16 unique ways to use apple pie filling (that aren't pie)

Put away that pie dough or puff pastry! You can use apple pie filling in even more interesting ways

By Michael La Corte

Deputy Food Editor

Published October 27, 2022 4:59PM (EDT)

Apple chunks in a bowl with cinnamon (Getty Images/udra)
Apple chunks in a bowl with cinnamon (Getty Images/udra)

Apple pie filling is a vastly under-appreciated fall ingredient, whether you have a few jars of the canned variety taking up space in your pantry or you inadvertently make too much from scratch (thanks to a surplus of fruit from apple picking).

Often an amalgamation of sliced apples, an acid of sorts (usually lemon juice), a sweetener of sorts (usually granulated or brown sugar, but sometimes honey) and apple pie spice (or only cinnamon), the good news is that apple pie filling isn't an inherently challenging or difficult mixture to throw together.

For many, the actual challenge is the "pie" part, no matter if that entails going the store-bought route or making fresh, homemade pie crust or dough at home. To simplify matters, we've erased that part of the equation. Now, all you have to focus on is the filling itself (which is perhaps exactly as it should be?). 

Feel free to experiment by using unusual types of apples, cutting the fruit in different manners, leaving the peeling on or off, adding interesting spices, limiting the sweetness, throwing in a bit of apple cider and so on and so forth. Customize to your heart's content . . . or simply go the traditional route with a cherished family recipe.

The best part? It's all up to you, and no matter the journey you choose, it's bound to be delicious. It would be quite the feat to "mess up" that divine combination of apples + sweetener + spices + acid.

1. Make a crisp or crumble.

The two go-to apple desserts beyond those ubiquitous pies, crisps or crumbles (the difference is essentially infinitesimal) consist of apple pie "filling" topped with a blend of oats, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, salt and a touch of flour. Exceptional when topped with high-quality vanilla ice cream, these cozy classics are easy as pie (no pun intended) to make and come in handy when you're craving a quick, homemade treat.

There's also no fussiness with pie crust crimping or making anything look exorbitantly high-level, which makes these desserts even more appealing. They're throw-it-all-together affairs that yield something magical in the blink of an eye. It doesn't hurt that they're reliable, not too sweet, texturally interesting and downright outrageously delicious.

2. Try your hand at taquitos.

While apple pie filling has an inherent sweetness, you can always opt to dial back on the sugar content and veer into savory territory. These taquitos call for nothing more than the tortilla of your choosing (corn, flour, store-bought or homemade) to be stuffed with apple pie filling and rolled up tightly.

Keep in mind that apple pie filling is quite loose and can ooze out of the ends of the tortilla. Thus, we wouldn't recommend deep frying as the method of choice, but rather baking or pan-frying. Pair with applesauce, caramel, dulce de leche or nothing at all (because they're already pretty spectacular). 

3. Keep it traditional with hand pies or turnovers.

Essentially handheld, portable versions of apple pie, these aren't especially inventive, but they sure are flavorful. Use pie crust, puff pastry or whip up a batch of fresh pie dough to form a crust around the filling. Cut slits before baking, then top with a shower of confectioners' sugar.

4. Fry 'em up.

Add a whisked, large egg and some flour to your apple pie filling base — just enough until the "dough" starts to hold itself together. Using a large spoon, carefully scoop balls of dough. Add to a large pot of frying oil or an air fryer and cook until the fritters or quasi-donuts have become brown and slightly crisp. While still warm, toss in cinnamon sugar and serve right away. These will undoubtedly go like hotcakes.

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5. Bake into a moist cake.

Whether you're using boxed cake mix or making your favorite cake batter from scratch, simply add a cup of apple pie filling to the batter and stir until just combined. Up your bake time by 5 minutes or so — and voilà! You'll be in awe of the soft, warm pockets of spiced, tender apple, as well as how much the apple moistens the cake.

Any type or flavor of cake batter or mix works with this method. Try it out with chocolate, Funfetti, red velvet, spice, white or yellow and see which one is your favorite.

6. Top a cheesecake.

This may be the easiest option on this list. If you have a luscious cheesecake on hand, simply top the cheesecake with apple pie filling before slicing it. The apple pie filling adds a whole new texture and consistency to the cheesecake and provides another "layer" in addition to the crust and cheesecake itself.

7. Elevate a quick bread.

Consider adding some apple filling to any quick bread recipe. This concept is similar to the above cake idea, but it yields slightly firmer and more savory results. Another great option would be adding apple pie filling to a banana, lemon-poppy or pumpkin bread, which deepens the flavor and creates a unique mash-up guaranteed to appeal to anyone with a sweet tooth.

8. Incorporate into bread pudding.

You can't go wrong with bread pudding made with croissants, but if you don't have any on hand, use whatever leftover, slightly stale bread is in your kitchen right now. Mix dried-out bread cubes with apple pie filling, dairy (half-and-half, heavy cream or milk), a few eggs, a touch of sugar and some vanilla extract. Stir until the whole shebang is well moistened and bake either in individual baking dishes or as a large, family-style "loaf." Serve with ice cream or a quick zabaglione for a special dessert.

9. Amp up the fall flavors in beloved breakfast foods.

French toast, pancakes and waffles are amazing vessels for apple pie filling. Whether you're topping French toast or adding some finely diced apple pie filling into your pancake batter, the soft sweetness of the filling pairs so well with these hearty breakfast classics. Note that you may have to cut back or possibly even entirely omit the requisite maple syrup, though, which might make the dish just a bit too sweet.

10. Purée into a smoothie or milkshake.

Apple pie filling pairs well with dairy or non-dairy milk or yogurt, fresh fruit, cocoa powder, as well as herbs and vegetables. The sweetness of the filling will permeate the drink. Conversely, blend apple pie filling with your ice cream of choice and a touch of cream, half-and-half or milk. Top with cinnamon-infused whipped cream for an aesthetically pleasing (and seasonally flavored) dessert.

11. Level up your favorite muffin batter.

You'll be wowed by the moistness if you add some chopped or puréed apple pie filling to your favorite muffin recipe. An apple spice crumble is a fantastic option for the topping, too. Conversely, go a bit sweeter and make cupcakes topped with salted maple-cinnamon frosting.

12. Incorporate into cookies.

A bit of puréed apple pie filling will add a bright, punchy flavor no matter if butter, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, pumpkin, shortbread or sugar cookies are on the menu. A little goes a long way here, so don't add too much . . . or else it may throw off your bake time.

13. Transform oatmeal, yogurt or even ice cream.

Another easy option! For a simple breakfast, toss apple pie filling with warm oatmeal (and another generous sprinkling of brown sugar, cinnamon or maple) or enjoy some with any flavor of yogurt. (This editor is partial to a lightly salted plain Greek yogurt with apple pie filling and a bit of granola.)

For more of a dessert-type situation, stir apple pie filling (that has been lightly chopped) into your favorite ice cream, mix well and enjoy. I'd say this is best with plain vanilla, but any variation should work well.

14. Get fancy with a quasi tarte tatin.

While an actual tarte tatin is a bit of a process, this shortcut version nearly approaches the heights of the classic. Blind bake off a large tart shell before filling it with a shallow amount of apple pie filling. Drizzle with brown sugar or caramel and pop it back in the oven until slightly brown. While this won't have the visual appeal or be exactly the same flavor-wise, it will be a close approximation that undoubtedly satisfies.

15. Make tarts.

Purchase or make mini-tart shells, fill with a dollop of apple pie filling and top with salted sour cream or whipped cream. Using sour cream will make these slightly more savory, which also offers an unexpected flavor profile since these tarts look pretty dessert-centric at first glance. You can also top them with fresh fruit, such as berries or kiwi slices, to help bolster the brightness and freshness.

16. Enjoy with granola.

Easy as pie: Simply toss apple pie filling with granola (either homemade or store-bought) for an extra special breakfast or snack. On its own, apple pie filling almost entirely lacks texture. As a result, mixing it with granola adds a stellar amount of crunch.

By Michael La Corte

Michael is a food writer, recipe editor and educator based in his beloved New Jersey. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, he worked in restaurants, catering and supper clubs before pivoting to food journalism and recipe development. He also holds a BA in psychology and literature from Pace University.

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Apple Pie Apple Pie Filling Apples Cinnamon Fall How-to Pie