Best Apples for Baking and Cooking

Choosing the Right Apples for Apple Pies and Other Recipes

August 29, 2019
baking-cooking-apples-recipes

Not all apples are ideal for cooking! Below is a chart with some of the best apples for baking and cooking—from apple pies and apple crisp to applesauce and cider.

Choosing an Apple Variety

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

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!

The Best Apples for Baking

Name Best Uses Flavor Characteristics, Appearance
Braeburn Applesauce Tart, sweet, aromatic, tall shape, bright color
Cortland Pies, Applesauce, Fruit Salad Tart, crisp, larger than ‘McIntosh’
Fuji Baking Sweet and juicy, firm, red skin
Gala Dried, Cider Mild, sweet, juicy, crisp, yellow-orange skin with red striping (resembles a peach)
Granny Smith Baking Moderately sweet, crisp flesh, green skin
Jonagold Pie, Applesauce Tangy-sweet, Yellow top, red bottom
Jonathan Applesauce Tart flesh, crisp, juicy, bright red on yellow skin
McIntosh Applesauce Juicy, sweet, pinkish-white flesh, red skin
Newtown Pippin Pie, Applesauce, Cider Sweet-tart flesh, crisp, greenish-yellow skin
Rhode Island Greening Pie Very tart, distinctively flavored, grass-green skin, tending toward yellow/orange
Rome Beauty Baking, Cider Mildly tart, crisp, greenish-white flesh, thick skin
Winesap Applesauce, Pie, Cider Very juicy, sweet-sour flavor, winey, aromatic, sturdy, red skin

Here’s a fun video to help you see what each apple looks like:

Best Apples for Apple Pie & Crisp

Many of us cook apples to use in a pie or crisp. For these baked goods, you need to use “firm” apples. 

Even better, use more than one firm apple variety to give the dish different textures and tastes.

We recommend using both 1) a firm “sweet” apple plus 2) a firm “tart” apple for depth of flavor. Examples of firm apples which are “sweet” include: Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, and Jonagold. Examples of firm tart apples are Granny Smith and Northern Spy.

Tip: To keep the apples firm so they fill the crust, try pre-baking the apples for about 10 minutes, cooling in your fridge, and then adding to the pie plate.

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.

Apple Recipes

As we’re talking about cooking apples, here are three of our favorite recipes using fresh apples!

Double-Apple Walnut Bread 
This double-apple walnut bread is a great seasonal alternative to traditional banana bread. Whether served warm or cold, it makes a great breakfast, snack, or dessert!

Double-Apple Walnut Bread
Photo Credit: Sam Jones/Quinn Brien

Fresh Apple Crumble Bar

apple-crumble-bars.jpg
Photo Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner.

Apple Pie With Cider Pecan Crust

apple-pie_cider-pecan-becky_luigart-stayner_full_width.jpg
Photo Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner.

Learn More

Want more recipes? Check out our Almanac cookbooks!

See 10 more delicious apple recipes and pictures or learn how to grow apple trees in your garden!

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Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

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

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/

We don't generally find Bramleys at the fruit stand....

You won't find Bramleys here in the stores...I presume because they don't sell. I'm sure they must have been tried in the markets here, it's a fairly old variety. Americans (if it's really fair to lump such a diverse crowd all together) are like the French in this one thing...we like a cooking apple that will hold it's shape when cooked. It's my understanding that Bramleys tend to cook to a puree. In my part of the country (the Pacific Northwest) we are lucky enough to have Gravensteins, which in my opinion are much better than any other apple. Gravensteins have an intense tart/sweet flavor and hold up really well to cooking. However, you almost never find Gravensteins in the big stores. The trees, though vigorous, are prone to a number of diseases and tend to want to be alternate bearers so the orchards that produce apples for Safeway etc. don't find the economical to grow....there are a few orchards that produce them commercially in California and in Eastern Washington. The best way to get them is to plant a tree (or to know someone who has one).

Bramley's seedling is so overlooked.

I'm a transplant in the US from the UK, and as far as I'm concerned, Bramleys are THE best cooking apple! I planted a Bramleys tree (mail order from a US supplier) about two years ago, so they are available. Very tart; up to 1lb per apple; waxy skin so they store very well; break down beautifully when cooked, so they're good for apple sauce, cobblers and pies etc. I haven't come across anything like them in the stores, here.

Apples Pies

Hi I am new to this, but I want you to know that this is my second year of making dutch apple pie. I have been using different apples. First year, I learned by mistake using Gala Apples, the pie was watery. So this year I bought my apples from the farmers market, The pies I hope come out better. I am learning. I am going to make my pies an annual.

Summer Rambo

We live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, moved into a house with the remnants of a commercial orchard in the yard - 9 mature Summer Rambo apple trees. Thirty years later, only 2 still survive storms and old age, but we had bushels and bushels of apples that made fabulous applesauce and apple butter.

HUH?

How could you possibly leave out GRAVENSTEIN apples??? These are absolutely the best eaten fresh off the tree, in pies (I know, I make about 40 pies to freeze every year)....and applesauce - best ever!

I agree

Gravensteins are THE BEST. And what's best of all? They're early! We had a lovely tree at our old house....I really miss it.

Honeycrisp Apples make great fried pies!

For fried pies aka hand pies I prefer dehydrated Honeycrisp apple.
Honeycrisp is an apple cultivar developed at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station's Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Designated in 1974 with the MN 1711 test designation, patented in 1988, and released in 1991, the Honeycrisp, once slated to be discarded, has rapidly become a prized commercial commodity, as its sweetness, firmness, and tartness make it an ideal apple for eating raw. It has much larger cells than most apples, which rupture when bitten to fill the mouth with juice. The Honeycrisp also retains its pigment well and boasts a relatively long shelf life when stored in cool, dry conditions. The name Honeycrisp was trademarked by the University of Minnesota, but university officials were unsure of its protection status in 2007.

Apple Pie

I love to make apple pies, but must limit my sugars (Diabetic), I like using Jonagold Apples for the flavor and natural sweetness and I like the apples to remain somewhat firm after baking the pie. I use a touch of brandy in my recipe as it tends to release the natural sugars in the apples so that I don't need to add much sugar...... any suggestions?

No sugar sweetener for apple pie

Hello David,

Did see your post and just thought I’d share that I don’t eat sugar but use a small amount of stevia, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg to coat my cut up chunks of apple before putting them into the pie crust. Works so well and it is from a plant, no side-effects. Don’t use green stevia, use the white since the green has not been processed and will have a licorice flavor. Good luck and best wishes!

Gravensteins

I grew up in Sebastopol CA and in my opinion there is no better cooking apple than the Gravenstein! my daughter is fortunate to have a high producing tree in her yard, I made pies and applesauce this summer and had several people tell me they were the best apple pie they've ever had. I have to give credit to the apples!

apples

I have a 15 year old Harlred tree in my yard. I was told it was a cross between a Harlson and a Red delicious. I picked 10 plastic milk crates of apples and ended up with 22 gallons of undiluted juice. I live in south central MT. Thanks

Spartan

No mention of the Spartan? Is it found only in my area (Quebec)?

Golden Delicious Apples

I was born and raised in the heart of apple country, Washington State. Golden Delicious Apples are by far the best Apple Pie apples. Jonagold are the next favorite (a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious). I was raised with applesauce made with Jonathan apples, such a pretty pink color! Some of the newer varieties listed above are OK, but Goldens are still my favorite.

I am amazed that NO ONE has

I am amazed that NO ONE has even mentioned STAYMAN apples. They are great for applesauce, pies, and tarts. A firm, slightly sweet apple, in abundance here in Virginia. My favorite.

Apples for Baking

Don't forget the Northern Spy. My mom would only make apple pies and cobblers using this apple. They were wonderful! We live in Michigan.

Northern Spy was the very

Northern Spy was the very first thing that came to my mind. I was surprised to see it was missing from the list. The very best pies I have ever eaten are made from Northern Spy apples. Thinly sliced please, and a fair amount of cinnamon too.

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