Which are the best baking apples?

A timely question given the season, and an important one. Pick the right apple for an apple upside-down cake and you get a firm flavorful apples inside a sweet, moist (yet still firm) cake. Pick the wrong one and you get applesauce in a sodden mess.

In general you’re looking for a firm apple that is also sweet. My go-to, because they’re so easy to find in the US, is the Golden delicious. Lately Gala apples have become popular for baking, though I have a hard time understanding why since they lose an awful lot of flavor in the oven. Other decent choices are Jonathans and Jonagolds, Winesaps and Newton Pippins. Best of all, if you can find them, are Red Romes, also known as Rome Beauties, probably the preeminent baking apple.

Avoid at all costs Red Delicious and McIntosh or anything labeled a “cooking apple” since these types break down to mush with heat. The Granny Smith, though it’s the first apple that pops into most peoples’ minds when you talk about firm apples, is actually a rather so-so choice, for reasons I mentioned below.

23 thoughts on “Which are the best baking apples?”

  1. Red Delicious should be renamed, SUCH a misnomer!

    I guess I have lost my sweet tolerance, as I cannot abide sweet baking apples (golden delicious and royal gala are pretty much unpalatably sweet to my taste), they need to be tart for me. I guess I’ll have to stick to apple sauce, and other mushier apple applications!

    1. Hey Katherine!

      I prefer tarter apples to eat also. In a cake or pastry I can abide sweet, mostly because the sweetness gets lost amid the other ingredients. But to each their own!

      Thanks for the comment!

      – Joe

  2. I recently used Envy apples (a Braeburn/Royal Gala hybrid) in an upside-down apple cake and they were perfect: completely held their shape, nice texture, and a sweet apple taste.

    1. Never heard of those Mark but I’ll look for them. I’m noticing so many new varietals lately it’s hard to keep up!


      – Joe

      1. That’s the problem, I think. Different regions get completely different apples.

        When I lived in NYS Rome apples were always a standard. On the West Coast you can’t get one — or a Winesap or a Pippin or a Cortland — for love nor money.

        Out here I use Jonagolds, Braeburns and Golden Delicious. And I’ll confess that I’m a woosie and hedge my bet by mixing all of them to get a bit of all their attributes.

  3. Hi Joe, at the end of your post, did you mean to say: avoid anything labeled a “snacking” or “eat out of hand” apple??

    Also, what do you think of Gravensteins and Baldwins for cooking/baking??


    1. Hey Ruth!

      I did mean “cooking” since that’s usually a signal that the variety is good for cooking down into sauce or apple butter. Gravensteins and Baldwins are usually both great for baking. Cheers,

      – Joe

  4. Depending on where you live, some of these options aren’t going to be available. But, you can generally figure out which local apples are good for baking by looking on your state’s Extension site. Or you can google “baking apple site:.edu” and it’ll point you toward that sort of information directly. (The “site:.edu” delimiter makes it so you just get info from educational sources, i.e. colleges.) For instance, that search gets me to this page for MN apples: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/fruit/apples-for-minnesota-and-their-culinary-uses/

  5. Romes–oh yes, please! Such a beautiful cooking apple. And often I can get them cheap because they’re a terrible eating apple–they go fleemy so fast the supermarkets never know how to clear them off their shelves fast enough ones they start to go soft. But dice them up and put them in the microwave on the “fresh vegetable” setting and in a few moments they are perfect for anything that cooked apples are good for. Soooo good. And the red color is everything “apple red” should be.
    Best cooking apple is the Cortland, ‘though. I can’t get those out here in CA, but if you’re upstate NY, it’s Cortlands all the way.
    I’ve had some luck with Fujis when I have no choice but a west coast apple. Not a lot of flavor, but a nice texture anyway, and not too soupy.

  6. I’m a jonagold for baking fan. As with any apple, you still have to make sure you don’t over-cook them. I have also found that choosing the apples just slightly under ripe (green at the stem and base end) gives a firmer consistency to even the softer variety of apple. I’ve even baked apple pie successfully with Red Delicious apples using under-ripe fruit and less sugar and the pie was delicious and the texture was good. Golly, Joe,
    don’t be hating on RD’s! They have been getting such a bad rap for several years now and they are a good eating apple if you choose them well.

  7. One more thing…if we need to start banging on a particular kind of produce, get on the growers of White Corn. I don’t know what has happened to it, the Silver Queen that is abundant in every store is: a, not the same in each store, and b, just sweet flavored pulp on a cob! Good grief, I swear, it’s just sweet these days…no corn flavor, the kernels are too big and it turns starchy in a nano second once picked. What the heck is going on? GMO? Even white cornmeal is flavorless!

    1. Hey Susan!

      Hehe…I don’t know about that. We get yellow corn here which is still great. My guess is that some producers feel that the white corn is sweeter. But I’m in agreement about white corn meal. A whole lot of nothin’!


      – Joe

  8. I’m a big fan of Braeburns for pie, if I can find them. Like to put in about 7 Braeburns and one or two Granny Smiths just to add a bit of bite for a 10 inch pie. Fujis are good too, and easier to find in Southern California.

  9. Highly suggest Cortlands or Northern Spies, if they can be found. Some of my best pies used a combination of these two, plus one or two Golden Delicious.

  10. The cooking school I attended always stocked the pantry with Braeburns and Fujis. Good all-around apples, for both cooking and eating out-of-hand. I’m really liking honeycrisps right now.

    1. Hey Holly!

      Yes honeycrisps are a great eating apple. They live up to their name for sure, sweet and crispy though not terribly much apple flavor on the downside. But my girls adore them in their lunches.


      – Joe

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