Which Apples to Use to Make Any Kind of Apple Pie

Apple Pie

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Apple pie is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser and an ideal dessert from the autumn apple harvest through the winter holidays. Many cooks have a go-to apple pie recipe in their repertoire, but not every apple variety is a great choice for pie.

The best apples for pie are firm varieties often referred to as baking apples. The firmer flesh ensures they will soften when baked but won't lose their shape or become mush. You'll also want to consider the apple's flavor profile. Tart apples are the most popular, or you can use a sweet apple. Many bakers choose one sweet and one tart variety and combine the two equally, and there are sweet-tart apples that provide a balance of flavor on their own.

It's pretty hard to go wrong with a homemade apple pie, so if you have a big pile of apples sitting in your kitchen that is not listed, don't let that stop you from making a pie. The difference is nothing a scoop of vanilla ice cream can't cure.

Tart Pie Apples

Tart apples are favored for old-fashioned apple pie because their flavor profile offsets the sugar's sweetness. Granny Smith is a classic option for apple pie, and they're easy to find at produce markets. Cortland and Empire are also fantastic choices, though there are several other tart apples that you can try as you perfect that personal apple pie recipe.

  • Arkansas Black
  • Cortland
  • Empire
  • Goldrush
  • Granny Smith
  • Gravenstein
  • Jonathan
  • Northern Spy
  • Stayman-Winesap
  • Sierra Beauty
  • Suncrisp

Sweet Pie Apples

Sweet apples are often combined with tart apples in the pie filling, though they can stand independently and work well in other apple desserts like turnovers and apple crisp. If your taste leans toward a sweeter apple pie, look for Fuji, Golden Delicious, or one of the less common sweet baking apple varieties.

  • Crispin (Mutsu)
  • Fuji
  • Golden Delicious
  • Red Rome
  • Jonagold

Sweet-Tart Pie Apples

When you don't want to buy two varieties, look for these apples at the market. Extremely convenient, you'll get a nice balance of sweet and tart flavors for your pie filling. Honey crisp is likely the easiest to find, but keep your eyes out for the other varieties to use in your apple pie experiments.

  • Braeburn
  • Bramley
  • Cameo
  • Cox’s Orange Pippin
  • Fameuse (Snow Apples)
  • Honey Crisp
  • Pink Lady
  • Spigold
  • Yellow Transparent
Best apples for apple pie
The Spruce Eats / Bailey Mariner 

Apples That Aren't Great for Pie

Several popular apple varieties don't make the best pie. They tend to lose their shape when baked and are best reserved for eating fresh or making things like applesauce or apple butter.

  • Empire
  • Gala
  • Hawaiian
  • Macintosh

How Many Apples for a Pie

Apple pie recipes vary. While some suggest how many apples or pounds you'll need, others call for cups once the apples are peeled, cored, and chopped. That can be a challenge when you're at the store and deciding how many apples you'll need.

A good rule of thumb is to buy a pound of apples for every three cups of chopped apples. On average, you will need 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of apples per pie. Depending on their size, that could be six to eight apples, and you'll need more if the apples are smaller. Buying a few extra is always a good idea, ensuring you'll have plenty on hand with some left to use in other recipes.