You don't need to wait for a holiday to bake an apple pie.
The beauty of the apple pie lies, in part, in its flexibility. Once you've mastered a basic recipe, you can create variations through inexpensive tweaks using whatever delicious additions you have on hand.
If you're on a budget, check out this basic apple pie recipe, as well as seven fun variations. Get ready to impress your friends and families this weekend.
The Perfect Apple Pie Recipe
Whether you're looking for a low-cost dish to add to your Thanksgiving menu or want to throw a tasty dinner party, try this apple pie recipe. With a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg and more than 2 pounds of apples, this pie packs a lot of flavor at an affordable cost.
Many types of apples are good for baking, including Cortland, Gala, Gravenstein, Pink Lady, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. They vary in sweetness, so taste your apples and add more sugar if you feel the need. Using a mixture of apples will give your pie a deeper, more well-rounded flavor.
Apple Pie Recipe Ingredients
Here are the ingredients you need for the perfect apple pie.
- 2 ½ to 3 pounds apples
- 2 to 3 tablespoons apple juice or 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ cup sugar or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or a thickener
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 round pie crusts, store-bought or homemade
- 2 tablespoons cold butter
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Apple Pie Recipe Directions: Part 1
Heat your oven to 425 F. Peel, halve and core the apples. Cut them evenly into 1/4-inch slices. Toss them in a bowl with the apple juice or lemon juice to prevent browning. Whisk together the flour, spices and salt, then add the mixture to the apples and toss again.
Line a pie pan with the first round of crust. Mound the apples tightly into the pie shell, slightly higher in the middle than at the edges. Cut the butter into small cubes, and scatter them over the packed-in apples. Moisten the edges of the lower crust with water, then cover the pie with the second crust. Trim any excess dough, then crimp the upper and lower crust together with your fingers or a fork.
Cut 3 to 4 slashes in the upper crust so steam can vent as the pie bakes, then put it into the oven. Pro tip: Place the pie on a cookie sheet to catch any drips as it bakes.
Apple Pie Recipe Directions: Part 2
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce your oven's temperature to 375 F and bake for another 40 to 50 minutes. The pie is ready when its crust is golden brown, thick juices bubble visibly through the slashes in the upper crust, and the apples are tender when pierced with a toothpick.
Serve the pie warm from the oven or at room temperature, whichever you prefer, but let it cool for at least 15 to 20 minutes before slicing into it. Otherwise, the juices won't be set, and they'll make your bottom crust soggy. Now, you're ready to feed your guests.
Want to make your pie unique to your tastes? Click through for a few recipe tweaks that are sure to deliver mouthwatering results.
Add Tart, Colorful Cranberries
Cranberries play nicely with apples and the familiar warm spices of apple pie, so they're a slam dunk in a warm pie served to wrap up the perfect dinner party.
Add a half-cup of fresh or frozen cranberries to the apple filling before you cover the pie. Slice the largest berries in half, if you wish. Fresh cranberries are abundant during the holidays, but they can be tougher to find at other times of year. Dried cranberries also are suitable.
The cranberries add a pop of fresh, tart flavor to the pie and infuse the apples with a delicate hint of pink. Unless your apples are especially sweet, you might want to add an extra tablespoon or two of sugar.
Price: $4.34 for a 24-ounce bag of dried cranberries
Channel Your Childhood With Caramel
If cranberries make a perfectly tart foil to sweet apples, caramel is just as good as a sweet accent. Adding caramel to your apple pie captures that childhood caramel-apple flavor, so it brings a hint of nostalgia along with its own great taste.
To make this variation, melt about two dozen caramels with a tablespoon or two of milk or water. You can use a small saucepan over low heat, or melt them for 20 seconds at a time in your microwave.
Pour the caramel over the apple filling before you add the top crust. In this case, you'll probably want to reduce the sugar by a tablespoon or two, unless your apples are really tart.
Price: 98 cents for one bag of Sathers Caramels, 2.8 ounces
Switch Up the Spices for a Unique Flair
Most apple pie recipes use warm, mellow cinnamon and nutmeg as their main spices, with a smaller quantity of sharper allspice or cloves for contrast. Those flavors all work well with apples, which is why they're so universal. But there are plenty of others to choose from.
A hint of ground ginger or finely minced fresh ginger brings extra warmth to your pie, while ground cardamom — a staple in Scandinavian baking — or a couple of crushed juniper berries will add a fresh, woodsy taste that evokes evergreens and winter forests. A faint hint of licorice from crushed fennel seeds or a tiny pinch of ground star anise makes a subtle yet interesting variation.
You can add any of these in place of the allspice in this recipe, or create your own non-traditional, cinnamon-free combination. Anything goes, as long as it still tastes good to you and your family.
Price: $1.18 for 1.5 ounces of Badia Ground Ginger
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Use Citrus Zest to Perfume Your Pie
Here's a tip to serve hungry guests a unique but affordable dessert. You might already have oranges and lemons around your house, so use them as an inexpensive variation on the basic apple pie.
Toss your apple filling with 1 to 2 tablespoons of finely minced or grated lemon or orange zest, or a mixture of the two. They'll bring a bright, fresh accent to your pie.
Citrus peel can sometimes be rather bitter. If your peel has a harsh taste, hold it over your sink in a fine-mesh strainer and pour boiling water over it. The water will moderate the bitterness but leave most of the zest's fresh flavor intact.
Price: 73 cents per pound of Valencia oranges
Add Sophistication With Nuts and Raisins
Consider adding nuts and raisins to your pie. They'll add contrasting textures and flavors and complement the apples beautifully.
First, plump the raisins in hot water or a small quantity of brandy or rum, and chop the nuts if they're in large pieces. Walnuts, pecans or almonds are all good choices. They also offer great nutritional value at a reasonable price. Toss 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of each with the apples before you fill your pie.
Now, settle in to enjoy a bit of after-dinner bonding with friends and family. You've earned it.
Price: $6.48 for an 8-ounce package of Diamond Chopped Pecans; $2.32 for a 12-ounce box of Sun-Maid raisins
Have Fun by Adding Candy
If you need a break from “adulting” and want to cut loose, take your apple pie in a completely different direction. Instead of conventional add-ins, why not add some candy? Colorful candy makes a delicious addition to a number of foods and drinks.
When you toss your apples together with the flour, sugar and spices, add in a half-cup of cinnamon Red Hots or any similar cinnamon candy. Finish and bake the pie as usual.
The cinnamon candies dissolve as the pie bakes, but they leave behind pockets of intense cinnamon that act as flavor bombs on your taste buds. They also infuse the apples with rich colors, giving your finished pie some extra visual appeal.
Price: 98 cents for a 6-ounce pack of Red Hots
Better Yet, Pair Your Apples With Pears
Pears are close cousins to apples, and together they make a superior pie.
Swap two large pears for two to three of the apples in the base recipe, and peel, core and slice them to the same thickness. Flavor and bake the pie as usual.
Firm-fleshed pears, such as Bosc and Anjou, are the best for baking. Bartletts work pretty well, too. Avoid more delicate varieties such as Comice and Seckel, which are intended for eating out of hand.
Price: $1.44 per pound for Bartlett pears
Pricing for fresh fruit is from the USDA from Sept. 15, 2017. Pricing for caramel, nuts and other items is from Walmart.com and current as of Sept. 20, 2017.