Cider Caramel Apple Pie

November 8, 2014

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: I make (and eat) a lot of apple pie. Sometimes, I make a smooth, almost apple butter-like filling. Other times, I like to use a crisp apple to give texture when the fork hits the fruit. Recently, I began mulling over what could combine everything I love about apple pie into one pie. I thought about how to make a pie with a bright, intensely apple flavor and no added sugar. I decided to make a cider caramel as the base, a recipe I first created to enter a Food52 contest many moons ago (to drizzle over an apple upside-down cake), and went nuts for the stuff.

This filling is tart, but with a rich creaminess to it, because it's finished with butter. It's sweet, but not overly so. I used Honeycrisp apples, which hold up very well in baking, resulting in a filling that's tender, but still has a little bite. In the end, I decided to add a little brown sugar to the mix (it balances things out in a really yummy way), but I can attest wholeheartedly that this recipe works without it -- if you like things a little less sweet, leave it out! The finished pie really has everything, a bright, intensely apple flavor, a hint of sweetness that has that characteristic caramel flavor, a little bit of salt to tie it all together, and (of course) a tender, flaky crust encasing the whole thing. In my mind, any pie is a good pie, but this...this is a really good pie. It's definitely going to be the official apple pie at my Thanksgiving table this year, and for many years to come.
Erin McDowell

Makes: one 9 inch pie


  • 1 quart apple cider
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • hefty pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 large Honeycrisp apples (or other good baking apples), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • pinches cinnamon
  • your favorite double-crust pie dough (my favorite is:
  • egg wash
  • turbinado sugar
In This Recipe


  1. Place the cider in a large (wide) pot and bring to a boil. Boil until the liquid reduces and the mixture forms a caramel (the precise timing will depend on the size of your pot, but this process takes about 1 to 2 hours -- don't worry, you don't need to stir it, just keep an eye on it every 15 minutes or so, and a closer eye toward the end.)
  2. Stir the butter, salt, and vanilla into the caramel, then pour the whole mixture into a heat-safe bowl to cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Place the apples in a large bowl. In a small bowl, stir the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together to combine. Add this to the apples and toss to coat. Add the cooled caramel, and toss well to combine.
  4. Roll out half of the pie crust to about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer it to a pie plate, and trim the edge so there is only 1/2-inch of overhang all around. Chill the dough inside the pie plate for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
  5. Arrange the filling inside the pie plate. If you place the apples in concentric circles (almost like a rosette), there will be fewer air pockets between the fruit. This means that there's less chance of the pie collapsing after baking. Mound the filling slightly higher in the center for that traditional "rounded" look.
  6. Roll out the remaining crust to 1/8-inch thick, and place over the filling. Press the top crust to the bottom crust gently to seal, then trim the excess top crust away, leaving just 1/2-inch overhang all around. Tuck the overhang under itself, making a thicker edge around the pie plate.
  7. Use your fingers to crimp the edge to seal. Cut four vents into the top of the pie with a sharp knife. Egg wash the pie and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar.
  8. Bake until the crust is deeply golden and the filling is bubbly, 40 to 50 minutes. If the crust begins to brown too quickly, reduce the oven temperature to 375° F and/or tent the crust with foil. Cool at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. (NOTE: The pie is delicious just 30 minutes out of the oven, but the filling won't be fully 'set' until it cools completely. If you don't want a runny apple pie, let it cool completely, then reheat it (or just reheat individual slices) gently before serving.

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Reviews (25) Questions (3)

25 Reviews

tmsblum December 19, 2018
This is the best apple pie I have EVER made!! The caramel only took about 20 minutes to make (not an hour or two). Wow! What a taste!! Let it cool all the way. So so good!!!!
SCalabretta November 18, 2018
Really beautiful pie! I followed the recipe but next time would reduce the brown sugar to ~1/2 cup.
Heather November 11, 2018
Just made this for the first time for friends. They LOVED it! I used only Granny Smith apples, 2/3 cup of brown sugar, & didn't sugar the top. I used a 10" pie dish and it took about 45 min. After making the caramel, I was for sure I wouldn't make this again, but it was such a huge hit I know I'll make it again. Thank you so much!
Loreal November 24, 2017
An easy and incredibly impressive apple pie. I've made it twice in the last week, with pink lady and honey crisp apples and it was stellar both times. Helpful hints: using a wide pot and moderately high heat, I was able to reduce the apple cider to approximately 1/2 a cup in about 45 minutes. I made the apple cider caramel the night before and slightly reheated it (the butter solidified in the fridge) the next day when I completed the pie. I also did a lattice crust, but found the baking time to be a bit short--I had to bake it for about 70 minutes to fully cook the crust (in a 10" pie plate, it took about 90 minutes).
Angel R. November 20, 2018
what kind of cider works for you? I was thinking to try honey crisp apple cider, since I would use honeycrisp apples. Plus it has a rich flavor<br /><br />
Kelly November 23, 2016
Just finished this pie! It definitely gets the most out of every single ingredient, because the method to each step is complex and detailed. From making the crust 12 hours before to cooking up a caramel (which took 2 hours) to rolling out and chilling pie to filling the pie with a spiral apple presentation. It might look simple, but it's pretty labor intensive and I think it will be VERY worth it!
[email protected] November 29, 2015
I'm not much of a baker, and I've had a few apple pie fails. Not this time. This was the best apple pie I've ever tasted, and my guests thought so too! My thoughts on complaints of runny pie: perhaps you didn't cook the cider long enough to make the caramel or you didn't let the pie set for several hours. You really have to do both. I boiled my cider until the caramel was fairly thick-it almost seemed a bit scorched, but when I removed from heat it just firmed up perfectly. It did get too thick to truly stir into the cold apples, but I didn't worry about it because as the pie cooked it just melted in to create a deep and sophisticated flavor. The cider did foam a bit and did scorch the side of my pot a bit as well. Washed right off, no damage done. Thank you for a winner recipe!
sarah M. November 26, 2015
After 20 minutes of boiling the cider foamed and burnt on the edges. I used a stock pot as my large pot. Can you tell me what I did wrong and how I can correct this?
Amy November 24, 2015
Do you think I could add a few shots of bourbon to the cider?
Zoe R. November 23, 2015
made this pie for a pie baking contest and won! for next time though I would definitely leave time for it to set properly because while it tasted delicious, it was a little bit soupy.
Katharine November 14, 2015
For this who have made this already,how do you think it would be with fresh cranberries added? Thinking about doing that.
normadesmond November 9, 2015
i will try this. interestingly, i recently made an apple cider bread recipe that called for cider. after the first bread was so-so, i tried reducing the cider & intensifying the flavor. it worked.
Ana B. September 22, 2015
is there a preference of apple cider?
Katie W. February 18, 2015
I have been meaning to comment on this...I have made this twice, Thanksgiving and for a friend for her holiday party. This was amazing. I loved that this is not too sweet and the caramel is thin and not gooey, like other caramels I make and add to apple pie. It was simple as can be too. Thank you, I have found my new apple pie.
EmilyC February 6, 2015
I've been remiss on commenting on this. I made it a few weeks ago and it's incredible, one of the best pies I've made. Only problem I ran into was the large volume of liquid that bubbled over the pie pan, creating a huge mess in my oven. I got smart and put a rimmed baking sheet underneath the pan. Totally worth the mess! : )
hardlikearmour November 28, 2014
Fantastic pie. I used half pink lady and half honeycrisp apples. I used the seriouseats trick of pouring boiling water on the slices to soften them and alter the pectin chemistry which worked like a charm. This is in high contention for the best apple pie I've ever had or made!!
deannanana November 28, 2014
I'm hoping to make this in an 11 inch pie plate. Other than increasing everything by about a third, any other tips for converting this recipe? I could especially use some tips for increasing the baking time.
evyn B. November 25, 2014
Could I make the caramel the night before and then gently reheat the next day before tossing with the apples?
Danica R. November 24, 2014
Could this be done with a more decorative top crust? Was thinking of layering leaf cutouts as a topper (per")
AntoniaJames November 21, 2014
Can this be made the day before? My schedule will be unusually tight on the evening we'll be eating this -- currently, the tribe is planning an 11 mile hike that day, with the trailhead over two hours away! ;o)
Author Comment
Erin M. November 22, 2014
As always, pie is good fresh, but I'm sure gently reheated this would still be delish!
paczryk November 19, 2014
This looks wonderful ^-^ Quick question about the brown sugar: You mentioned that the recipe works just fine without it - do you mean leaving out the entire cup of brown sugar (I assume it'd still be pretty sweet from the cider caramel!), or just reducing it to taste?
Author Comment
Erin M. November 19, 2014
It does have a lot of sweetness from the caramel, but it's a very tart sweetness. I think the brown sugar balances it, but a taste-test done without it was just as popular - so it works with or without it (entirely)!