How to Make the Best Homemade Apple Pie
I used to be a total Apple Pie hater. It’s always too mushy and bland. But no longer! I’ve found the perfect method to make the Best Homemade Apple Pie of your life! This classic recipe has a double crust (you won’t miss that crumble), a cooked filling for the best texture and flavor, and is super easy. I’ll show you how to make it from scratch! Originally published on November 16, 2011. UPDATE! Don’t miss the Dutch Apple Pie version of this recipe!
How’s everyone’s October coming along? It’s finally cooling down here. We finished summer off strong just last week with a steak of 97 degree days, of course. Totally normal here in Sacramento, but it seems to surprise us every year anyway. “The Target dollar section is telling me that it’s fall! What even is this 100 degree day??”
My brother sent me this tweet yesterday that said, “Why would I spend $5 on a bag of apples at the store when I can wear warm fall clothes in 88 degrees weather and pay $36 for our family to pick them ourselves.” Ha! That one got me. (Because it’s not as Instagrammable to take your family photos in the produce section at the grocery store??)
We did indeed head up to Apple Hill a couple weeks ago. It’s a bunch of apple farms all next to each other, where you can pick your own apples and eat doughnuts and pretend it’s not hot. We always buy a ridiculous amount of apple cider so that we can boil it down to make these Caramel Apple Cider-Reduction Milkshakes. (We added a slice of today’s Apple Pie to the shake this time, too. HEAVEN.)
Best Apple Pie Recipe with a Double Crust
We bought a ton of apples too, and I had so much fun testing pies to find my favorite one. To be perfectly honest, apple pie has never been a huge favorite of mine. There are just so many ways it can go wrong: mushy apples, undercooked apples (a worse problem, in my opinion), under spiced, over spiced. Most of the time I find that most apple pie recipes are just plain boring when it comes to flavor. I usually much prefer apple pie when it has a custard or a crumble of some kind, like in this classic Dutch Apple Pie or even this Apple Custard Pie with Cinnamon Streusel.
What makes this the best Apple Pie recipe:
But, I wanted to give double crust apple pie recipe a fair shot, so I got to testing. Here are the tips I’ve compiled to make the BEST apple pie, that is the perfect balance between tart and sweet, with a wonderful texture, where the apples get a chance to shine:
- Cook your apple pie filling. Many recipes call for adding RAW apples to a pie crust and popping the whole thing in the oven. I just don’t love it. For one, you risk under baking your apples. Secondly, apples have a lot of water, and all that water ends up in your pie if you don’t cook some of it off first. This means your apple pie is not as flavorful. I know it’s inconvenient (even more inconvenient when I tell you that you’re going to have to cool that filling before adding it to the pie) but hey, you didn’t sign up to make an apple pie because you needed a quick dessert, did you? Take the extra 20 minutes to cook the filling. You won’t regret it.
- Use lemon, or even lime for a fun and subtle twist. This keeps your apples from browning while you are slicing, but it also brightens and enhances the flavor of the apples themselves.
- Make your apple pie with a homemade flaky pie crust. There are two elements to this pie: the filling and the crust. If your crust sucks, it doesn’t matter how great your filling is. There is a time and place for store bought crusts, like when you’re making a chocolate pie that has tons of flavor. But for something more subtle like apples, you need the buttery support of a high quality crust.
- Add a bit of cardamom to round out the cinnamon. This is my favorite flavor to add to cinnamon desserts. (I even add it to my cinnamon rolls.) Cardamom is so underrated in the US. I love the sophisticated flavor it adds, and it compliments the cinnamon and apples so well. It is optional, but I hope you’ll consider it if you are on the fence. My brother tasted one of my tests and immediately said, “Something is different about this pie and I like it. What is it?” It was the cardamom he was noticing.
- Speaking of butter: don’t add any to your filling. Many recipes I researched saute their apples in butter, but I find that the butter flavor competes with the apple flavor rather than enhancing it, making your pie more muted. I love me some butter, but I just don’t like it in my apple pie filling. Save it for the crust.
The Best Apples for Pie
- Use a LOT of apples. Most apple pie recipes call for 3 pounds of apples. My recipe calls for 5 pounds. This is because when you cook the filling, the apples shrink. If you want a nice tall pie that doesn’t fall in the middle, use a lot of apples. Also, more apples=more flavor. APPLE is the star of this pie, not a sneaky streusel tricking you with butter and sugar. Let the apples shine.
- And on that note: be sure to use a variety of apples. I used Granny Smith (very tart), Gala (very sweet), and Golden Delicious (middle of the road). Using only one type of apple gives you only one flavor profile. Using a blend means your pie will land somewhere perfectly in the middle of tart and sweet. Here is a list of common apple varieties, listed from most tart (Granny Smith) to sweetest (Fuji).
Try to get a few tart apples, a few sweet apples, and a few in between apples.
What apples should not be used for apple pie?
I can’t think of a single one. Use the kind that you like best, and as long as you use a variety of tartness levels, you are going to be fine.
That said, Red Delicious Apples and McIntosh apples tend to be rather mealy and mushy when cooked, and you definitely wouldn’t want to make a pie out of JUST Red Delicious, for example. But if you toss a couple Reds in with a majority Fuji and Granny Smith (for example), then your pie is going to turn out fine.
Is it OK not to peel apples for apple pie?
I’m gonna go with a hard NO on this one guys. I mean, you CAN leave on the peels and tell yourself you’re getting more nutrients and cutting down on prep time, but will this be a decision you look back on and love? No. You will regret it. The texture of the peel is all wrong, and the apple slices may even heat unevenly. Don’t go there my friends!
The Best Apple Pie recipe ingredients
See recipe card below for all the details!
- 1 homemade double pie crust
- Lemon zest
- Juice from half a lemon
- 5 pounds apples. See above to pick a good variety
- Brown sugar
- Granulated sugar
- All purpose flour
- Cardamom. Optional
- Milk. For brushing on pie
- Egg. Optional. For brushing on pie
- Raw sugar
- Kosher salt
How to make Apple Pie
Apple Pie Filling
First gather up all your apples. You need 5 pounds before coring and peeling. That’s about 11 large apples to make 5 pounds.
Here’s how I slice my apples. You can use a mandolin if you want, but be sure to use a metal glove. Those suckers are sharp!
Keep slicing around the core until you have these segments. Then slice to about 1/8 inch. You can slice thicker than that if you like (you may have to cook longer), but I love thin apples in my pie.
Should you cook apples before making apple pie?
Yes, we’re cooking up these apples on the stovetop before we add them to the pie dish. This is the secret to the best apple pie! We need to cook out some of the water to let the apple flavor shine.
As you are slicing up the apples, toss them in a 12-inch high sided skillet (heat should be off) with the lemon juice and zest. Give it a stir to coat the apples with lemon.
See, 5 pounds is a ton of apples! You could never fit this many raw apples into a pie crust. Time to cook it down. Add some sugar, brown sugar, flour, salt, and spices. NO extra liquid, the apples will release plenty.
Place it over medium heat and let cook for about 20 minutes. Cover the pan, but stay nearby because you’re going to have to stir the mixture every couple minutes, replacing the lid each time. This keeps the steam in and helps cook the apples. You are going to get this glorious caramel-y sauce going.
Something magical happens when you gently cook the apple pie filling over a longer period of time like this. The pectin in the apples is converted to a heat-stable form. (Thanks Cooks Illustrated!) That means when you cook the apples again in your pie in the oven, the apples won’t become mushy. Whatever level of “al dente” they are at when you finish cooking them on the stove, that’s how it will taste in your pie. So you can adjust the cooking time a bit to reach your level of apple perfection. Cook longer if you like softer apples; shorter if you like them more firm. You don’t have to calculate for further cooking in the oven. Crazy, right? Science!
Once the apples have cooked for about 20 minutes, remove from heat and add the vanilla. Spread the mixture across a pan or two (two pans makes it cool faster, but it will fit on one pan just fine.) I stuck mine in the freezer to chill for about 20 minutes. You can put it in the fridge, or just leave it in the pan you cooked it in and wait for it to come to room temperature (a couple hours), if you are not in a hurry.
Apple Pie Crust
Once the filling is completely cool, pour it into your pie crust. I’ve got all the details for rolling out pie crust on this Homemade Flaky Pie Crust post.
I topped my pie with a lattice crust. See my How to Make a Lattice Pie Crust post for all the details! But you can just use a whole crust and put it on top, no problem. Don’t forget to vent the top.
Brush with egg/milk and sprinkle with sugar before popping it in the oven.
How to keep pie crust from browning too fast?
The best way to get an evenly browned crust that doesn’t burn on the edges is to use a pie shield made out of tin foil. They sell pie shields made of metal or silicone, but I prefer foil because it is so lightweight, there is no chance of crushing your crust.
Get a square of tin foil that is the same size as your pie. Fold it in half, then in half again. Cut out the center. Open it up again. You should have a square of foil with a circle cut out of the center. See pie crust postunba for photos. It’s so easy and the perfect way to make sure your crust doesn’t get burned on the edges.
How to tell when your Apple Pie is done
The nice thing about this recipe is that your apples are already cooked exactly how you want them, so you only need to worry about getting the crust baked right. (If you used raw apples, you would have to be sticking a fork in your pie to make sure they were tender.)
The pie is done when the edges of the crust are a deep golden brown, and the top of the pie is just turning golden. Be sure to use a pie shield made of tin foil as discussed above to get even browning.
And voila! A beautiful apple pie for fall! Here is the hard part: don’t slice into your pie for 2-4 hours. I know, I know, it’s tough. But the liquid in your pie needs time to come to room temperature so it doesn’t completely fall apart when you cut into it. You can put it in the freezer to speed up the cooling process if you want.
Does Homemade Apple Pie need to be refrigerated?
Not for the first couple days! The sugar in the pie acts as a preservative. You can leave it on the counter in the pie plate you baked it in, covered with plastic wrap or one of these handy pie covers. After two days, transfer to the fridge, where it will last another 2 or 3 days.
How to freeze Apple Pie filling
If you want to save your apple pie filling for a rainy day, let it cool and then put it in a gallon size ziplock bag. Then place the bag in the pie plate you intend to bake the pie in. Freeze in the pie plate. Once it’s frozen, you can put the pie plate back in your cupboard. This will make the apples freeze in the shape of your pie plate. Later, roll out your pie crust and add the frozen apples on top. You can bake it straight from frozen. Add about 20 minutes to the total bake time, and remember to cover your pie toward the end so it doesn’t burn.
How to freeze an entire Apple Pie
You can freeze an entire unbaked apple pie for another day. Top with the second crust, but don’t brush with egg/milk or sprinkle with sugar. Put the pie in the freezer for an hour to flash freeze, then wrap with plastic wrap, and wrap it again. Then wrap in foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.
You can bake it straight from frozen. Brush with egg/milk, sprinkle with sugar, and pop it in the oven according to the recipe. Add about 20 minutes to the total bake time, and remember to cover your pie toward the end so it doesn’t burn.
And that’s it! Now you know how to make an epic apple pie! Don’t forget to check out the sister recipe, Dutch Apple Pie! I use this same method to get the most epic Dutch version with amazing streusel on top.
Here are some other recipes that might be useful:
For the perfect pie:
- How to Make Flaky Pie Crust << allll the details you need to make the perfect flaky crust, every time.
- How to Make a Lattice Pie Crust << it’s so pretty, and really not as hard as it looks!
- My Favorite Caramel Sauce << nobody’s going to say no to apple pie with caramel sauce.
More apple desserts you will love!
- Apple Pie Bars << the only thing better than apple pie is being able to eat it with your hands.
- Apple Custard Pie with Cinnamon Streusel << my other favorite apple pie recipe. Custard for the WIN.
- Apple Crisp, with a Ridiculous Amount of Streusel << if your going to streusel…go all in.
- Caramel Apple French Toast Bake << apples for breakfast? Okay!
- 4 Ingredient Apple Cider Donuts << the glaze on this is so good.
- Caramel Apple Cider-Reduction Milkshakes << we make these every year with fresh apple cider! So good.
- Apple Cinnamon Rolls from Miss in the Kitchen
- Apple Carrot Muffins from Yummy Healthy Easy
More pie recipes to make!
- Easy Homemade Cherry Pie Bars << this is one of my absolute favorites.
- Peach Apricot Slab Pie << THIS is what to do with summer stone fruit
- Cranberry Custard Pie << I make this every Thanksgiving!
- Rhubarb Pie << all the other favorites I claimed were lies. This one is my favorite.
- Buttermilk Custard Pear Pie from Food for My Family
Apple Pie Recipe
- 1 homemade double pie crust, 2 sheets of pie dough
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- juice from half a lemon, 2 tablespoons
- 5 pounds apples, 5 pounds before peeling and coring*
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, optional
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon milk, for brushing on pie
- 1 tablespoon beaten egg, optional, for brushing on pie
- 1 tablespoon raw sugar, for topping pie
- Choose your apples. You need 5 pounds of apples for this recipe, which is about 11 large apples. I like to use a mix of apples for the best flavor. For this pie I used Granny Smith, Gala, and Golden Delicious.
- Make the filling:Use a microplane grater to zest 1/4 teaspoon lemon peel into a 12 inch high sided skillet.
- Add the juice from half the lemon to the skillet, about 2 tablespoons.
- Use a potato peeler or this handy apple peeler to peel the apples. Slice the apples into 1/8 inch pieces. Check out the photos above to see my method for slicing apples. I like to peel and slice one apple at a time so that they don't get brown; I peel one apple, then stop and slice it, add it to the lemon juice, and then move on to peeling the next apple. Stir the apples in the pan occasionally to coat everything with lemon juice.
- Once you have all the apples peeled and sliced in the pan, set it over medium heat on the stove.
- Add 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 5 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom. Stir it together gently so you don’t break all the apples.
- Once the mixture is all moistened and you don’t see patches of flour or cinnamon, set a timer for 20 minutes. Cover the mixture with a lid but don’t walk away. Stick around and stir the mixture every 3 minutes or so, Replacing the lid each time. Cook for 20 minutes, until the apples are fork tender but still hold their shape. The apples will not soften more while baking in the oven. So have a taste and see if you want to cook a longer or shorter time. Only you can know your apple al dente perfection level.
- Remove the pan from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.*
- Transfer the apple pie filling (including the brown caramel gooeyness) to a half sheet pan, or any pan with a lip. Spread the apples all the way to the edges. Cool the apple pie filling completely by placing it in the fridge or the freezer, it only takes 30 minutes or so. (If you have plenty of time, you can just leave the apples in the pan to cool down; it will take a couple hours.)
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the chilled apple pie filling into the pie dish. Don’t forget to scrape in every last bit of the gooey filling.
- Top your pie with the other pie crust. Follow this recipe for How to Make a Lattice Pie Crust, if you like. It's so pretty and not as hard as you think. You can also just toss the crust on whole. It's going to taste delicious either way! See my pie crust recipe for details on topping with a whole crust.
- Fold the edges in and crimp however you like. If you didn't do a lattice, make sure to vent your pie by poking the top a few times with a sharp knife.
- Place the whole pie in the fridge or freezer for about 20-30 minutes, for a really flaky crust.
- Place a baking sheet in the center rack of your oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Let it heat up for at least 20-25 minutes to make sure it’s really hot.
- Right before putting it in the oven, brush the crust of your pie all over with milk or egg, or both. I like to use 1 tablespoon milk beat together with 1 tablespoon beaten egg that I have leftover from making my homemade pie crust. You can just use milk if you don't have beaten egg lying around. Milk will help your pie crust brown but will stay matte; egg will add gloss and shine to your pie crust.
- Sprinkle the whole pie with raw sugar, or regular sugar is fine too.
- Place the chilled pie onto the baking sheet in the oven and let bake for 15 minutes. The crust on the edge should be turning light brown.
- Meanwhile, get a square of tin foil that is the same size as your pie. Fold it in half, then in half again. Cut out the center. Open it up again. You should have a square of foil with a circle cut out of the center. See pie crust post for photos.
- Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. Remove the pie from the oven and place the foil on top. Loosely crimp it around the crust on the edge. This will protect it from burning.
- Don’t forget to lower the oven temperature to 350. Place the pie back on the baking sheet in the oven and bake at 350 for 40-45 more minutes.
- You will know the pie is done when the edges are brown and the center is light golden brown. If you did a lattice crust, you should see the filling bubbling away nicely.
- Let the pie cool on a wire rack for about 4 hours. I know, this is killer. But if you cut into it now, the juices will be lava hot and way too liquid-y. You have to wait for it to cool to room temperature to get the right texture for the filling. Pie! A lesson in patience indeed.
- Once the pie is completely cool, slice and serve! My husband Eric considers it a crime to serve this without vanilla ice cream, and I tend to agree. Treat yoself right. Add in some caramel sauce for a really decadent treat!
- Store the pie on the counter for up to 2 days, covered with plastic wrap. After that transfer it to the fridge.
This apple pie post has been on my blog since 2011. Here is the original story I wrote to go along with it, for memory’s sake. Although maybe I shouldn’t be committing such a faux pas to memory, ha!
I have a terrible confession. Sometimes when I give people CD’s for birthdays or Christmas I open them up and listen to them before wrapping and tying the bow.
I know what you’re thinking. Who in the name of technology buys those archaic CD’s anymore?
I can usually play it off. When they open it and see that the plastic wrap is gone, I hastily put in a, “Yeah, part of the present is that I took care of taking off that pesky plastic that is so annoying. I know, wow, above and beyond right?” Lies.
I was found out this weekend. For my friend Lauren’s birthday I got her Michael Buble’s new Christmas album. (which is awesome! I would know.) Eric was kind enough to wrap it for me since I was still frosting cupcakes. Halfway to her house I asked, So you put the CD in the case right? The response: What?
Toasted. I had taken it out earlier that day to listen to it and never put it back in. Oh the shame! The anticlimax! Poor Lauren.
Maybe in recompense I should have sung the whole album to her on the spot. Actually, that would be more like a punishment. Maybe I should just make her this pie instead.
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