The Best Apples for Baking and Cooking

Primary Image
apples on a wooden background, the best apples for baking, the best apples for cooking, applesauce, apple cider, and apple butter

Choosing the Right Apples for Apple Pies and Other Recipes

Print Friendly and PDF
No content available.

Hooray for apple season! We share some of the best apples for baking and cooking—including the best apples for apple pies, the best apples for making applesauce, the best apples for apple cider, and the best apples for apple butter. We talk to the Apple Expert to learn more about the best apple varieties for every application, as well as a handy apple variety chart to bring with you to the orchard!

Choosing the Right Apple Variety

Ever eaten a mushy apple pie? Often, this results from 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 of 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. 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 the best apple varieties for pie and baked dessert, which has some good geographical diversity in it:

The Best Baking Apples for Pies and Crisps
NameBest UsesFlavor Characteristics, Appearance
Arkansas BlackPieA 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’HiverPie, TartsA French apple that dates back to the 16th century, it is the classic variety used in tarte tatin. 
Granny SmithPieClassic “green apple” is slightly sour and a favorite apple for pie. Available in supermarkets everywhere.
Newtown PippinPieSweet-tart flesh, crisp, greenish-yellow skin
Northern SpyPieOur favorite apple variety for pie-making
Rhode Island GreeningPie Very tart, distinctively flavored, grass-green skin, tending toward yellow/orange
Roxbury RussetPieAmerica’s oldest apple, it’s heavily russeted and tastes like honeyed lemonade. Flesh is dense and rather coarse. A great keeper. 
Sierra Beauty Stayman WinesapsPiePopular on the West Coast, Sierra Beauty is complex and tart-sweet with floral and spice flavors. 
BaldwinPieA New England favorite, this fruit is prized for both cooking and cider. Very aromatic, with spice and apricot flavors. 
Ginger Gold Pie, Muffins, CakesSweet and crisp. Great for pie and light baking.
Golden DeliciousPieFairly mild variety but easily found. Tastes best when paired with bolder apples.
GravensteinPieA California favorite, the Gravenstein ripens early. Sweet-tart with a hint of raspberry. Very juice and tender, but bakes well. 
HoneycrispPieCrisp, with balanced sweetness and acidity. Doesn’t brown quickly when sliced.
JazzPie, Raw snacksExceptional taste and found in supermarkets year-round.
JonagoldPieYellow top, red bottom. Tangy-tart-sweet combo. Cross between the Jonathan and Golden Delicious and could fill a pie on its own.
Pink LadyPie, Baking, SnackingBalance of sweet and sour undertones and widely available in supermarkets any time of the year.
York PieA great all-purpose apple popular in the mid-Atlantic region. Honey and vanilla flavors dominate and the flesh is juicy and fine-grained. 
infographic, the best apples for pies and tarts

Best Apples for Applesauce

Below is a list of apples that 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 for 45 minutes or more.

The Best Apples for Applesauce
NameBest UsesFlavor Characteristics, Appearance
CortlandApplesauceTender-sweet, these large purple-red apples with yellow streaks red-blushed apples are moderately juicy and fairly sweet compared to McIntosh.
MacounApplesauceStriated green and red color, these tender apples have snow-white flesh and a sweet-tart flavor with a hint of strawberry and spice.
EmpireApplesauce, Fruit Salad Doesn’t brown quick’y when sliced
Cox’s Orange PippinApplesauceLightly red-striped with an orange huge, this medium-sized apple has a spicy or nutty fragrance.
DaveyApplesauceRed with some light yellow striping and small dots, this Mac-type apple is sweet-tart, very juicy, and crunchy.
JonathanApplesauceTart flesh, crisp, juicy, bright red on yellow skin
McIntoshApplesauceJuicy, sweet, pinkish-white flesh with two-toned red and green skin. Slightly tart, and the most aromatic of all apples.
LibertyApplesauceA popular apple for organic growers, it’s naturally resistant to disease and pests. Tender and sweet, great for sauces, with a wine-like flavor.
infographic the best apples for applesauce

Best Apples for Cider

The Best Apples for Cider
NameBest UsesFlavor Characteristics, Appearance
BaldwinCiderCrimson 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.
GravensteinCiderHeirloom apple with a thin skin and a juicy, sweet flavor
Esopus SpizenburgCider 
McIntoshCiderJuicy, sweet, pinkish-white flesh with two-toned red and green skin. Slightly tart, and the most aromatic of all apples.
Cox’s Orange PippinCiderLightly red-striped with an orange huge, this medium-sized apple has a spicy or nutty fragrance that’s great for cider.
Snow AppleCider 
Stayman WinesapCiderVery 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.

The Best Apples for Apple Butter
NameBest UsesFlavor Characteristics, Appearance
BraeburnApple Butter 
CortlandApple Butter 
FujiApple Butter 
McIntoshApple ButterJuicy, sweet, pinkish-white flesh, red skin 
LibertyApple Butter 
inforgraphic, the best apples for 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 fantastic 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!

amy traverso's book, the applelover's cookbook

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!

Perfect Apple Pie
Perfect Apple Pie

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! 

Caramel Apple Pie
Caramel Apple Pie

Cinnamon Applesauce

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

Cinnamon Applesauce
Cinnamon Applesauce

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. 

How to Can Applesauce
How to Can Applesauce

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. 

Apple Butter
Apple Butter

→ See 10 of our best apple recipes!

More Related Content

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

No content available.