The Best Apples For Apple Pie: 30+ Grocery-Store Favourites And Specialty Heirlooms For Baking

Looking for the best apples for apple pie? If you’re putting in the effort to make homemade pie filling, its worth taking the time to select the right apple varieties.

The best apples for apple pie are firm, tart varieties with depth of flavour that also hold their shape well when baked. Great apple varieties for apple pie filling include Northern Spy, Bramley’s, Calville, Braeburn, Granny Smith, and Honeycrisp. Choose individual apples picked at the peak of ripeness and use them before their natural acidity starts to decline.

Some foodies like to make apple pie with a single variety, while other chefs love creating a custom blend with different types of apples. There’s so much to discuss about the best apples for apple pie! Read on to learn all about the best types available at the grocery store, farmers market, and specialty orchards.

best apples for apple pie
A slice of Nana’s delicious apple pie made with Honeycrisp and Granny Smith apples.

“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 PieOpens in a new tab., by Sally’s Baking Addiction

1. Northern Spy Apple Pie

Northern Spy apples are quite possibly the best apples for apple pie. They’re true American heritage apples for a classic American dessert. They’re not in every store, but they’re worth the hunt!

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).

Bobby Flay’s Apple Pie recipe calls for Northern Spy apples. E.D. Smith Apple Pie FillingOpens in a new tab. uses Northern Spy apples.

“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. Bramley’s Seedling Apple Pie

Bramley’s Seedling is Britain’s favourite 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.

Jamie Oliver uses Bramleys mixed with sweeter eating apples for his Ultimate Apple PieOpens in a new tab.. So does Stephen Fry’s apple pie recipe.

“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 OrchardOpens in a new tab., by James Rich

3. Calville Blanc d’Hiver Apple Tart

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. There are excellent tips for making a French apple tart in the online course French Pastry Fundamentals With Dominique Ansel, on MasterClass.

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 tarte). Here’s a Tart Tatin recipeOpens in a new tab. from the Sunday Baker:

“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

4. Braeburn Apple Pie

Braeburn applesOpens in a new tab. are one of the best widely-available 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.

This Real Deal Apple Pie recipeOpens in a new tab. from Taste of Home calls for a mix of Braeburn and Granny Smith apples. So does Paula Deen’s Old-Fashioned Apple PieOpens in a new tab..

“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 OrchardOpens in a new tab., by James Rich
The Best Apples for Apple Pie - List of Apple Varieties for Baking
Granny Smith apples at the supermarket.

5. Granny Smith Apple Pie

Granny Smith applesOpens in a new tab. are perhaps the most popular apple variety for apple pie. They’re very reliable and easy to find any time of year. These tart heirloom apples from Australia are sold at every grocery store and stay firm even when baked at high temperatures.

Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond uses Granny Smith apples in her apple pie recipes, including her classic Spiced Apple PieOpens in a new tab.. Ina Garten also calls specifically for Granny Smiths in her Deep Dish Apple PieOpens in a new tab..

“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

6. Granny Smith + McIntosh/Cortland/Empire/Macoun/Spartan/Spencer for Pie Filling

Often the best apples for apple pie is 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 McIntoshOpens in a new tab., Cortland, Empire, and Macoun taste wonderful and cook down quickly to create a saucy, thick liquid that surrounds the firmer chunks of Granny Smith.

Martha Stewart’s Apple Pie with Cheddar CrustOpens in a new tab. uses a mix of Granny Smith and Cortland apples.

“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

7. Honeycrisp Apple Pie

Honeycrisp applesOpens in a new tab. are a superb American apple variety for apple pie. This legendary all-round apple was developed at the University of Minnesota, making it an American modern classic. The flesh is wonderfully sweet-tart when raw but also holds its shape extremely well in baked dishes.

Our Favorite Apple PieOpens in a new tab., by Rhoda Boone for Epicurious

“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 TreesOpens in a new tab., Stark Brothers

8. SweeTango Apple Pie

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 GaletteOpens in a new tab. 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 Pie

Jonagold apples are great apples to use in apple pie. They combine the flavour and acidity of the heritage Jonathan apple with the all-round 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 recipeOpens in a new tab. from the Food Network that calls for Jonagold apples.

10. Golden Delicious Apple Pie

Golden Delicious applesOpens in a new tab. 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 their own or blend them with more flavourful apples to create a lovely fall apple blend.

This classic apple pie recipeOpens in a new tab. from the Food Network recommends Golden Delicious apples.

11. Jonathan Apple Pie

Jonathan apples make for a flavourful, tender apple pie filling. These heirloom apples from New York have a rich, complex, tart flavour that becomes sweeter when baked.

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 BraeburnOpens in a new tab. or Golden DeliciousOpens in a new tab..

12. Idared Apple Pie

Idared apples are a tart cooking apple with a nice firm texture in apple pies. These pretty red apples were developed at the University of Idaho as a cross between the 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 recipeOpens in a new tab. from Little Sweet Baker recommends Idared apples, as well as a handful of other stellar pie varieties.

13. Newtown Pippin Apple Pie

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 colour. The Newtown Pippin is a fragrant, old-fashioned type with a true apple taste.

14. Envy Apple Pie

Envy applesOpens in a new tab. are a new club apple from New Zealand that are very well suited to apple pie. Envy apples were bred from the Gala and Braeburn, and combine a rich sweet-tart flavour 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 recipeOpens in a new tab. from The Pie Shoppe in Vancouver, Canada.

15. Jazz Apple Pie

Jazz apples are an established sweet-tart club apple that have proven to be dependable apple pie apples. Another Gala-Braeburn cross from New Zealand, they stay firm in pie filling while having a rich depth of flavour. Like Envy, this is a managed variety and is only available from select retailers.

Here’s a Spiced Apple Pie recipeOpens in a new tab. from Jazz Apples.

16. Pink Lady Apple Pie

Pink Lady apples are a leading brand-name club apple that work 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 varietyOpens in a new tab. grown by licensed growers. Worldwide orchards make these beauties available year round.

Here is a recipe for Ultimate Apple PieOpens in a new tab. from Pink Lady apples.

17. Piñata Apple Pie

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 flavour 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 recipeOpens in a new tab. from Stemilt, the growers of Piñata.

18. Rhode Island Greening Apple Pie

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 flavour. Think of it as an American alternative to the Granny Smith!

“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 Pie

Goldrush is a green-yellow American cooking apple bred in the 1970’s. Developed at Purdue University, the Goldrush is a favourite 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 flavour. No need to add lemon juice to a Goldrush apple pie. Yum!

20. Keepsake Apple Pie

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 flavoured filling, while fruits that have been stored for a few months will lead to sweeter apple pie.

21. Arkansas Black Apple Pie

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 Pie

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 flavour, but it happens to make a perfect choice for apple pie. Its acidity and firm texture stands up to baking, and the resulting pie is deliciously aromatic. These apples are worth searching for!

23. Mutsu/Crispin Apple Pie

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 its not the most strongly-flavoured apple on the list, it certainly deserves a spot in your sweet-tart mix for apple pie filling.

This classic apple pie recipeOpens in a new tab. from the Food Network recommends Mutsu apples.

24. Gala Apple Pie

Gala apples are a sweeter variety to use in apple pie. 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 Pie

Rome 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 flavour which works well in mild recipes. They can also be mixed with more flavourful varieties to add complexity the filling flavour.

Martha’s Perfect Apple PieOpens in a new tab. recipe suggests using Rome apples.

26. Roxbury Russet Apple Pie

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 flavour. Apple connoisseurs may enjoy making a single-type varietal pie with these apples to truly appreciate their flavour.

“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 Pie

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 Bramle’s Seedling, the Ribston Pippin does make a wonderful pie apple.

28. Cox’s Orange Pippin Apple Pie

Cox’s Orange Pippin is England’s favourite 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 extra 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 OrchardOpens in a new tab., by James Rich

29. Pink Pearl Apple Pie

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 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 pie or open-faced galette!

Here is a gorgeous Pink Pearl Apple Galette recipeOpens in a new tab. from Wife Mama Foodie.

30. James Grieve Apple Pie

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 OrchardOpens in a new tab., by James Rich

31. Belle de Boskoop Apple Pie

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 and Vitamin C, 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 Pie

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 flavour.

This apple pie recipeOpens in a new tab. from the Food Network recommends Winesap apples.

33. Suncrisp Apple Pie

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 complexity of flavour in a mixture of apples for apple pie filling.


References:

The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, by Amy Traverso

Apple: Recipes From The OrchardOpens in a new tab., by James Rich

Mary Jane

Mary Jane is a home gardener who loves creating healthy, welcoming spaces (indoors and out!) - About Mary Jane (https://www.homefortheharvest.com/authors/about-mary-jane-duford/)

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