Apple Tarte Tatin
This Apple Tarte Tatin is my absolute favorite apple dessert, with tart Granny smith apples caramelized in a buttery apple cider caramel, and laid on a crisp pie crust base.
For those of you who plan to crash one of my Thanksgiving dinners some day in the future, you should know in advance that there are no apple pies to be found at my Thanksgiving table.
The reason is because the French version of apple pie is better, and it’s called tarte tatin.
It’s not that I don’t like apple pie, but apple tarte tatin is superior.
If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an upside down tart baked in a skillet.
You make a vanilla bean apple cider caramel, saute sliced apples in that caramel, top it with pie crust, and bake it, until the apples have soaked up every last drop of the caramel goodness.
Then when you take it out of the oven, let it cool slightly, invert, and devour. Ideally, with some vanilla ice cream and extra caramel on top (I’m not claiming that this part is French, but I am claiming that it’s delicious).
One of the keys here is to use a really good quality butter and a good quality pie crust. You can make your own with my pie crust tutorial, or buy a butter pie crust from the store.
How to Make Apple Tarte Tatin:
To get started, combine granulated sugar, apple cider, and a scraped vanilla bean with its seeds in a skillet:
Let that start simmering on low heat on the stove while you work on the apples.
Prepare the Apples
For this recipe, I like to use Granny Smith apples because they have an amazing tart flavor and they hold up really well. You can also use Braeburn, Golden Delicious, or Honeycrisp if you prefer. The end result may be a little sweeter.
Peel the apples using a vegetable peeler, then core them. There are dedicated apple corers you can buy, but I simply use a melon baller to scoop out the middle and the stem ends.
Cut each apple half into quarters, so you get eight slices per apple.
Check on the Caramel
At this point the sugar should be dissolved and starting to bubble:
Turn the heat up to medium, and stand by for a few minutes until the caramel turns light brown.
Use your nose to guide you, and if you smell the faintest sign of any burning, immediately proceed to the next step of adding butter and turning the heat down to low.
Swirl the butter around using a spatula, piece by piece, until it dissolves and the sauce starts to look creamy and smooth as it bubbles:
Lay all of the apple slices very carefully in the pan, making sure you don’t accidentally touch the caramel with your fingers (it’s very hot!):
I’m sure you could arrange these in a more pleasing pattern, but I simply put them in a relatively even couple of layers. Keep in mind the apples will cook down a bit, so it’s okay if the pan looks too full.
Simmer the apples in the caramel for about 15 minutes, until they start to soften and sink down.
By the end of the 15 minutes, it should look like this:
Turn the heat off, the apples are done.
Prep the Pie Crust
To finish off the apple tarte tatin, we need to add pie crust to the top. As I said above, you can use a good quality storebought crust, or make your own.
I make a perfect circle by placing a similarly sized skillet on top of the pie crust, and running a knife around the edges:
Then you can take the pie circle and lay it right on top of the apples:
If you don’t get the right sized circle, no problem! Just tuck the extra inside the skillet.
Place the skillet on top of a sheet pan to catch any drips, then bake for 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown on top:
Let the tart cool for 20 minutes, then place your serving platter or dish on top, grab your oven mitts, and flip everything over.
If the tart doesn’t seem to want to come out, wait another 10 minutes, then try again.
The apples should be soft but still retain their shape, and have a glossy caramelized sheen:
Apple Tarte Tatin FAQ and Tips:
- Cooking Time: The apples will seem overly firm when they head into the oven, but they will soften quite a bit in those 20 minutes, so do not cook them longer. It is possible to overcook the apples and have them come out mushy.
- How to Store: Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge or in the freezer. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days, in an airtight container so it doesn’t absorb off flavors.
- How to Freeze: The tart will freeze well and keep for up to two months. Store in an airtight container so the tart doesn’t absorb off flavors or get freezer burn.
Apple Tarte Tatin
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1 vanilla bean seeds scraped out and saved
- 3 lbs Granny Smith apples about 6-8 apples, depending on size
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into tbsp pieces
- 1 single pie crust (if using my recipe, it's a double crust so you'll only need half)
- flour for rolling the crust
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Place the sugar, apple cider, and vanilla bean pod AND seeds in a 10 inch stainless steel skillet.* Turn the heat to low and let it sit while you prepare the apples.
- Peel and core the apples to remove all the skin, seeds, and stems. Slice each apple in half, then each half into quarters. You should have eight pieces per apple.
- Return to the caramel. At this point the sugar should be dissolved. Turn the heat up to medium, and watch as the mixture begins to turn light brown, which should take about 5 minutes. Do not stir at any point. Cook the mixture for another minute or two until it become a deep amber color, making sure to use your eyes and nose to check for any signs of potential burning. Once the caramel is a deep amber, turn the heat to low and add the butter, two tablespoons at a time. Use a spatula to stir the butter in until incorporated.
- Add the apple slices carefully to the caramel, making sure not to burn your fingers. Keep in mind that it will look like too many apples at first, but they will cook down. Turn the heat back to medium and cook for 15 minutes, until the apples have cooked down and softened slightly.
- Lightly flour a work surface and roll the pie crust big enough that you can cut a 10 inch circle. I lay another 10" skillet on top and trace around it using a paring knife to get a perfectly circular piece. If you don't get a nice circle, don't worry, you can just tuck the excess pastry inside the frying pan.
- Place the pie crust on top of the apples, then bake for 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
- Let the tart cool for 20 minutes, then place your serving platter on top of the pan, and invert using oven mitts. If the tart doesn’t seem to want to come out, let it cool for 10 more minutes and try again. Serve** and enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in February 2021. Originally published November 2011.