Tart, crisp apples. Warm, delicious spices. Buttery, flaky crust. You know why apple pie is a classic American dessert recipe, but do you know how to make apple pie the best it can be? Learn how to make apple pie filling, get our favorite apple pie recipes, and learn our tricks to the all-around best apple pie ever.

By Karla Walsh
Updated August 28, 2020
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Juicy apples, cozy spices, melt-in-your-mouth crust—an instant dose of nostalgia at first bite. You probably don’t need us to convince you why apple pie is a classic American recipe. But you might need a little boost to believe that you don’t need the baking skills of Dorie Greenspan or the kitchen chops of Ina Garten to learn how to make apple pie from scratch. Part of the fun of making apple pie is it allows you more flexibility than the standard frozen pie you’d buy. Do it yourself and you can customize with your pick of our apple pie filling ideas, use any of the best apples for apple pie you have handy, plus choose your favorite crust. We’ll walk you through all of the totally doable steps of how to make homemade apple pie. Just be sure to have the vanilla ice cream ready for all of the a la mode action to come.

apple pie
Credit: Blaine Moats

Pick Your Type of Apple Pie

Before you dive into how to make apple pie from scratch, you need to choose the type of apple pie you want. How to make a Dutch apple pie is a bit different from how to make apple pie with a lattice topping, but the core concepts and initial layers can be similar. Take a peek at our best apple pie recipes for inspiration.

The Best Apples for Apple Pie

The type of apples you're baking with determines the amount of sugar to use in your filling. Because Granny Smith apples are more tart than Golden Delicious apples, for example, you'll want to use an additional ¼ cup of sugar. Get our tips on choosing and prepping apples for pie here.

So what are the best apples for apple pie? Braeburn, Cortland, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, and Pink Lady all work wonderfully. And if you have a variety, no need to worry about keeping things exclusive! We love featuring a combo of more sweet and more tart varieties of these best apples for apple pie (say, Jonagold for tart and Honeycrisp for sweet).

There’s really only one type of apple we’d recommend steering clear of in your apple pie recipes: Red Delicious. They don’t have that lovely tart quality that other options on our best apples for apple pie list do so they don’t accentuate the richness of the rest of the ingredients as much. Also, their texture tends to end up too mushy.

How to Make Apple Piecrust

One of the best tricks to making apple pie from scratch was discovered in our Test Kitchen: Prep your piecrust before you get your apple pie filling idea going. The longer that filling sits before you pop it in the oven, the more liquid it will likely release—resulting in a watery pie. It’s also important to work with cold ingredients (especially water and butter) for the best crust results.

We love this all-butter piecrust, or you can go with the traditional all-shortening pastry. Graham cracker crust, nut crusts, or any crushed cookie-based crust are also options if you don’t want a pastry topping.

If you’re using a store-bought refrigerated piecrust (zero judgment; some days we go this route, too!), allow it to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before attempting to unroll. Working with a too-cold crust will make it tougher to work with and more likely to tear. Carefully lay your piecrust of choice in your pie pan ($10, Bed Bath & Beyond).

How to Make Apple Pie Filling

To determine just how many apples to make a pie, a good guideline to remember is 1 medium apple yields about 1⅓ cup sliced apples. Most of our apple pie filling ideas call for 6 cups of sliced apples. To get this amount, you’ll need to start with about 5 medium apples.

Follow the instructions for how to make apple pie filling called for in your recipe, then layer the apples in the crust you just made rather than dumping them in. This will allow for even placement and prevent gaps that might lead to unequal slices or a domed top crust.

How to Make Apple Pie Topping

Depending on the type of apple pie you selected, this is where you can really get creative. Here are a few of our favorite variations that are super showy:

If you’re using any of the double-crust pastry methods, you might want to consider these showy special edge ideas.

Test Kitchen Tip: If using a double crust, cut several slits into the top of a double-crust pie before baking it to allow steam to escape and to prevent excessive bubbling. 

How to Bake Apple Pie

Now it’s time to ace that bake. Follow the time and temperature listed in your apple pie recipe (it will likely be around 40 to 60 minutes and may involve a temperature change part-way through to avoid overbaking), and keep these tips in mind: 

  • Preheat a pan. To speed up the baking process and help the top and bottom crusts cook evenly,  place a baking sheet in the oven as it preheats. Once your oven is at the correct temp and your apple pie is assembled, carefully place your pie on top of that sheet pan to bake.
  • Bake until golden. Fruit pies are done when the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. As an extra test, gently pierce a knife through the crust into an apple slice or two—the fruit should be tender.
  • Cover up. If you notice that the edges of your piecrust are browning quicker than you’d like, fold a 12-inch square of foil into quarters, then cut a 7-inch circle out of the center. Unfold the foil and mold it loosely over the pie's edge. Or invest in a reusable shield ($5, Bed Bath & Beyond).

How to Serve Apple Pie

Allow your apple pie (and any fruit pie, for that matter) to cool at least two hours before cutting. This way, slices are less prone to falling apart and fewer juices will seep out.

Whether you top it with ice cream, whipped cream, or a simple dusting of powdered sugar, you can slide that apron off, pop those slippers on, and feel so cozy and proud that you’re now a pro at how to make apple pie from scratch.

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