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The Best Apples for Baking

Choosing the best apples for baking your favorite apple dessert can seem like a tough task, but it’s all about just two things!

The Best Apples for Baking

Baking with Apples

Apple desserts are just the best. I love them all year long, but I especially crave them in the fall. Whether you’re baking pies, cobblers, or something in between, choosing the right kind of apple is important.

Picking apples for baking seems simple enough until you realize the myriad varieties that exist. But don’t let it daunt you! It all comes down to texture and taste. Keep those two things in mind, and you’ll be set.

Once you’ve got your apples ready for baking, see my collection of apple recipes for some tasty ways to give them a try!

What Kind of Apples Aren’t Good for Baking?

While soft, juicy apples are heavenly to eat out of hand for a snack, they aren’t likely to hold up well when baked. I recommend avoiding baking with Red Delicious, McIntosh, and other varieties that are considered softer apples. They’re just too soft and moist to hold up to baking temperatures. Their flesh will tend to break down and turn into a mushy mess.

What Makes a Good Baking Apple?

What apple pies and cobblers and such need is a good, sturdy apple that won’t break down when baked. You want the end result to have nice slices or chunks of apples. Save the softer, more delicate apples for eating fresh and making things like apple butter and applesauce.

The flavor of the apples is just as important. Most of us prefer a little bit of tart flavor in apple desserts to balance the natural sweetness. That’s why most recommended varieties tend to be both sweet and tart. Some of them are more tart than others, making them fairly baking-specific. Ultimately, your own taste preferences will help you make your choices.

three apples on a red and white kitchen towel

The Best Apples for Baking

Try some of these favorites when you’ve got a craving for an apple treat.

  • Pink Lady (or Cripps Pink), offers a great balance of sweet and tart.
  • Granny Smith, maybe the most popular baking apple. A little more tart than most.
  • Braeburn, magically moist yet still bakes well.
  • Jonagold, a combination of Jonathans (another good baking choice) and Golden Delicious. Plenty firm with a nice sweet-tart taste.
  • Honeycrisp, sweeter than most baking apples yet still holds up to baking.
  • Fuji, a bit on the firmer end of the spectrum. Great for baked goods that bake a long time.
  • Gala, a little sweeter than most of the others. Bonus points for being widely available.
  • Cortland, softer than most baking apples but bakes well.
  • Winesap, a strongly flavored apple that holds up very well through baking
  • Crispin (or Mutsu), a crunchy, juicy apple that’s a nice blend of sweet and tart

I bake most often with Gala, Fuji, and Pink Lady apples. Of course, we all have our own flavor preferences, so it’s entirely possible that you’ll have a different preference among baking apples. These are all great choices for baking. If you’re looking to find a favorite baking apple, give some of these a try the next time you bake and see what strikes your flavor fancy.

Don’t hesitate to use a mixture of apple varieties, either. Using a mixture of sweet and tart apples that have varying amounts of sweetness and tartness is a great way to add some flavor interest to your next baked apple dessert.

How Many Apples Do I Need?

Apples come in different sizes, so there’s no hard and fast answer here. Add to that the fact that you may need slices, big chunks, or small cubes, and you’ll get even more variance.

Assume you’ll get about a cup of small cubes or slightly more volume of slices or large cubes out of a medium-sized apple. If you’re unsure, add an extra apple to your shopping list to account for size variances as well as to have some margin for error if part of an apple doesn’t quite meet your standards. That’s not a perfect math, but it’s a good starting point.

Should Apples Be Peeled Before Baking?

The answer to that is a solid maybe. The peel provides a good bit of the nutritional value of apples, but it can also be resistant to breaking down while baking. It’s really a matter of preference. For many baked goods, I leave the peel intact. But you may find that you prefer them peeled for at least some baking recipes.

If you do peel the apples, you can do that simply with a vegetable peeler or a paring knife.

What Is the Best Way to Store Apples?

Apples are best stored in a cool, humid place. Your refrigerator’s crisper drawer will work well, although refrigerators are generally not a humid environment. You can add a slightly damp towel on top of your apples to add some moisture to help keep them fresh. Store your apples away from other produce, too, as they release ethylene gas which can cause other fruits to ripen more quickly.

Whatever your baking apple preference, find plenty of baking inspiration in the Recipe Index.

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    5 Comments on “The Best Apples for Baking”

  1. I have a quick question, and can’t believe how timely this article is. Tomorrow I’m going to have leftover phylo dough and an extra Granny Smith , and I was thinking of making a quick little apple pie with the two. I was debating if I should cook the apple a bit before topping with the phylo, since it browns so fast, what do you think?

    • Hi, Barb. I’ve seen it done both ways, so I think it depends on how long you want the phyllo to bake. For a light browning, it’s not a bad idea to cook the apple first. It will soften it a bit so you won’t have to bake the pie as long. 

  2. Wow, now this is something I call useful post. Thanks for sharing @Jennifer McHenry. I like you post a lot as I am a bake and many times I use apple for my cake. I love to experiement things but didn’t had idea about the things you have shared in your article. Keep up the good work going. Thanks.

  3. Love your blog and notice McIntosh apples never seem to be around anymore. I used to get good results from them. I’d like your thoughts on this. I recently made an apple, ((reduced) cider Bundt cake with Granny Smith apples. The cake came out perfect and looked delicious.  It was the most bland cake ever even with a delicious double dose of apple cider glaze on it. It was a recipe from a prestigious magazine. Now I’m thinking I don’t like Granny Smith apples. Do you have an apple cider cake recipe? Thank you. 

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