Best Apples for Apple Pie

By: Bob's Red Mill | September 8 2017
There is nothing more American than apple pie. Except maybe that unusual trend of putting a slice of American cheese on top of a slice of apple pie—but we don't need to go there. We prefer to stick to the basics, and the perfect dessert for any summer or fall gathering is the classic apple pie. You may have made a hundred different varieties of homemade apple pie in your day—we have experimented with at least that many ourselves—in search of the perfect apple pie recipe. One of the most important ingredients, not surprisingly, are the apples that you use for the apple pie filling, but with so many varieties of apples out there, how on earth are you supposed to choose the right ones? Never fear, Bob’s Red Mill is here! We have a handy guide below to choosing the best types of apples to make an out-of-this-world apple pie.

Granny Smith Apples

For whatever reason, Granny Smith apples have long been considered the favorite for apple pies. This is likely because they are extremely firm, and do not mush under almost any amount of cooking. A mushy pie is widely considered a bad apple pie, so this may explain why many people refer back to the Granny Smith for their pies. However, Granny Smith apples are quite tart and do not contain a very strong apple-y (that is a technical term, guys) flavor, so they may not be the perfect apple to use by on their own. If you combine them with a more sweet and flavorful apple, you will likely create a lovely pie combination. One positive for the Granny Smiths is that they are typically readily available at any supermarket, any time of year. They are also very easy to distinguish based on their unique color.


The Honeycrisp apple is one of the sweeter varieties, so it definitely is not lacking in the flavor department. They stay relatively firm, although less so than the Granny Smiths, and this makes them a great combination of flavor and texture for your pies. Unfortunately, the Honeycrisp apple variety is only available for a few months in the fall, so you will have to snatch them up when you get the chance.

Golden Delicious

Not to get confused with Red Delicious, Golden Delicious apples are distinct in their yellow color and should be pretty easy to find most times of the year. They are a nice blend of sweet and tart, making their flavor profile perfect for an apple pie. You will love the blend of flavors in this apple! They do lose a bit of firmness when cooked, so the texture is not quite up to the level of the Granny Smith, but we think Golden Delicious is a great pie apple, especially if you only want to use one type of apple!


Commonly referred to as the “most beautiful” apple, the Rome apple has a very regular spherical shape to it and a nice red skin. The texture of a Rome is nice, but the flavor is a little bland, which is not exactly what you want for a pie. Mix this one with a more flavorful apple for the best results.

Jonathan or Jonagold Apples

Jonathan apples are pretty much your classic apples, with a nice red skin and a pleasant blend of tart and tangy flavor. Jonagold apples are slightly rarer and are the cross between Golden Delicious and Jonathan apples. Together, the two produce a new variety that has both a firm texture and a flavor with hints of sweetness and tartness together. These are a little harder to find (the Jonagolds, that is) but you should be able to find them at Farmer’s Markets in most areas.


The Braeburn is a unique apple which has almost a citrus-y aroma to it. The Braeburn is very firm, which is perfect for baking apple pies, and some have said that it almost tastes like a pear after baking. If you like this unique flavor, then you will be very happy with a Braeburn apple pie! Plus, it is a great apple for mixing with other varieties, because it adds a unique and interesting flavor to the mix.

Northern Spy

Now we are getting into the rarer apples. The Northern Spy apple is perfect for baking, but they only grow biannually, so they will be tougher to come by. If you are really dedicated to your apple pie, however, this will definitely pay off! Contact a local grower to see if you can come across some Northern Spy apples, and you will not regret it. This apple may look a little lumpy, but it is firmer than many other apples, which makes it a perfect option for baking pies, and the flavor is mostly sweet, with just the kick of tartness that you want in a pie! We definitely recommend trying out the Northern Spy apples.

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing Apples For Your Pie

Apple Varieties

How many types of apples have you tried? How many does your local store sell? We would guess that your answers to these questions are somewhere around five or six—max. You may not even know the names of the different varieties beyond the obvious yellow, red, and green. As it turns out, there are somewhere around 7,500 different types of apples that are grown in the world. Yes, you read that correctly—over seven thousand apple varieties compared to the five or six that you may have tried. Now if that doesn't leave you feeling a little confused, then we don't know what will. Luckily, in the United States, that number is significantly smaller. Unluckily, it is still not that small. About 1,000 apple types are commercially grown and sold in the United States. While not quite 7,500, this number is definitely still intimidating when you are trying to find the perfect apple pie. We do not want all of you to have to bake 1,000 pies to be confident you have found the best apples—so we have a slightly easier way of figuring it out. Keep reading to help you figure out the perfect apple variety for your next apple pie.

What Do We Want from Our Apples?

With so many different options, you can imagine that there is a great deal of variation in apples’ taste and texture profiles. In baking, there are some definitions of the “right” and “wrong” thing to do (for instance, not undercooking your pie) but in many cases, the right choices for your apple pie come down to your personal preferences. It is widely understood that a “perfect” apple pie should contain apples that are still a bit firm after being cooked, that they should not be too mushy, and that you should get a good mix of tart apples and sweet apples. We have put together a list of some of the favorite options and their positive and negative characteristics. When you are putting together the perfect mix, try to find one that stays firm, but creates a complementary blend of tart and sweet for the perfect pie combination!

Apple Access

One of the important considerations in choosing the right apples will be your access to them. Certain apples are only available in certain parts of the country, at certain times, and in certain types of markets. So, pay attention to what you see during your shopping trips to see which apples will be the right kind to liven up your kitchen. However, at Bob’s Red Mill, we always recommend purchasing the freshest ingredients and only using apples that are currently in season. Apples in supermarkets are often held in storage containers for up to ten months—seriously, ten months—before being placed on a shelf at your local grocery store. This storage affects apple varieties differently, but for the most part, can affect their ability to maintain firmness in a pie, so you will have much better results if you use a more freshly picked apple.

The Crust

If you search high and low for the best apples, you want to ensure that you have the best crust possible to complement these apples. We recommend our Easy Gluten Free Pie Crust recipe for the best results! It is also important to find a pie pan that is the right size for your crust. With 7,500 varieties, there are unimaginable combinations of apples you could use to bake your perfect apple pie. Try checking out your local farmer’s market and testing out some new varieties if you can find them. The best pies often come from mixing two to three varieties and taking the best attributes from each one—we recommend grabbing one variety with great texture, and one with your favorite flavors to get the best combination. Let us know what varieties you try and which ones are your favorites in the comments section below—we can't wait to taste test our own experiments with apple pie.   Sources:

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  1. Margaret
    38 years ago, new to Seattle, Washington and in the fall, I bought some local apples at a roadside farm stand in the countryside. Lots of apples. I took them home and made them into pies. Lots of pies. I put the pies in the freezer. When I cooked the first one, the apples shriveled up, dried up, and were like biting into leather. All the pies had to be thrown away! That was how I learned that there were pie apples and NOT-pie apples! I don't think I misread the directions in my cookbook. I sure learned to look out for pie-friendly apples. I moved back home to south Florida before ever finding out what kind they were. Has anyone else had this experience? And does anyone have any idea what kind of locally grown Washington State apples they might have been? I've been wondering for years! Now I'm looking at new varieties, thanks for all the information. But I will just make one apple pie at a time, for now!
    1. Reg Kirby
      Granny Smith apple in my opinion is the the only Apple for a great pie !
    2. Ronald Werner
      This sounds like red delicious which are ripe in the fall in Washington. I’ve never tried them in pies but are crisp and sweet when fresh. I never see them recommended for pies so might be your culprit.
    3. Donna Dunbar
      I make Apple Pie filling and Can it, that way I do not take up precious freezer space, plus it lasts longer in the jars than it does in a pie in the freezer.
      When we are ready for a pie I just grab a jar from the freezer and make a pie.
      I use Granny Smith, Honeycrisp & a new apple I found this year an Evercrisp, delicious and stores better than the others although I have been known to mix apples. It's delicious !!!
  2. Andrea Scott
    Love your store
  3. Pat Buntz
    I like an apple pie when the apples are soft inside. I've gotten old and forget which kind I bought. Can anyone help?
    1. Molly
      If you like your apples really soft in the pie, even mushy, then you are likely looking for a sweeter apple. The more tart/acidic ones tend to hold their shape better when cooked.

      There are so many varieties of apple that narrowing it down could be difficult so I recommend starting with these: Cortland, MacIntosh, Golden Delicious, and Honeycrisp. Also, if you can find them, give Ginger Gold a chance (they're an early season apple so the stores may be sold out).
    2. Jan Dahlquist
      I have always used Macintosh apples for my pies and people rave about them and ask for them every year.
      1. Carla
        Me too when I lived in Michigan. Down in the south it's hard to get the good baking apples. I don't like crunchy apple slices in my pies, I like them soft .
    3. Nancy
      I agree with Jan's comment. I've used MacIntosh apples for my pies for the past 30 years. I diverted one year and my traditionalists were not happy. I just love the taste. It's getting more difficult to find them now with the new varieties out there.
      1. Linda Nichols
        You have very good taste in apples! Google - orchards near Albany, NY. This is APPLE COUNTRY. People in New York City call us northern New Yorkers, Apple Knockers. There are orchards all over the place and most of them will ship directly to you. There's nothing like a fresh, aromatic, Adirondack grown apple. The minerals in the ground around here give each variety crisp and unique flavors.
  4. Kelly D Wellington
    Kelly D Wellington
    Interesting. I have been making homemade apple pie since I learned it at my mother's knee, fifty years ago. She taught me the lesson of 'pie apples' as versus 'hand apples'. The critical element is that the apple needs to be tart. I grew up with the perennial favorite of Gravenstein apples. The best pie apple by far...but, it doesn't ship well, it doesn't keep well, and it ripens relatively early. Orchardists started replacing Gravensteins when I was a child. I grab them when I can, usually coming from somebody's undertended orchard. My mother also taught me to look for Northern Spy and Pippins. But none of these was EVER sold at any local grocery store. They needed to be searched out at outlying fruit stands. Then, a local nursery started hosting annual apple tasting events (to sell trees and geegaws), where they had tastings and bins of apples to buy by the pound. I found the Idared....what a wonderous pie apple. That apple deserves acknowledgement as the inheritor of the crown of the Gravenstein.

    The Winesap also fared well. This year, I hope to trial the Esopus Spitzenberg, the Northern Spy and, maybe, the Pink Lady.
    1. James Kirkland
      James Kirkland
      I grew up with winesap apples but have not seen one in years. I even tried to find a winesap tree to plant but none of the tree companies had them. The trees I remember as a kid just grew wild in a pasture with no special care.
    2. Jan saxe
      Your mother was right on target! We lived near Geneva NY and my dad used to visit the experimental station every year to find the best apples. His favorites were 20 ounce or fall Pippins, Cortland , Mac's,Rome's, and several others. Live in Florida now and miss those apples, although a new favorite for me, when I can get them, is an Arkansas black.
  5. Jan
    Finally, thank you for giving your rating on the Granny Smith for pie. I always felt Pippin were the best for pie. I found them in grocery stores in the west for a very short window of time in late October more early November. I have not found them yet in the east. Hoping to find some of your suggestions and try combining some this year.
  6. Robert Derby
    These are awesome dishes. My parents loved all of them.
  7. Sanchez
    One of the awesome dishes I've even known. My wife loved all of them.
  8. habitat
    Great idea! It is a very unique combination. I like apples and any cakes with its combination. Thanks for your interesting sharing
  9. rook brand clothes
    I’m glad to see your post, this is great information to know about apple, chosing the ingredients is important for making a perfect apple pie
  10. beefsteak
    Interesting and useful tips. I make apple pie sometime, so I will apply your recipe next time I make this. Many thanks
  11. Rosalie
    I've been baking apple pies for about 32 years now, and I've NEVER used a Granny Smith or Honeycrisp! Yet my pies have always tasted very good. Now that I've read your excellent article, I intend to use a combination of these apples for an even tastier pie!
  12. Williams
    I love to cook and I am always looking for new recipes for my daily menu, which is interesting for my work. Today's my lucky day, the Best Apples for Apple Pie are great, they are what I was looking for, I like your information. Thanks for sharing
  13. Melissa
    Thank you for sharing this article, the experience was memorable. You are wonderful
  14. jan martin
    I use a plain Betty Crocker recipe and double crust. The key, I think is to use a variety of different apples, at least 2, more is better. I always include granny smith & golden delicious (firm ones) plus 2 others depending on what is available. The other thing Is that I cut the apples about an 1/8" thick, which I also think makes a difference, the flavors meld together. It is the pie people ask me to make over and over, making 3 for Thanksgiving.
    1. Gail
      You are the first person to say a variety of apples. My Mom made the best apple pie and she use 4 types, but I can only remember 3 and she passed 40 yrs ago without writing down a recipe .
  15. Judy Nobes
    Spy and McIntosh mix is my go to for good apple pie. Crust from lard not shortening. Big hit everytime and now teaching my young teenage granddaughters how to make them so I can retire.
  16. Nancy Saenz
    I want to make an apple pie to go with my pumpkin pie this year. I have not seen spy apples or pippins before but Honeycrisp* I know. To avoid * becoming too mushy shall I bake at say375 or lesser time?
  17. Karen Ronk
    Fuji is not mentioned, what about them?
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Karen - Fuji Apples are fine for baking; they have a higher moisture content and mild sweet flavor that makes them great for eating out of hand. When baked, that higher moisture content can lead to mushiness.
  18. Morton
    What about the new cosmic crisp apples for apple crisp ?.
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Morton - we haven't yet had a chance to try them! If you do, let us know how you like them :)
  19. Leslie Price
    Hello all you apple pie fans. Im not an expert at making pies but i have been growing and marketing baking apples of many varieties for almost 30 years now. An apple variety that is reouned for use in apple pies or crisps will always mostly be on the tart side. There may be other flavor or texture facters in play but most important is the apples tartness at maturety. To put it simply, if you want apple flavor after cooking you have to start with a tart apple. Apple flavor or volotiles are easily lost in cooking. The delicate volitals in sweeter apples cooked off first, tarter apples will keep their flavor better under high heat.
    Some old world classic baking varieties are: Bramley's Seedling, Belle de Boskoop, Gravenstein.
    American heirlooms for baking: Cortland, Northern Spy, McIntosh.
    Of course the old recipe standby, Granny Smith is a great baking apple but the secret is to find good ripe ones.
  20. Thomas James
    Look yummy! One of my favorite Apple Pie, nice to see your guide, easy to follow, will make this for family this weekend. Thanks you!
  21. Cole Beasley
    I want my apple to still have that firmness and crunch when I take that first bite. After reading this article made me curious of how many of these 7,500 varieties of apples have I tasted so far and I never saw a yellow apple in person yet!
  22. Lisa @BestNonToxicCookware
    I love the apple and its taste when used to make apple pie is great! Thanks for the helpful information you've brought
  23. shirley forbush
    I have always used McINTOSH apples for my pie ..every one want my recipe...won first prize in a apple pie contest ..been making Apple pies for over 20 yrs. i use 3 lbs for my apple pie ..
  24. Rivermarket Kitchen
    My favorite daughter is apple pie and everything is made from apples. Thanks for your interesting sharing on how to choose the best apple. Hope to have a delicious apple pie on the weekend. Thanks and have a nice day!
  25. Karen
    I have a tree that was labeled Northern Spy but, I’m finding that when I bake with these apples they turn to mush. How do I figure out what kind of tree I have?
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi Karen - We unfortunately don't have that information. I'd recommend looking at an apple-tree catalog or other online resource to help identify the variety.
  26. Ron Johnson
    My favorite pie apple for 50+ years has always been Johnathan because of the unique tart taste But for some reason they are very hard to find now. Even Johnagolds are in short supple. I bake whole apples with Macintosh cored down stuffed with raisins and maple syrup as a lazy apple pie substitute now. Will try Gannies and Goldens for my next pie. But always with Hagan Daz and warm pie: yum!
  27. Marina
    My family only makes apple pies on certain special occasions, not really thinking much about what kind of apple.
    Thanks for your article providing many interesting things.
  28. brooklyn grill
    Wow, your recipe is so amazing. I have never known this recipe. Thank for sharing. I will share this recipe for my friends and my family. My family really love pie.
  29. Phoenix Cooks
    That's so great!!! Your share is very awesome. Every day, I have to think what dishes should I cook for my family. Now, your share can help me for that. Thank you for sharing. I love it so much.
  30. Jacks
    I really like the taste of apple pie, it's been a long time since I felt like eating. Thanks, Whitney Barnes.
  31. Irène
    Being from Europe, the Gravenstein apples are still my favorite; so I go crazy with applesauce and pie freezing when they're in season. Had been counting on Cosmic Crisps after all the hoopla about them in the media, but am really disappointed. I'd be interested to know why we can't revive our old-fashioned ones (McIntosh, Pippin, Boskoop) instead of developing new kinds that just don't pass the taste test.
  32. Alex Jordan
    Thank you for sharing this article, the experience was memorable. You are wonderful
  33. Elliott
    That's so great! I like apples and any cakes with its combination. Thanks for your interesting sharing!
  34. BigBoy
    From Wisconsin,now in Az. Always used McIntosh Apples. Extremly hard to find in Az.
  35. R
    I left my apple pie in the warm oven overnight (with the door shut). Could this have caused my pie filling to become more like the texture of applesauce?
    1. Whitney Barnes
      Hi R - Yes, doing so would have caused the pie to steam and possible continue cooking (depending on the temperature.) It's best to let pies cool uncovered, at room temperature.
  36. Jackson
    Great! I just finished it last night and the result was unexpected, my wife and daughter both liked it, which made me happy. Thanks for your recipe
  37. Jackson
    I'm Jackson, I'm a chef who loves food, I'm always interested in new foods. Apples for Apple Pie is great! I just finished them tonight, taste is great and i had a great dinner with my little family. Thanks for your sharing.
    Sincerely grateful!
  38. Gregory
    Black Twig. If you can find them. Tart, firm, hold up really well when cooked.
  39. Jim
    There are many good recipes for apple pie. Here is one of them:

    2 cups of flour

    1 teaspoon of salt

    8 tablespoons of butter

    1/2 cup of ice water

    1 egg, beaten.

    Mix the flour and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse

    Hope you like it
  40. Charlie Trotter
    This is an amazing…and it looks soo yummy & sound so delicious…I would certainly attempt it after reading this post. …Thanks for your guide.
    Love it!
  41. Susan Blasi
    I do like Granny Smith apples for pie; however, my favorite apple is still Winesap! Delicious in pies, apple dumplings, Jewish apple cake!
  42. Jan K.
    Mutsu apples are great for pies. Sometimes hard to find!
  43. Dave H.
    It's McIntosh all the way! My wife uses the Wesson Oil Crust and I get the best pie out there.

    Wesson oil recipe: (2 crust pie)
    2 cups Flour
    1 tsp. Salt
    1/2 cup Wesson Oil, (any oil will due)
    1/4 cup Milk (even 1% will due)

    Mix to form nice dough ball.

    Roll out 1/2 of the ball between 2 sheets of Wax Paper. Repeat for the top crust. Wipe the counter top with a damp rag so the bottom sheet stays in place!
  44. Arli
    My family, g-grandparents, grandparents, parents all used apples from a Yellow Transparent tree.for pies and apple dumplings that we had in the chicken lot, We would always buy apples from local orchards but would use the apples from the yellow transparent. I srtill prefer Yellow Transparent. I do not like tart apples for, Tart apple pie is not good pie, to me.
  45. Cigi
    Mix of Arkansas Black, Jonathan and old fashioned Winesap apples are my favorite go to pie apples. I’ve used this mix for over 40 years and everyone loves the resulting flavor of my pies. Not too sweet, never mushy and just tart enough.
  46. Diane
    Gravenstein apples make the best apple pies
  47. Owen K
    Lodi, one of the best apples for pie and apple sauce. One of the worst to eat fresh, it will make you pucker up. Apples are ready around July 10th and are mushy by the 20th. I drove around in farm country and well established older suburbs. I found several trees and picked about 4 boxes, way too much for me but the neighbors loved the sauce I made. So they took some apples too.
  48. Bridget
    Grimes and jonagolds are my favorite pie apples. We used to have a Northern Spy tree, but that was long ago. If and when you find Northern Spies or Grimes, buy them!
  49. Diane
    We have an old apple tree that was on the property when we moved here fifty years ago. I never knew the name of the apple tree until 4 years ago. Gravenstein and let me tell you they make the most divine apple pies and apple desserts. there is nothing like them. They don't make fruit every year so you never know when you will get these wonderful apples. When they do everyone around town wants some! Best apple for pies hands down. The bears like them too!
  50. Toni Ann Buys
    I started making pies in the 90’s when both my girls were at MSU to make extra cash on top of my regular job because I had been divorced. I still make about 200 pies a year to sell, as gifts and to donate to silent auctions. I love McIntosh and Northern Spy although sometimes it’s hard to get all the northern spy apples that I would like. I realize some people use a variety and like them but I have had really good luck with these two varieties and s th I’ve to those.

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