Apple pie is made easy with this simple Homemade Apple Pie Filling recipe that can easily be canned and used later. Cinnamon and nutmeg season this fall favorite with a gooey thick apple juice filling. Give this as a gift or bake it into a pie instantly.
When apple season is in full swing I love to prepare recipes such as this one or even this Cinnamon Apple Butter. There’s nothing better than baked fall treats such as this Baked Apple Crumble or Apple Dump Cake to scent your whole house with seasonal smells.
Why This Recipe Works
After moving to New York City in my early 20’s my roommate and I would often indulge in a shared slice of apple pie a la mode at a local diner and to this day it’s one of my favorite desserts. Having this pie filling on hand makes preparing a homemade pie extremely easy.
You can use seasonally fresh apples for the filling and once made can it for later use. If you’ve got a crowd coming for Thanksgiving then having some stored in your pantry will save you tons of time.
There are only a handful of ingredients in this pie filling and it comes together in minutes. You can make a large batch or just a little. It’s also a great gift to give during the holidays too.
Apple pie is best served in a Flaky Pie Crust, which is why I prefer to make my own. It’s surprisingly easy and makes the most indulgent pie ever.
- Clear Gel: There is no right or wrong recipe for making apple pie filling, there are just preferences. When it comes to canning though, swap out the cornstarch for clear gel. Cornstarch doesn’t do well when canned with apple pie and it’s safer to use clear gel. King Arthur has a good clear gel I prefer to use.
- Apple Juice: Use unsweetened apple juice for this recipe since the filling will have both granulated sugar and brown sugar in it.
- Spices: I like to keep it simple and use nutmeg and cinnamon only, but you can easily swap this out for apple pie spice too.
- Sugars: When it comes to sugars and fall baking I almost always lean towards the sweetened maple taste of brown sugar and this recipe has both brown sugar and granulated sugar. You can use both or one or the other.
- Apple Cider instead of apple juice. Swap out the apple juice with apple cider for an extra fall touch.
- Add-ins. Toss in some dried cranberries or apples for a unique and delicious option.
Best Apples for Apple Pie
Again, this choice comes down to preference on taste, which is always optional. I prefer to choose a mixture of firm tart and firm sweet varieties of apples for my pie filling. However, crisp apples, whether sweet or tart flavored are always recommended.
A mushy apple pie just doesn’t taste as delicious. Choose a combination of apples, or just one type, below and you’ll end up with amazing apple pie filling.
- Granny Smith
- Northern Spy
- Pink Pearl
- Ginger Gold
- Esopus Spitzenburg
- Golden Delicious
- Pink Lady
- Prep the apples. Working with 6 cups of apples at a time, blanch the apples in a large pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove using a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Mix ¼ cup lemon juice and 4 cups of water together and pour it over the blanched apples.
- Dissolve the clear gel (or cornstarch). Pour the cold water and apple juice into a medium-sized bowl and stir to combine. Slowly add the clear gel (or cornstarch), whisking continuously until it’s fully dissolved into the mixture.
- Make the filling. Combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large heavy-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven. Add the apple juice mixture to the large pot and bring to a soft boil over medium-high heat. Stir continuously until the filling begins to bubble and thicken, about 10 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice. Add the remaining ½ cup of lemon juice, return to a boil and cook for an additional 1 minute.
- Fold in the apples. Drain the apple slices and gently fold them into the filling. Remove from the heat.
- Fill the jars. Ladle the filling into the pint jars using a canning funnel. If canning the apple pie filling leave a 1-inch headspace and follow the water bath process steps in the recipe card below.
- Canning Jars with Lids
- Canning Funnel: This funnel has a wide mouth that fits all sizes of canning jars and it makes transferring the brine into the jars easy with little mess.
- Ladle: a simple ladle helps you scoop up the brine and spices easily.
Canning Equipment (Optional)
- Water Bath Canner: this is the exact water bath canner I have and it’s great. There’s also a version with the canning kit included.
- Canning Kit: If you already have a water bath canner then I recommend this kit of tools that are extremely helpful when canning.
Other Uses for Pie Filling
- Dump Cakes such as this Apple Dump Cake.
- Apple Crisp or Apple Crumble.
- Filling for a cake.
- Spoon some over ice cream.
- Use it to make an easy cobbler.
- Add it to breakfast by serving it over waffles, pancakes, French toast, or even oatmeal.
Recipe Notes and Tips
- To avoid white clumps in the filling from the clear gel dissolve it into the apple juice first before adding it to the filling mixture.
- You can use either clear gel or cornstarch to thicken the filling, however, if you plan on canning the pie filling then you will need to use clear gel. Cornstarch doesn’t do as well with apple pie filling when canned.
- You’ll want to use a large 6 to 8-quart pot to prepare this recipe because the ingredients will be shallowly spread evenly across the bottom. This allows for quick and even cooking.
- For an extra fall-like flavor use apple cider instead of apple juice.
The apples in homemade apple pie filling are parboiled, which softens them slightly, and then they’re cooked slightly when mixed into the filling. There is no need to cook them prior to these steps.
Lemon juice prevents oxidation of the apples so they don’t turn brown. By adding the lemon juice you’ll end up with a beautiful pie filling and an even prettier pie.
Homemade Apple Pie Filling
- Large Pot
- Slotted Spoon
- 6 Pint Jars with rings and lids
- Canning Funnel
- Water Bath Canner only if canning
- 11 cups Apples peeled and sliced thin
- ¾ cup Lemon Juice divided
- 1 ¾ cup Brown Sugar
- 1 cup Granulated Sugar
- ¼ cup Clear Gel
- ½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
- 1¼ cups Cold Water
- 2½ cups Unsweetened Apple Juice
- (Skip if not canning). Prewash all pint jars and lids with warm soapy water. Heat the jars in a simmering water bath for at least 10 minutes or until ready for use. Do not boil. Set washed lids and rings aside.
- Working with 6 cups of apples at a time, blanch the apples in a large pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove using a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl.
- Mix ¼ cup lemon juice and 4 cups of water together and pour it over the blanched apples.
Make the Filling
- Combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large heavy-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven.
- Pour the cold water and apple juice into a medium-sized bowl and stir to combine. Slowly add the clear gel, whisking continuously until it's fully dissolved into the mixture.
- Add the apple juice mixture to the large pot and bring to a soft boil over medium-high heat. Stir continuously until the filling begins to bubble and thicken, about 10 minutes.
- Add the remaining ½ cup of lemon juice, return to a boil and cook for an additional 1 minute.
- Drain the apple slices and gently fold into the filling. Remove from the heat.
- Ladle the filling into the pint jars using a canning funnel and leave a 1-inch headspace.
- Remove the air bubbles by running a knife or spatula around the inside wall of the glass jar.
- Wipe the rim of the jar and center the lid on top. Apply band and tighten until fingertip tight. Repeat until all jars are filled.
- Place jars in the water canning bath with 2 inches of water above the jars. Bring water to a boil and process in the boiling water for 25 minutes.
- Remove the jars from the water bath and let cool for 12 hours on a towel.
- Check lids for seal. The lid should not move up and down.