Watery apple pies happen to the best of us and make you wonder what the person who coined the phrase “easy as pie” was thinking.
So, you might be wondering: why is my apple pie watery?
Some of the likely culprits for runny pies are overripe apples, lack of thickeners, and slicing into the pie too soon while it’s still hot.
In this article, you’ll learn all the tips and tricks for avoiding a watery pie!
Even though apples are juicy, apple pies shouldn’t be.
Instead, you want a buttery and flaky crust that can hold its shape. If the filling is swimming in a puddle, the crust will become soggy, and the pie will fall apart.
There’s no need to scavenge the internet for that elusive recipe that’s guaranteed to make the perfect apple pie.
Most of the time, the recipe isn’t the problem. You should know this if you’ve experienced hits and misses with the same one you’ve been using for the longest time.
With a few tweaks and techniques, you can stay faithful to your old recipe without having to deal with another soupy pie.
Here are some practical tips that can make your apple pie firm and less watery:
Did you know that the US alone grows 2,500 apple varieties out of the 7,500 grown all over the world?
Your local grocery store may only carry at least a dozen kinds at a time. Still, you might find the number of options overwhelming for making one apple pie.
Almost all apples are great for snacking, but a few are better than the rest for baking.
The perfect apple pie filling should have the right balance between sweet and tangy. So consider the right variety when shopping for your star ingredient.
Apples contain pectin, which is a carbohydrate that binds their cells together. It’s also a common gelling agent used in baking, cooking, and making jams.
Tart crispy apples have high amounts of pectin, which makes them the best choice for apple pies. They can handle the long baking time while keeping some of their structure and crunch.
Meanwhile, the sweet kinds have a grainy texture or lots of moisture. They turn to mush when cooked, which makes them fantastic for making applesauce instead.
Some varieties work best on their own, but you may find them too tangy or bland for your liking. The good thing is you can always mix them with a few slices of the sweeter type.
Here are the top choices for making apple pies that won’t turn watery:
- Granny Smith
- Golden Delicious
- Pink Lady
- Northern Spy
- Mutsu or Crispin apples
While some apples, like the Granny Smith, are available all year round, a few are harder to come by. So remember to keep an eye out for Honeycrisp and Jonagold apples in the fall, when it’s officially apple pie season.
Overripe apples, even the right variety, are a mushy disaster waiting to happen. They can turn your apple pie into a sugary, sloppy mess.
When apples ripen, certain enzymes break down their pectin. As a result, the cells separate, and the fruit softens.
The heat of the oven will further liquefy the soft fibers, and you’ll get a watery apple pie in the end.
Too much of a good thing is a bad thing, and it’s true with apple filling.
If the recipe calls for six to seven apples, save that eighth apple for munching. That extra apple means extra juice, which can seep through the crust and make it soggy.
Whichever pre-treatment you choose, the idea is to bring out some of the apple juice before you spoon the filling into the crust.
Here are two effective methods to treat the apples before baking:
To pre-soak the apples, follow these steps:
- Mix the slices with brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and spices in a bowl.
- Toss the mixture until the apple slices get an even coating and the sugar is dissolved.
- Let the mixture sit for at least half an hour.
- Drain and set aside the extract.
Pro tip: Simmer the extract in a saucepan and reduce it by half for about 4–5 minutes. Drizzle the syrup over your filling for a dash of sweetness before tossing in your thickener.
(More on thickeners in the next section!)
To partially cook the apple, follow this guide:
- Bring water to a boil.
- In a bowl, pour boiling water over the apple slices.
- Cover the bowl and let the apple soak for 10 minutes.
- Drain the apple slices and discard the water.
You can also par-cook the apple on the stovetop. Over medium heat, toss the slices with sugar and thickener in a saucepan.
Cook until the apples release some moisture and slightly soften. This also works great for preventing a pie gap, which is the extra space between the filling and the top of the crust.
Pie thickeners bind well with water and are great for adding body to your filling. The most common thickeners are plain flour and cornstarch.
Flour can handle extended cooking, but it leaves a gummy texture. Cornstarch is more effective than flour at thickening, but it doesn’t hold up well to prolonged heat.
Both can leave a distinct starchy flavor to fruit pies. A few alternatives with mild to very neutral flavors are tapioca, arrowroot, and potato starch.
You want the filling to thicken up and not turn to glue. So, for every cup of apples, you can use any of the following options:
- 1 ¾ teaspoon of all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon of cornstarch
- ¾ teaspoon of tapioca powder
- 1 tsp arrowroot flour
- ½ teaspoon potato flour
Venting not only prevents the dreaded pie gap but also releases steam while the pie is baking.
So, without vents, there’s no way for the excess moisture to escape. As a result, the steam will collect into a pool at the bottom crust and make it soggy.
You can cut slits on the top crust with a sharp knife or get creative with a cookie cutter
There are no shortcuts to baking. You’ll want to bake your apple pie for the whole time the recipe calls for and then some. So, don’t remove the pie from the oven unless you see active bubbling coming out of the edges and the vents.
The bubbling is a good sign that the pie has reached the temperature required to activate the thickening agent.
During this time, all excess moisture escapes as steam out of the openings on the dome. You might need to bake the pie for an extra 5-10 minutes to get the thick and rich bubbles going.
Even if you’ve taken the pie out of the oven, the starch continues to thicken as the pie cools down.
Digging right into a piping hot pie will collapse the crust and turn the filling into a lava flood. You should wait for 4 hours or so until the pie cools down to room temperature.
The filling will solidify, and you’ll get a nice clean slice once it’s cool. If the pie is still a bit runny, leaving it overnight on the counter should set it nicely.
Why is my apple pie watery? Odds are, you’re picking the wrong apples, overstuffing the pie, not draining the apples properly, skipping thickeners in the recipe, or eating the pie too hot.
With a few simple tips, you won’t ever have to bake another watery pie in your life.
Remember to use tart apples and thickeners. Then bake the pie thoroughly and let it cool completely before digging in!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.