Making apple pie with precooked apples is my tried-and-true method! Pre-cooking the apple pie filling before baking ensures that the filling is never undercooked or watery. It’s also a great way to avoid that dreaded gap between the baked top crust and the filling.
Today I’m sharing all the secrets for making the best apple pie with precooked apples! Precooking your apple pie filling before baking is a sure way to maintain the right consistency (goodbye undercooked apples!), avoid that dreaded watery filling, and test for sweetness. It’s like a quality check before baking the apple pie! And if you know your apple pie filling tastes good, then you know the pie will be good.
I still remember…6 Thanksgivings ago, I made a beautiful apple pie. I let it cool for 3 hours. I then proceeded to cut into it, and the entire thing was swimming in liquid! It was a huge mess. There was also a huge gap between the top crust and the filling. My heart sunk, as you can imagine.
So, I experimented with precooking the apple pie filling several times, and success! It works every single time. Perfectly soft apple filling, adjusted to my desired sweetness level, and thickened to perfection. I seriously love it!
Why Precook the Apple Pie Filling?
- No more undercooked apples: No chances that the middle will be undercooked!
- Avoid an apple filling that is too watery: Precooking the filling will get rid of extra moisture and ensure that the filling is perfectly thickened before going into the oven.
- Taste and adjust sweetness: Here is where you can make sure the filling sweet enough. You can even add more cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice!
- Avoid the gap between the baked crust and the filling: Sometimes the filling shrinks after the dough has set, leaving a huge gap. Precooking the apple pie filling takes care of that.
Now you can see why I love to make my apple pie this way, right?! I swear it makes my life easier, especially when I’m in charge of bringing the pie!
Best Apples for Apple Pie
Choose your apples wisely. It could make or break your apple pie.
There are 2 important things to keep in mind:
- Do they hold together in the oven? Some apples hold their shape better than others, providing structure to the pie. Good choices: Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Granny Smith. Bad choices: Red delicious (ehem, like…really bad!)
- Are they sweet or tart? This one depends on your preferences. If you like tart apple pies, Granny Smith is the way to go. If you like sweet apple pies, use Honeycrisp or Braeburn. I like a combination of both, leaning more towards sweet.
Here’s my recommendation: Honeycrisp + Granny Smith. I use about a 3:1 ratio between Honeycrisp (6-7 apples) and Granny Smith (2 apples) for a 9-inch pie.
Ingredients for this Classic Apple Pie
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Pie crust: Try my super flaky buttermilk pie crust – ingredients in recipe card below. You can also use your favorite store-bought pie crust to save time.
- Apples: You’ll need about 4 pounds, which is about 8-9 large apples.
- Brown sugar and granulated sugar: Brown sugar will give it a deep molasses-y flavor and the granulated sugar adds sweetness without overpowering it.
- Nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice: My favorite spice trio for apple pie!
- Salt: Salt always brings out the flavors in baking.
- Lemon juice and lemon zest: Not only does the lemon juice add flavor and brightness, it also prevents the apples from browning.
- Cornstarch: Thickens the juices from the apples.
- Unsalted butter: For flavor and richness.
- Egg wash: Made of egg and heavy cream or milk. Using cream or milk will get you a beautiful shiny golden brown color.
How to Make Apple Pie
- Make the pie crust dough and chill: This recipe uses my homemade buttermilk pie crust. It is flaky, tender, and so delicious! It’s the same pie crust I use for my chicken pot pie. After making the dough, refrigerate for at least 1 hour. To speed things up, you can use your favorite store-bought pie crust, but nothing beats a good homemade pie crust!
- Make the apple pie filling: Make sure to slice or cut the apples the same size for even cooking. Then cook the apples with the spices, lemon juice, lemon zest, and cornstarch in a large pot or Dutch oven. Let it cool to room temperature.
- Assemble the pie: Detailed instructions in recipe card!
- Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes only if you’re making a lattice pie crust. This helps to keep the pattern’s shape in the hot oven.
- Brush with egg wash and sprinkle coarse sugar.
- Bake at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes. Put a pie crust shield around the edges. Then reduce temperature to 375 degrees F.
- Let it cool for 3 hours. Yes, 3 hours! This will help the juices thicken.
How to Make a Lattice Pie Crust
I like to make a lattice pie crust because it’s pretty and makes it easier for the steam to escape. If you prefer not to do a lattice pie crust, simply lay the rolled out dough on top and cut slits for the steam to escape.
- Use a 9-inch pie pan. Roll out 1 dough disk to an 12-inch circle. Transfer to the pie pan.
- Add the filling. Make sure it’s cooled. Dot with butter…aka place a few small cubes of butter on top of the filling.
- Roll out the second dough disk to a 12-inch circle. Cut 12 strips of equal width using a pastry wheel or a pizza cutter.
- Lay each 6 strips (alternating) on top of the pie so that they are evenly spaced. Then fold back only 3 of those strips, alternating. Place another strip (from the remaining 6) perpendicular to the ones you folded back. Then fold those back into place.
- Fold the other 3 strips back, and lay another strip (from the remaining 5) perpendicular on top. Then fold them back into place. Repeat until you finish using all the strips. See picture above for a visual representation. As you can tell, it’s not easy to explain in words…
- Refrigerate the pie for 15 minutes before baking. This helps to firm up the dough so that it holds its shape in the oven.
- Brush with egg wash (egg + heavy cream or milk) and sprinkle with coarse sugar right before baking.
Note: For instructions on how to make the pie crust, see recipe card below. It’s super easy!
Make Ahead Apple Pie Instructions
I love the fact that many components of this apple pie can be prepared ahead! Here’s what you can prep in advance:
- Make the pie crust 1 day ahead.
- Make the apple pie filling up to 1 day ahead. Let cool completely at room temperature and refrigerate until ready to use. Store in an airtight container.
Phew! That was a lot to take in.
I hope you can make the best homemade apple pie ever with this method! Just remember, the secret to a great apple pie filling is to precook the apples. This will ensure perfect consistency and balanced sweetness. You’ll also avoid that gap between the crust and the filling.
I hope you like it because I promise it doesn’t get any better than this!
For more Fall baking recipes, check out the following:
- Apple Bundt Cake with Maple Glaze
- Apple Peach Crumb Bars
- Cranberry Scones with Dark Chocolate
- Easy Apple Crisp by Joyous Apron
- Apple Cream Cheese Puff Pastry Braid by The Baking Fairy
Thanks for reading and please don’t forget to pin this recipe! Much appreciated.
Why You Should Precook Your Apple Pie Filling
- No more undercooked apples in the center!
- Avoid an apple filling that is too watery
- Taste and adjust for sweetness and flavor
- Avoid the gap between the baked crust and the filling
If you try my recipe, use #cookingformysoul on Instagram! Follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook for the latest fun updates and recipes!
Classic Apple Pie with Precooked Apple Filling
- Crust shield
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 cup very cold or frozen unsalted butter, cut into small cubes - (2 sticks)
- ⅓ cup cold buttermilk
Apple Pie Filling
- 4 pounds apples - (about 8-9 large apples, see note below about recommended types of apples)
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more if desired
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more if desired
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice, plus more if desired
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk
- Coarse sugar or turbinado sugar - for sprinkling
Make the pie crust
- Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor by pulsing a few times. Add the very cold butter cubes (2 sticks, equivalent to 1 cup) and pulse a few times until a pea-size coarse meal forms. Add the buttermilk and run the food processor continuously for several seconds until a dough forms. At first, it will look like it's not coming together but it will.
- Transfer onto a non-floured clean surface. Press to form a dough. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into balls and flatten into thick disks. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight. Before using, let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes to slightly soften it.
Make the apple pie filling
- Peel apples and cut out the core. Then cut into 1/4 inch slices. They should all be cut to the same size for even cooking.
- In a large deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and add the sliced apples, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook, stirring for about 10-15 minutes until apples have slightly softened but not lost their shape.
- Sift and sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch and mix (start with 1 tablespoon and add more if needed. The amount of cornstarch depends on the amount of juices released by the apples). Bring to a simmer and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until juices thicken. If not thick enough, add more cornstarch little by little, stirring. Note: sifting the cornstarch beforehand prevents clumps from forming.
- Set aside and let cool at room temperature. Tip: to speed up the cooling process, transfer the apple filling to a large shallow bowl or a large pan.
Assemble the pie and bake
- After the filling has cooled down, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Cut remaining 1 tablespoon of cold butter into small cubes. Set aside.
- Get a 9-inch round pie pan ready. Roll out the dough to a 12-inch circle using a rolling pin on a floured surface to about ¼ inch thick. Repeat for the second disk.
- Transfer dough to a 9-inch pie pan. Fill with the cooled apple pie filling and dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter cut into small cubes. Cover the pie with the second rolled out dough. Trim any overhang or excess dough. Seal edges with a fork or with your fingers. Make a few slits at the top to let the steam escape. Alternatively, you can make a lattice pattern. For instructions, see the “How to Make a Lattice Pie Crust” above.
- If you made a lattice top, refrigerate the pie for about 15-20 minutes. If you did not, skip this step.
- Make the egg wash by whisking the egg with heavy cream or milk. Brush the pie dough with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired.
- Place pie on a large baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees F. Remove pie from oven and put a pie crust shield or cover edges with foil. Lower oven temperature to 375 F and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
- Let it cool on a wire rack for 3 hours before serving. Trust me, if you cut into it before it has cooled down, it will fall apart (been there, done that). Enjoy!
- Special equipment: food processor, 9 inch round pie pan, pastry wheel or pizza cutter, rolling pin, brush, large sheet pan.
- Choice of apples: I used 6 Honeycrisp apples and 2 granny smith apples. I like the sweet flavor of the Honeycrisp apples plus some tartness from granny smiths.
- Make ahead instructions: The pie crust can be made 1 day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. The apple pie filling can be made 1 day in advance; let it cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Your recipe sounds awesome and I’m anxious to try it!! I have two questions, if I used a crumble top would the cooking time be the same and I prefer a softer cooked apple. Does the Honey Crisp soften down or would you recommend a different apple?
Hi Gary! With a crumb topping, bake at 400F for 15 minutes, then reduce to 375F and continue baking for 35 minutes (if browning too fast, tent those spots with foil). The honey crisp does soften down more if you cook it on the stovetop a little longer and slice it thinner. Feel free to shoot me an email if you have more questions!
Thank you so much for answering my questions. I baked my pie this weekend and your recipe was delicious!!!! My daughter loved it too. It’s my go to apple pie from now on!
When cooking the apples on the stove, once they are cooked, would it be possible to remove the apples to set aside and cool, and cook down the remaining liquid in the pan into a caramel sauce to put in the pie?
Yup, that sounds lovely!
Do the canned, pre-cooked apples get mushy?
No, they don’t. They key is using firm apples – I use mainly honeycrisp and granny smith. They maintain their shape pretty well.
Hi, this recipe looks delish! I am looking to make this pie the day before Thanksgiving (yes, tomorrow), and I figured it might be best to precook the apples & pie crust, assemble it, cook it, then cool it all, then reheat the next day. Would you recommend that, or to have the precooked apples and pie crust seperate then assemble day of. If so, why or why not? I like my pie warm so that’s key.
Thanks for your help!
If you like your pie warm and fresh, I’d recommend to have the precooked apples and pie crust separate then assemble day of. That way, the pie crust will be very flaky and buttery, with a perfectly warm filling in the center (reheating a whole pie can be a bit tricky sometimes). Make sure to give it at least 3 hours to cool down completely before serving, so I’d recommend baking it in the morning.
Sheila Walsh-mcdonald says
Can one use a convection oven for this recipe? I would appreciate suggested times for the convection oven? I have the option for convection or regular oven, which would you prefer?
Hi Sheila! I’ve only tested this recipe in a regular oven, so I’d suggest regular.
Will the cooking times and Temps be the same if I use a dough with no buttermilk, just butter flour salt water?
Edna Marie Hirzel says
I used this recipe in the past and just use my crisco crust recipe. It was a hit and disappeared even before the pumpkin pies.
Would it be fine to precook them filling in a very large batch and freeze for future pies?
Tom K says
I would like to use this recipe to make this pie for my mother-in-law for Thanksgiving. She is 95 and will not be able to eat the pie unless the apples are very soft. Would you adjust the cooking time for the filling in order to get them soft enough and, if so, how? Thanks for any help you can provide.
Hi Tom! Yes, you can cook down the apple filling a bit longer on the stovetop until it is almost 95% soft enough to your liking, as it will continue to cook just a little more in the oven. If, for some reason, you run out of liquid as the apples cook down on the stovetop, you can add apple cider and sprinkle a little more cornstarch as needed.
Could you freeze the pie once it’s baked and cooled?
I don’t see why not!
Hi. In the prepared apple pie recipe, you say to reduce heat to 375 (I think) but you don’t say for how long. The recipe just skips to refrigerating for 3 hrs. Sooo…how long at 375?
Hi Steff! After reducing to 374, bake for an additional 30-35 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
My 12 year old daughter baked your recipe and won 1st place at our local pie baking contest. She’d never made a pie before, but is an enthusiastic baker. It was SO good and she was over the moon to have won. Thank you for sharing this recipe and tips!
Hi Erica! Thank you for sharing this with me. Because of moments like this, I feel like my work has purpose. So, thank you and your daughter for trying my recipe, and congratulations for winning 1st place. That is so awesome!!
I have made this recipe in the past and it’s one of the best. What would happen if you don’t cook the filling first? I’m trying to organize a group activity and need to shave minutes.
Hi Sades! I’d highly recommend pre-cooking the apples. You can always pre-cook the apples the day before (keep refrigerated) and assemble the pie the next day. Bring the filling to room temp before assembling. Hope this helps!