COOKING: Apples to Apples-Which is Best for Pie? (an experiment)

In my pursuit of an award winning pie, I have done a TON of research on which apple is best for pie. But in all my reading, I have not been able to find consensus on the ideal approach. SO what I have been hoping to do was to create my own experiment, baking a handful of recommended apples in little pies, and baking them the same way to conduct a true taste test. Then share (and show) the results here. 
Conveniently, we went to a great apple orchard in Michigan last weekend and there were bins that contained some of the sought after pie apples for sale. Excitedly, I bought one apple of each variety and conducted the experiment this week. I brought the pies into work and had everyone comment on texture and flavor, as well as vote on which was their favorite. I am sharing the findings here. 
Surprisingly, there was no single clear-cut winner, but a few. What I have discovered is that it is completely subjective based on one's palate. Some were in the sweet, "apple saucy" camp. Some were in the tart, firmer texture camp. So depending on what you like, there are certainly apples that fit the bill more than others. I also know I am lacking still in some apple varietals here that I still wish to test, such as Pippin, Winesap, Fuji and Jonagold. I intend to update this post as I am able to try these and other varietals. Please feel free to comment and add your own favorites! And really, at the end of the day, as one of my coworkers pointed out-"It's apple pie! There is no wrong apple for pie! It's all good!"

Here is how they were baked so that you understand the sugar/flavor additions-

Experiment Ingredients per Mini Pie:
Store bought crusts, defrosted and rolled out
Each apple sliced 1/4 inch thick, 1 apple per mini pie
Dash of salt, cinnamon and fresh grated nutmeg
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
drop of vanilla
2 tsp. melted butter
1 1/2 tsp. corn starch


Empire: Too soft and not as flavorful, mushy, overpowered by crust
Texture was balanced, not too tart or sweet, liked the tart, crust slightly overpowers the apples, little dry, medium mush, and traditional flavor


Cortland: Too mushy, a little too sweet, moist, sweet and tangy


Mixed (Johnathan, Golden Delicious and Empire):
Good texture, odd taste, nothing to write home about, just OK, bland and like McDonald’s


 Golden Delicious: Good flavor and Texture, melt in you mouth texture, texture holds up to the crust, strong apple flavors, hearty, softer texture, delicious, maybe overpowered by crust, nice consistency, mushy, not as much taste, bland

 Macoun: Soft, good flavor, tart, good texture, not sweet enough, “eh”, just alright, sweet but less flavor, apples hold their shape, tangy but does not taste like apples

 Northern Spy: Lightly soft while keeping a firmness, loved the flavor, texture holds up to the crust, strong apple flavors, tart, more unique flavor, moist, nice and sweet, better texture and more shape, tangy, tart, effervescent


Jonathan: Not too sweet, good, not as flavorful, OK but “typical” in flavor, overpowered by crust, what apple pie should taste like, a little dry, not as flavorful, holds shape well, lemony


Ida Red: Loved this flavor, nice tartness, texture holds up to the crust, strong apple flavors, nice texture, wonderful consistency, “custardy” with firm apple bits, good sweet/tart balance, moist, sweet-tangy and flavorful, good shape, nice pink color, floral


 McIntosh: maybe too tart, melts in your mouth texture, strong apple flavors, maybe too mushy, flavor nothing to write home about, moist, just OK, mediocre

5 Ida Red
4 Northern Spy
4 Golden Delicious
3 Cortland
1 Empire
1 McIntosh
1 Jonathan

Thank you to all my coworkers for helping me taste their way to this post! Happy Baking!


  1. Interesting. I have always made apple pie w/golden or red delicious apples and yet all the recipies I ever saw said to use others. My pie was always loved now it is confirmed! Thanks for your efforts!


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