Looking for the best apples for apple pie? If you’re putting in the effort to make homemade pie filling, it’s worth taking the time to select the right culinary baking apple varieties.
The best apples for apple pie are firm, tart varieties with a complex depth of flavor that also hold their shape well when baked in the oven. Great apple varieties for apple pie filling include Northern Spy, Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, and Braeburn. Choose individual apples picked at the crisp peak of ripeness and use them in your baking before they soften in storage.
Some foodies like to make apple pie with a single variety, while other chefs love creating a custom blend with different types of apples. Read on to learn all about the best types available at the grocery store, farmers’ market, and specialty orchards.
1. Northern Spy apple
Northern Spy apples are quite possibly the best apples for apple pie. They’re true American heritage apples for a classic American dessert. These pie apples are known for their juicy, crisp, white flesh and spicy aromatics. The flavor is sweet but has exactly the right amount of balancing acidity to make this the perfect apple for pie filling.
Northern Spy is an heirloom American cooking apple from Upstate New York. These apples can be found at specialty fruit markets and at farmers’ markets in cooler apple-growing regions (especially on the East Coast). They’re not in every store, but they’re worth the hunt.
“Many cooks call the Northern Spy the best pie apple around, thanks to its bright flavor and ability to stay firms when sliced and baked. If I had to pick a single variety for my own pies (which I don’t like to do, knowing how much a little variety improves the filling), I would choose this one.”The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, by Amy Traverso
2. Honeycrisp apple
Honeycrisp Apples are a superb American apple variety for making apple pie filling. This legendary type of apple was developed at the University of Minnesota, making it an American modern classic. The flesh of these crisp apples is wonderfully sweet-tart when raw but also holds its shape extremely well in baked dishes. While they can be expensive, these apples are also quite large (so it takes fewer of them to make a pie).
Our Favorite Apple Pie, by Rhoda Boone for Epicurious, recommends Honeycrisp apples for the pie filling. The pie crust of her recipe is also highly rated, making for a top-notch combination of Honeycrisp deliciousness with flakey, buttery pastry.
“Outstanding fresh-eating qualities make this variety an American favorite. Fruit is aromatic and sweet as honey with an explosively juicy, crisp texture.”Honeycrisp Apple Trees, Stark Brothers
3. Granny Smith apple
Granny Smith Apples are perhaps the most popular apple variety for apple pie. They’re very reliable and easy to find in most grocery stores any time of year. These tart heirloom apples from Australia stay firm even when baked at high temperatures. Because Granny Smith Apples are quite tart, they are commonly blended with sweet apple varieties to make a balanced filling.
Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond uses Granny Smith apples in her apple pie recipes, including her classic Spiced Apple Pie. Ina Garten calls specifically for Granny Smiths in her Deep Dish Apple Pie. Even the internet-famous recipe for Salted Caramel Apple Pie from Sally’s Baking Addiction is made with a combination of Granny Smiths with Pink Lady. Make lots of filling and use the excess to make apple butter or another yummy apple dessert!
“Granny Smith: When Northern Spy or Calville Blanc isn’t available, this is a decent alternative for pies, tarts, and other rich pastry desserts.”The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, by Amy Traverso
4. Granny Smith + McIntosh/Cortland/Empire/Macoun/Spartan/Spencer
Often the best apples for apple pie are a mix of different varieties. One tried-and-true apple pie filling variety combo is to mix firm Granny Smith apple chunks with a softer variety. Tender apples like McIntosh, Cortland, Empire, and Macoun taste wonderful and cook down quickly to create a saucy, thick liquid that surrounds the firmer chunks of Granny Smith.
“It’s best to use a variety of apples in apple pie. I always recommend using half tart and half sweet. I love tart Granny Smith apples paired with a sweet variety such as Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, Jazz, and/or Fuji.”Deep Dish Apple Pie, by Sally’s Baking Addiction
“The Mac readily cooks down, which makes it a perfect choice for applesauce. In a pie, it provides a mushy base in which firmer slices can be suspended – a texture my grandmother Rose preferred.”The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, by Amy Traverso
5. Braeburn apple pie
Braeburn apples are one of the best widely-available supermarket apple varieties for apple pie. This New Zealand variety is known for its sweet and spicy taste that’s perfect for cozy autumn desserts. A pie with all Braeburns is delicious, but a pie with Braeburns within a mix of different apples from this list can be truly heavenly (especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream).
“Juicy, well balanced and with an interesting taste combination that includes a subtle hit of nutmeg and cinnamon flavours, Braeburns hold their shape when cooked and are great stuffed and baked.”Apple: Recipes From The Orchard, by James Rich
6. Bramley’s Seedling apple
Bramley’s Seedling is Britain’s favorite apple for apple pie filling. These English cooking apples have a vibrant acidity that makes them excellent for baking. This variety is generally mixed with a few other sweeter apples to create a complex and well-textured pie filling.
“There is a reason why Bramleys are the undisputed king of the cookers: they have a durable, bitter sharp-flavour that mellows and sweetens when cooked.”Apple: Recipes From The Orchard, by James Rich
7. Calville Blanc d’Hiver apple
Calville Blanc d’Hiver is one of France’s top heritage cooking apples. It is perfect in French-baked apple dishes, including pie (or “tarte” in French). Calville apples are bright, acidic, spicy, and citrusy – a true gourmet variety.
Tarte Tatin is a classic French upside-down apple pie that uses Calville apples (or Reine des Reinettes, for a slightly sweeter but still authentic tart). This galette-type dessert has no top crust, letting the baked apples steal the show (and no vents required). Here’s a Tart Tatin recipe from the Sunday Baker. Be sure to use high-quality butter, flour, and eggs for the best results.
“Calville Blanc d’Hiver: This is one of the favored cooking apples in France, and a must-have if you want to make an authentic tarte tatin or any other kind of tart.”The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, by Amy Traverso
8. SweeTango apple
SweeTango apples are high-quality American club apples that are very well suited to apple pie. Bred by the University of Minnesota as an improved Honeycrisp, it retains its shape very well when cooked in pie and also has an incredibly rich and complex sweetness. SweeTango is a wonderful all-American apple pie apple.
Here is a recipe for a rustic Apple Galette with SweeTango apples.
“Think of this apple as the “It Girl” of the apple world. Developed at the University of Minnesota in the 1990’s, it’s a cross between Zestar and Honeycrisp, and was bred to meet the demand for crisp, juicy, sweet-tart apples with complex flavor.”The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, by Amy Traverso
9. Jonagold apple
Jonagold apples are great apples to use in apple pie. They combine the flavor and acidity of the heritage Jonathan apple with the all-around appeal of Golden Delicious. A Jonagold apple pie is wonderfully honey-sweet, but still with that firm texture that makes for a great classic apple pie.
Here is a highly-rated Traditional Apple Pie recipe from the Food Network that calls for Jonagold apples.
10. Golden Delicious apple
Golden Delicious apples are easy to find and make a subtly-sweet apple pie. These apples are best for pie when the peel is still a bit green, as they still have a nice snappy acidity at this point. Use them on your own or blend them with more flavourful apples to create a lovely fall apple blend.
This classic apple pie recipe from the Food Network recommends Golden Delicious apples.
11. Jonathan apple
Jonathan apples make for a flavourful, tender apple pie filling. These heirloom apples from New York have a rich, complex, tart flavor that becomes sweeter when baked. Because they are quite tart, Jonathan Apples are often mixed with sweeter varieties in filling recipes.
The flesh of Jonathan apples is fine-textured and juicy and tends to break down when cooked. Use in pie recipes where a somewhat-soft texture is desired, or mix with some firmer apples like Braeburn or Golden Delicious.
12. Idared apple
Idared apples are tart cooking apples with a nice firm texture in apple pies. These pretty red apples were developed at the University of Idaho as a cross between Jonathan and Wagener (another American heritage baking apple). Idared apples have a firmer/coarser texture than Jonathan, making them great in rustic recipes or pies with firmer apple chunks.
This Easy Homemade Apple Pie recipe from Little Sweet Baker recommends Idared apples, as well as a handful of other stellar pie varieties.
13. Newtown Pippin apple
Newtown Pippin is a tart American heirloom baking apple. Its firm, crisp texture is perfect for apple pie, particularly when the fruit is freshly picked and the peel is a pale green color. The Newtown Pippin is a fragrant, old-fashioned type with a true apple taste.
14. Envy apple
Envy Apple is a new club apple from New Zealand that is very well suited to apple pie. Envy apples were bred from the Gala and Braeburn, and combined a rich sweet-tart flavor with a crisp and juicy texture. They also have a pretty red peel that works well in tarts and other recipes where the peel may be left on.
Here’s an Envy Apple Pie recipe from The Pie Shoppe in Vancouver, Canada.
15. Jazz apple
Jazz Apples are an established sweet-tart club apple that has proven to be dependable apple pie apples. Another Gala-Braeburn cross from New Zealand, these apples stay firm in pie filling while having a rich depth of flavor. Like Envy, Jazz is a managed “club” variety and is only available from select retailers.
Here’s a Spiced Apple Pie recipe from Jazz Apples.
16. Pink Lady apple
Pink Lady apples are a leading brand-name club apple that works very well in apple pie filling. They have just the right amount of citrusy acidity to hold their shape when cooked, remaining sweet and firm. Developed in Australia, Pink Lady apples are the best apples of the Cripps Pink variety grown by licensed growers. Worldwide orchards make these beauties available year-round.
Here is a recipe for Ultimate Apple Pie from Pink Lady apples.
17. Piñata apple
Piñata is a flavourful new club apple developed in Europe but grown in the USA. These tropical, spicy-tasting apples keep their shape in pie filling and have flavor galore! Descended from famous heirloom varieties Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin, and Duchess of Oldenburg, Piñata apples are destined to be a popular pick for apple pie.
Here is a Classic Apple Pie recipe from Stemilt, the growers of Piñata.
18. Rhode Island Greening apple
Rhode Island Greening is a tart American heirloom cooking apple perfect for pies and crisp. Popular on the East Coast, it has a firm texture that holds its shape in apple pie while also having a vibrant sharp flavor. Think of it as an American alternative to Granny Smith! Use this type in an open tart-style dessert where it can be sliced thin enough to keep the green peel showing.
“Rhode Island Greening makes such a great pie apple. You can cook it to your heart’s content and know it will hold its shape. Plus, it has more vibrant flavor than the Granny Smith.”The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, by Amy Traverso
19. Goldrush apple
Goldrush is a green-yellow American cooking apple bred in the 1970s. Developed at Purdue University, the Goldrush is a favorite apple pie variety for apple connoisseurs and locavore chefs. This variety really is aptly named, for it has the golden peel of Golden Delicious, but with a “rush” of citrus-like flavor. No need to add lemon juice to a Goldrush apple pie. Yum!
20. Keepsake apple
Keepsake is a modern all-purpose apple that’s absolutely perfect for sweet apple pie. Bred by the University of Minnesota, Keepsake apples have very firm flesh which holds up very well in cooking. This is likely a result of their Northern Spy parentage.
Keepsake is another all-American apple variety that’s an excellent pick for pie. Freshly picked apples will make a crisp-tart flavored filling, while fruits that have been stored for a few months will lead to sweeter apple pie.
21. Arkansas Black apple
Arkansas Black is a southern heirloom pie apple with a gorgeous deep red/purple peel. This specialty apple has firm flesh that holds up well to baking. It really shines in recipes where the peel is left on the apples and remains visible through the top of the pie or tart. Arkansas Black is easier to find in warmer apple-growing regions, although it may be available at specialty grocers in northern states.
22. Esopus Spitzenburg apple
Esopus Spitzenburg is another American heirloom apple that’s quite well-suited to apple pie. This specialty gourmet apple is known mostly for its incredible fresh depth of flavor, but it happens to make a perfect choice for apple pie. Its acidity and firm texture stand up to baking, and the resulting pie is deliciously aromatic. These apples are worth searching for!
23. Mutsu/Crispin apple
Mutsu/Crispin apples are best for sweeter-tasting apple pies. This Golden Delicious offspring is generally easy to find and stands up well to cooking. While it’s not the most strongly-flavored apple on the list, it certainly deserves a spot in your sweet-tart mix for apple pie filling.
This classic apple pie recipe from the Food Network recommends Mutsu apples.
24. Gala apple
Gala Apples are a sweeter variety to use in apple pie that’s as easy to find in the supermarket as Red Delicious Apples are. These New Zealand beauties are among the most common apples in the world and hold their shape surprisingly well when cooked for such a sweet apple. Many of the modern apples on this list are descended from the Gala. Use the Gala on its own for a sweet pie filling, or add them to a custom apple blend for a lovely honey-like taste.
25. Rome apple
Rome apple is a pretty tart red apple from Ohio that’s known for its reliable ability to hold its shape when baked in apple pie filling. They have a subtle flavor that works well in mild recipes. They can also be mixed with more flavourful varieties to add complexity to the filling flavor.
Martha’s Perfect Apple Pie recipe suggests using Rome apples.
26. Roxbury Russet apple
Roxbury Russet is an heirloom apple from New England that makes fantastic heritage-style apple pies. This is an acidic, tart apple that also has a nutty sweetness to its flavor. Apple connoisseurs may enjoy making a single-type varietal pie with these apples to truly appreciate their flavor.
“One of America’s oldest apples, this variety grew from seed in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in the early 1600’s.”The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, by Amy Traverso
27. Ribston Pippin apple
Ribston Pippin is a dense, firm, tart cooking apple from England. It holds its shape well in apple pie. While not as popular for pie in the UK as Bramley’s Seedling, the Ribston Pippin does make a wonderful pie apple.
28. Cox’s Orange Pippin apple
Cox’s Orange Pippin is England’s favorite apple for eating fresh, but it also makes a great pie apple variety. It’s sweeter than Bramley’s Seedling, but still has a nice tart acidity that works well in pies. Buy a few extras and save them for eating fresh while you make your apple pie!
“Intensely sweet but with a hefty level of sharp flavour, it can be eaten raw and used in cooking and baking too, where it keeps its shape well.”Apple: Recipes From The Orchard, by James Rich
29. Pink Pearl apple
Pink Pearl is an American modern apple variety with bright pink flesh. Bred in California, this sweet-tart apple is a true novelty in pie-making, as it can be used to make a naturally-pink pie filling. They don’t look like much on the shelf with their muted grey-green peel, but these apples sure are a sweet treat in a pie or open-faced galette!
Here is a gorgeous Pink Pearl Apple Galette recipe from Wife Mama Foodie.
30. James Grieve apple
James Grieve is a Scottish heirloom apple variety that makes a rustic, sweet-tart pie filling. These apples are quite tart when first harvested, but do sweeten with a few months in storage. This is another heirloom apple worth seeking out!
“A great alternative to Bramley.”Apple: Recipes From The Orchard, by James Rich
31. Belle de Boskoop apple
Belle de Boskoop is a firm, tart, and fragrant heirloom apple from the Netherlands. Tricky to find but well worth it, Boskoop apples are high in acidity, making them an excellent apple for pie. The flesh holds its shape well when cooked, creating an old-fashioned, rustic European apple pie.
32. Winesap or Stayman Winesap apple
Winesap and its offspring, the Stayman Winesap, are both tart American heirloom apples that work very well in apple pie. They have an acidic, astringent-like quality that truly is reminiscent of wine. Use them on their own for a statement pie, or add them to a mix of different apples to add depth of flavor.
This apple pie recipe from the Food Network recommends Winesap apples.
33. Suncrisp apple
Suncrisp is a tart American all-purpose apple variety that works well in apple pie filling. These apples store well and may be available from local orchards for months after being harvested. They have a nice citrusy taste that adds some complexity of flavor in a mixture of apples for apple pie filling.
The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, by Amy Traverso
Apple: Recipes From The Orchard, by James Rich