We’re singing all the praises of apple crisp because it’s THE dessert of the season. Featuring warm gooey cinnamon apples and a brown sugar oat topping, this comfort food classic takes half the time and effort that traditional apple pie requires. You just need a handful of basic ingredients to get started including baking apples such as Granny Smith and Honeycrisp.
How many ways can we bake with apples? Hopefully you’ve been enjoying sweet and simple baked apples or even dove headfirst into apple cinnamon bread and caramel apple upside down cake. There’s apple cinnamon babka and so many more apple recipes. But today, let’s get down to the basics. This is pure and simple apple crisp, a timeless dessert highlighting the natural flavor of apples. This apple dessert is an end-of-the-meal treat that delivers BIG flavor for very little work. Let’s be honest– if you can chop apples, you can make apple crisp.
Here’s Why You’ll Love This Apple Crisp
- Easier Than Pie: It’s easy to adore apple pie, but there’s no doubt that homemade pie is a labor of love. In this fruit crisp, we’re swapping pie crust for oat streusel topping. Skip all the pie dough chilling and leave your rolling pin in the cabinet.
- Basic Ingredients: Crisps are pretty unfussy and there’s no strange ingredients required. Most of the ingredients you need are repeated in both layers, too.
- No Eggs: Many bakers have been asking for egg-free baking recipes like this.
- Short Cooling Time: As much as we all love homemade pie, it requires a long cooling time to properly set up. Sometimes we need a crowd-pleasing dessert that’s a little quicker, but just as seasonal and impressive.
- And It’s Delicious: What’s better than warm cinnamon apples and chewy-crisp oat topping? This is a cold weather must.
And above all else– if you have little ones, this dessert is convenient and manageable. You don’t have to wait for anything to come to room temperature, chill, or cool down. Kids have a ball spreading the apples into the dish and sprinkling the oat crumble on top.
Overview of Apple Crisp Ingredients
There are 2 components in apple crisp: the apple layer and the oat topping. The topping is the same recipe we use for blueberry crumble pie and bourbon cherry crisp, only slightly increased for a larger 9×13 inch dish.
- Apples: See below for the best apples to use. You need about 8 medium apples, peeled and chopped into chunks.
- Brown Sugar: We use brown sugar to sweeten and bring flavor to the entire dish. You need it for both the apple layer and topping.
- Flour: All-purpose flour thickens the apple filling and is the base of the topping. Do you need a gluten free version? Here’s my super flavorful gluten free apple crisp.
- Vanilla & Salt: I’ve made a lot of apple crisp recipes and nothing compares to the way I make it now (recipe below). Vanilla complements these warm flavors and salt balances out all the sweetness. Trust me, you don’t want to skip either– the dessert tastes flat otherwise.
- Cinnamon & Nutmeg: Use cinnamon and nutmeg in the apple layer and cinnamon again in the topping.
- Butter: To prevent it from melting too soon and losing texture, use very cold butter. Take it right from the refrigerator and cut it into cubes. Then use a pastry cutter or fork to mix it into the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Don’t overcomplicate this step, let the mixture be messy, crumbly, and coarse. Less is more. (Music to our ears!)
- Oats: Some oats get a little crispy, some stay soft and chewy. Use whole oats for the best texture. Stir the oats into the topping mixture *after* you cut in the butter. We do this with strawberry crisp as well– you just don’t want the oats to break down too much.
What Are the Best Apples to Use for Baking?
Firmer apples are ideal for baking. Avoid soft, mealy, and mushy apples. For depth of flavor, it’s best to bake with a mix of tart and sweet apples. For apple crisp, I usually use 4 tart and 4 sweet.
- Tart apples I love to bake with: Granny Smith (in my opinion, this is the best overall apple for baking), Braeburn, Jonathan, and Pacific Rose
- Sweet apples I love to bake with: Jazz, Pazazz (sometimes harder to find but delicious!), Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Fuji
Peel & Slice Apples into Chunks
You can skip peeling the apples if you’d like, but many prefer peeled apples in desserts. I use and love (affiliate link) this OXO peeler. A lot of apple crisp recipes use apple slices, but I prefer chunks because chunks easily fit onto a spoon or fork. It’s also difficult to get perfectly uniform slices, so some pieces can be much thinner than others– and that means mushy apples. 1-inch chunks that are between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick are ideal for this apple crisp.
Toss them with the rest of the apple layer ingredients and then top with the oat topping.
Apple Crisp Toppings!
Of course you can serve apple crisp plain, but this warm dessert truly shines with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s just an apple crisp non-negotiable! Add a drizzle of salted caramel for good measure. This is the best fall dessert around.
Can I Make Apple Crisp Without Oats?
Yes, absolutely. To make apple crisp without oats, use the topping from apple crumble pie, only slightly increased. Use 3/4 cup (150g) brown sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour, and 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled. Mix the brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together. Using a fork, stir in the cooled melted butter until the mixture is thick and crumbly. Don’t over-mix– it will become a paste if you over-mix. Use the same oven temperature and bake time as below. I prefer melted butter to keep the crumble topping on the softer side. If you want a crispy crumble topping, use cold butter and cut it into the mixture just as you do in the recipe below.
Or you can turn this into an apple cobbler. Cobblers are usually topped with a biscuit or cake-like topping instead of an oat topping. Use the same apple filling and oven temperature in the recipe below, but use the topping and bake time from my berry cobbler instead.
This classic apple crisp combines warm gooey cinnamon apples with a buttery brown sugar oat topping. See recipe notes for make ahead & freezing instructions.
- 8 medium apples, cut into 1-inch chunks that are 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick (about 10 cups chunks)
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (31g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (94g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 1 cup (80g) old-fashioned whole oats
- optional: salted caramel and vanilla ice cream for serving
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking pan. Any 4 quart baking dish works.
- Mix all of the filling ingredients together in a large bowl, then spread into the baking pan.
- Make the topping: Whisk the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or fork until the mixture becomes super crumbly. Stir in the oats. Sprinkle over filling.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling around the edges. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold– plain or with salted caramel and/or vanilla ice cream.
- Cover leftovers and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Baked and cooled crisp freezes well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bake (covered) in a 350°F (177°C) for 30 minutes or until heated through. You can prepare the crisp through step 3, then cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day before baking. You can also freeze the unbaked crisp for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then continue with step 4. Bake time will be a little longer since the crisp will be cold.
- Apples: See blog post above for the best apples to use. An equal mix of Granny Smith and Jazz or Pink Lady is my favorite for apple crisp.
- Oats: Whole oats are best, but you can use quick oats if needed. The crumble topping will just be a little more powdery. (Don’t be tempted to reduce the flour, though– the topping may turn out greasy.) Use a 1:1 swap from whole oats to quick oats. For an oat-less topping, see blog post above.
- Nuts: Feel free to add 1 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts to the crisp topping. Stir into the mixture when you add the oats.
- Half Recipe: You can easily halve this recipe by halving all of the ingredients and baking in a 9-inch square or round baking dish. Reduce bake time to about 30-35 minutes.
Keywords: apple crisp, fruit crisp, apples
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