Let me share all you need to know about the best apples for baking! Learn which apple varieties are ideal for baking, and why their texture, flavor, and level of sweetness matters. You’ll find my top choices below, and why I reach for a combination!
It’s no secret that apples are a perennial favorite in a baker’s kitchen.
Which are the best apples for baking?
The Texture of the Apple Matters
You want apples that hold their shape while baking, instead of cooking down into mush. (Use those for making applesauce and apple butter!) Let’s go ahead and compare apples to apples. Literally.
Look for an apple variety that’s known for its crisp, firm texture. On the crisp-crunchy end of the spectrum, you’ll find:
- Pacific Rose
- Pink Lady
- Granny Smith
These are all excellent choices for baking.
You’ll want to avoid soft, mealy, or creamy-flesh apples like Red Delicious, Gala, and McIntosh. They will soften up too quickly in the baking process, and therefore do not provide ideal texture.
For Best Results, Use a Combination of Apples
For depth of flavor, it’s best to bake with a mix of tart and sweet apples. Whether I’m making individual apple crumbles or apple cinnamon bread, I like to use both tart and sweet apples in the recipe.
Best Tart Apples for Baking:
- Granny Smith (in my opinion, this is the best overall apple for baking)
- Braeburn (a sweet-tart variety)
- Pacific Rose
- Cortland (slightly tart)
Best Sweet Apples for Baking:
- Pink Lady
Again, using a combination of both sweet and tart apples will give your baked good an interesting depth of flavor. So if you need 4 apples for your recipe, use 2 tart and 2 sweet.
If you only want to grab ONE type of apple, I would recommend Granny Smith.
All of the apples listed above are wonderful for cooking and baking. If I had to highlight a small handful, these would be my particular favorites/top choices:
Granny Smith (Tart)
Granny Smiths are typically my go-to apple for baking, so I’ll always have them on hand during the fall months. Their tart, citrusy flavor make them perfect for sweet baked goods, where there’s sugar in the recipe. I love using these for homemade caramel apples, too.
Braeburn (Slightly Tart)
Braeburn apples have a classic, sharp apple flavor. They’re not as tart as Granny Smith, but they hold their shape very well when cooked.
Who doesn’t love biting into a fresh Honeycrisp apple? They’re extra juicy and very crisp with a honey-sweet flavor that translates wonderfully into baked goods. AND they are the star of the show in my Honeycrisp apple sangria.
Pink Lady (Sweet)
These are sweet-tart, crisp, and very firm apples that hold shape beautifully in pies. Because they hold shape so well, I usually use them when I make baked apples. They’re also known as Cripps Pink.
These are my favorite sweet apples for baking! They’re crisp and firm, with a mildly tangy flavor. I usually bake apple pies with a mix of Granny Smiths and Jazz or Pink Lady apples.
How to Prep Apples for Baking
If the apple recipe you’re using includes a step for peeling (not all do!), you’ll need an apple peeler.
- Apple Peeler: I use and love this peeler for everyday use. But if you’re planning to bake with a LOT of apples, you may want to invest in a Johnny Apple Peeler, which peels, cores, and slices the apples.
Do you peel around the apple in one long strip, or straight down it in lots of short little strips? True story: Once when we were all baking in the kitchen together, two of my team members actually had a “peel-off” contest to see whose method was faster… and they tied! (Though the long spiraling ribbon was much more beautiful than the little strips, if you’re going for the Prettiest Apple Peel in the Compost Bin award. LOL.)
One last tip: Pay attention to whether the recipe calls for slicing the apples or chopping the apples into chunks. For apple pie, I recommend slices, as uniform as you can make them, about 1/4 inch thick. For apple crisp, I prefer chunks because they easily fit onto a spoon.