How To Thicken Apple Pie Filling

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Apple pies are the epitome of comfort food, especially when freshly baked and filling your home with a mouthwatering aroma.

Slicing into a warm apple pie only to find the filling runny and inedible is such a disappointment, so we’ve created a simple step-by-step guide to help you thicken your apple pie filling to perfection every time. 

How do you thicken apple pie filling? The best way to thicken runny apple pie filling before baking it is to add some cornstarch, tapioca starch, or flour to your mix. To fix a runny pie that’s already been baked, simply let it cool to see if it will congeal naturally. If not, you can stick it back in the oven for a bit longer.

In the following article, we explain the different types of thickeners you can use to get the best results and how to tackle every apple pie situation you might find yourself in.

Thicken Apple Pie Filling

Not all fruit pies thicken the same way, and apples are in a league of their own when it comes to baking, so you want to be sure you use the right thickener to get the job done. 

Apples are high in pectin, which is used as a thickening agent for jams and jellies, so it naturally helps thicken your pie filling. The more tart the variety of apple you use, the more pectin it will have. 

Of all types of fruit pies, apple pies need the least amount of help to thicken, but pectin isn’t always enough to get the consistency you crave, especially if you aren’t using standard table sugar, which helps pectin to thicken.

Before we discuss any thickening agents, it’s important to note that the type of top crust you’re covering your filling with will impact how your sauce thickens.

If you have a lattice or streusel style top crust, more liquid will be evaporated during the baking process, creating a thicker sauce. A solid crust will prevent this type of evaporation.

If steam can escape from your crust, use slightly less thickener.

With any of the thickeners listed, mix them with your sugar before adding them to your filling. This will evenly distribute the powder and help prevent clumps from forming.

Without further ado, here are the best ways to thicken apple pie filling.

1. Clear Jel

If your apple pie filling needs some extra help to thicken properly, our best recommendation is to use Clear Jel.

Clear Jel is a type of modified cornstarch that we love for fruit pie fillings, particularly apple pie filling. It starts to thicken as your pie cools, so don’t be alarmed if your pie feels a little wiggly when you first take it out of the oven.

The modifications in Clear Jel give it more thickening power than flour, but it doesn’t stiffen or take on a gummy texture like cornstarch is known to do. It remains soft and has no noticeable graininess or opacity.

The other huge benefit of using Clear Jel to thicken your apple pie is that it’s freezer-friendly.

If you want to bake multiple pies at once and freeze them for the future, you won’t risk the thickening agent causing your filling to break and turn runny. 

How much Clear Jel you need will depend on the type of apples you are using. Start with 1/2 teaspoon for every 1 cup of fruit.

2. Normal Cornstarch

The obvious benefit to thickening your apple pie filling with cornstarch is that you probably have a box ready for action in your pantry right now. Cornstarch has been the standard for thickening nearly anything for generations.

Though cornstarch has little to no flavor to contaminate your pie filling, and it will thicken your sauce nicely, it is best used when you can add it to a hot liquid.

This isn’t possible for a pie filling, and the result may be a slightly cloudy appearance.

But, in all honesty, not many people take the time to analyze the clearness of their pie filling before shoveling it into their mouth, so it is a very viable option.

You’ll want to use about ½ teaspoon per cup of fruit.

3. Tapioca Starch

Cornstarch is the age-old thickening agent of choice for nearly every edible item, but tapioca starch is giving the time-honored staple a run for its money these days.

While either thickening agent will get the job done, they each have unique strengths and weaknesses, especially when it comes to baking apple pies, specifically.

When tapioca starch is used as a thickening agent in apple pie, it gives the filling a bright, clear appearance, but at the cost of a slightly sticky texture.

If you choose to use tapioca starch to thicken your pie filling, you’ll need to mix your filling and let it rest 15–30 minutes before baking it. This gives the tapioca time to soften, as the starch in tapioca is released at low temperatures.

You’ll need to use about ½ teaspoon of tapioca starch for every cup of apple used in your pie.

4. Flour

Just like cornstarch, thickening your apple pie filling with flour is very convenient because you likely already have it in your pantry. However, it will also give your pie filling a cloudy appearance.

Flour doesn’t have as much starch as pure starches, so you will need to use more flour than any of the other options to get the same results.

This can be a blessing in disguise if you’re not sure how your sauce is going to thicken on its own. Sometimes less is more. 

You’ll need 1 ½-2 teaspoons of all-purpose flour for every cup of fruit. 

How to Fix Watery Apple Pie After Baking

If your pie is baked and cooled and still seems too runny for your liking, there is still a way you can fix it. 

The first course of action is to let your pie cool completely, even overnight if necessary. The filling will naturally thicken as it cools, especially if you’ve used any of the above thickening agents.

You can always reheat your pie when you’re ready to eat it.

If letting it cool doesn’t give the results you were hoping for, your next option is to stick it back in the oven to bake longer. Unlike custard-stye pies, like pumpkin pie, it’s nearly impossible to overcook apple pie.

You can burn the crust, though, so if your crust is already pretty golden, cover the edges with aluminum foil to protect them first.

Pie Thickener Agents Review [Chart]

Here’s a quick recap of all the thickening agents you can use to fix that watery apple pie!

Thickening AgentNeeded for a 9” apple pieWhat to Expect
Instant Clear Jel½ teaspoon per cup of fruitSoft and gel-like texture with no added flavors or colors
Cornstarch½ teaspoon per cup of fruitSlightly stiff texture, cloudy appearance
Tapioca Starch¾ teaspoon per cup of fruitClear and slightly sticky filling, needs to rest before baking
All-Purpose Flour2 teaspoons per cup of fruitCloudy appearance

Related Questions

Before you go, we’re willing to bet you still may have a few questions floating around in your head. Below, we’ve gathered a few apple pie related questions for your consideration.

Why Is My Apple Pie Dry?

A dry apple pie is very disappointing and likely caused by the type of apple you’ve chosen to bake with.

Some apples don’t soften much as they cook, whereas others will turn into a liquid mush. If your favorite apple never seems to bake right in pies, try either soaking or simmering your apple slices before adding them to your pie.

Here’s how to do it: 

  • Soaking Apple Slices Before Baking: Spread your apple slices out across a baking sheet with an edge to collect liquids. Sugar the slices and let them sit for up to 30 minutes. By this time, they should be soaking in their own juice and already softer than when freshly sliced. If not, you can add some water or juice and let the slices soak longer.
  • Simmering Apple Slices Before Baking: If you don’t have enough time to soak your slices, consider placing them in a large pan with some spiced water or juice and simmering them over low heat for 10–15 minutes. This should release their natural juices and soften the apples before you bake with them.

Can I Use Gala Apples for Apple Pie?

Gala apples are not ideal for making apple pie. The fruit flesh is crisp and easy to bite into when raw, but it breaks down quickly when exposed to heat, turning to mush if used as a pie filling.

Red Delicious apples are also not great for baking with but, Golden Delicious apples, on the other hand, are perfect for apple pie, especially when paired with a tart apple, like Granny Smith. Pink Lady apples also bake well in pies.

What to Do With Leftover Apple Pie Filling?

There are many things you can do with leftover apple pie filling, depending on how much you have left.

If you have enough for another pie entirely, but you don’t feel like baking two at a time, you can simply freeze or can the filling to be used in the future. 

If you don’t have that much, try some of these options:

  • Spread over pancakes
  • Use to flavor your oatmeal
  • Fill small tarts or pastries made with your leftover pie dough
  • Mix into chia pudding
  • Warm and use as a topping for ice cream

Up Next: The 7 Best Apple Slicers

One Comment

  1. Every time I browse for recipes, I’m often overwhelmed at the multitude of choices there are and find it hard to determine which recipe is the right choice for me. I have many questions about why something is done one way over another. For example; many apple pie recipes say to par cook apples before filling, while some say peel and slice. Some recipes use corn starch for thickening juices while others say flour. Recently, your site has popped up and provided me with all the info I seem to need. Your piece on pie thickeners was great! Having my questions answered makes my cooking experience more pleasurable. Thank you,

    I guess you sure showed that person wrong! You could and you did! Glad you happened to enjoy the food writing. All to my benefit!

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