This homemade fresh apple pie filling is easy to make in 15 minutes and tastes so much better than the canned stuff! Apple slices are simmered in butter, brown sugar, and lots of spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. It's delicious in pies, cakes, cobblers, or spooned on top of ice cream.
There's something so comforting about the aroma of a freshly baked apple pie wafting through the house. But the secret to a truly exceptional apple pie lies within its filling. This simple, fresh apple pie filling is easy to make in 15 minutes and is the only recipe you'll ever need!
Making your own apple pie filling from scratch not only guarantees a superior flavor but ensures that your apples come out tender and bursting with natural sweetness. Canned pie filling can be soggy, mushy, and bland. This homemade option is none of those things!
Here are notes about some of the ingredients used. For the full list, quantities, and instructions, see the recipe card below.
- Apples- My favorite varieties for making pie filling are Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, and Cortland. All of these have a tart, bright flavor that shines through when cooked in sugar. They also don't get soggy when cooked down. I used Pink Lady apples while testing this recipe and it turned out great!
- Butter- Cook the apples in salted or unsalted butter depending on your preference. I personally like unsalted butter.
- Sugars- Granulated sugar adds sweetness while brown sugar adds a warm molasses flavor. You can use light or dark brown sugar, just make sure it is fresh and moist, not dried out.
- Spices- The filling is flavored with homemade apple pie spice. It includes ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cardamom for all the warm, cozy flavors.
- Cornstarch- A little cornstarch is mixed with water to create a slurry which helps thicken the filling and make it more syrupy.
Substitutions & Variations
- When slicing the apples, you can peel them or leave the skin on.
- Make the filling vegan by using plant-based butter.
- The apple spice blend can be changed to suite your taste. You can add other spices like anise, black pepper, or even a little turmeric for some spice.
- If you don't have cornstarch, you can use potato starch or arrowroot powder. However, note that potato starch thickens more quickly than cornstarch and that arrowroot powder doesn't reheat well.
- Add a splash of lemon juice or vanilla extract after taking the filling off the stove for extra flavor.
Helpful Equipment & Tools
Use a high quality large pot or dutch oven with a heavy bottom to cook the apples in. It'll last longer and prevent the filling from burning. It should have a capacity of at least 4 quarts.
Step by Step Instructions
STEP 1: First, cut the apples (peeled or unpeeled) into ½ inch thick slices. You can also dice them. Add butter to a large pot over medium heat and then add the apples, sugars, and spices. Cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally until the apples are tender.
STEP 2: While the apples are cooking, whisk cornstarch and water together with a fork in a small bowl. This is a slurry that helps thicken the filling.
STEP 3: Pour the slurry into the filling and turn the heat down to low. Stir until the apples are coated in syrupy sauce. Take the pot off the heat and let cool for 30 minutes.
STEP 4: Use the filling right away in pies or cakes or store in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
- Choose the right apples. The type of apples you use greatly influences the taste and texture of your pie filling. Use varieties like Granny Smith or Honeycrisp, which strike a balance between tartness and sweetness while holding their shape when cooked.
- Cut uniform slices. Consistency in the size and thickness of apple slices ensures even cooking. Aim for slices about ¼ to ½ inch thick. A mandoline or a sharp knife will help achieve even slices.
- Simmer gently. Cook the filling over medium heat to allow the flavors to meld without breaking down the apples completely. Stir gently and cook until the apples are tender but not mushy.
- Cool before using. Once the filling is ready, let it cool completely before using it in your pie crust. This prevents the crust from getting soggy due to excess heat and moisture from the filling.
Storage and Freezing
Store fresh apple pie filling in the refrigerator in an airtight container or jar with a tight fitting lid for up to 5 days.
Freeze leftover filling in an airtight container or plastic zip-top bag for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before using.
The apples can lose some acidity and structural integrity after freezing. I recommend tasting the thawed filling before using in your baked goods! Add some lemon juice and extra spices to restore the flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
If the filling is watery, it probably hasn't cooked long enough. The apples will release moisture as they cook, but the moisture will evaporate and turn into a syrup, especially after the cornstarch slurry is added.
First, give your apples more time to sweat and release moisture. If they don't, you probably just got a dry batch. Try adding a couple tablespoons of water or apple juice to make it more moist.
This filling is so versatile! You can use it to make apple crisp, apple cobbler, apple galettes, and apple tarts. It's also great to fill cakes and cupcakes (like these apple spice cupcakes). You can use it in yogurt parfaits and overnight oats too.
More Fall Recipes to Try
Simple Fresh Apple Pie Filling
- 1 large pot or dutch oven
- First, cut the apples into ½ inch thick slices. Add the butter to a large pot over medium heat. Add sliced apples, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and spices. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the apples are tender.3 lbs apples, ¼ cup unsalted butter, ¼ cup granulated sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves, ⅛ teaspoon allspice, ⅛ teaspoon cardamom
- As the apples cook, whisk cornstarch and water together in a small bowl with a fork to create a slurry.2 tablespoon cornstarch, ¼ cup water
- Add the slurry to the apples and turn the heat to low. Stir until the apples are coated in a syrupy sauce.
- Take off the heat and let cool completely. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.