A sweet and comforting recipe for homemade apple hand pies, with a buttery, flaky crust and spiced brown sugar apple cinnamon filling, these handheld apple turnovers are a favorite way to bake up freshly-picked apples. Perfect for fall baking!
Easy apple hand pies
I had promised him a pie that perfect day in the apple orchard. We collected a small basket’s worth of apples – a few varieties for snacking, but mostly for baking. The Honey had to cut me off; we already had two crisper bins full of colorful apples waiting for us at home. My eyes, as always, were too big.
Apple pie was one of the very first desserts that I learned to bake as a teenager, carefully following the classic recipe – the page always marked with that red ribbon – from our smudged and fading copy of the original Joy of Cooking. Over time I could recite the ingredients from memory, and learned to adapt, adding a little more or less of this and that as needed for each pie. The flavors ingrained.
When we got back from Asheville, it was clear that Fall had settled in for good. Cashmere socks and piping hot tea seem continuously in order. Dreary days are brightened by the intoxicating aroma of fall baking and slow-braised soups and stews.
I’ve been adding apples to everything lately – baked into desserts, swirled into ice cream, tossed with cinnamon atop steamy oatmeal in the morning, roasted with butternut squash to create a savory soup… – the list goes on.
Instead of a traditional pie, I decided to make miniature hand pies; all the classic apple pie flavors – sweet apple, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves – in convenient hand-held form.
Why you’ll love these apple hand pies
Hand pies, miniature apple pies, apple turnovers – whatever you call them, these little pastry pockets of apple goodness are irresistible!
They combine all the flavors and elements of classic apple pie – buttery, flaky pie crust, and brown sugar apple cinnamon filling – but they’re easy to make, easy to share, and perfect for fall and holiday baking.
The ingredients you’ll need for apple hand pies
These miniature apple pies combine mostly pantry staples to create irresistible pastries that bely their simplicity. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make them:
- pie pastry: this easy pie crust is made with flour, sugar, salt, butter, vegetable shortening, and ice water, and comes together quickly in a food processor.
- apples: of course! I like to use a mix of firm, sweet-tart varieties such as Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Fuji, or Braeburn.
- brown sugar: adds sweetness and caramel notes.
- butter: for flavorfully cooking the apples before filling the pastry.
- cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves: these cozy, warming spices are the perfect complement to the sweet apples.
Find all the exact measurements and full recipe instructions below.
Apple hand pie filling
These apple hand pies are one of my favorite ways to highlight one of my favorite Fall ingredients: sweet, in-season apples!
The apple pie filling is super simple. Diced apples are sautéed with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, then tucked into little pockets of pie dough. This initial cooking reduces some of the apple’s natural liquid, lightly caramelizes the brown sugar, and ensures the apples are tender in the finished tarts.
Look for a firm, sweet and tart variety of apple (a mix is even better), and for the best texture, be sure to peel your apples and dice them into small, bite sized pieces.
The best pie crust for mini apple pies
These apple hand pies begin with a flaky, buttery pie crust. While I typically use a tried-and-true all-butter pastry for my pies, the dough that I used in this recipe is the “Good For Almost Everything Pie Dough” from Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful baking book – Baking: From my home to yours. It’s a mix of butter – for flavor – and vegetable shortening – which makes the dough very easy to work with.
It’s a great, all-around, flexible dough, that holds its shape through baking and is lovely in this recipe (as well as any number of other pies and tarts). If you already have your own go-to pie dough, feel free to use that here, but if not, I highly recommend this version.
I make mine with a food processor, which works quickly and keeps the butter and shortening cold (key for flaky pastry), but you can also go the traditional route and use a pastry blender.
The dough needs to rest for at least an hour in the refrigerator before you roll out your crusts, which allows the gluten in the flour time to relax and the butter and shortening to fully chill and firm up. This reduces potential for dough shrinkage or sticking, and makes for super buttery, tender, flaky pie crust.
How to make apple hand pies
While there are several steps to making these apple turnovers, once you get organized, they’re actually quite simple. There are three main components to tackle: making the pie dough, cooking the apple filling, and assembling the mini pies. Then, bake and voila!
- Make the pie pastry: Use a food processor or pastry blender to combine flour, sugar, and salt with very cold butter and shortening until they form a chunky crumbly mixture. Add ice water a bit at a time and pulse/mix until the dough comes together. We’ll divide the dough into two disks so it’s easier to work with, and let it rest in the refrigerator.
- Cook the apple filling: When you’re ready to make the pies, saute the apples in a large skillet until the butter and brown sugar are melted and the apples are tender.
- Assemble the apple hand pies: Next, working with half the dough, the chilled and rested pastry is rolled out into 5-inch circles. The apple cinnamon filling is layered in the center, and the edges are folded over to make a turnover. Crimp the edges with a fork, and for a golden, bakery style shine, brush the pastry with a milk or egg wash. You can also top with sanding sugar or simply leave the tops plain.
- Bake until golden and the filling begins to bubble.
Don’t worry if your apple turnovers aren’t exactly round or the edges are wonky or uneven. As long as the pastry folds around the edges and holds the filling in place, you’re fine. I promise you, when the pastries emerge from the oven, golden and flaky and filled with delicious, caramelized apple goodness, no one will mind a little asymmetry.
Also key? Serving with a dusting of powdered sugar or creamy vanilla ice cream on top. Happy baking!!
Homemade Apple Hand Pie FAQs
Nope. The shortening in the pie crust is recommended because it makes the pastry super flaky, easy to work with, and helps the pies hold their shape while baking. However, you can use all butter or another favorite pie crust recipe instead.
You want a crisp, sweet and tart apple that will hold up during baking. Use your favorite variety such as Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Pink Lady, Northern Spy, Jonagold or even better, a combination.
For the best texture, it’s important to cook the apple filling before forming the pies. This ensures that the apples are soft and tender, and reduces some of their natural moisture.
Yes. You can make and assemble the hand pies, then freeze just before baking. Bake from frozen, and add a few minutes to the baking time.
Making the pie crust in advance is a major shortcut and lets you have homemade pie whenever the craving strikes! You can make it up to 2 days ahead of time and keep it wrapped tightly in plastic in the refrigerator or for up to 3 months in the freezer. When you’re ready to use the dough, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
These apple turnovers are best warm from the oven the day they’re made. However, the pies can be stored at room temperature for the first day, then covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days (after which the pastry crust may start to get soggy). You can also freeze them.
Wait until the pies are completely cooled, then individually wrap the pies tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze in a freezer storage bag for up to 2 months.
Other easy and delicious apple recipes to bake right now:
- Classic apple pie
- Baked apple donuts
- Apple cider cinnamon rolls
- Cinnamon streusel apple muffins
- Caramel apple crumble bars
If you make these apple hand pies, be sure to tag me on Instagram with the hashtag #forkknifeswoon and leave a comment and rating below letting me know how you liked them! ★★★★★ Star ratings are especially helpful because they help others find my recipes too. xo, LauraPrint