Top 5 Best Apples for Baking!

Top 5 Best Apples for Baking!

apple pie

It’s Apple season! One of the most highly anticipated treats for a gardener is using their ripe fruit in their baked goods and showing off around the dessert table!

Want to impress this coming holiday baking season? You need an Apple that holds its shape when baked without turning into mush, won't become a watery mess, has excellent flavor, and best yet - one grown from your very own backyard (or front yard) tree!

Check out some of the best cooking Apple varieties for your home orchard!

Everyone is familiar with the Granny Smith sold in grocery stores as the go-to for baking that next blue ribbon Apple pie, but there are so many other varieties out there!

Check out these Nature Hills recommendations to grow in your own backyard!

1. Melrose


The official Ohio State Apple, the Melrose Apple is beloved for its flavor! With russeted yellow and green skin, and fiery red streaks, these apples are a huge hit at farmer's markets. The flavor is well-balanced, with a slightly acidic zip to bring out the full complexity of the fruit sugars. As with other russet-skinned apples, the flowery aroma and flavor feature a nutty, sugary richness. Delicious! Use them for sauces, baking, on fruit and cheese trays, and as an eating apple from January through April.

  • Yellowish Green Skinned With Russet Spots & Dark Red Blush
  • High Quality Creamy White Flesh
  • Lovely White Flowers in Spring
  • Large Mid-Season Harvest
  • Great Keeper With Long Hang Time on the Tree
  • 1000 Chill Hours - Growing Zones 5-9

2. Newton Pippin

newton pippin

The heirloom Newtown Pippin Apple trees originated from New York way back from the late 17th century. Known as a Winter Apple, this variety is harvested late in the season and stores well. Great for baking, juicing, and making hard cider. A smaller, greenish-yellow Apple that is very firm and holds up to cooking well. This is truly an all-American heirloom selection with an outstanding, aromatic sweet-tart flavor!

  • Greenish-Yellow Skin With Ruddy Blush
  • Intense Sweet-Tart Aromatic Flavor
  • Long Storage Life
  • Mid-October Prolific Harvest
  • ~700 Chill Hours - Growing Zones 5-9
  • Very High-Quality American Winter Apple
  • Oldest American Heirloom Selection!

3. Pink Pearl

Pink Pearl

Soft yellow-green apples with a soft pink blush, pink-tinted sweet-tart flesh and even fragrant pink flowers, the Pink Pearl Apple is a gorgeous fruiting Tree all round! Add to the fact that Pink Pearls’ creamy fruit retains some of that pink hue during cooking making your baked goods that much sweeter!

  • Adaptable Heirloom With Soft Yellow-Green Skin!
  • Creamy Pink Sweet-Tart Flesh!
  • Holds Its Color When Cooked
  • Fragrant Pink Spring Blooms
  • Early Fall Ripening
  • ~600 Chill Hours - Growing Zones 4-8

4. Winesap


The Winesap is a moderately crisp Apple that has a firm, somewhat coarse bite with a spritely, tart, acidic taste, complete with a wine-like flavor! Thought to be one of the juiciest varieties, the Winesap is an all-purpose Apple you can slice for fruit trays and salads, crisps and tarts, or even bake a classic Apple pie! Harvest about September to October.

  • Gorgeous Yellow Fruit & Red Blush
  • Yellow Flesh With Red Tinges
  • Spritely & Tart & Sweet Taste - Crisp, Firm Juicy Fruit
  • Fragrant Pinkish-Red Blooms in Spring
  • Consistent & Heavy Fruit Production - Keeps Well in Storage
  • Moderate Disease Resistance & Rust Resistant
  • 600-800 Chill Hours - Growing Zones 5-8

5. Gravenstein


The Gravenstein Apple originated in Denmark in the early 1600s, where it is called a native and is proclaimed as the "National Apple". Gravenstein Apples are an old Antique variety from Denmark with remarkable flavor. Pink buds open to fragrant white blooms, followed by firm, snappy, light-green fruit, with red stripes. Carrying a wonderfully distinctive flavor, the white flesh is tangy and sweet with hints of a honey aroma. Well-known as an outstanding dessert Apple, they are great eaten fresh but also hold their shape when baked in pies, and are excellent for sauces too!

  • Light Green With Red Striped Fruit
  • Pale Pink Buds & Fragrant White Blooms
  • Distinctive Tart, Sweet Flavor
  • Mid-Season Harvest
  • Prefers Cool Temperatures - Growing Zones 2-9
  • Resistant to Cedar Apple Rust
  • Triploid Variety - Requires a Pollinator
  • 700 Chill Hours

Honorable Mentions

apple infographic

Besides these amazing Apples above, the Honeycrisp, Gala, Haralson, Cortland, Jonathan, Braeburn, Fuji, Red Delicious, and McIntosh are all well-regarded baking Apples too! Plus many are fantastic pollinator partners for the above 5 Baking Apples listed above.

A Note About Apple Tree Pollinators

Some of these trees are known to be self-fruitful or partially self-pollinating, but everyone does better with a friend! By planting in groupings, or linear hedgerows, and in high-density plantings, you’ll enjoy a far larger harvest per tree when planting your Apple with a buddy.

Know When to Harvest Your Apples

Knowing when your Apple variety is typically ripe is the first step. It helps to know if you are growing an early, mid, or late-maturing Apple so you have an idea of when to start checking. Different apple varieties have different ripening dates, and those dates can vary from year to year depending on the weather. 

While picking one and taking a bite can let you know if it's time to harvest, there are a few other indicators that let you know when the time is right.

Look for unbruised Apples that feel firm and heavy in your hand. The fruit should be firm and richly colored. The Apple should come off the tree easily when slightly pulled back from the fruiting spur on the tree. Cut the Apple in half to check for white flesh and if the seeds are brown. Then taste it … it should not be strongly sour or pithy. 

Your local County Extension Office can be a good source for knowing when Apples are ripening in your area so check with them.

Fantastic Baked Goods Ahead!

Cakes, muffins, dumplings, pies, and cobblers - Oh My! Hurry and pick up one of these amazing Apple trees from Nature Hills Nursery and one of their pollinator partners today and start collecting recipes! Then get ready for all the blue ribbons and praise to start rolling in! 

Check out all of Nature Hills' #ProPlantTips on caring and maintaining your Apple tree for the healthiest plants, the most fruit, and a long lifetime of fruit!

All of Nature Hills’ fruiting trees and shrubs are shipped with mature 3-4-year-old root systems so you’ll enjoy fruit sooner!

Happy Planting!

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