Homemade Apple Hand Pies
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.
Note: 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. Enjoy!!
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, Laura
Homemade Apple Hand Pies
- Prep Time: 70 mins
- Cook Time: 35 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 45 mins
- Yield: 12 Hand Pies 1x
- Category: Baking, Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
A sweet and comforting recipe for homemade apple hand pies, with a buttery crust and spiced brown sugar apple filling, these handheld apple turnovers are a favorite way to bake up freshly-picked Fall apples.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1–1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1–1/4 cups (2–1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold, cubed
- 1/3 cup all-vegetable shortening, very cold or frozen, cut into small pieces
- 6–7 Tbsp ice water
Apple Pie Filling
- 5 cups diced apples, peeled
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/3–1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- demerara sugar (or other coarse sanding sugar)
Make the pie pastry
- In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt until well-combined. Add the butter and shortening to the flour mixture and pulse a few times until the butter and shortening pieces are evenly dispersed, with the largest pieces about the size of large peas. Be careful not to over-mix.
- Add the ice water, a tablespoon or two at a time, and pulse to combine, until the dough is evenly moistened. Pinch a bit of dough together between two fingers to test – the dough should stick together. If the dough seems dry, add a few more teaspoons of water and pulse again.
- Transfer the pastry to a clean, well-floured work surface, and divide the dough in half. Gather each half of dough into a ball, then flatten into a round, disk, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour before you begin to roll out the dough.
Make the apple pie filling
- Heat a large skillet over medium-heat. Add the diced apples, butter, brown sugar and spices to the pan and stir to combine.
- Cook until the butter is melted and the apples are just soft, but not mushy, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and transfer the apple filling to a mixing bowl to cool. Set aside and let come to room temperature.
To bake the pies
- Preheat the oven to 375 ℉. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Remove one of the dough disks from the refrigerator. Roll the dough out on to a generously-floured piece of parchment paper, until it is about 1/8-inch thick.
- Using a 5-inch-diameter cookie cutter or saucer (my preferred method), cut out six circles. Re-roll the dough as necessary to achieve all six.
- Lay the pastry circles on one of the sheet pans and top with half of the apple mixture, being sure to reserve as much of the apple liquid as possible. Adding too much liquid to the pies will get messy, quickly.
- Fold the dough circles in half, and use your fingers to gently press the edges together. Using the back of a fork, gently press down to create a fluted seal along the edge.
- Lightly brush the top of each pastry with the cream, and sprinkle generously with the demerara sugar. Cut a small x-shaped slit in the top of each pie, and repeat these steps with the second dough disk.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the pies are golden brown and cooked through. Let cool for 10 minutes on a baking rack. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!!
Keywords: apple hand pies, apple tarts, pastry, apple cinnamon, apple turnovers, mini apple pies
Wondering if anyone has tried these with unpeeled apples, I love fresh tart macintosh apples but they don’t hold shape when peeled and then cooked/baked. Am thinking the texture might be interesting in a handpie to have the soft fruit and slightly chewy skin in little diced morsels. After all unpeeled apples taste great in crisps!
Will try it out and let you know…
PS my pie dough used to be all shortening (decades ago) now moving to 50:50 or 75: 25 shortening:butter with just over double AP flour by volume. Having shortening adds tenderness and butter adds flavour, colour and flakiness. Oh and yes, my grandmother always added a “dash” of baking powder. Does seem to puff it a bit more. Heard it first here!
Made these this afternoon! I didn’t cut the apples into small enough pieces, so when I tried to fold the dough over, many pieces slipped out the side! My fault! My Mom made these when I was little and they were perfect! End result, just delicious!!!
Thanks so much, Susan!! So happy to bring back a little piece of that memory 🙂
Easy to make
. Would have liked them bigger . Taste delicious.
Next time 🙂 Thanks, John!
Do you think I can use the GF King Arthur measure for measure flour with this recipe?
Hi, Dori! I haven’t made these pies with gluten free flour, but I have used that GF King Arthur Flour many times before for other recipes with good success so I’m guessing it would work here too. Be sure to let me know how it turns out!
I have made this so many times and this is indeed the best hand pie recipe. Follow it to a T and you will be successful. See my previous comment about freezing them prior to baking. They come in handy.
Thank you so much, Susan!! And thanks for the tips of freezing them 🙂
This will be my first time making this. Any tips so they turn out well for thanksgiving? Also, can the be refrigerated overnight?
Hi Nat! This is a pretty forgiving recipe. My biggest tips are to use very cold butter/shortening for the pie pastry, be sure to let your dough rest, and to make sure you don’t overfill the pies or add too much liquid (which can leak and burn). You can make the pie crust a day or two in advance (double wrap tightly in plastic and keep in the fridge or freezer) to get that out of the way. I like these best right out of the oven, but if you want to make them entirely the day before you can do that too. They’ll keep at room-temp overnight, or longer in the refrigerator. If you go that route, I would probably pop them in the oven again right before serving so they’re warm and gooey in the middle. Hope you have a delicious Thanksgiving!!
What I was planning on doing was assembling them the day/night before and leaving them in the fridge. Would it be better to only do that with the dough? Should I drain the liquid? All of most of it? Also, the shortening is usually in the pantry. Should I put it in the fridge the night before I make the crust? I’m sorry for asking so many questions, I just don’t want to mess up.
I think the pies will get too soggy if you assemble them fully the day before. You can absolutely make the dough early though. Or, if your schedule the day of is too full, you can freeze the pies too. For the apple juices, I don’t drain the liquid, I just try to be careful to scoop mostly apples onto the pastry (there will be liquid leftover when you’re done). You just don’t want to have a huge excess of liquid or it will leak out the edges and burn. I would put the shortening in the fridge or freezer the night before – the key to a flaky crust is starting with cold butter/shortening because it will then expand in the oven and puff up to create all those lovely layers 🙂 And any questions you have or trouble you run into, I am more than happy to answer!! Happy baking!
I can’t wait to try this recipe. I want to give them as a gift to my niece who loves my apple pie but could not join for holidays this year due to Covid. Any suggestions for gifting? I’m thinking keeping them refrigerated and then telling her to warm them in the oven before eating? Will they keep in the refrigerator for a week?
Hi, Carli! Are you thinking of mailing them or just making them in advance? If you’re going to make them a week before gifting, I would freeze them instead because they’ll likely get soggy in the fridge after that long. You can assemble the pies, wrap tightly before freezing, then brush with the cream before baking. You can then either gift them fresh/warm or they’ll keep at room temp for a day or two (and she can reheat). Hope that helps! Happy baking!