By Bethany Bourgault
Apr 24 2017
How to pick the best apples for apple pie.
Choosing the right apples for your baking needs can be a daunting task — after all, there are over 7,500 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 is here to help. Here are her top ten picks for the best apples to use in apple pies.
Note: Be sure to use a mix of what Amy calls firm-tart and firm-sweet varieties. The diversity adds a depth of flavor, while the firmness of each type helps the apples hold their shape through the cooking process. You wouldn’t want your pie to be too mushy! Choose one from each of the following lists and you’ll be an expert pie-maker in no time.
The classic “green apple” is firm, slightly sour, and perfect for pie-making. 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, 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.
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.
This delicately sweet and crisp variety works great not only in pies, but in muffins and cakes, too. You can find it in most supermarkets during fall.
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 ever-accessible favorite.
McIntosh apples are a popular pick for many bakers, but we don’t recommend them on their own in a pie. Here’s Amy with the reason why — and with 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; they cook 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 apples do you like in your apple pie?