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Best Apples for Your Favorite Apple-Centric Desserts

Apples come in a thousand different sweet and tart combos—use that to your advantage when baking!
apples bunch sliced apple seeds showing

It's common knowledge that eating apples can have amazing benefits to your health. But you don't always feel like eating them raw—sometimes you want to live a little and turn apples into a delicious dessert. The key to making your apple bakes great is picking the best type of apple for your baking endeavor.

First things first—dry, firm apples are ideal for baking because they won't get mushy after cooking. Then come the numerous varieties, and you may wonder how to pick among them. Well, the apple you should use depends largely on the flavor profile of your dessert: Are you going for sweet, super sweet, or tart? We've picked the best apples to use when baking beloved apple-centric desserts, so you're set up for success!


Best Apples for Apple Pie

deep dish apple pie
Courtesy of Sallys Baking Addiction

Picking apples for your apple pie depends on your palate. Usually a mix of sweet and tart apples are ideal for apple pie (a 50-50 ratio is a safe bet), but an easy go-to is the Granny Smith. The green apple is firm and doesn't yield too many juices in the oven, plus its tartness makes it a nice match for a sweet crust. If you want to balance it out, try red Braeburn apples that also don't release too much juice and are on the sweet-tart side. And if you really want more sweetness, add a little bit of Crispin (also known as Mutsu) apples to the mix. They have a refreshingly sweet flavor, and would be great to pair with a savory crust, like a galette dough infused with cheddar, for a sweet and salty vibe.

Get the recipe for Deep Dish Apple Pie from Sally's Baking Addiction.


Best Apples for Apple Crumbles and Cakes

easy apple crisp
Courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

When using apples in a saucier, more moist texture, like in an apple crisp or a dense apple cake, go for a sweet-tart apple. Try juicy and slightly tart red Cortland apples, Gravenstein (red or yellow), or Golden Delicious for a nice balance of sweet and tart. You can try Jonagold or Honeycrisp apples if you like things a little sweeter.

Get the recipe for Cardamom Cognac Apple Cake from Half Baked Harvest and the recipe for Apple Crisp from Gimme Some Oven


Best Apples for Turnovers and Tarts

apple tartin
Courtesy of A Beautiful Mess

Just like with pie, you don't want your crust to get too soggy when you make apple turnovers, tarts, or tarte Tatin. You can use the same varieties suggested for pie, or try Empire (a cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious) for the perfect sweet-tart balance, or Jonathan or Winesap apples for something with a bit of a spicy bite and an undertone of sweetness. Northern Spy apples have juicy, crispy flesh that can still stand up to cooking, and Pink Lady apples are stunning if displayed on top of a tart (and they won't fall apart).

Get the recipe for Apple Ginger Tarte Tatin from A Beautiful Mess.

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Alyse Whitney
Alyse Whitney is a freelance food writer. Read more
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