Pre-cook the apples a bit to “set” their shape for the perfect deep-dish apple pie.
Photo Credit : Aimee Seavey
Choosing the right apples for your baking needs can be a daunting task — there are thousands of varieties! And when it comes to apple pie, not all apples are equal. Thankfully, Amy Traverso, YankeeMagazine senior food editor and author of the award-winning The Apple Lover’s Cookbook (revised and updated for 2020!) is here to help. Here are her 10 expert picks for the best apples for apple pie.
What Are the Best Apples for Apple Pie?
To avoid a mushy apple pie, you’ll need a mix of what Amy calls firm-tart and firm-sweet apple varieties. All baking apples should be firm so the fruit will hold its shape throughout the cooking process, and a combination of tart and sweet varieties will give your apple pie the best flavor. Choose an equal amount from each of the following lists and you’ll be making the very best apple pie in no time.
These ten firm apple varieties are our favorite apples for apple pie, but each apple is special in its own right. Keep scrolling for photos and a longer description of each variety.
Best Firm-Tart Apples for Apple Pie
The classic “green apple” is firm, slightly sour, and definitely one of the best apples for apple pie. Since it’s a lunchbox staple, it’s available at supermarkets everywhere.
This heirloom variety has flavors bright enough to make for an excellent raw snack, but these are also great bakers. Pick it up at farmers’ markets in the fall season and use it to make the perfect pie filling.
The Northern Spy is renowned as possibly the best apple variety for pie-making. Lucky for New Englanders, it grows best in cool climates, too. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find it at your local supermarket — many farmers’ markets are stocked full of them.
As the name suggests, this tart and spicy apple is bright red in color when fully ripe. It’s most popular at farmers’ markets and pick-your-own orchards, but not so much in supermarkets.
This variety’s signature pink flesh tastes “like lemon custard topped with raspberries,” according to Amy Traverso. It can be found at some orchards in the Massachusetts, New York, and Indiana areas, or ordered online at mthoodfruit.com.
Best Firm-Sweet Apples for Apple Pie
This delicately sweet and crisp variety is not only one of the best apples for apple pie, it’s also great in muffins and cakes. You can find it in most supermarkets near the fall season.
This mild variety tastes best when paired with bolder flavors. It’s one of the most popular in the U.S. and can be found in just about any supermarket.
The exceptional taste of the Jazz apple is not only great for pies, but makes for a delicious raw snack, too. Jazz apples come from New Zealand and can be found in supermarkets year-round.
As a cross between the Jonathan and Golden Delicious varieties, the Jonagold has enough sweet and tart flavor to fill a pie even on its own. It’s widely available at both farmers’ markets and supermarkets.
With just the right combination of sweet and sour undertones, the Pink Lady is a great choice for both snacking and baking. It’s widely available in supermarkets any time of the year, making it an accessible favorite.
What, No Macs?!?!
McIntosh apples are a popular pick for many bakers, but our advice is to not use Macs in apple pie. Here’s Amy with the reason why, but also how to make McIntosh apples work if you’ve just gotta have ’em:
My grandmother made delicious pies with McIntosh apples, but they were essentially applesauce pies. Macs don’t hold up well to heat, cooking down to sauce long before the pastry is done cooking. If you love the flavor of Macs but still want some body to your filling, combine them with a firmer variety such as Northern Spy, Jonagold, Pink Lady, or Honeycrisp. You’ll get nice, tender apple slices suspended in a delicious sauce.
Which varieties do you think are the best apples for apple pie? Let us know!
This post was first published in 2016 and has been updated.