Best Apples for Baking: Apple Pie, Crisp, Applesauce, Cider | The Old Farmer's Almanac

The Best Apples for Baking and Cooking

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Choosing the Right Apples for Apple Pies and Other Recipes

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Not all apples are ideal for cooking! In this article, we share some of best apples for baking and cooking—including the best apples for apple pies, best apples for making applesauce, best apples for apple cider, and best apples for apple butter. Hooray for apple season!

Choosing the Right Apple Variety

Ever eaten a mushy apple pie? Often, this is the result of the baker using a soft apple variety that doesn’t hold up in the oven. When you use the right kinds of apples in your recipes, your dishes can go from good to delicious!

Amy Traverso, apple expert and author of the award-winning The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, shares a couple important tips for apple pies:

  1. For apple pies and crisps, use “firm” apples which hold their shape during cooking. 
  2. Ideally, bake a pie with more than one apple—an equal amount of 1. “firm-tart” and 2. “firm-sweet” apples for depth of flavor. (See chart below.)

The Best Apples for Baking

Below is a list of the best apples for baking and cooking. Note that some familiar apple varieties may be missing because they are best eaten fresh. If you have apple varieties in your region that aren’t listed here, please comment below and let us know what you prefer to use!

Best Apples for Pies and Crisps

Here’s a list of best apple varieties for pie and baked dessert, which has some good geographical diversity in it:

Name Best Uses Flavor Characteristics, Appearance
Arkansas Black Pie A favorite of many Southern cooks, with deep red skin that turns purple-black in storage. Aromatic, crisp, with a cherry-spice finish.
Calville Blanc d’Hiver Pie, Tarts A French apple that dates back to the 16th century, it is the classic variety used in tarte tatin. 
Granny Smith Pie Classic “green apple” is slightly sour and a favorite apple for pie. Available in supermarkets everywhere.
Newtown Pippin Pie Sweet-tart flesh, crisp, greenish-yellow skin
Northern Spy Pie Our favorite apple variety for pie-making
Rhode Island Greening Pie  Very tart, distinctively flavored, grass-green skin, tending toward yellow/orange
Roxbury Russet Pie America’s oldest apple, it’s heavily russeted and tastes like honeyed lemonade. Flesh is dense and rather coarse. A great keeper. 
Sierra Beauty Stayman Winesaps Pie Popular on the West Coast, Sierra Beauty is complex and tart-sweet with floral and spice flavors. 
Baldwin Pie A New England favorite, this fruit is prized for both cooking and cider. Very aromatic, with spice and apricot flavors. 
Ginger Gold  Pie, Muffins, Cakes Sweet and crisp. Great for pie and light baking.
Golden Delicious Pie Fairly mild variety but easily found. Tastes best when paired with bolder apples.
Gravenstein Pie A California favorite, the Gravenstein ripens early. Sweet-tart with a hint of raspberry. Very juice and tender, but bakes well. 
Honeycrisp Pie Crisp, with balanced sweetness and acidity. Doesn’t brown quickly when sliced.
Jazz Pie, Raw snacks Exceptional taste and found in supermarkets year-round.
Jonagold Pie Yellow top, red bottom. Tangy-tart-sweet combo. Cross between the Jonathan and Golden Delicious and could fill a pie on its own.
Pink Lady Pie, Baking, Snacking Balance of sweet and sour undertones and widely available in supermarkets any time of the year.
York  Pie A great all-purpose apple popular in the mid-Atlantic region. Honey and vanilla flavors dominate and the flesh is juicy and fine-grained. 

Best Apples for Applesauce

Below is a list of apples which are best for sauces and fresh preparation. Softer apples tend to work best for sauces as well as baking dishes that cook quickly, like muffins. Use firmer apples (such as above) for dishes that cook 45 minutes or more.

Name Best Uses Flavor Characteristics, Appearance
Cortland Applesauce Tender-sweet, these large purple-red apples with yellow streaks red-blushed apples are moderately juicy and fairly sweet compared to McIntosh.
Macoun Applesauce Striated green and red color, these tender apples have snow white flesh and a sweet tart flavor with a hint of strawberry and spice.
Empire Applesauce, Fruit Salad  Doesn’t brown quicky when sliced
Cox’s Orange Pippin Applesauce Lightly red-striped with an orange huge, this medium-sized apple has a spicy or nutty fragrance.
Davey Applesauce Red with some light yellow striping and small dots, this Mac-type apple is sweet-tart, very juicy, and crunchy.
Jonathan Applesauce Tart flesh, crisp, juicy, bright red on yellow skin
McIntosh Applesauce Juicy, sweet, pinkish-white flesh with two-toned red and green skin. Slightly tart, and the most aromatic of all apples.
Liberty Applesauce A popular apple for organic growers, it’s naturally resistant to disease and pests. Tender and sweet, great for sauces, with a wine-like flavor.

Best Apples for Cider

Name Best Uses Flavor Characteristics, Appearance
Baldwin Cider Crimson red with coppery green skin, Baldwin’s cream-white flesh is crisp and juicy with a spicy, sweet-tart flavor that’s great for cider.
Gravenstein Cider Heirloom apple with a thin skin and a juicy, sweet flavor
Esopus Spizenburg Cider  
McIntosh Cider Juicy, sweet, pinkish-white flesh with two-toned red and green skin. Slightly tart, and the most aromatic of all apples.
Cox’s Orange Pippin Cider Lightly red-striped with an orange huge, this medium-sized apple has a spicy or nutty fragrance that’s great for cider.
Snow Apple Cider  
Goldrush Cider  
Stayman Winesap Cider Very juicy, sweet-sour flavor, winey, aromatic, sturdy, red skin

Best Apples for Apple Butter

Soft apples work best for apple butter because they cook down faster. Use any mix of apples.

Name Best Uses Flavor Characteristics, Appearance
Braeburn Apple Butter  
Cortland Apple Butter  
Fuji Apple Butter  
McIntosh Apple Butter Juicy, sweet, pinkish-white flesh, red skin 
Liberty Apple Butter  

The Apple Lover’s Cookbook

Are you an apple lover! Do you know an apple lover? We highly recommend The Apple Lover’s Cookbook by Amy Traverso, who quite literally wrote the book on cooking with apples. Winner of the IACP Cookbook Award (Best American Cookbook) and Finalist for the Julia Child First Book Award, Splendid Table called The Apple Lover’s Cookbook “The perfect apple primer.” We call it a perfect and amazing gift to any apple lover! 

Why an apple book? Click the cover below to look inside—and find out! Plus, find a brief history of the apple (Adam and Eve?), how to match an apple to a recipe, and 100 amazing apple recipes! Look inside the book to see ALL the apple recipes!


Apple Cooking Measurements

When it comes to cooking with apples, it may be helpful to know the following:

  • 1 pound of apples = 2 large, 3 medium, or 4 to 5 small apples
  • 1 pound of apples = 3 cups peeled and sliced apples

Have you ever made apple cider before? Learn all about apple cider pressing.

Favorite Apple Recipes

Perfect Apple Pie

If you want straight-up good ol’, classic apple pie, then this is the one that mom used to make!


Caramel Apple Pie

Of all our apple pies, this Caramel Apple Crumb Pie is the winner! The cinnamon-spiced oat topping is wonderful. And the caramel sauce adds that special taste of fall! 


Cinnamon Applesauce

Our homemade Cinnamon Applesauce can be eaten straight from the jar or paired with grilled pork chops or potato pancakes.


How to Can Applesauce

Making homemade applesauce is a favorite fall tradition of ours. Here’s how to make applesauce–and how to can it for year-round deliciousness. 


Apple Butter

Make your own apple butter with this simple recipe. Apple butter is a delicious alternative to peanut butter, and a great way to use fresh apples. 


→ See 10 of our best apple recipes!

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