Best Apples For Baking and Cooking: The Apple Lover's Guide

We all love a crisp apple pie, a sweet apple cobbler, or a little bit of applesauce on the side at dinner time. But when you're preparing a feast at home, how do you pick the best apples for baking and cooking? 

Different recipes call for different apples, and that's because every apple has its own taste, texture, and cooking qualities - and there are so many different varieties of apples to choose from when you start baking!

Some apples just don't bake, while others might be far too sweet for your tastebuds. Here's our apple lover's guide to the best apples for baking and cooking!

How to pick the best apples for baking and cooking 

There are apples for pie, apples for cakes, apples for baking, apples for cooking, and apples just for eating. There are (literally!) thousands of different apples, all carefully curated by humans for centuries for their distinct qualities. 

It stands to reason, then, that some apples are going to be better for baking and cooking than other apples. Absolutely.

The best cooking apples are apples that have a much more solid texture and structure. Cooking and baking apples need to keep their form under high heat while not losing taste. 

Many apples are specifically marketed as cooking apples given their particular qualities. These tend to be much larger than the apples you'll slice up with an apple peeler and put in your lunchbox. These apples also tend to be more bitter in taste than regular apples. 

However, you might prefer to use the sweetest apple for cooking instead of the tarter options - it's all about finding the best balance between structure and taste!

Baking and cooking 

From Granny Smith to Jonagold, here are our favorite apples for baking and cooking with!

1. Braeburn 
  • Braeburn apples are classic all-rounders that never fail in any situation.
  • Braeburn apples are neither overly sweet nor overly tart, giving them a perfectly balanced taste (where you can actually taste the apple).
  • Braeburn apples work well in most baking and cooking situations, especially pies!
2. Cortland
  • Cortland apples are one of the most popular varieties of cooking apples, and for good reason.
  • Cortlands are big and red, and they are terrifically tart in flavor yet wonderfully moist.
  • They work very well in an apple pie, or they can be baked on their own as a great treat. 
3. Gala
  • Gala apples are a classic choice in the kitchen, offering a crispy texture and a sweet taste.
  • They go well in most recipes that call for cooking apples and can be used for baking, cooking, or applesauce.
  • They are also absolutely delicious in their own right and won't go amiss with a little peanut butter after being sliced!
4. Granny Smith
  • Granny Smith is an old-timer, but these apples have stood the test of time so well because they are excellent for cooking and baking.
  • Granny Smith apples are known for their bitterness, and that's because they are very acidic.
  • They hold up exceptionally well under heat, though, and so find themselves being used in everything from pies to muffins, as well as more savory meals like soups and stews. 
5. Honeycrisp 
  • As the name might suggest, the Honeycrisp apple is a sweet one.
  • If you're looking for that added sugar, then this is the apple to go for.
  • It's perfect for sweet cakes, sweet treats, and sweet apple pies. 
6. Jonagold 
  • Jonagold is another deliciously sweet apple that's great for baking in cakes and muffins.
  • Despite being so sweet, Jonagolds hold up really well when they are in the oven.
  • Try using Jonagolds alongside the much tarter Granny Smith for a more balanced apple pie filling. 
7. Mutsu
  • If it's the shape you want to keep, then it's the Mutsu that's the right apple for you.
  • This slightly tart apple is great for baking apple pies or adding to savory stews, as it never seems to fall apart!

Which apples are best for muffins?

We find that the best apples for baking apple muffins are the classic Granny Smith apples. Granny Smith apples offer that traditional tartness you expect from a large, cooking apple while offering that distinctive 'apple' flavor. 

This tartness counteracts the sugary sweetness that most muffins are renowned for! 

Which are the best apples for apple pie? 

Gala apples work particularly well for apple pies, offering a firm apple that won't disintegrate under high heat. Gala apples are a go-to cooking apple, offering a crisp yet sweet texture and taste that goes great in a pie. 

Gala apples for pie can be complemented with other varieties, too, for a more complex taste. Try Braeburns or Mutsu!

Which are the best apples for apple crisp? 

Apple crisp is a fall favorite in the USA, and for the best crisp, you're going to want a combination of both sweet and tart apples. 

We recommend going for the Granny Smith and Jonagold combination. Granny Smith adds the tartness, and Jonagold brings the sweet side. 

What's the best apple for applesauce? 

Applesauce is fantastic, because you really can use any variety of apples to make it (yes, even mealy, mushy, or pink apples!). It's a great way to use up all those leftover apples before winter, and you can even turn the applesauce into concentrated apple butter for long-term storage. 

To make applesauce, you simply stew apples with sugar and apple cider vinegar. The slow cooking process breaks the apples down completely, which is why we aren't too worried about specifically using cooking apples - we don't need the apples to keep their shape. 

However, a sweeter apple is going to add extra sweetness to your sauce, while a tart apple will bring more balance to the sugary side of the sauce. 

What's your favorite going to be? 

There are so many different apples to choose from, but what's your favorite baking and cooking apple going to be? 

Do you like the sweetness of a Honeycrisp, or are you more inclined to stay traditional with good old Granny Smith? It's up to you, and we highly recommend experimenting with different varieties to see which apples you prefer the taste of, which are the best cooking apples, or which make for the best apple desserts!

Why not bookmark our guide to the best apples for baking and cooking, so you can prepare the best apple dishes at home?