Apple Pie Filling

Learn how to make apple pie filling from scratch! Sweet, tart, juicy, and warmly spiced, it's delicious in pies and on ice cream, pancakes, and more.

Apple pie filling

Once I started making this apple pie filling recipe, I knew I’d never fill an apple pie any other way. The apples come out with the perfect texture–tender, but not mushy–and they’re dripping with syrupy, cinnamon-spiced juices. If you’re making an apple pie this fall, I can’t recommend this filling highly enough.

But even if you’re not making a pie, I still hope you’ll try this recipe. This homemade apple pie filling doesn’t need to hide inside a flaky, buttery crust to be a delicious treat. The soft, sweet-tart apples are fantastic on ice cream or yogurt, stirred into oatmeal, or enjoyed for dessert on their own. Let’s be real, this filling is just fresh apples cooked with brown sugar, warm spices, and vanilla. What’s not to love about that?

Apple pie filling recipe ingredients

Apple Pie Filling Recipe Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make this homemade apple pie filling:

  • Apples, of course! In my opinion, Granny Smith apples are the best apples for apple pie filling. They hold their shape well when cooked, and their tartness makes the sweet, spiced flavors in this recipe pop. If you want to use a kind of apples with a less tart flavor, Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious are two good alternatives.
  • Brown sugar and cane sugar – For sweetness. I love the brown sugar’s molasses flavor alongside the warm spices in this recipe.
  • Apple pie spice – I like to make my own with ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom, but feel free to use a store-bought blend if you prefer.
  • Fresh lemon juice and zest – They add delicious brightness to this apple pie filling.
  • Vanilla extract – It enhances the spices’ warm, cozy flavor.
  • Cornstarch and water – They create a slurry that thickens the apple juices into a glossy sauce.
  • And sea salt – To make all the flavors pop!

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Sliced apples coated with cinnamon and sugar in large pot

How to Make Apple Pie Filling

This apple pie filling recipe is really simple to make! Here’s how it goes:

First, prep the apples. Peel, core, and thinly slice them.

Then, whisk together the sugars, spices, and salt in the bottom of a large pot. Add the apples and lemon juice and toss until the apples are well coated in the sugar and spices.

Let the apples sit for 30 minutes at room temperature to draw out some of their juices. I like to give them a good stir after 15 minutes to make sure they stay evenly coated in the sugars, spices, and juices. While the apples sit, mix together the cornstarch and water to make a slurry.

Apple pie filling in large pot

Next, place the pot over medium-low heat on the stove. Cook, stirring, until the apples soften slightly, about 5 minutes. Tip: you only need the apples to soften a little if you’re going to use this apple pie filling in a pie; they should still have a bit of a bite. If you’re going to eat the filling on its own or as an ice cream topping, etc., you can cook the apples to your desired tenderness. 

Raise the heat to medium and pour in the cornstarch slurry. Cook, stirring, until the apple juices bubble and thicken. This won’t take long, just 30 seconds or so!

Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and vanilla extract. That’s it!

How to Use Apple Pie Filling

You can enjoy this easy apple pie filling right away

If you’re making a pie, allow the filling to cool completely before you add it to the crust. Fully cooling the filling helps keep any butter in the pie crust cold until you bake the pie, which results in a lighter, flakier crust. To help the filling cool more quickly, spread it out on a couple of baking sheets or in a large baking dish.

To streamline the pie-making process, feel free to prepare the filling up to 2 days in advance. It keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Apple pie filling recipe

More Favorite Apple Recipes

If you love this recipe, try one of these delicious apple recipes next:

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Apple Pie Filling

rate this recipe:
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Serves 8
In this easy apple pie filling recipe, I cook sweet-tart apples with warm spices until they're tender and juicy. It makes enough for one 9.5- or 9-inch pie. If you're using a 9-inch pie pan, you might have a little filling left over. Use it as a topping for ice cream or pancakes, or try another of the serving suggestions in the post above.


  • cup packed brown sugar
  • cup cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Apple Pie Spice
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 pounds good baking apples, such as Granny Smith or Honeycrisp, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  • In a large pot, whisk together the brown sugar, cane sugar, apple pie spice, and salt. Add the apple slices and lemon juice and toss until the apples are evenly coated in the sugar and spices. Set aside for 30 minutes to draw some of the juices out of the apples. 
  • In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and water until smooth.
  • Set the pot with the apples over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, until the apples soften slightly, about 5 minutes*. Raise the heat to medium and pour the cornstarch mixture over the apples. Cook, stirring, until the apple juices bubble and thicken, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and vanilla.
  • Allow the filling to cool completely before using in a pie, or serve warm with vanilla ice cream.


*If you do not plan to use the apple pie filling in a pie, continue cooking until the apples reach your desired tenderness. Use as a topping for vanilla ice cream or yogurt, or try another of the serving suggestions in the post above.


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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Beth

    I have never done this but I was wondering about freezing the filling to use later in a pie? Would I make the whole pie and freeze or do separately?

  2. Barbara

    Dark or light brown sugar?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Barbara, either one will work – dark brown sugar has a deeper flavor.

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.