The Best Apples for Baking and Cooking

Choosing the Right Apples for Apple Pies and Other Recipes

September 14, 2020
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Not all apples are ideal for cooking! On this page, we list the best apples for baking and cooking—with charts on best apples for apple pies, best apples for making applesauce, best apples for apple cider, and best apples for apple butter. 

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, expert and author of the award-winning The Apple Lover’s Cookbook (revised and updated for 2020!), 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
Firm-Tart    
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. Availalble in supermarkers everywhere.
Newton 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. 
Firm-Sweet    
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. 
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!

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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!

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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! 

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Cinnamon Applesauce

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

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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. 

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Apple Butter

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See 10 of our Best Apple Recipes

More Related Content

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Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

apples

Where is the Honey Crisp apple. These are firm, sweet and tart at the same time.

Mutsu (Crispin)

My go-to apple for every occasion is the mutsu. Finding them is sometimes the hard part.

And, yes, there is never a reason for misspelling at this level.

apples

As a kid, I remember having russet apples. They had green/grey skin with bumps and were delicious! I have not seen them or even heard about them for years.

Wish you folks had spelt

Wish you folks had spelt Macintosh correctly. Being an old Yankee I find this disturbing :)

McIntosh

The Editors's picture

Hi Richard, From one old Yankee to another (The Old Farmer’s Almanac was founded in 1792 and is based in New Hampshire), McIntosh is spelled correctly. If it helps: Macintosh is a a computer, McIntosh is an apple, and macintosh or mackintosh is a waterproof coat!

Mutsu

There’s one big orchard I know that grows Mutsu apples. They are so delicious fresh that sometimes I have a hard time baking with them... but when I do they always make the best baked desserts.

MacIntosch Apples

I find that the Mac's make a delicious pie as they are sweet and tart at the same time. When picked at the correct ripeness they stand up very well to oven cooking but do not need to be cut thin as some other harder apples.

Baking apples

The new Koru apple is pretty good for baking and desserts and it doesn't brown easily after cutting.

Northern Spy Apples

You can get Northern Spy apples in Upstate New York. I get them at Beak & Skiff. Someone said that they can’t find them anymore.

Northern Spy

The Editors's picture

We tried to list apples found all over North America. Northern Spy is a “firm-tart” apple which is excellent for rich baked desserts such as pies. Spys for pies!

Baldwin apples

I live in Massachusetts and love to use the heirloom Massachusetts native Baldwin apple for pies. I also love to use Northern Spies (Spies for Pies) and, best of all, Rhode Island Greenings for pies. Another reader mentioned Stayman Winesaps; they’re my favorite for apple butter.

apples for pies

The Editors's picture

Thanks, Beth. Agree!  A great pie is a mix of Rhode Island Greening (first-tart) with Baldwin (firm-sweet).  Northern Spy is also an excellent first-tart apple for pies. 

Apples

Just love the wolf river apple for baking holds shape nicely slightly tart and only takes 3 apples to make a pie apples are huge less peeling to do

Northern Spy

We had a Northern Spy when I was young and the apples were wonderful. Also a Virginia Beauty which was a delicious apple for eating.

NORTHERN SPY

Northern Spy is my preferred variety for the perfect apple pie & stuffed apples. Just firm enough to hold its shape with an intense flavour. Every year it became more difficult to find, now nowhere to be found. I would love to have my own trees to ensure a good supply. If only I would have anticipated their fall from popularity, I would have saved seeds. Ive tried every variety listed above, simply disappointing.

APPLES

STAYMAN WINSAP!! Best eating and cooking apple in the world. Hard to find in KY anymore. I like macs to , would like to know what other apple comes close to the flavor of stayman apples. I sure would give them a try.

Cooking with apples

One of my favorite recipes is for the dessert, Far Breton, and I like using Honey Crisp apples for this. They stay firm, sweet and don't discolor.

Different Apples where I live.

I live in Washington State we have Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fiji, granny Smith, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Cripps Pink, and Cameo I love you recipes thank you for sharing.

Apples in the south

Any advice on what apples will grow well near Summerville SC,zone 8b?

Apples

Winter Banana Apples were not mentioned. They stored very well in a cool fruit room for the winter. They are large, yellow and form an oily type film on the peel that helps keep them from withering. They have a nice flavor eaten fresh. They make great fresh apple pies with out needing any thickening because they are not too juicy. They would be my first pick.

Winter banana apples

Where are you from? In all my years I have never heard of that variety.

apples

Your description sounds like what we called the "pound sweet." Wonder if anyone knows it these 2 are the same? Unfortunately, it's near impossible to find pound sweets anymore. Sigh.

Banana Apple

We had a Banana Apple tree on the ranch where I grew up. It did have excellent taste, crispness, and kept well. Loved them just off the tree, but if they fell off the tree, the cows loved them as well.
Have not seen the variety anywhere.

Apples

What are Liberty apples used for? I've never seen them in the grocery store but I've seen them grown. I would be very interested in your reply.

apple varieties

Catherine Boeckmann's picture

Liberty apples are crunchy, mildly-tart apples which are fabulous for fresh eating, juice and sauce.

Apples

What about Golden Delicious or Wolf River?

Northern Spy Apples

We can still get northern spys at a local apple orchard here in northern Pennsylvania. My daughter and I both stop in when their spys ripen which is later in the season, to pick up a peck of them for pies. My grandparents had an orchard and though they had many different types, these were the apples my grandmother always used. The saying here is "there is nothing like a spy pie."

I agree..Northern Spy is the

I agree..Northern Spy is the best Apple. Mom and dad had a tree and mom baked away. I can't find them anywhere anymore, but the last Apple pie I made was pretty good. You brought back some, wonderful memories with your comment. Thank you and God Bless.

Bramley apple

Do Americans not like the Bramley apple as much as we do here in the UK?
They grow very big, so you can use just one apple per pie. They store for ages and are quite tart and stew very well and you can sweeten to taste easily.

Bramleys

Bramley apples aren't commercially available in the U.S., although -- since it's possible to buy the trees from select nurseries -- presumably they are available somewhere. There are so many apple varieties that it's difficult to narrow the list down, but in most areas you'll only find about four to seven varieties. These will differ slithly from area to area, but within the same area the kinds that are available are fairly set. Once in a while a new kind will show up, and another will be retired. Good luck with finding the Bramley if you ever come here, though/

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