The 10 Best Apples for Baking
Don't leave your apple selection to chance for your next baking adventure. Here are the 10 best apples for baking, sure to hold up to the heat of your oven.
by Amanda McFarlane
Fall baking season is finally here and, for most, that means apples will make an appearance in many desserts. Whether you make an annual trip to the orchard to pick your own or head straight to the supermarket, there’s nothing quite like the smell of a freshly baked apple pie, or a big pan of apple crisp straight out of the oven, bubbling away. But with thousands of varieties to choose from, it’s hard to know which apples should make the cut once your oven gets involved. Some are perfect for eating fresh out of hand — or perhaps with a big spoonful of peanut butter — but won’t stand up to the heat of the oven without turning to mush. Take it from experience: I once had an apple crisp that had turned into applesauce because the wrong variety was used. Still delicious? Sure, but definitely not what I had in mind. Your choice can make or break your recipe — but no need to worry, because we've rounded up the best apples for baking so you never have to risk a failed dessert again.
Apples certainly are good for you. They’re packed with fiber, and are cholesterol, sodium, and fat-free, not to mention delicious, too. Plus they're available year-round; while apples are at their peak in the fall season, you can still have that apple dessert just about any time you want it.
The best apples for baking hold their structure and have a nice balance between tart and sweet. Some apples will break down a little more than others, but everything on this list is suitable for baking. Some are a little more tart or sweet, so experiment and mix and match to find the combination best suited for your tastes and your recipe. Here are our favorite varieties of apples to bake with:
The most recognizable — and oft-used — variety of apple for baking. It's tart and tangy, firm and crisp, and holds its shape best when baked.
It’s the perfect blend of the Jonathan and Golden Delicious apple. We love their firm, crisp texture and sweet-tart, juicy taste — just what’s needed in a baking apple. Very versatile, they work equally well in sweet or savory dishes, and are good for eating raw, frying, roasting, or baking.
Honeycrisp apples are perhaps the best apple to eat fresh, out of hand, but they do equally well when baked. Sweet with a hint of honey, they are crisp and firm and very versatile to use in a variety of recipes, from baking, roasting and eating raw.
Incredibly crisp, these apples have a concentrated, pear-like flavor when baked. They stay juicy and don't turn to mush when baked, making them a great option for recipes in which you don't want the filling to be overly juicy. Plus they have a reddish-pink exterior, streaked with yellow, which make for an extra-pretty presentation, especially when used raw.
With their crisp, mellow sweetness, Gala apples are great for baking, especially because you can typically use less sugar due to their natural sweetness. Taste the apples before adding sugar to determine how much to use.
These apples have a cider-like, sweet-tart flavor and a firm texture. They are an all-purpose apple for juicing, sauces, pies, baking and adding to salads.
These intensely-flavored, tart and spicy apples are highly aromatic and have deep cider-like notes. They can hold up against other strong flavors (think cinnamon and other warming spices). Winesap apples are great for salads, cider-making, applesauce and adding raw to cheeseboards, as well as baking.
Another classic baking apple! Golden delicious apples are naturally sweet, so they require less added sugar to the recipe. The flesh of Golden Delicious doesn't stay as firm as other varieties, so use for applesauce and apple butter, or in combination with other more crisp apples when baking.
These sweet-tart apples are well-balanced with a blush-pink skin with hints of yellow and green. They make for a pretty presentation, and hold up very well to baking.
A relative to the red McIntosh apple, Cortlands are crisp and juicy with a great sweet-tart taste. Their snow-white interiors don't discolor as quickly when cut, making them great for fresh applications. But they also perform well in cakes, tarts, crisps and other baking recipes.
Now use your newfound apple knowledge to bake a few apple desserts!