5 Ways To Spice Up Your Holiday Apple Pie

Apple pie is a cherished holiday staple in many homes. According to the Grand Traverse Pie Company, apple pie recipes date back to the 13th century with the first printed recipe recorded in England back in 1381.

Now, over $700 million is spent on pies each year in grocery stores alone and that's not including pies purchased in restaurants or those made at home (via American Pie Council). It's not surprising then that pie is the most desired dessert to bring to a holiday dinner. In addition, 36 million people claim apple pie as their favorite.

Whether it's a Sunday dessert or a favorite holiday recipe, baking an apple pie brings a cozy feeling of home, releases creativity which boosts brain health, and stirs up childhood memories. Though you certainly can't go wrong with a basic apple pie, if you want to bring your baking game to the next level, there are easy ways to spice up your traditional recipe by adding a few extra ingredients.

Mix it up with the ancient spice cardamom

One way to quite literally spice up your apple pie is to use cardamom. Cardamom is a spice that is largely used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Arabic cooking (via Medical News Today). It comes from the ginger family and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes — it can be substituted for cinnamon in an apple pie.

Cardamom has a bit of a kick to it, so it tastes slightly sweet yet the flavor is strong. Some compare the taste to mint. You can purchase cardamom seeds and grind them yourself or you can simply buy ground cardamom at the grocery store. In addition to the taste, cardamom has been used for years for medicinal purposes. It has been used both as an ingredient in cooking and as a medicine for centuries.

According to Healthline, the health benefits of cardamom include lowering blood pressure and blood sugar, and also improving breathing. The spice is thought to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and may also aid in fighting cancer cells.

Go nuts with pecans and walnuts

Though not everyone loves much bite in their squishy apple pie, nuts bring a crunchy sensation to enhance an otherwise soft texture. They also serve up a creamy nutty flavor that complements the apples and crust. The Spruce Eats recommends using pecans and walnuts to mix in with the apples in an apple pie. They also suggest toasting the nuts before adding them to the mixture. This will help bring out the flavor of the walnuts and pecans.

You can also grind the nuts before you add them to the pie. Whether using ground or chopped pecans and walnuts, simply add 1/2 to 1 cup of nuts to the apple mixture for each pie. To change it up, instead of adding nuts directly to the mix, finish up a plain apple pie with a crispy nut crust topping (via Whole Foods Market).

Of course, if you're bringing the pie to a family dinner or holiday event, let your host know that nuts have been included. Nuts pose an allergy risk in some people that can be life-threatening. Always check to make sure the guests have no nut allergies before adding walnuts or pecans to your apple pie.

Nothing like some spirits to enhance an apple pie

There is perhaps no better way to boost a plain apple pie than with some good old-fashioned alcohol. Though rum is a favorite to add to apple pie, there are other dark spirits that work, too (via The Spruce Eats). Calvados, a French apple brandy, and Applejack, another apple brandy that has a similar taste, are both recommended to instantly give an earthy flavor to a warm apple pie. However, there's no need to run out and buy something new if you already have some bourbon or whiskey in your home.

You can also mix and match where your alcohol is added to the recipe, depending on your preference. The Wine Enthusiast suggests soaking your cut-up apples in as much whiskey as you like before adding them to your pie. You can also add ¾ cup rye whiskey to the crust and/or 2½ tablespoons rye whiskey to the filling.

Go sweet with dried fruit

Though apples are always going to be the main star in a scrumptious homemade apple pie, there is no hard and fast rule that they have to be the only fruit to inhabit the delectable dessert. You can try adding another soft fruit for a similar smooth texture. Allrecipes even recommend adding blackberries.

However, you can also aim for a little more pizazz. Like nuts, dried fruit provides a nice chewy burst of flavor to your typical soft and fluffy apple pie. Serious Eats suggests trying some dried versions of cherries, chopped figs, or cranberries. You can even opt to use currants or raisins. If you really wanna experiment, try a combination of two or three fruits in addition to the apples.

What makes dried fruit and apples such a good blend is that the dried fruit soaks up the apple flavor, creating a sweet combination.

Go Dutch with your apple pie

Pie lovers who delight in food texture will enjoy a Dutch apple pie. A Dutch apple pie has a crumb-filled topping rather than a regular pie crust topping found in a traditional apple pie. It's not difficult to make and supplies a soft crunch that is lighter than nuts yet harder than fruit. The topping is made with simple ingredients that are likely already in your kitchen: butter, flour, brown sugar, and white granulated sugar (via Betty Crocker).

The key to a perfect Dutch apple pie is to drain the apple mixture of any excess liquid before adding it to the bottom crust. That will ensure it doesn't get too soggy. You can also add cinnamon to this crumb-filled buttery mix (via MasterClass). Since the topping on a Dutch apple pie is meatier, it will bake well in a larger pie pan, though a deep dish pie pan works best.