How can I make my apple pie taste better?

Apple pie is a classic American dessert that has been around for centuries. With its flaky crust and sweet, tart filling, apple pie is a comforting treat that is perfect for any occasion. While store-bought apple pies can certainly get the job done, nothing beats the taste of a homemade apple pie. Making apple pie from scratch allows you to control the ingredients and customize the flavor to your liking. However, even experienced bakers can sometimes end up with a bland or poorly textured apple pie. If you want to take your apple pie up a notch, there are several tricks you can use. In this article, we will provide tips on how to make your homemade apple pie taste its very best.

What makes a great apple pie?

Before discussing techniques for improving apple pie, let’s first talk about what qualities make for an exceptional apple pie. A great apple pie has:

  • A tender, flaky crust – The foundation of any good pie is the crust. You want it to be crisp yet tender, and light and flaky.
  • Well-seasoned, flavorful filling – The filling should have nicely softened apples that hold their shape and a good balance of sweetness and tartness.
  • Thickened, glossy juices – The liquid released from the apples during baking should cook down into a thick, glossy sauce.
  • Spices that enhance but don’t overwhelm the apples – Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla should complement the apple flavor.
  • Toasted, crunchy topping – Toppings like streusel or crumb topping add great texture.

Keeping these markers of a great apple pie in mind will help guide our efforts in making improvements. Now let’s get into specific tips!

Use the right apples

Not all apples are created equal when it comes to baking. The type of apple you choose can have a significant impact on your pie’s flavor and texture. Here are some good varieties to use:

  • Granny Smith – Granny Smiths are tart and firm, keeping their shape during baking. They have a nice balanced flavor.
  • Honeycrisp – Honeycrisps have a sweet-tart taste and maintain their integrity during cooking. Their juiciness gives great texture.
  • Braeburn – Braeburns are both sweet and tart, with a crisp bite. They’ll contribute lots of flavorful juices.
  • Jonagold – Jonagolds are crisp, juicy, and slightly aromatic. Their sweet-tart flavor shines through baking.

Avoid apples like Red Delicious that tend to turn mushy when cooked. Test out different apple varieties and combinations to see what flavors you like best. The blend of apples will affect the pie’s sweetness and tartness.

Opt for pie and pastry flour

Using the right type of flour for your crust can make a big difference in texture. All-purpose flour contains enough gluten to make the crust tough. For a tender, flaky crust, use pastry flour or a lower protein pie flour. With less gluten, these flours will ensure a light and crisp crust. You can also substitute some all-purpose for cake or pastry flour.

Keep the fat super cold

The key to a flaky crust is keeping the fat well chilled. Whether you use butter, shortening, or lard, make sure it is as cold as possible before making the dough. Cut it into small pieces and stick it in the freezer while you prepare the dry ingredients. The shards of fat stay distinct instead of getting absorbed into the dough, leading to those sought-after flaky layers.

Don’t overwork the dough

It can be tempting to knead the dough vigorously or reroll it, but overworking pie dough risks making it dense and tough. Handle it gently and allow it to rest between rolling. You want to maintain visible pieces of butter or shortening speckled throughout the dough. Let the dough relax for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out. This prevents the gluten from becoming too elastic.

Parbake the crust

Baking the pie crust briefly before adding the apple filling helps ensure it bakes up nice and crisp. Parbaking also reduces the risk of a soggy bottom crust. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork, line with parchment and pie weights, and bake at 400°F for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before filling.

Toss the apples with sugar, spices, and thickener

Coating sliced apples with sugar, spices, and a thickener like flour or cornstarch does two things. First, it seasons the apples for great flavor. Second, drawing out the juices starts the apples softening and the thickener absorbs excess liquid, preventing a waterlogged pie. Two teaspoons each of cinnamon and flour complement the apples nicely.

Top with streusel or crumb topping

For extra texture and flavor interest, top your pie with a sprinkling of streusel or crumb topping. Streusel is a crumbly butter and flour mixture that bakes into irresistible clusters. Make it with pecans or oats for even more crunch. Top the filled pie with streusel before baking for a sweet, buttery treat.

Brush butter on the top crust

Get that perfect glossy sheen on your baked pie by brushing the top crust with melted butter. Use a pastry brush to spread a thin layer right before you pop it in the oven. The milk solids in the butter will caramelize, creating a pretty brown shine. The butter also adds a touch more richness.

Let the pie rest before serving

This last step is key for maximizing flavor! Allow the baked pie to rest at room temperature for at least 4 hours before slicing. This allows the filling to thicken and the flavors to meld together. Cover loosely and let it cool completely first. Digging into a piping hot pie may seem tempting, but patience pays off.

Serving Suggestions

A hearty scoop of vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream elevates a slice of apple pie. For an elegant finish, brush the crust with an egg wash before baking for a shiny glazed effect. Dust with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar if desired. Serve warm pie à la mode with a piping hot cup of coffee or tea.

Foolproof Apple Pie Recipe

Now that you know the secrets to making incredible apple pie, here is a straightforward, tried-and-true recipe to try:


For the crust:

  • 2 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1⁄2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄4 inch slices
  • 1⁄3 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into small chunks
  • 6-8 tablespoons ice cold water

For the filling:

  • 6-7 medium apples (3 lbs), peeled, cored and sliced 1⁄4 inch thick
  • 1⁄4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

For streusel topping:

  • 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄4 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 1⁄4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks


  1. Make the dough: Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until pea-size crumbs form. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough just comes together. Form into two disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  2. Roll out one of the dough disks on a floured surface into a 12-inch round. Ease it into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the edges, leaving a 1⁄2 inch overhang. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  3. Make the filling: Toss the sliced apples with the sugar, cornstarch, spices, and lemon juice. Let stand 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Parbake the crust: Line crust with parchment and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and remove paper and weights. Let cool 10 minutes.
  5. Fill the parbaked crust with the apple mixture, mounding slightly in the center. Roll out the second disk of dough into a 12-inch round. Lay it over the filling. Trim and crimp the edges to seal. Cut 4 slits in the top crust.
  6. Make the streusel: In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, and salt. Cut in the cold butter with your fingers until large crumbs form. Sprinkle evenly over the top crust.
  7. Bake at 375°F for 50-60 minutes until browned and bubbly. If browning too quickly, tent with foil. Let cool at least 4 hours before serving.

Troubleshooting Apple Pie

Even when you follow a reliable recipe, things can occasionally go wrong with apple pie. Here are some common issues and how to prevent them:

Soggy bottom crust

Probable causes:

  • Not prebaking the crust
  • Overloading the pie plate with too much filling
  • Using underripe apples that release too much liquid


  • Always parbake the bottom crust before filling
  • Reduce amount of apples slightly and mound more in center
  • Use firmer, just ripe apples that hold their shape during baking

Tough, rubbery crust

Probable causes:

  • Overworking the dough
  • Not keeping fat cold enough
  • Using all-purpose instead of pastry flour


  • Handle dough gently; don’t reroll
  • Make sure fat is well chilled before cutting in
  • Substitute some pastry or cake flour for all-purpose

Runny apple filling

Probable causes:

  • Oversugaring the filling
  • Not adding enough thickener
  • Cooking at too high a temperature


  • Back off on the sugar slightly
  • Increase cornstarch or flour to 3 teaspoons
  • Bake at 375°F

Holes in the top crust

Probable causes:

  • Dough rolled too thin
  • Top crust not vented properly before baking


  • Roll out dough between 1⁄8 and 1⁄4 inch thick
  • Cut generous steam vents in top crust before baking

Burnt crust edges

Probable causes:

  • Baking at too high temperature
  • Not using a pie shield or foil tent


  • Bake at 375°F or less
  • Cover edges with foil if browning too fast

Storing and Serving Apple Pie


– Store apple pie loosely covered at room temperature up to 2 days.

– For longer storage, refrigerate up to 4 days.

– Pie can also be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and foil and frozen up to 2 months. Thaw in fridge before serving.

Serving Suggestions

– Let pie come closer to room temperature before serving.

– Garnish slices with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

– Dust with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.

– For rustic flair, serve in a glass pie dish.

– Offer warm pie with coffee or tea.

– Pie slices also pair nicely with a glass of cold milk.


Once you’ve mastered the classic version, try these tasty apple pie variations:

Apple Cranberry Pie

– Use 1 cup fresh cranberries in place of 1 cup sliced apples. Adjust sugar slightly.

Apple Pear Pie

– Substitute 2-3 pears for 2 apples. Great with a crumble topping.

Caramel Apple Pie

– Spread thick caramel sauce on bottom crust before adding filling.

Cheddar Cheese Apple Pie

– Add 1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar to bottom crust before filling.

Apple Crumb Pie

– Omit top crust, use crumb topping only. Great with peaches too.

Spiced Apple Pie

– Flavor filling with 1⁄4 teaspoon each cardamom and cloves.

Brown Sugar Apple Pie

– Use 1⁄2 cup brown sugar for the filling instead of granulated.


There are lots of little tweaks you can make to improve a homemade apple pie and take it from good to sensational. From selecting the right apples to nailing the flaky crust, proper baking techniques go a long way. Toppings like streusel or crumb add even more texture and flavor. Vary the spice blend in the filling to customize the taste. With the proper ingredients, careful prep, and these simple tricks, your apple pie will impress any crowd. Experiment with these tips next time you bake an apple pie from scratch. Your patience will be rewarded with the perfect balance of sweet and tart in a tender, flaky crust.

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