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

I planted a Wolf River 12

I planted a Wolf River 12 years ago and have had not one blossom. Can you tell me what to do to get this tree to bear? I need help on this one.

If you don't have any other

If you don't have any other apple trees on your property, that is likely your problem. Apples are no self pollinating. I too have a Wolf River along with 2 Spartans and a Lobo. Always get lots of apples. Wolf River are quite common in Eastern Ontario - Western Quebec.

Yellow Transparent! Grandma,

Yellow Transparent!
Grandma, in west-central Ohio, grew several apple trees, and would use ONLY yellow transparent for making apple sauce, but they were good in pies too.

I think you forgot one of the

I think you forgot one of the finest pie apples...the Northern Spy from upper NY state. My mother wouldn't use any other for her great apple pies!

Another great one is Yellow

Another great one is Yellow Transparent but no one seems to grow them. My Grandma had a tree at her farm and she made the best apple pie with them.

My mom made the best pies

My mom made the best pies with those! And no, you don't see them anywhere . . . but we had a tree. It was a softer apple, so you didn't have crunchy apple pie. I don't like when the apples crunch in pie! :-)

Look for Lodi apples. That's

Look for Lodi apples. That's the new name for the Transparent. They are early apples so it is probably too late for this year. I grew up on Transparent applesauce & no other EVER measures up!

Yes,Yellow Transparent made

Yes,Yellow Transparent made the best applesauce. Grandma in Spokane would treat us with that sauce.

You are right! They do make

You are right! They do make the best applesauce I've ever eaten! My Mom had a tree too. I was told by a farmer that Transparent apples bruise too easily to make it possible to ship. I surely do miss them!

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I help at a produce stand in

I help at a produce stand in Blfd., WV and we get a big variety of apples. Lodi-early transparent are first. Then Ginger Gold, which i believe are the yellow transparent you are talking about. They are like Lodi at first, tart and crisp; then turn gold and get sweeter. People love these for cooked apples. Ours come out of Virginia! Find some and enjoy, almost gone!

I totally agree!! Spy apples

I totally agree!! Spy apples are the best for apple pie AND apple butter making! Jonathans are good too!

Thank You for mentioning NY

Thank You for mentioning NY apples! They are the best. My NC daughter loves to receive these tasty apples when we visit. Have you heard of Seneca apple chips? Read the back and discover that this company uses Washington State apples. Shame on you Seneca apple company.

Re: NY apples...depends on

Re: NY apples...depends on where you live for your idea of the best apples. So, I respectfully disagree with you...GOOD for you, Seneca company! Speaking from taste experience, Washington State apples are VERY good! Lots of research is done at Washington State University, and Tukey Orchard at WSU has GREAT organic apples, and other fruit and vegetables! They open to sell to the public in the fall, and I can't wait to go there to stock up for winter. Some of the old varieties are grown, with limited amounts available for purchase. (Last year, they had Ben Davis, remmbered from my childhood in N.C., excellent for sauce or pies.) My stash from last fall lasted until mid 2012!
(Thanks for providing this website, I love it!)

WSU's research has helped me

WSU's research has helped me lots with my little home orchard in TN. I love them.
Yellow transparent are great for sauce - but they don't keep or ship at all. Check out Calhoun's book on Old Southern Apples for loads of great cooking apple options! Carter Blue, Kinnaird's Choice, Yellow June, Limbertwigs, all the winesaps, Blacktwig, Virginia Beauty!

Northern Spys... In our

Northern Spys... In our house, the rule was: "Spies for Pies!" They are a Michigan favorite, too! But, if you like a "crunchy " apple in your pie, this is NOT the apple for you.

Absolutely!!!! the best for

Absolutely!!!! the best for cooking. Northern Spies were my dear friend Bici's favorite. She would buy a box in the Fall and the whole apartment would smell like an orchard. She let them marinate overnight sliced with peels on in brown sugar and lemon juice and then cook. Served hot or cold with a dollop of sour cream. Great. She was my best friend and mentor when I was a younger man. A lovely Victorian lady born in 1886.

I live in MI and we grow

I live in MI and we grow Northern Spy's here. They have to be the best pie apple ever! I have used many others, but nothing can beat a Northern Spy on taste and texture.