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

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Thank God someone mentioned

Thank God someone mentioned Cortland! I love these Apples. I grew up in Westford, MA and worked on a fruit farm as a kid. Only problem with these is they need the cold. Can't get them in San Diego CA!

The empire apple is great for

The empire apple is great for pies, and for eating fresh also. A great all-around apple. And it was named at the NYSAES, with the monicore for NewYorkState, Empire.

Remember eating fantastic

Remember eating fantastic apple butter growing up in KS as a kid. Haven't been able to find good apples for this. Any ideas?

We suggest Cortland apples,

The Editors's picture

We suggest Cortland apples, which don't oxidize as rapidly when cut as do other varieties.

The wolf river apple is

The wolf river apple is great for apple butter apples are very large. they make some of the best apple butter I have ever had.

I love Mutsu but they are

I love Mutsu but they are hard to find.

Any one know anything about

Any one know anything about Carter Blue?

I got a bag of them four

I got a bag of them four years ago and we ate them all - no pies. They were great. Large green apples with a strong blue blush/color on one side. Intense apple taste, a cross between freshness and jolly rancher green apple - but natural and fresh. I've read that some have called the aroma rosewater but I didn't experience that. I planted one three years ago but no fruit yet. They and the Russets were some of the most exciting apples.

the Honeycrisp apple is the

the Honeycrisp apple is the best all around. It's sweetness, firmness, and tartness make it an ideal apple for eating raw and for baking.

Gravenstein(sp) which is no

Gravenstein(sp) which is no longer grown commerically is beyond great for pies! Not a 'pretty' apple which is a prime reason why they aren't grown anymore. Fujis which hold their shape and have a syrupy juice in sauces. As apple consumers we have been taught to buy based on color, size and use. We have forgotten what a real apple tastes like!

You can purchase Gravenstein

You can purchase Gravenstein apples locally in Sonoma County, CA. They are also available in many stores in Northern California. They are the very best apples for applesauce and pies!

Melrose apples are very good

Melrose apples are very good for eating or pie. They will keep til spring if stored in a cool dry place.

I love good old Macintosh and

I love good old Macintosh and jonamacs are good as well, also Empire. We peel and cook them in a pan with butter, a greet desert. my least favorite is the gala, probably fine for eating with a sandwich but you can't cook or do anything with them.

YES! Macintosh is the most

YES! Macintosh is the most flavorful Apple, great for pies, applesauce, and fresh for eating. ❤️

I really enjoyed this web

I really enjoyed this web site. Very helpful very useful. I've marked it as a favorite place.

I just made upside down apple

I just made upside down apple cake, and I used Paula Reds. They are incredibly flavorful, soft, and just right sweet-tart. They have the most intense apple aroma I ever experienced! I hope I can find them again.

The Macoun (pronounced

The Macoun (pronounced "McCowan") is one of the finest eating apples in the whole Northeast. It is a cross between the McIntosh and a Jersey Black variety, and first grown in Canada. We picked a half bushel of Macouns yesterday!

I LOVE Mountaineer (I think

I LOVE Mountaineer (I think they might be called York as well). They are wonderful in sauce and pies, especially together with Honeycrisp.

I live in apple country -

I live in apple country - Central VA. Some of the BEST here are these wonderful eating apples - Honey Crisp and Pink Lady. I think they would taste food in pie, too, but they usually disappear too fast!

I agree! Two years ago for a

I agree! Two years ago for a Mixed religious celebration (I think it was Hanukistmas, as we call it ; ) I volunteered to make the pies- one pumpkin cheese cake and my very first apple! I live in Portland, OR and did a little checking into some of the better baking apples I should look for. Low and behold, Pink Lady was at the front of the line, along with the steadfast Granny Smith- so I went for those... And, boy-O-boy, did I get accolades and rave reviews through mouths stuffed with pie!!! If you can find em, give Pink Lady's a whirl!!!

I live in Southern Cal, not

I live in Southern Cal, not far from the coast, and not many apples grow well here. However, there is one, "Anna", and it makes a TERRIFIC pie!! I am so lucky to have a tree in our backyard.

Hi, Happy Thanksgiving! I

Hi, Happy Thanksgiving! I work on an apple farm in central PA & used to use only Rome apples for pies, now I use a mixture of apples for my pies, usually Golden Delicious, Cortland, Jonagold & Rome . My boss things they taste wonderful.... YUM !!!

Love granny smith pie holds

Love granny smith pie holds up great

I have to vote for the

I have to vote for the Northern Spy also. Just picked up the last peck a local apple grower had for sale.These will go for the Thanksgiving pies.

I like jonadells,or

I like jonadells,or johnathons for baking has any one ever heard of a wolfriver apple. I saw one once as a little girl on my uncles' farm it was huge and when you bit into it there were big sugar pockets all through it.

We picked Wolf River apples

We picked Wolf River apples as kids but that orchard was bulldozed and I've never seen them again - they were HUGE! And so good. Two made a whole pie! I'm from Michigan - seen Wolf River anywhere else?

WolF River Apples...YES! I

WolF River Apples...YES! I saw some at Freeman's Orchard in Hendersonville NC last week. Haven't had any in quite a while, but they're an old time favorite around this area. :~)

I don't know if you'll get

I don't know if you'll get this, but I get them at the Michigan State University fruit sale. They are gigantic and my kids love them. Don't know if you're in the range of the university, but it's the only place I've seen them.

Carlene, We just bought 1/2

Carlene, We just bought 1/2 bushel of Wolf River Apples at a local orchard on State Hwy 49 about 2 miles east of Hwy 151 in Wisconsin near the Horicon Marsh which is about 60 miles north of Madison, Wisconsin. We used to have two trees in our yard in Milwaukee but they were removed when damaged in a wind storm.

Hi, I have been growing the

Hi, I have been growing the wolf river apples for about 18years.... they are huge and produce tons of apples,they are biennial,but still produce in the off year. This year I had to give a lot of them away, too much from one tree......... they were really sweet this year too, not usually that juicy.... great for applesauce. We had one on the property that was close to 100 years old and when it died, we had to plant 2 more..... lost one to some kind of bug, but its buddy is doing well.....some years you can't put your hands around them, other times they are huge, but not that big... depends on the weather.....we are in the upper peninsula of Michigan right on lake superior...