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What Are the Best Apples for Baking?

Read these baking tips to find out what the best apples for baking are. It’ll make all the difference when baking apple pie, apple crisp, apple muffins, and apple cake!

Image of Apples with text of the best apples for baking

Best Apples for Baking

Whether you’re in the midst of apple season and just picked a bunch of apples at the orchard or you’re craving apple pie in the middle of Spring, you need to know which apples are going to be the best for baking and which apples won’t hold up in the oven.

I did quite a bit of research on this topic because I want to make sure you and I both bake the best baked goods with apples as the star ingredient. I’ve shared a synopsis of some of the top sources below and I’ve also included an easy to follow list of apples (with apples from additional sources) for quick reading.

Here we go 🍏🍎👇

According to New England Today, the best apples for baking are firm-tart apples, and firm-sweet apples. Firm-tart apples are apples like Granny Smith, Esopus Spitzenburg, Northern Spy, Ida Red, and Pink Pearl. Firm-sweet apples are Ginger Gold, Golden Delicious, Jazz, Jonagold, and Pink Lady. 

Bon Appetit says the best apples for baking are Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Mutsu, Winesap, Pink Lady (Cripps Pink) but they also use Granny Smith often.  They’ve listed several apples that have already been mentioned that are crisp and either sweet or tart.

The Kitchen prefers Granny Smith, Jonathan or Jonagold, Cortland, Braeburn, and Honeycrisp. Again, all the apples they’ve chosen are crisp and either sweet or tart.

Cook’s Illustrated said their preferred baking apples are Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Jonagold, Granny Smith, Empire, and Cortland.

With so many options, how do you choose what apples are good for baking?

Consensus is that there is one major factor in picking good baking apples – they need to be crisp. You can use tart apples, sweet apples, or a combination of tart and sweet as long as they’re crisp.

This rule of thumb is a great one to follow whether you’re looking for the best apples for baking pie, apple crisp, apple cake, apple muffins, apple bread, or any recipe that calls for apples as an ingredient in baked goods.

The best apples for baking are apples that hold their shape and don’t get mushy when baked or cooked. It’s important to choose apples that keep their structure, which is what you’ll get when you start with crisp apples.

I happen to love the combination of firm-tart apples and firm-sweet apples. I used that very combination, using Granny Smith Apples and Golden Delicious Apples, in my Gluten Free Apple Pie Bars. They hold their shape beautifully when baked and stay firm once cut into bars.

See my complete list of Firm-Tart Apples and Firm-Sweet Apples below. Use this list to help you pick a combination of apples that are available to you when baking!

Sliced Gluten Free Apple Pie Bars on unbleached parchment paper

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Crisp Sweet Apples for Baking

  • Honeycrisp – our all time favorite apple for eating. It’s actually THE ONLY kind of apple my youngest will eat. Ever. 🙄
  • Ginger Gold
  • Golden Delicious
  • Jazz
  • Jonagold
  • Jonathans – These apples are grown in the Midwest and are a combination of Jonagolds and Golden Delicious. They’re firm with a sweet-tart taste.
  • Fuji – Fuji apples are very large! They’re nice and crisp and sweeter than Honeycrisp. Fun fact, Fuji apples used to be one of my favorites for the sole reason that they were enormous.
  • Gala
  • Pink Lady
  • Braeburn
  • Mutsu/Crispin

Crisp Tart Apples for Baking

  • Granny Smith Apples
  • Esopus Spitzenburg (an heirloom variety)
  • Northern Spy
  • Ida Red
  • Pink Pearl
  • Melrose
  • Cortland
  • Empire
  • Rhode Island Greening
  • Rome Beauty
  • Melrose – This breed of apple is grown in Ohio. They’re a cross between Red Delicious and Jonathans and are a firm-tart apple.
granny smith apples - some of the best apples for baking

Can I Bake with Macintosh Apples?

A reader recently told me that they prefer baking with Macintosh Apples even though they know that goes against most advice. They prefer the soft, mush texture that Macintosh Apples produce in baked goods.

While I highly recommend following the advice of using crisp apples when baking, if you truly prefer the flavor and texture of Macintosh Apples, go for it! Just know, Macintosh Apples do not hold their shape when baked.

This advice goes for baking with other soft apples too.

Gluten Free Apple Recipes to Try

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  1. sylvia says:

    Thank you for your post on apples, I am more confused maybe you are in the United States and to tell you the truth I have never seen or heard the majority of those names. I live in Vancouver BC Canada we do have Macintosh and Granny Smith. We don’t get a variety of apples mainly. You are lucky you have a better variety congratulations. I want to make my first apple crisp next week on Monday May 18 2020. It would be very much appreciated if someone can give me an answer, keep in mind we don’t have that much of a selection to choose from it is Macintosh or Granny Smith.
    Respectfully, Sylvia Demers

  2. Georgina Schneider says:

    Hello – I am 83 years old and except that my mom – the very bet apple-pie ever – used Northern Spy, when they are not available I needed to know which ones are second best, third best and you have answered my question after all these years. I do not make pies but I do often bake my delicious apple crisp but sometimes the apples get soggy, but now I can relax – imagine at the age of 83. Thank you and Merry Christmas. Mary.