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10 Best Apples for Apple Pie

'Tis the season for apple pie! Make sure yours doesn't fall flat with these picks for the best apples for apple pie.

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Choosing the right apples for your baking needs can be a daunting task — there are over 7,500 varieties! And when it comes to apple pie, not all apples are equal. Thankfully, Amy TraversoYankee Magazine senior food editor and author of the award-winning The Apple Lover’s Cookbook is here to help. Here are her 10 expert picks for the best apples for apple pie.

To avoid a mushy apple pie, be sure to choose a mix of what Amy calls firm-tart and firm-sweet apple varieties. The diversity adds a depth of flavor, while the firmness of each type helps the apples hold their shape through the cooking process. Choose one from each of the following lists and you’ll be an expert pie-maker in no time.

Best Apple Orchards in New England

A collection of apple varieties from Rocky Brook Orchard in Middletown, Rhode Island, one of our picks for the Best Apple Orchards in New England!

Courtesy of Rocky Brook Orchard

What Are the Best Apples for Apple Pie?

These ten apple varieties are our favorite apples for apple pie. Some fall into the firm-tart category, and some the firm-sweet. For best results, we recommend using a combination of the two. Learn which is which, plus more about each variety below.

  • Granny Smith

  • Esopus Spitzenburg

  • Northern Spy

  • Idared

  • Pink Pearl

  • Ginger Gold

  • Golden Delicious

  • Jazz

  • Jonagold

  • Pink Lady


Firm-Tart Apple Varieties

Granny Smith
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.

Esopus Spitzenburg
This heirloom variety has flavors bright enough to make for an excellent raw snack, or to be pressed into ciders. Pick it up at farmers’ markets in the fall season and use it to make the perfect pie filling.

Northern Spy
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.

Idared
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.

Pink Pearl
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.

Firm-Sweet Apple Varieties

Ginger Gold
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.

Golden Delicious
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.

Jazz
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.

Jonagold
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.

Pink Lady
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.

deep dish apple pie slice

Blue-Ribbon Deep-Dish Apple Pie made with the best apples for apple pie (get the recipe below).

Aimee Seavey

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. 

Learn More:
Blue-Ribbon Deep-Dish Apple Pie Recipe
Old-Fashioned Apple Pandowdy Recipe
What Should I Do With All These Apples? | Ask the Expert
The Best Apple Orchards in New England

Comments
  • Newtown pippins were always on store shelves some 40 years ago. Now you can’t find them. We live on 10 acres and I planted a Newtown pippin four years ago. Last year planted 7 apple trees, Honeycrisp, Cox Orange pippin, Sweet 16, Tompkins king, ashmead kernel, holstein, cortland. It is my belief that the two best apples for pies are Newtown pippin and Cortland. After that Rhode Island greening and Holstein. I’d like to try Ashmead kernel.

    Reply
  • I just made a wonderful Taste Tatin with Mutsu/Crispin and Winesap apples! Neither one broke down and the pie was delightful (it didn’t last long!)

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  • Charlene

    Macs are absolutely THEE best apple for apple pie! Yes, they are a bit softer, but in my humble (but very experienced) opinion the firmer apples in pies tastes like the filling in FROZEN pies. Macs are incredibly soft and prone to bruising, so are very hard to find in many stores. We moved from New England to Hawaii and Macs are impossible to find. I have tried many varieties and NOTHING comes even close to the true ‘homemade goodness’ of the Macintosh. And, FYI…it’s Martha Stewart’s favorite apple for an apple pie! But what does she know????????????

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  • I love a combination of apples in my pie, but am always sure to include Braeburn apples. The texture and flavor these apples add to my pie just can’t be beat!

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  • I was always told that your first choice should be Macintosh,then Winesap,then Rome for a great pie.Is Winesap not still around?

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  • If you bake an apple pie, no matter how sweet or mushy, it will be gratefully accepted. The very best pies, from my 95-year experience, have a thin, browned crust and a filling that is a mixture of true pie apples, firm and ranging in tartness. Sugar or honey can provide the necessary sweetness. “Northern Spy is the best for pie”. Also: Baldwin, Cortland, Granny Smith or Rhode Island Greening, Golden Delicious, Gravenstein, Ida Red. Red Delicious is not an apple

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    • Heather

      how do u feel about granny smiths with pink ladys? i want to try something different any thought

      Reply
  • Cortlands and Macs all the way. My grandmothers and mother used these. If I can’t get them I don’t make pie!

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    • Like my gram i’ve always used Mac’s and Grannys together never had a problem turning into sauce.

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  • So happy to hear all the Mac users….can only get them here (Oregon ) for a very short time in the fall. Very expensive but this Mainer has to have her touch of home. Always stock up enough for my Holiday pies……and I love to eat them. It is true….cooked right they don’t get mushy.

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  • I am looking for a good apple to freeze that will keep their shape to make apple pies in the winter. Anyone else do this?

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  • I USE HONEY CRISP , MACS AND CORTLAND !! THE FLAVOR IS ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC !!!

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  • you say to use honey crisps mixed with Macintosh if you must use macintosh though honey crisp is not on your list of best apples to use ? is this because honey crisps are too firm to use?

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  • Growing up in Buffalo, NY, we always had access to wonderful apples at the farmer’s markets including winesap, wealthy, cortland and empire. All were great in pies, especially wealthy. Now that I live in Florida, it’s difficult to find these apples. I always use a mix including Granny Smith (tart/firm), honey crisp (juicy/firm), cortland (semi-tart) and usually a few macs or pink ladies. Pies always turn out delish with a complex apple profile and juicy as the day is long!

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  • I’ve been baking apple pies for a number of years and use either a combination of Macoun and Cortlands or MacIntosh and Cortlands…always come out delicious w/ nary a complaint! A few years back I entered an apple pie baking contest at the annual Applefest fair at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton, Ma. and Amy Traverso was the celebrity judge amongst the pool of judges. After receiving my scores, Amy gave my pie very good scores among the variety categories, ie, taste, firmness, crust, etc. I was top third in her score rankings & was the only guy entrant, took solace in her scores…thank you Amy!

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  • I live in New England and combine Granny Smith and Cortlands for my apple pies. I also like Early season Idareds. My mother-in-law always used Macs and an old variety early season Transparent Apples she would find in northern Maine. There are so many varieties out there testing is so much fun.

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  • Years and years ago, I remember buying two varieties of apples that made the best pies ever. As I recall, those varieties were Malden and Melrose. Both had that perfect combination of tartness and firmness that made the best tasting pies. I haven’t seen either variety in years but I’m betting some readers will know where you can still find them.

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  • Wow, I really enjoyed reading all the comments about apples. I’m from the Midwest & we always saw a big variety of apples especially at the farmers market. I’m now living in New Mexico & don’t see as much variety but used to prefer Courtlands for my pies?

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  • I love using Ambrosia apples in my pie. Sweet and firm, I’ve gotten rave reviews for my apple pie!

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  • I have always used Rome apples in my pie and in my cranberry sauce. This is the first year I haven’t been able to find them. I tried honeycrisp last year and didn’t care for it.

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  • Brainigirl

    My best pies are made with a combo of Macintosh and Granny Smith. No mushy pie here. I hate apples that don’t cook down enough to be tender though. I always thought Gala, Rome and Fugi were good also.

    Reply
  • My wife uses mac’s I hate applesauce pie, BLAH. all my life my family made pies and the apples in the pie were firm and juicy. Mac’s are pulpy the worst apple for a real Apple pie.

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    • I recently made a pie using Honeycrisps. The apples were firm and juicy. The flavor of the pie was wonderful.. it was a little tart, but many like it tart. Would do so again!

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      • I was hoping someone would name honey crisp as they’ve become my favorite. Now I’ll bake a pie with honey crisp. Thanks!

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    • Only honeycrisp enters this house. Pies are sweet and apples are not mushy they hold their shape pretty well so everything doesn’t fall apart.

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  • Growing up on a fruit farm here in New England, we grew common varieties like macs, macouns, northern spy, red & yellow delicious, empire, Gravensteins among others. One our top picks for baking in pies was cortland. I’m very surprised not to see them on the list, as they are still quite popular.

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  • As a child in Nebraska, I remember going to the neighbors to pick Greenings, can’t find them anywhere and no one recognizes the name. Would love to taste them again. In my memories , they were the best ever and a huge apple so didn’t need to peel a lot of them.

    Reply
  • For the best combination of sweetness, tartness, and firmness Newton Pippins (also know as Albemarle Pippins) stand out above all the others in my 70+ years of experience. You never see them in stores, so good luck.

    Reply
  • Julian

    Hi, being cousins of your guys from good old blighty, we were amazed not to see Bramley apples during our shopping visits to Publix. In our opinion (and dare we say it all of our peers) these are the best apples for baking and of course the humble apple pie. Do love the idea of incorporating sweet apples into the recipe as well. I see a business opportunity here 😉

    Reply
  • Reader

    Cortlands are hands-down the best, bar none. If I’m desperate Granny Smith will do.

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  • Macs and Cortlands are the very best combination of apples for the best pies ever. No question in my book, but guess what, we all have our favorites and that’s a good thing! Otherwise I’d never be able to find which ones I want. QUESTION: Does anyone know any apple orchards who peel and slice and freeze Macs and/or Cortlands that I can order by mail? I know I can order the apples themselves, but they’re so heavy it costs a mint for shipping and they get banged up. I know apples are sliced and frozen in some orchards. Anyone know where I can get Macs and Cortands, can’t go get them myself this year and I’m VERY SAD !!!

    Reply
  • SHIRLEY

    I won 2nd prize for my apple pie in a contest with Macintosh Apples make my own crust never had mushes pie lots of comliment on my pie

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  • SHIRLEY

    I have used only Macintosh all my life for Apple Pie.. I am 79 yrs.old everyone love my pie

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    • Amen, Shirley. You don’t know how to cook an old New England apple pie if you don’t know how to use McIntosh apples.

      Reply
  • As an aside, here in England we adore the Bramley cooking apple for a lot of our recipes and continues to be voted #1 cooker. Sharp yet slightly sweet it remains firm during cooking. No apple crumble is complete without it. Lovely!

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  • I have only used Cortlands for my pies. They hold up great, some tartness, not overly sweet either as I don’t like my pies too sweet. Only apple I will use for pies!

    Reply
    • Madeleine

      I agree with Colleen above. I had only used Courtlands for pies what with living in Montreal. Now I live in western Canada and cannot get Courtland. Have tried a couple of others but none have the flavor or aroma of a Courtland pie.

      Reply
  • oh you need to change your story/write a new one because the most traditional that all my family ever recommended or used is the Cortland apple!!!!

    Reply
  • ReaderLast15300

    Macs are the best for apple pies. I won’t use any other. I’m originally from New England (Massachusetts). I never had any trouble using Macs for my pies. Unfortunately, if you do find Macs in the grocery stores (Utah) they are way too expensive per pound. So sad!

    Reply
    • Hey ReaderLast15300. Also a MA transplant in UT here and I agree that Macs are the way to go. After searching all over SLC, I found macs at Harmon’s last Christmas. They weren’t particularly cheap (as nothing at Harmon’s is), but it was nice to have a taste of home at the holiday table. Hope that helps!

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  • My grandmother and late 92 yr. old mother always used macs in their pies…anything else doesn’t measure up to the “lip smakin” good flavor during my 75 years!

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  • My mother in law said the best apples for pies were Cortland. She made the best pies we ever had. I buy them when I find them in the store.

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  • clairea12

    I still feel Macs are the best apple for my pies. And, no, I don’t let them cook until they’re applesauce. My husband doesn’t like apple pies where the apple slices are still firm so Macs are perfect for those who prefer their apples soft.

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  • Although it is a little hard to find, after 70+ years of eating apples, my vote is for Spigold, a pairing of Northern Spy & Golden Delicious. I am on the list for a 1/2 bushel and will bring some to Amy if/when I get them. I have been on this list before with no results, we’ll see. Other than the biennial crop nature of the Spy, they are good for everything. See you end of Oct with some luck.

    Reply
    • Back many years ago, and updated in 2009, Yankee published an article listing “Best” and “Second Best” Apples for pie baking. I’ve used that list ever since and it has never failed me. I will reproduce it below, but first two things: Thing 1: The best apple pies feature a s blend of three flavors (a sweet, a tart and a spicy) & as it relates to taste buds (I’m an engineer) they should be sliced as close to paper thin as you can get. Thing 2: Following #1, it is impossible to bake a decent pie without including the New England Winesap as your spicy choice. BEST APPLES: Gravenstein, Jonathan, Northern Spy, Rome, Winesap (Stayman variation is sweeter), Liberty, Macoun. 2nd BEST APPLES: Baldwin, Cortland, Gala, Granny Smith. To save some space, I have omitted the characteristics of each apple (e.g. sweetness, acidity, hardness, tartness). You should Google them for their details and then do a 3 apple combo.

      Reply
  • Just in case any of you want to can apple pie filling, use oly Clear Jel as a thickener. If you can’t find it in your area, google it and you can order it. I love making this pie filling and it has come in handy at holiday time for pies and crisps as well.

    Reply
    • Forgot to mention why Clear Jel must be used in canning pie filling. It does not break down like cornstarch and flour.

      Reply
  • Twenty-ounce pippins make a great pie, and they are so big that the peeling is a snap. After them, Northern Spys, Spy Gold, and Rhode Island Greenings are great in pies. If you are lucky enough to find Wageners, you will love them in a pie. Most of the modern apples are overly sweet to make a proper pie.

    Reply
  • I always use macs when making my pie. I don’t like granny smith but the variety of apples sounds like a winner. going to try that one. we always have a good variety of apples in Fla. isn’t that strange?

    Reply
  • Phyllis

    I come from New England, and I would never make an apple pie with anything but Macs. My pies are “out of this world” and so is my applesauce, and I only will use macs, though they are hard to find in the Mid-West.

    Reply
  • My mother always used Cortland or hard Mac. He pies were the best. Problem is apples are under bug problems. The apple we get at the market are stored for months. The good flavor of apples has been bred out. Ordered Cortlands last year and they were just terrible. Miss the old days when tomato taste like heaven and apple were crisp and full of flavor.

    Reply
  • Dorothy

    My favorite pie apple is Courtland. SinceI can’t find this apple here in Virginia, my interest in baking apple pie has deminished. However, the combination of mac & jongold or another sounds interesting…

    Reply
  • Priscilla

    I really like Rome apples for a pie, but I know you cannot get them everywhere and all season. Have to look out for them. I also like Brae burn apples. Jonagold’s are a good choice in the south too.

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  • My parents always insisted that Winesaps make the best pie. I recently baked an apple pie using whatever I could find, mostly Granny Smiths (it was Pi Day March 14) and added Boiled Cider found at King Arthur in Vermont. Tasters said it was the best pie they ever had, and I have won and judged many pie contests!

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    • Robert

      Winesap apples are not “commercial, year round”, but are the best for almost anything – pies especially! We wait every year for them to come into season. Biting into that first Winesap is a treat!

      Reply
  • I agree, with the Baldwin lovers above, the pie it makes is by far the best I’ve ever had in 60+ years.

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  • My Grandmother had an old Baldwin apple tree outside her back door. Never did anything to it as far as pest control. When she was ready to bake a pie, she would go out and pick a large bowlful of apples, cut out all the evidence of “worms” and then slice up what was left for her pie. Made the best pies and, best of all, we probably got a little extra “protein” and certainly no pesticides. Both she and the tree are gone now but I still remember the apple desserts they produced together.

    Reply
    • Stephanie

      Thank you! I was beginning to think nobody remembered Greenings but me. I haven’t seen them in NYC in years. I don’t care so much for Granny Smiths. I’d rather use Rome Beauties, if I can find them.

      Reply
  • I was very surprised to see Macs called out as not good due to mushiness, but no mention of Cortland, which taste very much like Macs and don’t break down. I have always used Cortland for pie and everyone loves it for it’s nice flavor without being too sweet or sour.

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    • I agree about the Cortland. I think they make the best apple pies. I like the texture and the fact that they taste like apples even with all the added spices.

      Reply
  • My mother inlaw swore by Cordland apples were the best for pies. She made the best apple pies I ever had.

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  • What about winesap? Very hard to get, but I had a pie a friend brought to a potluck where Winesap were incorporated with Cortlands, I think. Excellent pie!

    Reply
  • I always used Jonathan. Then, twenty years ago or so they became completely unavailable. So now I use Jonagold, because apparently they are “part” Jonathan. They still make a good pie.

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    • Mrs. Bear insists that Jonathan apples make the best pie and I agree. She explained that she grew up with this as the preferred apple in rural Illinois. They are very popular in the mid-west. We have found several New England growers including Dowse Orchards in Sherborn, Mass. who have them in October.

      Reply
  • If you can find them Wolf River apples make the finest pies and are so big you can make a pie with 5 or 6 of them.

    Reply
  • Elizabeth

    In our area everyone uses cortland an macs. Thicker slices and less time depending upon the apple make a difference. In my humble opinion the Gravensteins is the best for pies. It’s very early and hard to find but well worth it. Really… Clarkdake farms in Deerfield, Ma. Has them at the beginning of the season. They go quick.

    Reply
    • I found them once in Sierra Madre’s Albertson’s one summer; those Gravensteins made a fantastic pie! I moved to Las Vegas and planed a Gravenstein tree, but it died. I usually made pies with Macs, but I wanted my Gravenstein tree for pies in Vegas. Is there an address so I can order Gravensteins from your locale? I’d appreciate it very much. Thank you so much! Lorraine Anthonisen, 7520 Hornblower Ave., Las Vegas, NV 89131, 702-515-0755, LOLAinaBLUEDRESS@gmail.com

      Reply
        • Always used Cortland apples when I lived in upstate NY…Now living in Calabash NC I can;t find them anywhere. The supermarkets have strange named apples I’ve never heard of….Any suggestions ladies?

          Reply
  • Mutsu apples are firm, crisp, juicy, full of flavor. Good for everything!! Also known as Crispin.

    Reply
  • Katherine

    Lived in mid-west for many years and many of the ones mentiones in your article were not available. Since coming to MA I have settled on a combination of Cortland and Baldwin (when available). Very interesting to read everyone’s comments.

    Reply
  • I know New Englanders have used Mac’s for pies for generations. But we are also stubborn when it comes to different ideas. My Mom used them and until I tasted otherwise, I thought her pies were the best. Then I made my own pies with different varieties and cooked it less and WOW what a difference. The chef’s are right, Mac’s are mushy. I now have to have some “bite” to my apples in the pie! We tend to do things the same because that’s the way they have always the way they have been done. Live dangerously New Englanders! Try something different. LOL 🙂

    Reply
  • My mother is (was) still the best pie maker I have ever met. Not just apple pie, but pecan, sour cream, pumpkin, mince – you name it! She made the best crust, and I haven’t found anybody to compare. She said what she did different was to have her shortening “warm” which in Vermont meant about 60 degrees. She preferred Northern Spy for her apple pies. Can’t find them here in Florida, so I usually make mine with Granny Smith.

    Reply
  • I have always used McIntosh apples for pies, take it out of the oven a little early so it won’t get mushy. I also like Cortlands for pies. My son, Jim, wouldn’t ever eat anyone else’s apple pie except mine. Funny? But true.

    Reply
    • Ha! Your post made me laugh out loud. I, too, have a son named James who will only eat my pies!

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  • I think the author should consult the folks posting in this forum for Apple advice. New Englanders, esp. Vermonters will swear by Macintosh. And although websites and TV chefs might claim otherwise, I can pretty much guarantee everyones parents, grandparents, or even themselves make apple pies with Mac’s. Absolutely delicious with texture dependent on how thick you slice the apple.

    Reply
  • The best apples for apple pie are Rhode Island Greenings! Unfortunately we don’t see them everywhere, but the closest apples to these gems are Granny Smiths.

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  • Certainly wish I could obtain Baldwin apples, the best for pies, crisps, etc. Am a native New Englander but have been living in Florida for over 20 years, so Granny Smiths are my go-to apple. Baldwins were always a bit difficult to find in any case but, oh, I do miss them!

    Reply
    • 100% with you Barbra. We are Vermonters in California and it’s almost impossible to find Mac’s here. 🙁

      Reply
  • First, I’m a Yankee Magazine and subscriber fan for years……now about the apples for making an apple pie…..living on the east end (north fork) of Long Island…..we don’t have all the varieties mentioned in the article. But in my younger years I always used only Macintosh apples in the pies I made…..until an elderly lady out here told me the best pies are those that have many different varieties of apples in them. Ever since then (years)…..I make my apple pies with at least 5 varieties of apples, some of which are mentioned in this article. And the great thing is when done this way, the pies taste like no one else’s.

    Reply
    • I use a 10″ pie dish to make my apple pies. It takes at least ten apples per pie. Sometimes more. I try to get as least two of each apples that are suitable for pie baking. Fortunately, my supermarket always has a large selection of apples. And they are marked as suitable for eating or for pie making and cooking. I can’t imagine making an apple pie any other way.

      Reply
  • I have been baking my apple pies and apple sauce for over 55 years, I will not use anything but Macintosh apples – and everyone loves my pies. I don’t live in New England anymore, so it is difficult to find them, but I always manage to, and then make up the filling and freeze it, so I can make my famous apple pies all year round.

    Reply
    • Phyllis Many varieties of appples are to be had in Wal Mart, the sup sized store, and they have MACS! Sold separately or individually, at least her is VA, I too no longer live in New England, and I miss NE every day1

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  • Such gall! Whatever apple is the go-to for you is the one to use. Macintosh is by far the all around one for me, sliced thin it gets very soft in the baked pie, left thick, offers more texture. Granny Smith and red delicious have had their flavor bred out of the and are flavorless. THE apple NOT to use – any canned pie filling –

    Cortland and Macintosh are truly the best, Romes can also be used, I like the pink tinge of the Romes flesh…….

    Reply
    • Thanks for the info on slicing Macintosh apples. The Red Delicious apples from the supermarket have no flavor but the ones picked fresh from the orchard are flavorful and juicy!

      Reply
  • I have been baking for many years and it is my belief that the Pippin or 20 ounce apple provides the best combination of tart/sweetness that is required to make an outstanding apple pie.

    Reply
  • Macintosh apples are best apples for pie; I have made these pies for years and everyone loved them. Unfortunately I moved down south and Macintosh apples are not available down here; I would love to be able to get some here.

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  • I only use cortlands for my apple pies. Great flavor and they don’t turn to mush when baking. I’m surprised they were not on your list as when I go to local apple growers in western ma the Cortland is highly recommended for pies.

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    • YES!!!! I grew up with Cortland Apple Pies! They have the perfect tartness vs. sweetness ever. I currently live in Virginia, and they are so hard to find!! I miss them so much!!!

      Reply
  • My mom always used Cortland & Macintosh in her pies. So that’s what I like to use now myself

    Reply

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