This healthy baked apple recipe is the most delicious way to enjoy apple season. Tender apples are loaded with warm spices, oats, and naturally sweetened with maple syrup and no added sugar. They’re juicy, tart, sweet and comforting…perfect for a healthy dessert or a delicious treat for breakfast.
This post has been updated form the original, published in 2016.
Ah-mazing taste in an easy healthy dessert recipe? Yeah, you read that right. Baked apples with oatmeal are a bonafide thing in our house….and they should be in yours too.
These are one of my favorite apple desserts, since they’re easy to make with simple ingredients. This baked apple dessert does double duty as a refreshing snack or a simple vegan breakfast too.
Just 7 ingredients and some hands off time in the oven…you can pull this off on a random weeknight…or plan on making them for a decadent dinner party dessert.
Why you will love this recipe
- OMG….they taste incredible….baked cinnamon apples also give off the best aroma.
- 7 ingredients and mostly hands off time.
- A healthy baked apple is a legit breakfast.
- EASY dessert recipe: Quicker and easier than a fruit crisp, or an apple pie, since there’s no chopping!
Best apples for baking?
Oh, there are so many varieties to choose from, how to decide what kind of apples are best for healthy baked apples? I know you’re not going to like this answer, but here goes: IT DEPENDS. It’s good to know that apples can be more tart or sweet, they can be soft or firm, large or smaller, red or green…and shades in between. So, know your preferences and here is a rundown of some of my favorite apple varieties.
- Honeycrisp: Wins the award for congeniality for sure. Mild honeyed flavor and crisp texture makes these an ideal choice for salads, snacking and chopping into a recipe like apple muffins where you want them to retain their shape and flavor. They’re perfect for eating, as is….and therefore my “go to” choice when buying apples. This means that I also bake with them often because I use what I have. Crisp apples get sweeter when baked and don’t turn to mush.
- Fuji Apples are one of the sweeter choices. Sweet apples are a good all around apple for either eating or baking. So, if you’re looking for an apple that can hold its shape when baked whole, this is it! Plus, they’re available year round…YAY!!!
- Pink lady (AKA Cripps Pink): This one is a bit more tart, but still brings a hint of sweetness…which is why I love it, a little depth of flavor keeps things interesting. Perfect choice for an apple galette where tart apples can shine.
- Empire: A cross between red delicious and McIntosh, this variety is great for baking, as the creamy white flesh softens with a combo sweet/tart flavor. Also a good option for making applesauce.
- Gala: Crisp, juicy and very sweet…this is an awesome snacking apple. Small gala apples are often found in large bags, making them an economical choice…and a great option if you want to make a lot of individual serving sized healthy baked apples for a crowd.
- Cortland: A softer apple—which is nice for more of an applesauce consistency in your baked apple—but it still can hold it’s shape and has a good balance of sweet and tart…so many will go for this option in whole baked apples.
- Mcintosh: has amazing flavor and is the softest….and therefore has a reputation for being the best baking apples. Here’s where “know your audience” plays a role. Some folks prefer a SOFT baked apple…and if that’s your crowd, then you’ve met your perfect baking apple.
- Braeburn: Give this one 5 stars….it bakes up juicy, but not mushy….and can hold its own in a recipe like apple honey cake with cinnamon. Also, I think it’s a pretty apple with some pink and also streaks of yellow and green.
- Granny Smith Apples are tart…and I love that it keeps recipes from being too sweet. Their skin is a bit thicker than some other varieties…which is nice for eating, when you want to bite in to some crunch, but not as great for a baked apple, unless you’re not eating the skin….even though that’s where a lot of the nutrition and fiber lives (more on that below). This is one of my favorite choices for my harvest salad with apple vinaigrette.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Apples: The star of the show…see my comments above to choose the best variety for you. Apples are mostly make up of water…and a good amount of fiber and vitamin C, antioxidants and flavonoids. This is good news for your gut, brain and cardiovascular systems. Pears will work as a substitution for apples in this recipe…but be sure to buy FIRM pears and cut back on the cooking time to just 30 minutes, or they’ll turn to mush.
- Rolled oats: More fiber (yay) for a healthy gut, plus oatmeal is a carb that helps regulate blood sugar. Substitute quick cooking oats or instant oats, if that’s all you have…but they may become kinda mushy. To make baked apples without oats, you can use a combination of flour (even a gluten-free blend is fine) and arrowroot powder. Quinoa flakes make a good sub in the same quantity. Cooked grains like rice or quinoa will also work well.
- Walnuts: I loved the nutty, crunchy texture…and the added Omega 3s that walnuts add. Almonds or pecans would also work well. For nut allergies, substitute hemp seeds. If both nuts and seeds are a no go for you, just skip them.
- Ground flax: Fiber….yes, keeping our gut health in check means consuming an abundance of fiber in many different forms. Flax also adds Omega 3s and protein to this recipe, along with a nutty flavor that I really like, and it binds the other filling ingredients together. Chia seeds are a good sub.
- Cinnamon: Yum…for flavor, aroma, color! Ground cinnamon also gives the illusion of sweetness without having to add additional sugar. Plus, it’s antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal…and has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Maple syrup: My sweetener of choice in baked goods. Depending on your taste buds and the sweetness/type of apples you choose, you may not need much.
How do you core an apple?
Oh, I’m glad you asked. It’s important to take out the woody center and the seeds before stuffing and baking your apples. I struggled with this for years. I even bought an apple corer. It wasn’t as easy as I thought to dig out the center and have an intact apple left. Let me show you what I’ve learned to make it easier for you. I’ll give you my honest assessment of these three methods and let you know what I think is the EASIEST way to core an apple for baking.
- An apple corer does make this chore a little easier to begin with.
- BUT there’s still some finessing that needs to be done with a paring knife, to dig out all the “stuff”.
- I’m not sure the apple corer earns that valuable drawer space in my kitchen.
- Using a paring knife is an easy way to core an apple if you’re comfortable with a sharp knife.
- Start by inserting the knife at an angle, and cut down ALMOST all the way to the bottom.
- You can measure where on the knife you’d hit the bottom, by holding it along the side of the apple, and then eyeball it to stop short of breaking through the bottom.
- Turn the apple slightly to continue to make slices into the apple until you’ve completed the circle as shown above.
- Then, pull out the section you’ve just cut.
- If the core doesn’t come out in one piece, that’s OK, just use your knife to dig out the rest.
- The third way to core an apple is to use a grapefruit spoon.
- The serrated edges of the spoon make it easy to scoop out the woody center and seeds.
- Use the same methodology as in the paring knife shown above, but instead of trying to go all the way down to the bottom, just scoop out the top by making slits and turning the apple around.
- Then do another pass, this time going around a bit deeper.
- Assess the situation and use the spoon to scoop out any remaining seeds or other hard parts.
Using a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the center of the apple to make room for the filling is easy, safe and effective. It’s my preferred method of removing the core from an apple to stuff and bake. Grapefruit spoons are inexpensive and you will use it ALL THE TIME. Examples include: to deseed cucumbers, zucchinis, and hard winter squash.
If you do cut through the bottom….it’s OK. Trust me, I’ve done it plenty of times. The cooked apple will still taste delish, and chances are you won’t lose any of the filling out the bottom. Just pick up the next apple and continue. This entire process gets easier every time, with each apple. Trust me, you’ll be a pro soon enough.
How to make this recipe:
Preheat the oven to 350. Hopefully it will be ready by the time you finish prepping the apples for baking in the oven….because it won’t take you long.
To make the apple filling, use a small spice grinder. You can also use a small food processor or coffee grinder. If you don’t have any of those small appliances, use a knife to chop the nuts while the oats are also on the cutting board and then mix together. You’ll want to grind the nuts and oats together with the cinnamon and ground flax to form a uniform mixture. It’s totally fine if the oats aren’t totally ground into flour….this will provide some texture to the filling.
Place the ground oats/nuts mixture into a bowl, add in the maple syrup and stir until well combined. Set the filling mixture aside.
- Place apples that you have cored into a baking dish that will just fit them snuggly.
- Spoon the filling you put aside into the cavity of the apples.
- When all apples are stuffed, pour water or apple cider into the pan to ¼″
- Bake whole stuffed apples in preheated oven until golden and tender when pierced with a fork.
Debra’s Pro Tips
- Make a few extra….they are awesome to find in the fridge as a cold breakfast or snack.
- A steamy and warm, humid, oven is the best way to cook and soften your apples…so don’t skip the step that adds water (or use apple juice or cider) to the pan before baking.
- Choose a baking dish that fits the apples snuggly to aid in the steaming process.
- The larger the apples, the more space you can carve out for the yummy cinnamon oat filling. Just be sure to add a bit to the cooking time to give the whole apple time to get soft.
- There is no WRONG kind of apple for baking. They’re all good. Some are more tart, some are sweeter., some will hold their shape better and stay firm and others will collapse and be mushy..the BEST apple to use for baking is THE ONE YOU HAVE!
- Looking for more flavor without additional sweetener? Try a pinch of nutmeg, cloves or allspice added to the filling ingredients.
- Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and watch it melt into perfection, dripping down the sides of the apple.
Baked Apple FAQs
Braeburn, honeycrisp, gala and fuji apples are great choices for baked apples. For a more tart flavor, choose granny smith or pink lady. Cortland, empire or McIntosh will produce a softer inside.
They can be…it depends what you stuff them with. Apples are highly nutritious, filled mostly with water and fiber. Avoid sugar and oils if you’re trying to make a healthy baked apple. Use whole grain oats, ground flax and chopped nuts for added fiber, protein and omega 3s.
Use a tool like a grapefruit spoon to make easy work of removing the hard woody core and seeds of apples to prepare them for baking. The serrated edges of the grapefruit spoon make it easy to scoop out the insides.
Baked apples are sweet, tangy and satisfying, you don’t need to serve anything with them. However, a scoop of ice cream is always a good idea. There are many dairy-free options and an easy make yourself nice cream made from frozen bananas would be good too.
If stored in the fridge in an airtight container, baked apples will last 4-5 days. Serve them cold, or gently reheat in a 325 oven for 15 minutes until heated through.
More Healthy Apple Recipes
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Healthy Baked Apples
- 6 medium-large apples*
- ½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
- ⅓ cup walnuts
- 2 Tablespoon flax seeds
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch fine grain sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Place oats, nuts, flax, cinnamon and salt in coffee grinder, blender or food processor and pulse until well mixed and crumbly. It’s OK if some of the oats are still whole.
- Transfer mixture to a small bowl. Pour in the maple syrup and stir until well combined.
- Evenly distribute oat mixture into apple cavities and then pour in water to ¼" up the side of baking dish.
- Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until apples are soft. If your apples are bigger, cooking time will be longer. Baked apples are finished when you can easily stick a fork into them.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.