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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.

apple crisp in white baking dish

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. No Eggs: Many bakers have been asking for egg-free baking recipes like this.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

apple crisp in white baking dish

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.

  1. Apples: See below for the best apples to use. You need about 8 medium apples, peeled and chopped into chunks.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Cinnamon & Nutmeg: Use cinnamon and nutmeg in the apple layer and cinnamon again in the topping.
  6. 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!)
  7. 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

granny smith and pazazz apples

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.

chopped cinnamon apples for baking

topping for fruit crisp

apple crisp shown before and after baking in white baking dish

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.

apple crisp serving with vanilla ice cream and caramel topping

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.

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apple crisp serving with vanilla ice cream and caramel topping

Classic Apple Crisp

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • Yield: serves 8-10 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This classic apple crisp combines warm gooey cinnamon apples with a buttery brown sugar oat topping. See recipe notes for make ahead & freezing instructions.


Ingredients

Scale

Filling

  • 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

Topping

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking pan. Any 4 quart baking dish works.
  2. Mix all of the filling ingredients together in a large bowl, then spread into the baking pan.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Cover leftovers and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi Sally,
    I was given fresh AND frozen cranberries. Could I add a bit to this recipe? Would sugar amount change, or need of corn starch or mor flour? Wish me luck on Thanksgiving!

  2. Hi Sally,
    I made this recipe and it was delicious! Could I use this same filling for an apple pie?
    Thank you! My family and I love all your recipes.

  3. Hi,

    I made this Thanksgiving dinner (tonight) and it was so simple and tasty. I saw plenty of recipes to choose from but I knew I could trust yours to be a hit.

    Thank you!

  4. Best apple crisp I ever made. The topping was to die for! Only sub I made was to use homemade apple pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg & allspice) instead of just the cinnamon and nutmeg in the filling. But I left the topping spice alone. OMG!! I have a one serving rule for desserts but this one destroyed that rule lol. Used granny Smith apples & light brown sugar and served with french vanilla ice cream while still hot (then again while warm and then again when cold lol)

  5. DELICIOUS! Was a huge hit
    Nice and warm and really good. Everyone loved it. Thank you for sharing this awesome recipe 🙂

    1. Hi Clara, no need to toast the walnuts before adding to the crisp, as they’ll get a bit toasted while baking. Enjoy!

      1. I served this apple crisp to a ladies’ Christmas Party; and it was a hit!! I had several compliments about it.

  6. Hi Sally,

    I was wondering if I could add in your homemade salted caramel to the apple filling before baking. Any idea how much I should add, and if that’d affect baking time?

    1. Sure can, Alicia! When we make this Salted Caramel Apple Pie we drizzle the apples with 1/2 cup of the salted caramel before adding the top crust and baking, and reserve the rest for topping the slices when served if desired. You can do the same here – the baking time should be the same.

  7. Hi Sally,
    We got a little too excited picking apples this fall so I have a large bag of precut Honeycrisp apples tossed with a little lemon juice in the freezer. Could I use them in this recipe, or will the apple texture have changed too much from the freezing ? I’m worried the apples might come out too soft and mushy.

    1. Hi Jackie, We haven’t tested this with frozen apples. Fresh fruit is best, but for best results with frozen, thaw the fruit first. Blot dry as much as you can before using in the filling. Let us know if you give it a try!

  8. Hi Sally,
    I love all your recipes!!! Quick question about this one, we love the “crisp” portion the most! Could I double that part of the recipe, but leave the filling alone?

    1. Hi Kristi, That should be fine but your bake time will likely be longer. You can cover the top of your pan if the top is browning before the apples are finished baking. Let us know if you give it a try!

  9. This is the best Apple Crisp recipe I’ve found. I also realized that with a simple swap of plant based butter it’s vegan, so it will be my go to contribution for pot-lucks during apple season.

  10. Sally I made this apple crisp recipe, but it is so overwhelming with cinnamon that my husband couldn’t even eat it! I usually love cinnamon, I always eat cinnamon on my hot cereal, but the teaspoon in the filling & 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg completely disguised the taste of apples. Then a full teaspoon of cinnamon in the topping definitely brought it over the top! As I was making I thought to myself, this seems maybe too much cinnamon. I should followed my instincts, I think that the amount of cinnamon should be cut back to 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to filling and 1/2 tsp to the topping and reduce the amount of nutmeg to 1/4 tsp to the filling. We had to throw it out. I’m sorry, but I meant this as a suggestion, not a slam to your blah.

  11. This wasn’t my favorite apple crisp. I thought the vanilla muted the apple flavor instead on enhancing. And the toppings wasn’t as crunchy as I like. But I love your other recipes!! Thank you for your hard work finessing your recipes!!

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