Best Apples for Baking and Cooking

Choosing the Right Apples for Apple Pies and Other Recipes

August 29, 2019

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

Photo Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner.

Apple Pie With Cider Pecan Crust

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!


Reader Comments

Leave a Comment


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.


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.

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.


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).

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.


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?


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!


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


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.

snow apples

I did not see snow apples on this list. I baked many a pie from them. Also, having grown up with a orchard, we had about 7 different types of apples. They all made good desserts, they were never the same twice.

I disagree

My mother use McIntosh apples for everything. We loved them, and she made the best apple pies ever.I've never had an apple pie nearly as good. Also, her applesauce was the best. Her grandchildren loved it, too. :} Having said this, I like almost any kind of apple to eat.

I love MacIntosh apples but

I love MacIntosh apples but seem to be becoming less available with all the new apple varieties.

Best cooking apple

Wolf River!

Has anyone heard of Sheridan Delicious apples

Has anyone heard of Sheridan Delicious apples.. Two tears ago. a friend gave me some apples and I made apple butter from them. And they made good apple butter. I asked him the name of the apples and he said they were Sheridan Delicious. And the reason he knew the name is because a Cornel named Sheridan invented the apple. It is a red apple.

I live in Alberta but am

I live in Alberta but am originally from the UK. I've been looking for an equivalent of the standard cooking apple there, the Bramley apple. So far I haven't had much success. They aren't available here and most varieties I've tried- including Granny Smiths- are much sweeter. Bramleys also have a tendency to become fluffy when they're baked. Is there a similar apple available in Canada?

Hi, David: This is a tough

The Editors's picture

Hi, David: This is a tough question on a number of levels, as we know neither what is available for purchase near you nor whether your main concern is to replicate the Bramley's relative tartness or consistency or both. Be sure you have checked out the tarter apples in our chart above. Then the best way forward might be to contact either the U of Alberta's Dept. of Agricultural, Food, and Nutritional Science or the provincial government's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Or ... ask the British Consulate-General in Calgary -- they love to help ex-pats. The key here may be to find a British chef in Alberta/Canada who has already solved this challenge. Good luck! 

Bramley apple

Bramley trees are available from Raintree Nursery in Morton, WA.