We're not big on endorsing frozen pies. Shortcuts are fine for many foods, but something about insta-pie just seems wrong and sad. However, we realize how busy the holidays get and wanted to see if the freezer section was hiding some delicious or at least decent apple pies. We tried six: three of the classics (Marie Callenders, Sara Lee, and Mrs. Smith's) and three less processed, dare we say healthier pies (Vermont Mystic, Amy's, and Wholly Wholsome). There were many scoops of vanilla ice cream involved. The results, after the jump.
The Best Overall
Marie, you know how to make a pie. Actually, you know how to make about forty of them, but we only tried the Marie Callenders Lattice Apple Pie ($6.79). Sure, it still had a bit of that jelly-goo apple thing happening, but c'mon, it's a frozen pie. Well-spiced with a nicely browned, crumbly crust, this was everyone's favorite of the six. And those cinnamon specks on the box's photo? Those were no joke. If you hate cinnamon (do people hate cinnamon?) then stay away, but otherwise, this was a plenty satisfying pie.
Most Like Grandma's
You already have a good feeling about Vermont Mystic ($11.99) judging by the box's lovely illustrations of barnyards and apple trees. Some of Vermont's best pastry chefs perfected the recipe, using King Arthur flour, Cabot Creamery butter, and other ingredients you can actually pronounce. And they get points for figuring out how to make a frozen pie without the gloopy filing.
Made with a blend of Empire, Cortland, and Northern Spy apples (how often do you actually know kind of apples are in your frozen pie?) the chunks were crispy, tart, spritzed with lemon juice, and actually tasted like apples—that came from trees. The crust was flaky, buttery, and held its shape when sliced.
Mrs. Smith's vs. Sara Lee
Of the two dueling classics, both Sara Lee ($7.99) and Mrs. Smith's ($6.99) tasted exactly how they looked on the box—like a frozen apple pie. But Sara Lee took the Passable prize while Mr. Smith's only earned a Mehhh at best. Sara Lee's crust was at least flaky with a nice little hit of salt, whereas Mrs. Smith's was gummy and doughy, and the filling was off the charts in gloopage.
Trying Too Hard To Be Healthy
Wholly Wholsome ($5.99 and purchased at Whole Foods) is made with a whole-wheat crust. Something about that many wholes seems a little suspect. Sure enough, it tasted wrong. Do you need to eat this? No. The combination of lifeless dry crust (did they use butter? or fat of any kind?) and barely-spiced apples was a huge piefail. We'd rather ingest all the trans fatty acids and artificial flavors of other less wholicious pies.
No Redeeming Qualities
At first the tiny pie thing (about three inches wide) was cute, then it seemed silly. Why would we want a pie that small? Oh, riiight. Because it's nasty. Maybe the apples in Amy's ($3.99) pie were organic and free of evil chemicals, but that really didn't matter. This pie was inedible. After we forced a bite down, just in case it wasn't as cardboardy as it looked, there was some gagging. Stick with the frozen enchiladas, Amy.
Taste Test Doodles
As always, SE staff doodler Robyn lets her hand go free as the other one shovels pie into her mouth. (She has a documented affinity for manatees.)
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.