Best Apples for Baking: Apple Pie, Applesauce, Cider

Best Apples for Apple Pies and Other Recipes


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

Ever eaten a mushy apple pie? Often, the cause of this is a soft apple, such as a McIntosh. Have no fear! When you use the right kind of apple, you may find you actually like apple pie!

Below is a list of the best apples for baking and cooking. (Note: Some familiar apple varieties may be missing because they are best eaten fresh out of the hand.)

If you have apple varieties in your region that aren’t listed here, please comment below! We all learn so much from our Almanac community.

Best Apples for Baking

NAME Best Uses Flavor Characteristic, Appearance
Braeburn Applesauce Tart, sweet, aromatic, tall shape, bright color
Cortland Pies, Applesauces, 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

Many of us cook apples to use in a pie or crisp. For these baked goods, you need to use “firm” apples. Also, we recommend using more than one apple variety, such as a firm “sweet” apple plus a firm “tart” apple for depth of flavor. 

  • Examples of firm apples which are “sweet” include: Golden Delicious and Jonagolds.
  • Examples of firm apples which are “tart” include: Granny Smith, 

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 Baking Measurements

When it comes to baking 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!

Apple Cheese Bread

Photo Credit: C. Quinnell.

Fresh Apple Crumble Bar

Photo Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner.

Apple Pie With Cider Pecan Crust

Photo Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner.

Do you love to bake? Find more great recipes in our very own Old Farmer’s Almanac Everyday Baking Cookbook.

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

Reader Comments

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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!

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.

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

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.

My mother used to burn sulfur

My mother used to burn sulfur and "smoke" apples. Does anyone know how to do this? I remember she would wash them before use and they were as white and crunchy as a fresh apple.

The process is called

The process is called sulfuring. You can do a search for it. There is more than 1 way I ran into for doing it. But you should have no trouble finding the instructions for doing with the smoke.

The 20 ounce apple is our

The 20 ounce apple is our favorite apple for pies. we have a lot of choice here in upstate NY.

Its APPLEFEST here in

Its APPLEFEST here in Layfayette Ga and I work for a Adveristing company and this month I demonstrate different apples at a sample stand in a Walmart store.... people love APPLES here in the south and its amazing the different flavors and textures that a apple has, for instance a Gala Apple has a vanilla taste to it... grown that way... but the rest I am told my by company are just apples... but the question that I am asked the most in GA are "WHAT ARE THE BEST APPLES FOR BAKING" and I never have a answer... I dont know the best for baking but it would be fantastic to have some input on it :) Thank You if you respond

I live in New Mexico but hail

I live in New Mexico but hail from Central Illinois. During a recent visit to see my Dad, who still lives there, I got a chance to eat a Burgundy apple. I ate all of my apples which were sweet and tart. OMG! I want to get my hands on some more and try them in a pie when I go to Illinois in November!

Also live in New Mexico and

Also live in New Mexico and from Chicago area. I'm trying to find out which apple to use in a bread recipe. Stores carry red and golden delicious- some times Granny Smith, What's best? It only calls for 1 apple - hardly seems like enough.

Dean, you should use an apple

Dean, you should use an apple that is best for baking such as Granny Smith, Fuji, Rome Beauty, or Winesap.

Norhern spy is the best for

Norhern spy is the best for apple crisp, and many other things. What makes it particularly good for cooking is that it is a very large apple. It takes only a few of these big ones to make a big apple crisp. There are two minor downsides: First, they are not smooth and it takes a little practice to peel them. Second, some of them are too big for the round corer / slicers and have be be cut with a knife.
A tip for apple crisp: I have tried leaving the skins on the apples and didn't like the results, but I later tried running them through a food processor and then adding them to the apples in the pan. This gives an interesting texture to the dish. No guarantees you'll like it, but it's worth a try. No sense just tossing or composting the skins if you can use them. My apples are minimally sprayed, so I have no qualms about using the skins.

I'm in East TN and was given

I'm in East TN and was given a bushel of apples and I dont know what variety they are...They are diferent shades of red with some yellow, white flesh and it takes forever for them to cook for applesauce..They are juicy but not a lot of flavor or aroma any ideas as to what they might be? Thanks

Here is an Apple Fruit ID web

Here is an Apple Fruit ID web site:
Once there, click on the green button for "Quick Identification" and you'll see picture of apples to help you figure out your variety.

These apples sound like Honey

These apples sound like Honey Crisp. Hard,"crispy" and very difficult to use in a sauce. I will be using them ground up from now on..

I live in KY, I think the

I live in KY, I think the Granny Smith is the best for apple pies, but I would love to try some of the apples that are mentioned , they sound wonderful, some of them I have never heard of.And I think the best eating apple is the Honey crisp.

i currently live in PA but

i currently live in PA but hail from central OH. whenever i get back to Columbus, during season, i go to my local fruit farm and bring different varieties back home. The best eating apple I have run across yet, other than the granny smith of course, is called PIXIE CRUNCH. Per the propietors of the farm(Lynd's Fruit Farm), this is a fairly new variety and hot dang is it good!

You are so right. The honey

You are so right. The honey crisp are awesome. If you ever get a chance, try jazz apples. Yummy!

Honeycrisp are great for pies

Honeycrisp are great for pies too. I can hardly wait to make a Honeycrisp pie this fall. LOVE to eat them too. Can't get enough. They are expensive here in MD.

When looking for information

When looking for information on a specific variety, here is a pretty good website, . You'll find pictures, descriptions, uses, histories, and many times you'll find where to buy. There is also a section on plums and another on cherries.

Haralson is an excellent pie

Haralson is an excellent pie apple....also a good keeper. I like the tartness as an eating apple too.

I am looking for a good apple

I am looking for a good apple that you can deep fry for apple fritters. I live in Canada. some of the apples mentioned above are here for sure. courtland,macintosh, spy,
can anybody help me find a good one to deep fry? Thanks annette

Hi Annette. I'm in Southern

Hi Annette.
I'm in Southern Ontario, and been baking using Northern Spies for more years than I care to admit. They are often not available until early October, but keep a very long time, properly stored. They hold their shape well in baked goods and are not overly juicy as some other baking apples seem to be. I also use them in side dishes where I don't want the fruit melting into the mixture. I am thinking specifically of a scalloped apple and rutabaga dish. For an apple crisp, I like to mix different apples such as a spy and a courtland and anything that needs using up, like the last macintosh! I don't find spies at regular supermarkets, usually, but do find them at the farmers markets and shops that are exclusively produce. I think of the Apple Market at 7 (?) and Mississauga Rd. or Tiveron's Market at Queensway and 10.
I hope this helps.


If you love apple pie then

If you love apple pie then you should buy the granny smith apple. They are super yummy in a apple pie. Next time you bake a apple pie buy a granny smith apple. they are the best.

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,

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...

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.