping you saw our reply on Facebook earlier, but there are a few things that can lead to gapping, and several quick and easy things you can do! Often the gap is the result of steam released by the apples during baking. To avoid the gap, you need to give the steam a place to escape, which is why cutting vents into your top crust is so important. If you’re already doing this and still experiencing a problem, pre-cooking your apples a bit can help allow for a release of moisture/steam before the apples are closed up in the crust. Gapping can also sometimes be the result of simply the way the apples cook down. As they shrink, filling that’s just poured or piled in may shrink unevenly. Arranging the apples in more intentional layers can help to avoid this. Hope this helps! Feel free to give our Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE if you’d like to chat more pie with one of our bakers. Mollie@KAF

  18. Kelly Hudson

    Pippins are my pie apple of choice. They are tart little green apples and hard to find anymore. They do shrink some when baked, but they have been a family favorite for decades.

    Reply
    1. Amy G.

      Amen on Pippins. Bake wonderfully. They are slightly less firm and a little more sweet than Granny Smiths. Hard to find even in season – my local grocer told me that the restaurants buy them up for their deserts, making it harder for the home baker to get them. If you like distinct apple slides these are perfect.

    2. Gail Ogden

      I grew up using pippins for pies too (California). Impossible to find in Nebraska. Clearly, based on this blog, we all need to be planting apple trees to get the variety we seek. The best apple pie? One that anyone takes the time to make for others to enjoy!

  19. Elizabeth

    My mother always used Rome apples in her pies but I have trouble finding them these days. I usually use a combination of Granny Smith and another Apple, Jonathan, Cortland or another variety, Rome if I can get them.

    Reply
    1. Rhonda

      Rome are the best, in 1969 I asked a little older lady in a grocery store what kind of apple was best for pie (I was baking my first one) she said Rome been using it since. But very hard to find now.

  20. Ruth Myers

    Here in Michigan, we’re fortunate to have access to lots of apples–year round. Years ago, I had a friend (who comes from apple-growing stock) tell me that a good apple pie had to have at least 3 different apples in it, and one of them had to be Golden Delicious. I stick to that formula when I can. My “go-to” used to be Jonathan until a farmer recommended I try Northern Spy. When I can get them, I’ll always include Northern Spy in my baking!

    Reply
    1. Rosemary

      I agree! Here in Michigan we say “Spys are for pies,” but they are a late maturing variety so you have to wait until they are ripe. I always use at least two different varieties, often Jonathan or Jonagold, Cortland, Rome. I haven’t seen Russet apples around here, but if I do I’ll give them a try. Another great variety is Wolf River.

    2. Molly

      My goodness, I just replied to someone else about my grandmother’s go-to for apple pies being always three varieties and one must be Golden Delicious. Neat to find another person adhering to the same formula!

  21. Maxine

    My favorite apple for pie is pippen they are firm and crisp ! No mush when you use pippens. And I usually add in a couple macouns because I always have them on hand. I live in upstate New York and there are plenty of apple orchards !

    Reply
  22. Milly Halterman

    Granny Smith on bottom, Jonathan in middle, Fuji on top. Not too much sugar, sprinkle raw sugar granules on top crust. Bake in metal pan on a baking stone for first 20 minutes so bottom crust gets nice and brown, 25 minutes off the stone. 400 degrees 45 to 55 minutes.

    Reply
  23. Timaree

    I don’t have lots of choices here in Hemet CA so my favorite from what I can get are gala apples. I used to use Granny Smiths but they are too tart and not nearly juicy enough (I add apple juice to the mix if I use them) but Galas are easy, available and good. I do prefer the Grannies in cakes where the apple flavor is easily lost.

    Reply
  24. Marge Gritz

    Well I am busy dealing with the apples from our 2 dwarf apple trees. We did it right this year, confounding most pests by applying orchard socks (like nylon peds) to the apples when they were just wee nubs on the tree. Our Cameos we eat and some go into applesauce. They are a sweeter apple. The old-fashioned Winesap is our pie apple. Not quite as tart as the Granny Smiths from the store and more apple flavor probably just because they are fresh from the tree. I also just finished a big batch of apple butter laced with cinnamon and a touch of allspice and cloves, brown sugar and a small drizzle of molasses. Mmmm a really smooth spread to garnish your toast.

    Reply
  25. Whitney Warrick

    I just put up a peck of Cortland apples in the freezer. I foresee mixing them with Granny Smith for pies this winter. There are more apples coming ad the season comes into full swing, including my beloved Winesap. I also love hitting the central market downtown because there’s a grower of heirloom varieties I see nowhere else.

    Reply
    1. Whitney

      I core, peel and slice, then into the freezer bag they go. Don’t cut them very thin or it will be almost useless for pies when it thaws. I just put up a peck of Winesaps…I am DONE for the winter.

  26. Mary

    Wolf River apples combined with Courtlands. Yum! Will have to try some of the other combinations listed. I also put some cranberries in too.

    Reply
  27. Becky Wilcox

    What happened to Pippens?? We used to buy them in So. California all the time. They made terrific pies. Haven’t seen them for years.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      One of the oldest American originals, right? They’re not a variety we see much of in NE, but from the looks of it, a number of other readers are still able to get their hands on them. Have you tried your local farmer’s market(s)? When it’s apple season, ours are bursting with variety. Good luck! Mollie@KAF

    2. Maureen Walsh

      I used to buy Pippins at the Coop markets in Berkeley/Oakland CA area. They would have huge bins of them for pennies a pound and I could bake and snack all I wanted. Then, just as I was getting my kids fond of them, they disappeared. Interesting comment that the restaurants are buying all the crops. Oh well, now I’m in Western NY and have access to all kinds to bake for my grandkids.

  28. Ross

    Does anyone else use a combination of apples? I like the non-homogeneity of this approach. Some of the apples get mushy and others hold their shape. Makes for some interesting eating.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We agree, Ross! Who doesn’t like a little interest in a pie? Reading through some of the other comments here, we can see that many other bakers do this as well to get a more complex flavor and balanced texture. Keep up the good work! Mollie@KAF

  29. A. Smith

    Has anyone tried the `Bramley`,? Very popular in England. Came across from our fruit farm store in Landrum, S.C. and made apple sauce and freeze some for apple pies. Like it very much.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Bramley apples are wonderful for pie and applesauce, especially if you like a bit of tartness to your treats. I even know a lovable black lab named after the delicious apple, as he grew up on an orchard. Bramley the pup and bramley apples are both close to my heart! Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Merlayne

      Bramleys – the very very best ! As an ex Brit I really miss them . I have not come across them here in British Columbia. So if anyone knows of any in the Okanagan I would love to know !

  30. Jennifer

    I am a convert to Northern Spy. We were at a local orchard a few years back and when I saw the bin labeled “the best apples for pie”. Yeah right, but I picked up enough for a pie. In my opinion they were right and it has been my pie apple of choice since.
    Thanks to you PJ for our post on how to freeze a pie, I have a freezer full of tasty apple pies.

    Reply
  31. Karen

    Great test, but what about the North West Coast apples?
    Moved from N East to N West Coast and trying to figure out which to use for apple sauce.

    Thanks, John, on the heads up of the different timing of apples in your sauce !

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Karen, we have a fabulous baker among our ranks who used to live (and bake) on the North West Coast. She shared her favorites with us noting that Gravensteins are especially good, either on their own or mixed with Yellow transparents. Cox’s Pippins are sometimes found at the farmer’s markets and they’re just terrific pie apples, too, crispy and firm with a subtle spicy, citrus nose. She also reminded us that’s a plethora of varieties available, so you might want to ask your local farmer or grocer for suggestions more specific to your area. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Jon

      Gravensteins are a very early apply and have a very classic applesauce flavor. They are great for sauce (which I typically can about 6-8 quarts a year) but I believe a bit soft for a crusted pie but would be great in a crumb top. Our local apple farm sends out an announcement when they get them in from the Petaluma/Santa Rosa area.

    3. Carla

      Glad to see someone shouting the praises of Gravensteins! I grew up, and still live, in the small area of Northern California where those are grown. Alas, Gravensteins are a tender apple that neither ships nor keeps well so they are a California secret. When they ripen in late July I dash to the farm stand, buy as many as I can carry and make my year’s supply of applesauce. I then freeze pies for Thanksgiving and other special fall and winter occasions. The tart-sweet Gravensteins are worth celebrating!

    4. Molly

      Karen, I live in Eastern Washington and bought a self-polinating apple variety ‘Chehalis’ whose tag proclaimed it to be a wonderful eating and baking apple. Not good at all for pies but BRILLIANT for applesauce and also apple butter. Hoping you can get your hands on some next year, it is an early apple…sweet and delicious. Don’t waste your time using it in a pie however. 😉

  32. Barbara Merten

    Granny Smith gets me the best pie, along with a Cortland or two. I also have used Northwest Greening but haven’t seen them in the markets for years.

    Reply
  33. Mary Cross

    My favorite apples for both eating and pies have always been Jonathans. I like Transparents for sauce. I guess that dates me because nobody grows them anymore.

    Reply
    1. Susan Webb

      Transparents are good. They are grown here (NWPA) but I usually miss them as they come in so early in August. They have a short season. My Grandmother, Aunt and Mom and my cousins all love getting some Teansparents when we can. Guess I’d better plant a couple trees of them.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      While I haven’t come across Gravensteins in my apple adventures thus far, some other bakers at King Arthur Flour were happy to hear this name mentioned. It’s sweet and sharp flavor sounds enticing, especially when it comes to pie. I’ll look for it this coming fall. Thanks for sharing this with us. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Christine Frank

      oh I love Gravensteins..very popular in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. But they are not so popular in Ontario and have to search them out late September. I bought some Ginger Gold’s the other day at St Jacob’s market and made 2 apple pie slab pies. The reason he recommended it to me was that I did not have to peel the apples. And the taste was spot on. It was a success. I am making more today but am going to add some of my most trusted apple, the Cortland.

    3. Carla

      Gravensteins are an amazing tart-sweet apple that is so tender it neither ships nor keeps well. It is grown primarily in a small town in Northern California. It ripens in late July and is only available for about a month but it is well worth freezing a few pies then–if you can bear not to eat them as soon as you make them.

    4. Pat Aarestad

      Yes, but have to be lucky to find them in a store. The local orchard has some, though! My Mom used Gravensteins or Transparents.

  34. Gail

    Cortland! Cortland! Cortland! For us those are the ones with the flavor we love. One just came out of the oven. It’s too hot to eat right now!

    Reply
  35. Michelle

    Grimes from Tower Hill Botanical Gardens in Boylston MA when I can get them are unbelievable. An heirloom apple saved by the Worcester Horticultural Society. This year have used Braeburn and the pies have been excellent. Apples don’t turn brown and hold their shape. All my pie baking skills I learned from KAF class in Norwich! Coming back in November for more tips

    Reply
    1. lee ellen

      love grimes golden but haven’t found them for years. growing up, we bought apples every year at a local orchard; they had a sweet german shepherd named cider!

  36. Judy Brown

    Deep dish apple pie top crust only using Macs. Nothing could be better. In my family there wasn’t a question as to what was the best.. That was what my paternal Grandmother always made..and the tradition was carried on..
    Apples always came from Lyman’s Orchard in Ct.

    Reply
  37. Faith

    These comments are very interesting reading! I moved from Connecticut to Seattle 6 years ago – I baked apple pies with Empire apples always in C. but can’t get them out west. I am really surprised no one mentioned these tasty apples – cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious I believe. Good to eat, good in pie and lovely pink applesauce. I’ll try SweeTango out here and see if I like it!

    Reply
    1. Marti

      I also love Empires. Found them in central Virginia. You’re right about them making the best applesauce ever. I also throw in a couple for pies.

  38. David R. Boulton

    Living in Vermont, I go to the Dummerston Apple Pie Festival and I asked years ago what kind of apple they use. I was told that they used a “20 ounce” apple so I began using them. I can no longer find them so I find that I prefer a mixture of MacIntosch and Cortland.

    Reply
  39. Tamara Penny

    I really enjoy reading the posts as well as getting new ideas from all you other bakers. I’m here in San Diego, Ca and for the last two years, I’ve tried different combinations and I think I finally found one that works the best for me…a mixture of Granny Smith, Fuji & Honey Crisp. I feel that the sweeter taste & slightly softened texture from the Fuji & Honey Crisp pair nicely with the more firm & tart tasting Granny.

    Reply
  40. Kelly Rainwater

    I’ve always used Granny Smith for the reasons you’ve stated, but I must add that each year’s crop is different from the last. Some years the apples are dryer than others, which affects the filling. Sometimes the apples cook down soft and juicy and other times they stay firm, without any juices flowing out of the pan when you slice. If it seems too dry, I just add extra whipped cream or ice cream or caramel topping. There’s never really anything wrong with either way it turns out. Homemade is always better than store bought! (Someone mentioned the boiled cider: I forgot about that! I tried it several years ago along with the KAF apple pie spices and it was delicious! I think I will order more this year!)

    Reply
  41. Sally Babcock

    My apple pie made using KAF recipe last week included Macintosh, Macoun, Honey Crisp and Ginger Gold, two of each, and it was delicious. Using the Boiled Cider gave it that extra wow flavor.

    Reply
  42. Paula K

    Best pie I ever made was with apples picked up on a trip–Fancy Gap, NC. the owner said they were Mauzy Apples, golden skin, very fragrant and the taste! Oh MY the best pies and applesauce and I have never seen them anywhere else. My dad loved Smokehouse apples but they are harder to find these days. Agree on Winesaps, also Baldwins. Love the heritage apples.

    Reply
  43. LaRita Williams

    To me, my favorite apple is the Wealthy. I have never seen it in the stores for purchase, but if a person times it right, you are able to get it at the local orchard here.
    Not sure if they even have an abundance amount when ripe. The apple is pretty sour so it needs no lemon juice to make it tart, but lots of sugar and it cooks up to the point of no shape left to the slices. Maybe others prefer that apple for sauce, but I enjoy it for pie, also.

    Reply
  44. Debbie

    I love reading everyone’s comments about Apple’s and pies. My granddaughter and I just picked up two varieties of Apple’s: granny Smith and johnamacs to which I will be adding quince, which I preserved last fall. I’ll be making a couple and experimenting with crust recipes, hoping to turn out something very light, crispy, and flakey.

    Thanks so much for this information. Until now, all I ever hearddabout using in pies were granny Smith Apple’s.

    Have an awesome day, y’all.

    Debbie

    Reply
  45. Kay Gellerstedt

    I’ve always loved Granny Smith apples for baking. The taste and texture are the best for pies, as well as bread and muffins. I’ve been crazy for Impossible Pies! I love the Impossible French Apple Pie…so decadent! You don’t have to fuss with a crust because the “crust” is processed in the blender. And the crumbly topping is to die for! In addition to the apple pie, I also make the Impossible Pumpkin Pie, Impossible Coconut Pie, and Impossible Cheesecake Pie. There are so many sweet and savory varieties that there’s sure to be one that appeals to everybody!

    Reply
  46. Karin Anderson

    Apple pie was a wonderful new experience for me as a European – but I have, yet, to find an American baking apple that can compete with Boskoop or Cox Orange. Therefore I follow Tartine bakery’s example by using a mix of different apples for a more complex flavor.

    Reply
  47. Therese

    I’m the third generation to use a recipe that calls for Pippins. If I can’t find them, I’ll use Granny Smith. The recipe has an optional ingredient that I’ve never used…a slice of sharp cheddar cheese added to a fresh hot slice!

    Reply
  48. Gloria Aluise

    My pies are famous in my circle of friends and acquaintances. Apple pie is the go-to for me because it is the easiest to make quickly. My secret: I buy the “biggest” apples so I don’t have to peel a lot of them. I put a lot of apples in my pies, sometimes as many as 12 or more for a large pie. (I save the aluminum pie plates that come with Costco’s Pumpkin Pie.) The neater the layers, the more apples I can fit, so I often arrange the apples individually. I never use Red Delicious, but I am open to all others. Golden Delicious, Empire, Cortland, Gala — I use a few of each. When I include Granny Smith, I only use two or three. They are not a favorite of mine. The final and my most important secret is to always include a few (the number depends on the size of the pie – 3-4 for a 10 inch pie) Macintosh for my favorite flavor. I spread the slices separately on the top of the other apples already in the crust and sometimes I arrange a few slices in the middle of the pile.

    I also use a lot of cinnamon, really, a lot! When my apples are all peeled and in a large bowl, I cover the top of the apples with a brown coating of cinnamon before mixing, along with sugar and lemon juice. I am pretty generous with the butter pieces I lay on the top of the apples, too!.

    I have also learned that apples can be peeled the day before and put in a glass bowl (mine always fill the bowl), covered with plastic wrap and used the next day; they do not discolor if they are not exposed to the air. this gets the messy work of peeling and slicing out of the way. I mix in the spices the when I am ready to put the pie together.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Estelle, it may have become scarcer, but it’s still around: it’s Rhode Island’s state fruit. Check out this site, I think you’ll find it interesting. PJH

  49. Pam

    I always learn so much from this blog! Thank you, P.J! I’m grateful there are so many varieties of apples, and especially for the orchardists who preserve the heritage varieties. How often folks comment on their preference for the apple variety that their mom used in her baking. When you bake for your family, you create a legacy of taste preferences. (Although I’m not sure anyone in my family is going to want to recreate my delicious kale salad. Probably this only happens with pie!)

    Reply
  50. Jackie

    I loved reading your post about apple pie making. I must say, I have never enjoyed Granny Smith apple pie. No matter how long I bake it, the apples stay crunchy and I find very little real apple flavor. The only thing I can see going for granny Smith is it’s ubiquitous nature and it’s tartness.
    My mother always made apple pie out of yellow transparents. My personal favorite is earligolds. They taste like transparents but hold their shape better. I like to mix them with ginger golds, Honey Crisps, zestsrs and several others that may be available.
    Of course, I am from Washington state and we have a wide variety of apples from which to choose. I really think apple pie is simply a personal thing, probably stemming from childhood memories.
    Thanks for your tests.

    Reply
  51. Susan McCarthy

    Why can you not buy Bramleys here in the US. They are the best no doubt. We had a tree in our garden back in Kent, UK that produced apples weighing a pound or more. Sooooo good.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We can find Bramleys here in Vermont, Susan! You might want to ask around at a local market this time of year to see if any farmers are growing these tasty apples. We agree, they sure are tasty for pies and in most recipes! Kye@KAF

  52. Pat Aarestad

    I don’t see any mention of Transparent apples or Gravenstein apples. My mother always used them probably because we had a transparent tree in the back yard! I can still get Gravensteins once in a while here in the Northwest.

    Reply
  53. Leslie

    In Northern California, gravensteins rule though I am eager to try a russet (Anne of Green Gables ate them in abundant relish!).

    Reply
  54. debbie

    i have always wondered if slicing the apples thinly as opposed to chunks was the best way, i see that all of yours a thinly sliced, which is how i have been doing it. growing up in PA we had a 100 year old apple tree in our back yard, I assumed it was granny smith, green crisp apples, every year it was a group effort to make as may pies as we could to freeze for the winter.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Debbie, I use an apple peeler/corer/slicer, since I like to be efficient — or should I say lazy?? And that’s the size slices it makes. I think slices vs. chunks is entirely a personal decision; there’s no right or wrong here. Thanks for your apple tree memories; do you remember what your record for number of frozen pies was?PJH

  55. Peggy

    Thanks for your most informative post……….my personal favorite for an apple is:
    Winesap, Stayman, Rome & McIntosh. I’ve been baking apple pies with these 4 varieties since 1968, when I received a “Betty Crocker” cookbook as a wedding present. Works everytime!

    Reply
  56. Sue Turner

    Jonathans make the best pie, as they hold their shape and don’t turn to mush, are tart, but sweet when the sugar is added. A bushel makes about 5 pies, which can be frozen and baked for winter treats. Just grease the crust with Crisco before wrapping completely with clear plastic wrap, and then completely with foil. Do not thaw before baking, just bake as usual, until bubbly and brown as you like. Jonathans also make great frying apples. Slice and put into a skillet with a dollop of butter, cinnamon and sugar. Serve warm. A wonderful dessert for a fall evening meal. Jons have a fabulous flavor eaten raw, baked, or fried!

    Reply
  57. Deb in Nova Scotia

    If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.
    Carl Sagan

    I’m good with the King Arthur recipe 🙂

    We have four apple trees. One is a Golden Russet which once hit with a couple of good frosts offer the sweetest little apples.

    The second is a Northern Spy tree which inevitably find their way into pies, muffins, waffles and tomato pasta sauce.

    The third is our tree of many cultivars. I love this tree and am thankful for the man “Frank” who, whenever he came across a delicious apple would graft a branch onto the trunk. We have counted 9 different apples cultivars including one so large when sliced it covers a generous slice of bread. I suspect a Wolf River apple.

    The fourth is a small apple, not quite crab small but still smaller then a Russet. It turns a deep red in the Fall and is perfect for making jellies.

    Reply
    1. Becca Pritchett

      Dear Deb in Nova Scotia,
      We grow an old heirloom apple here in Ellijay, Georgia called a Yates apple. It could be the apple you are talking about. Becca from redapplebarn.com

  58. Cat White

    I love my Macs and the pies I make with them all year long, but for a short time in the fall I can get the supreme pie apple from a local orchard. I refer, of course, to the Red Gravenstein. If you like a firm really tasty apple in your pie, you can’t beat Red Gravenstein. Sadly they do not store very well so it is a seasonal treat.

    Reply
  59. Lew Nitkin

    Gravensteins, R.I.Greenings, Baldwins and Granny Smiths are my favorites in that order. I prefer Macouns as an eating apple but after reading the raves, I will try them in combination with some of the above. Nothing better than a good apple pie with some sharp cheddar on the side.

    Reply
  60. Cathy

    Gravenstein has my vote. 33 years ago I planted a Gravenstein apple tree in mid New England and it produces the most delicious apples, for pies, sauce, apple butter, etc. and eating. They don’t keep well fresh which is why supposedly they didn’t take hold on the east coast, when originally introduced.

    Reply
  61. Linda Finnie

    Cortland and Macs! Growing up in Maine, I helped my Nana make a lot of pies. Now living inNew Hampshire, as a Nana I am teaching my grandkids to bake pies!

    Reply
  62. kentuckylady717

    I think Macintosh or Winesap makes good apple pies…..I would never use Granny Smith….I don’t want firm apple slices in my pie….as I feel they never get done….I have purchased many apple pies in the store and always the apples are undercooked…..if I want a raw apple I will eat a raw apple :)….if I eat an apple pie I want the apples done….just like carrots…..I hate half cooked carrots……

    But I do love a good apple pie…..Marie Callender makes a great apple pie…..if you don’t feel like making your own….. The Amish make a good pie also 🙂

    Reply
  63. Rory GMW

    I have been baking much-coveted apple pies “from scratch” for over 50 years. Those who taste them say they are the best they’ve ever eaten. I like my pie with apples that are neither mushy nor toothy. I also believe that, as Brandywine and Mortgage Lifter heirloom tomatoes have better flavor than modern cultivars, so do older varieties of apple have more flavor than Galas, Honey Crisps, and the like. I make my apple pies with equal parts Russets, Baldwins, and Winesaps. The Russets are for sweetness, the Winesaps for a winey tartness, and the Baldwins for deep classic apple flavor. You can’t even imagine how delicious this combination is! I have tried many others, including all the kinds mentioned in this forum, but these are the best! I do make a shortbread apple pie that uses Golden Delicious, which are perfect for it, but that’s another breed of cat entirely. At the end of apple season, I stock up on these three varieties for my winter pies, as they are all short-season varieties. Sometimes it’s a search to find them, but definitely worth the trouble!

    Reply
    1. Pam the Goatherd

      Finally someone else who uses Ida Red!
      I’ve got a small orchard in my back yard with an Ida Red, a Spy, a Fuji, and a Golden Delicious. I use the Ida Reds and Spys for pie. The Fujis make such a sweet applesauce that I hardly have to add any sugar. And the Golden Delicious are for my husband to eat out-of-hand. I’ve always found the Ida Reds to have just the right consistency for pie and they are sweet-tart enough to prevent the pies from being too syrupy-sweet.

  64. Shirley

    Dear P.J., Your blog is always interesting and informative. I envy your job! With a ‘lifetime’ of experience, (70 plus years making pies), I have learned a few things on my own, as well as am a graduate home economist from a top ten university with experimental foods emphasis. This includes teaching, coaching food demonstrators, and much more. I think the crust defines a pie and I love to make flaky crusts. My secret is to mix the ingredients as ‘lightly’ as possible, always cutting the shortening of choice into the flour, leaving chunks about the size of big peas. Then I toss the flour/shortening with ice water and gather it up, sometimes dumping it onto a huge piece of plastic wrap and gathering the corners, while squeezing to compress it into a ball. (I make lots of pastry dough at a time and use a huge bowl and commercial plastic wrap.) I cut out what I perceive to be the amount I need for a two-crust pie, divide it in half and then very lightly ’round’ it up on the sides, pat down on the top–often whacking it flat with my rolling pen. Then I take my bench Knife and cut the flattened ball into four pieces and stack them, then press them down and round up the edges. Sometimes I do this again. (This is making layers and layers of flakes). I am careful not to work the dough for I do not wish to develop gluten strands. After placing the bottom crust into the pie plate, I add the filling and very lightly moisten the edge/rim of the crust so as to ‘glue’ the top crust tight. I roll out and place the top crust on, trim to even if needed and tuck it under the bottom crust, lightly pat the two together so as to make a tight seal, and then crimp with my thumb and pointer finger with a little twist to make a lovely edge. If I am making a fruit pie, I lightly brush the top with milk or light cream, dust it with sugar and CUT VENTS into the top crust–sometimes in a design and sometimes randomly. I then turn my stove oven on to 375 degrees F. and place the pie in my microwave on high for 15 minutes. Be sure to use a Pyrex or microwavable pie plate–NOT METAL. I watch it as it microwaves, for sometimes it can close the vents and cause a huge bubble of crust and lift the crust. If it starts to do this, I just stop it and use my knife to re-cut the vents or make extra ones. This process causes the butter or shortening to melt quickly with the water makes steam which causes the dough to create wonderful flakes. After 15 minutes, I place it into the oven and bake it for about 20-25 minutes for a perfectly browned pie with more flakes than you could ever count. I THINK THIS METHOD ONLY WORKS FOR FRUIT PIES, NOT CREAM OR CUSTARD PIES. As for apples, this is my favorite way to make an apple pie, for as we all know and has been discussed in above comments, there is a wide variation in apples and how they cook up. I find that hard apples soften beautifully with this method, and we never have to chew a hard, lumpy, more raw than cooked apple, no matter what variety one uses. The difference is in the taste of the apple and no one has ever refused or fussed about that in my pies. They are devoured and never seem to languish on the shelf, although I have my favorite apples. I use a flour/shortening/salt/water crust as well as flour/shortening/sugar/salt/vinegar/egg/sugar, (sometimes called a tea- crust). My daughters and granddaughters make awesome pies using this method. I hope this inspires a little experimentation!

    P.S. The scraps make excellent pies,too, and never seem to turn into pie-crust cookies! And one last thing: Have you ever wondered what gluten looks like? To find out, take a small amount of flour and mix with water to make a dough ball. Then take that ball and hold it under a faucet of cold water and rinse the starch out until the water runs clear. What remains is the gluten. You can put it on a pie plate and bake it just for fun to see it transform. It is NOT palatable! I always describe it to my students as the “bones of the bread”.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Shirley, this is fascinating! I just had a bunch of “ah-ha” moments reading all your tips. I always wondered if it was better to roll the crust under or over when crimping — under it is! And that microwaving technique – I definitely have to try that. Do you fund the pie needs much less baking time if you microwave it first? Thanks SOOO much for posting here! PJH

    2. Molly

      Thank you for all of this information, Shirley. I’m printing off your reply to place in my cookbook for future reference. I’ve only ever heard of the microwaving technique before from someone who made her pies with store-bought crust and canned pie filling. I had no idea it was good to use with from-scratch recipes too. I sure wish your reply also included hints for dealing with home-frozen unbaked fruit pies as that is what I normally do with the bounty of wonderful apples available in autumn.

  65. Zoe Myers

    Thanks for this post! I love russets, too, and mix them with pippins. We’re fortunate to have a good variety of heritage apples available in our part of Virginia.

    Reply
  66. Kate Powell

    Winesap is definitely my family’s choice for the best pie apple. All my grandmother ever used. Not too sweet and holds its shape

    Reply
  67. LindaK

    Ha! For every apple type and pie baker there is a preference. I live in Central New York State, Apple Country! My default apples for pies are Cortland’s and here’s why. Of all the “major” pie apples grown here (Northern Spy, Mac’s, Golden varieties, a few more), Cortland are the most consistent from year to year in spite of drought, temp extremes, etc. For example, this year has been very dry, apples are on the small side and seem not to make much juice when mixed. I couldn’t get Cortlands at my local farm stand so used Spy’s. I baked my usual time and the Spy’s turned to mush and collapsed. Cortlands would not have done that.

    Reply
  68. Donald Cantrell

    It seems that apple pies, like many other things, are regional favorites. My best apple pies are filled with Sonoma County Gravenstein apples. The apples are best picked tree-ripened (green/yellow with a light red blush) and already have a delicious apple scent. After baking, the slices are tender, yet “al dente” as one would experience with a fine pasta. These apples have a natural sweetness that requires little amendment and yield a robust apple pie flavor. Finish the presentation by creating a romantic sauce using apple juice, dark rum, butter, a little brown sugar and a pinch of salt cooked until it spins a thread off of a wooden spoon. Your guests will love you for it and ask you how you did it.

    Reply
    1. Nicky

      I was hoping someone would mention Gravensteins. My favorite Apple for pies and sauce. I recently heard a story about vintage orchards being destroyed to make room for vineyards. Wine grapes yield more profits. Thankfully heirloom apples will survive because of the resurgence of hard cider.

  69. Kymm

    After reading your article i did some more research about apples. Its funny how so many different types of apples arent available anymore. I came across a gentleman who sells hard to find apple trees out of Maine thru Fedco seeds. This is a chance to plant and enjoy the gift of apples to cherish for years to come.

    Reply
  70. Rachael Booth

    My favorite pie apple is the Stayman Winesap. They’re sweet with just a hint of tartness and hold up very well in a pie. I used to live in southern New Jersey and could get them easily. Now I live in northwestern New Hampshire and they’re almost impossible to fine. So last year I planted 4 trees with a Red Delicious for cross pollination. They’re looking strong going into this autumn. I can only hope.

    Reply
  71. Mary

    We have an orchard with a number of apple varieties. My current favorite combination is Honeycrisps and Corlands – the Cordlands for flavor and for the fact that they soften a lot during baking and form a nice soft texture around the Honeycrisps, which hold their shape a bit better.

    Reply
  72. Cecelia of Washington The Apple State

    I have a few advantages in responding to this question. I am old and I come from generations of bakers, apple growers, and the freedom from the mindset of a ‘best’ apple for pie.
    My only prejudice is that the freshest apples make the best pie. Different tastes , textures, and characteristics in so many varieties of apples appeal to so many different tastes, and the visions for the final product. The best apples are ones you have available to you (your garden?); be creative with mixing a few varieties in your pies, make one a little more tart, in half and sweeter in the the other half, enjoy the textures of ones that keep their shape after baking, and the others that may not but are flavorful beyond compare. Don’t be so fixed that you miss the beauty of the creation of a pie out of your bounty and imagination. (Tips: keep track of what characteristics you AND your family and friends like, add ever so little of the best vanilla and butter you can afford, same with cinnamon only suit you.) Practice, practice, practice- Apple pies are an ART and good art is creative and and variable. Who knows… maybe the best apple pie ever is the one you teach to your child or grandchild that starts a lifetime of baking.

    Reply
  73. Pat Wester

    This is a great post. I even read all of the comments. I don’t bake apple pies all that often and have been in a quandary about the best apples to use. I must admit, it was a revelation to me that so many people use a combination of apples. That was great advice which I will definitely use the next time I bake. We have a Wealthy tree and the apples make great applesauce but I have never been fond of them for pies because I don’t care for how they mush down. However, I can see the advantage of using a few of them with some firmer apples. We also have a Macintosh tree, great for applesauce but too mushy in a pie.

    Reply
  74. Anna

    I find my best pies are using a combination of various apples. I like Mac’s to add a bit of soft filling and tartness, but use others that hold up a little more. Zestar is my absolute favorite. It’s tart yet crisp. Because it’s not as sweet as some, it’ll soften a bit in a pie, but still holds it’s apple slice shape. Now that I’m in the south, I can’t get the Zestar, nor several other varieties available up north, so I use what I can, and adjust with sugar. My family doesn’t turn it down😊 But I do miss my options from up north!

    Reply
  75. Lenore

    Here in Michigan we use Macs and spy apples. . My Grandma always used spy apples. I do not like a mushy or firm pie and these apples seem to work best. I do not have available all the apples you have in Vermont but have recently found an orchard in Midland, Michigan that has many of the old varieties. I make applesauce from Macintosh and snow apples.If the snows are not available I use the Jonathons.
    I am going to have to come to Vermont in the Fall and try some of your apples. For eating apples I prefer Macs, however my husband is from the NW and thinks the tang of the Michigan Macs is too strong and prefers Galas.

    Reply
  76. Kathy - NE Kingdom, VT

    I made an apple crisp yesterday to take to dinner at a friend’s home. Used apples from a local orchard – half Ginger Gold, half Cortland sliced thin. And, I added to the apples some Boiled Apple Cider, VT Pure Maple Syrup (sorry folks, there isn’t any better anywhere…), a generous handful of dried cranberries, and some finely chopped pecans to the crumble topping. Yummy!

    Reply
    1. Doris Lindley

      Sounds so delish! I hadn’t thought about adding maple syrup and I still have some from a trip to VT in 2014!

  77. Nancy Mock

    I like a combination of Cortland and McIntosh in my apple pies. Like an earlier commenter shared, that softer texture is what I’m most accustomed to in an apple pie – though I’m a Vermonter, not a Mainer!

    Reply
  78. Beth Parkhurst

    Gravensteins are the first pie apples to ripen; tasty but wet. I use Baldwins, Northern Spies, and RI Greenings. Off season, when I have to use supermarket apples, I use Cortlands. Sometimes I mix apple varieties in a pie. When I was a girl in rural upstate New York sixty years ago, “pie apples” meant Greenings, the only cooking variety grown in local orchards.

    Reply
  79. Diane

    My mother always used Jonathan apples. My family prefers Granny Smith. My favorite eating apples are Pink Lady and Empire. Have not used them in pies, however, but I may try them.

    Reply
  80. Laila

    Granny Smith mixed with golden delicious and Gala…I use Honey Crisp instead of Gala when I feel its ok to indulge and pay triple the price..I don’t know why Honey Crisp is so expensive, so it is reserved for special days..At any rate, using KAF boiled Cider makes any combination taste “appely”…LOL..so it is my secret ingredient to an awesome pie all the time…

    Reply
  81. Ellen Perkins

    I always use Granny Smith and one other type (at least). I can generally get my hands on Fuji or Galas, so typically those are used with the Granny Smiths. I haven’t used just one apple type in my pies for years.

    Reply
  82. Denice

    We use Arkansas Black (since we have a tree and then don’t have to pay per pounds lol).. We also use them for slow cooker apple butter.

    Reply
    1. Daniel

      I got a “Black Beauty” from a farmer’s market in Nebraska that I loved for pie, a late season apple. I wonder if it’s not the same.

  83. Cheryl W

    I’m in Northern Minnesota and we grow an apple called Wodarz; yellow skin, flesh is white firm and sweet. I use it for my processed “Apple Pie in a jar” and also fresh. I find if I insert an elbow macaroni in the slits of the crust; it helps with letting out steam and prevents spillage on the edges.

    Reply
  84. Gigi

    My immigrant Gram made the best pies ever and she used King Arthur unbleached AP flour and Northern Spy apples from the little orchard next to her MA farmhouse. I loved making pies with Macs and Macouns. Now that I live in WA state, the selections are somewhat different. Granny Smith and Delicious apples have never appealed to me. So I usually get Fuji or Empire for pies and crisps. Recently tried Honeycrisp but they are much better for eating than baking.

    Reply
  85. Margaret

    For me you cannot beat “Northern Spys” for apple pie! They are the best !!
    My least favorite for pies besides Macs would be Granny Smith.

    Reply
  86. Janis LU

    I do not make apple pies, but do make apple crisp. I use red delicious apples. Have been using them for forty years. Friends and family love it. Do not use oats.

    Reply
  87. GaryO

    My favorite apple – for years – has been the Staymen Winesap. This type is sometimes hard to track down, but, in my opinion, makes the best pies. Slightly tart…

    Reply
  88. Ildi

    I love the Cortland apple. I also love to add Granny Smith apple to my pie, not the store-bought very green one, but the one I planted. They turn less green and a little sweeter if you let them stay on the tree a little longer. I recommend growing some because you get apples without poisons on them.

    Reply
  89. Alayna

    I’m reading through the comments and WOW! I had NO idea there were so many kinds of apples!!! Of all these kinds, we can once in a while get macintosh and honey crisp and always Granny Smith… any advice on which apples to mix in Montana?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Alayna, according to an article put together by Montana State University, some local varieties you can look for are Lodi, Goodland, Carroll, McIntosh, Empire, and Haralson. Check out a farmer’s market for even more varieties! Kye@KAF

  90. elle

    Which is your favourite for using in apple crisp? Gala’s I find are too soft and mushy and sweet for a crisp, the green apples are too sour and hard in texture.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We like using a combination of apples, Elle to get the best of both worlds. Try looking for Honey Crisp or Pink Lady apples, or better yet, frequent your local farm stand and ask a grower what they think will work best for your crisp. It’s always a good idea to get an inside scoop if you can! Kye@KAF

  91. Phyllis from Vermont

    I also always use a combination of apples but always include some Granny Smiths. A couple of tips I’ve learned over the last 40 years of pie baking: when making any kind of fruit pie, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar/spice/starch mixture over the bottom of the pie crust before filling, which thickens up the juices and prevents the bottom crust from getting soggy. And always always dot the pie filling generously with butter which makes a wonderfully rich delicious pie. And learn to perfect your crust. The best filling in the world doesn’t matter if the crust isn’t flaky and tender.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Phyllis, those are excellent tips. Thanks so much for sharing — and I totally agree about the crust. It can be memorable (in a good way), or a total deal-breaker, so it’s worth finding your own go-to recipe and perfecting it. PJH

  92. Beverly in PA

    My mother’s apple pie recipe calls for either Rome Beauty (often called just Rome apples) or Macintosh. I always use the Rome Beauty apples, but they are increasingly difficult to find. Last year my local grocery had just enough for me to buy for two pies. I tried Macintosh once–my family said it was applesauce pie! To me, Granny Smith are too tart–I like my apple pie sweet. Which apple would most approximate the taste and texture of a Rome apple if I can’t get them?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Beverly, I tried researching via Google for apples similar in taste/texture to Rome, but wasn’t able to pick up any useful information — sorry! Have you ever tried Northern Spy, though? As noted, they’re one of my favorites. Also, try Googling “Rome apples similar characteristics,” or some-such — you might have better luck than me! PJH

  93. Lanette Bendixsen

    There is nothing more frustrating than clicking on an article about the best “Insert thing here” only to discover that what the title really should have said is best on the East Coast. Most of the apples address in this article are not available out here on the west coast. We do have some wonderful varieties including the famous granny smith, it just would have been nice to see some of them, Unless of course the point of this article was that we don’t have any good pie apples out here

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Our intention was certainly not to dismiss the bounty from the the West Coast, Lanette – we know that there are many delicious flavors there too! We’re East Coast based, so we’re most familiar with and have the most access to the varieties here, but our hope is that home bakers will do their own testing with what’s locally available. As a bonus, if you take a read through the comments, we think you’ll find a number of other readers have shared their favorite West Coast varieties as well. Mollie@KAF

  94. Terri

    When you make your pie filling I make a hugh batch and I can it in the winter in comes in handy for pies apple crisp and even warm the filling and put a dollop of ice cream on top for a light dessert, being from Vermont now living in Myrtle Beach Cortlands are hard to come by, so we take a trip to Vermont and bring back a large amount of apples to eat and can for filling and apple sauce Cortlands are the best

    Reply
  95. Claire Rosenberger

    I see no one has mentioned Yorks, which I get at a local orchard. I really like them in a pie but now I’m intrigued by the multi-type idea!

    Reply
  96. Eileen Sullivan

    Northern Spies, hands down, and Cortlands if I can’t get Spies. I’ll confess to a bit of nostalgia. My mother was famous for her apple pies, and she always used Northern Spies (in Michigan) Macs just turn to applesauce, so I might include one in the mix so the filling has a bit of applesauce in it. The Spies have such an amazing flavor and hold their shape so you know it’s Apple Pie!

    Reply
  97. Carol Curtis

    The very best apple for your very best apple pie would be Baldwins. Growing up (60+) years ago in Haverhill, MA, we had an old, gnarled Baldwin tree that stood ignored most of the year. That is, until late Fall when the apples were perfect for picking. Baldwins are great winter keepers too. So, maybe it’s just because when I’m lucky enough to locate some Baldwins for pie making, it’s a taste memory of my late Mother’s love to all of us, but they have my vote. Boy could she bake!

    Reply
  98. Janice A Allison

    My Mother always used Jonothan Apples for pies.. I too, love the taste and texture of the Jonothan, in a pie. I’ve tried Granny Smith, but I don’t like the taste or texture, so if I do use them, they are mixed with some Jonothans, but normally, I don’t even buy them!. My Grandma always said to keep a pie from boiling over, to sprinkle the bottom of the crust with flour before you add the filling, and it does work! I always cut butter on top of the fruit too. I learned how to cook and bake, on the apron tails of my Mother and Aunt! I make a really good crust, and I don’t really measure the flour & butter, or Crisco. For the last 15 years, I have been mixing Whole Wheat flour, in with Un-bleached flour, and that makes for a really good crust!

    Reply
    1. Janice A Allison

      I also make fillings ahead, and freeze them. I line my pie pan with Saran Wrap and foil, then pour the filling in and cover. Then stick in the freezer. When frozen, I take the wrapped fillings out and seal in a Zip Loc bag. When I want a pie, I just use my Pie Crust Mix, and set the frozen filling inside the crust. I let it thaw, and pop it in the oven! My Pie Crust Mix ~ I mix it all except for the water, and store in freezer bags, so all I need to do is thaw it out and then proceed with the water, etc. It saves time, when you want one fast!

    2. PJ Hamel , post author

      Janice, thanks for sharing another handy tip. I like how the filling isn’t just frozen, but frozen in the shape of a pie so all you need to do is plop it into your crust. Excellent idea! PJH

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      It sounds like you learned some valuable tips from the best kind of teachers, Janice! We hope you’ll continue passing that knowledge along. Mollie@KAF

  99. Lckansas

    I mix Haralson’s, Cortland’s and Granny Smith apples for pie; they make a wonderful combination; not too mushy, not too firm, and a balance of sweet and tart, which is what I want in my apple pie. The apple pie had rave reviews here in Kansas.

    Reply
  100. Jill

    Here in North Carolina I recently discovered HoneyCrisp and Pink Lady…I think they are wonderful and I am contemplating making a pie with them.

    Reply
  101. Lauren MacArthur

    I am a New Englander……..originally from Massachusetts, but a long time in Maine now………I love Macs in my pies….the flavor is so wonderful……I add Granny Smiths for texture……….and, they taste good, too!

    Reply
  102. Camille Oliver

    An apple orchard near me sells at our local farmer’s market, and I love them dearly. I’m never sure what will be best for pies, so I just request a “pie bag” from one of the ladies. They quickly pick an assortment that will include the best blend of flavor, tartness, sweetness, and texture, given what’s in season. When in doubt, go to the experts. (Also, nothing at the supermarket holds a candle to fresh picked!)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Camille, what a nice idea — a “pie bag” of expertly selected apples. It would be great for more farm stands and farmer’s markets to offer this. Thanks for sharing — PJH

  103. Jan

    I love Gravensteins for apple pie and applesauce. Bad part is they are only available for a couple of months in the summer. For me, they have a good “green apple” flavor, sweet/tart.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      We don’t generally see Gravensteins around here, Jan — I think they’re mainly a West Coast apple. Glad you’re somewhere you can enjoy them! PJH

  104. Chelan

    Having grown up on an orchard in Central Washington, I’m partial to the Cameo apples discovered by our neighbors. They’re fairly new on the market, and are a cross pollination of Red and Golden Delicious. I mix them with Granny Smiths. Excellent balance of flavor and texture.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Balancing flavor and texture always involves tasty experiments, doesn’t it? I like to briefly microwave combinations of apples to see how they do when cooked; it’s a good way to do a “quick and dirty” test. PJH

  105. Karen

    In the fall when I can pick them, I like Cortland and Ida Reds mixed. The advantage of Ida Reds is that it’s a keeper for months in the refrigerator, so I can store a bushel to enjoy for crisps, pie, etc. There is nothing like the crunch of a hand picked apple in the fall!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Good to know about Ida Reds, Karen — thanks for sharing. And yes, nothing like fresh-picked; I picked the last apple off my tree yesterday — savored every bite! 🙂 PJH

  106. martha

    My mother always used York or Winesap apples, and her pies were (of course) delicious! We all love our mama’s apple pies. I’ve seen Winesap apples in one store here (Texas, near the Gulf), and never any Yorks. The Winesap doesn’t seem to happen every year, and I can’t decide whether to try a different apple. Good warmed up with cheese or with ice cream..just as good grabbed out of the fridge and gobbled down cold. I’m going to look for old friend Winesap tomorrow. Starving for apple pie!!

    Reply
  107. Jeannie Gionfriddo

    I love making pies. For 50 years I have used Cortland apples, and I still don’t think you can beat their flavor. About 30 years ago my apple pie won ” Best Apple Pie of New England!” I’m making the pie you featured with braids and leaves for Thankgiving. A wonderful combination of beauty and delishousness!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We hope you end up with another winner on your hands, Jeannie, and enjoy the new challenge! Mollie@KAF

  108. Julia

    I like to do a combination of Cortland, Macoun, Empire, and Granny Smith. I used to like throwing in a Rome Beauty, but haven’t seen them around in a long time. Because each apple adds something characteristic to the pie, I say the more the merrier!

    Reply
  109. MB

    Braeburn apples make a fine pie. If you can find Fireside apples, which arrive seasonally in Minnesota, use them — they make a great pie. Like many above, I like to combine apple varieties in a pie for the best flavor.

    Reply
  110. Josie

    I’m originally from upstate NY, which is Mac country. Until I moved away, I had never had an apple pie made with anything but Macs. Now live in California and the apples out West are like rocks compared to apples in the East. I am constantly trying different combinations of local apples, sometimes cooking the filling ahead, always experimenting. I have had gone so far as having Macs shipped to me from an orchard in the East. Pricy, but oh, so worth it. So, maybe one day I will have a pie that will come close to one made with Macs, A girl can dream 🙂

    Reply
  111. John

    West PA. I always used half Rome and half Macintosh. DW likes all Golden Delicious.

    We baked a pie yesterday and used half Golden Delicious and half of a mix of Candycrisp and Fuji, which a guest provided. Had it today for Thanksgiving and loved it.

    It’s my opinion that the apples you used for today’s apple pie make the best apple pie! It sure beats no apple pie.

    I always use the same amount of salted butter and flour for the crust. Just a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of water if necessary. Yesterdays took no water. Man is it flaky. To me unsalted butter tastes like wet dog hair. Yuk

    Reply
    1. John

      Not equal amounts, but one of each. 1 cup of flour, One 1/4 pound stick of butter, 1 pinch of salt and 1 Tablespoon of water, IF necessary. If you’re worried about salt eliminate the added salt. I only use maybe 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

      I hand cut the flour and butter with 2 butter knives. If I were teaching pie baking I would have the students make a pie crust with the knifes, because everyone has butter knives so everyone can bake a pie. No excuses here.

      Once you have the pea sized pieces, no matter how you accomplished it, work your mix into a ball with your hands. Trust me you won’t need the water… most times. Think about your bottom crust. You have too much juice and the crust gets soggy. So why add more water into the crust???

    2. John

      I’ve been wanting to plant some apple trees. But first let me explain. I already have 3 trees, two are Gala, the other is an Orange Pippin. I’ve never tasted the apples, they’re too buggy. I trimmed the Orange Pippin and one Gala the year before last. My neighbor told me they wouldn’t produce. They didn’t this past year; but neither did the Gala I didn’t trim. And there are three other Galas on neighboring properties that didn’t have any apples. The one tree that did is my advisor, who warned me about over trimming. She has a green apple tree, that isn’t Granny Smith?!. It had a nice crop but it’s right at the corner of their house… So it didn’t get frost damage? I’m figuring that if the trees are shorter it’ll be possible to spray. The Gala that’s two properties over is about 60 feet tall.

      I’ve already put in a Honey Crisp and a Golden Delicious in the past two years, one in each. I’d like to put in a Red Delicious for fresh eating, a Macintosh and a Rome for pies. And in the future, I’d like to put in a Jonathan. I had also considered a Granny Smith because they come ripe in November and keep for 6 months. But I hate pies with firm apples, I always thought those pies were made with dried apples?

      I’ve always had problems with dwarf trees. I had one that got one flower in it’s 20th year, but that lone flower didn’t develop an apple. So I’ve made up my mind to use semi dwarfs, I know; I’m going to be overloaded with apples. But that’s what one does when we get older! And we talk a lot.

      I really like this web site. I appreciate the variety of opinions.My thanks go out to those who’ve posted here.

  112. sandy

    My store of apples was running low for Thanksgiving and I wanted to use the few I had left and still have a well filled juicy fruity pie. What to add..? I thought of cranberries, but had several other cranberry dishes planned. Then my husband suggested an apple cherry pie. It was perfect. I used macs, johnny-golds, galas and canned sour cherries. It took a little more sugar than my regular apple pie but the combo was great.

    Reply
  113. Helen Ownby

    Staymen Winesaps are my favorite, were my mother’s also. Because we live in S. GA now, they are impossible to obtain. Have pretty much given up making apple pies, unless we venture north and can obtain northern apples…The ones in the grocery store…even with names like Granny Smith and Mac just don’t cut it for pies.

    Reply
  114. Barbara Thompson

    I agree with so many others that combining apples makes a winning pie. I think three kinds are always best. I almost always use Granny Smith as one of the apples, but the other two can be almost anything. I like my apples well-cooked, but feel the flavor is so much better when multiple kinds are used.

    Reply
  115. Shelley T

    Hi all, I’m in Central Texas and my favorite pie apple is Pink Lady. I love it’s sweet and sour and crispiness and then I usually use either Golden Delicious or Fuji sometimes Gala. I did try Jazzy recently and it was a fun experiment. I have loved reading all the comments here and will take to heart all the suggestions.

    Reply
  116. mary

    Great reference! I occasionally buy apple pies with firm apples and I get indigestion and no enjoyment from the texture. Do certain apple varieties create more gas and indigestion than others? I noticed that your apples were chopped – that seems important too. I’ve sliced on the mandoline and used the apple divider implement that cuts into about 8 large slices, chunks, neither of which creates a nicely cooked apple.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Mary, sorry, we don’t know about the effect various types of apples will have on your digestive system; that would be a question for your doctor or a dietitian. I chopped the apples while doing this particular test, but usually slice them using an apple peeler/slicer. I think the key is even pieces, whether you’re chopping or slicing; you already seem to be doing that, so if by “nicely cooked apple” you mean softer, I’d suggest you use apples that soften a lot as they bake; or simply bake your pies longer. Hope this helps — PJH

  117. ckelly175

    Our favorite apples for pie are the cortlands and macs. I usually mix them in a pie
    or crisp and sauce too. this fall we picked 60 lbs. made lots of crisp and pies and of course ate them too. But as my family says they never met a bad apple pie! I
    think any apple can make a good pie.

    Reply
  118. Carolyn D Bellah

    I grew up in north Florida many, many years ago during an era when very few fruits were shipped in so apples were a special treat, usually tucked into the toe of a Christmas stocking. But we did have pears…not a soft one like Bartlets..but a very hard one called sand pears. My mother made pies, minced meat, and preserves from them. The pies were served with either ice cream or cheddar cheese. My husband had never eaten such and really liked them. Sometimes I sprinkled a good bit of shredded room-temperature extra sharp cheddar on the top crust, rolled it lightly, then flipped it over the filling…gave the pie a slightly different flavor. Did you know that a very good mock minced meat can be made from firm green tomatoes? I guess people have always built their own cuisine from whatever was grown locally so those are the tastes we wax nostalgic over.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We didn’t know that, Carolyn! Thanks for sharing that tip with us. We’ll be sure to savor the next few apples we eat as if they were still a rare commodity. They’re delicious enough to envision that being true! Kye@KAF

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