Easy apple crisp

Make this easy apple crisp with an oat crumble topping that is like a crunchy cookie. It’s the perfect fall comfort food any time of year and you can adapt this easy recipe with different flours like buckwheat.
Easy apple crisp baked in a speckled white round baking dish set next to blue and white striped linen with a serving spoon, white bowls and wooden spoons

Apple crisp vs crumble?

I know I’m not alone in the debate of crisp versus crumble. It’s confusing! Some people call them apple crisps, others apple crumble. So what is the difference between the two?

It seems the two names are used interchangeably, yet fruit desserts made with an oat crumble topping should technically be called crisps, while the absence of oats makes those desserts a crumble. So if your apple crumble has oats in the topping, technically you should call it apple crisp.

Remember that apple crisps and crumbles are different than pies: pie has a crust on the bottom, and on top, either a crust or a crumble. On the other hand, crisps and crumbles are made with nothing on the bottom so the fruit filling is placed directly in the baking dish with a single layer of crumble topping baked over it. 

Ingredients to make apple crisp measured out including apples, brown sugar, butter, flour, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean paste, and a little lemon juice for the apples

The best baking dish for the job

With fruit desserts without a bottom crust, you want to be mindful of the material of your bakeware. Avoid reactive materials like aluminum that might break down in the presence of acidic fruit. For this reason, use ceramic dishes or glass dishes to make crisps and crumbles, and save the metal pans for pies.

Which apple variety is best

The type of apple you use is entirely dependent on the recipe you are baking. For pies, I usually stick to Cortland apples which bake soft but keep their shape, even if the pie is baked for over an hour. On the other hand, if you are making apple sauce, you want to choose a variety of apple that does break down, so McIntosh apples are perfect for apple sauce because they become soft and fall apart the longer they are cooked/baked.

Assembling apple crisp in a white speckled bakeware dish topping with oat crumble and a little turbinado

Apple crisps and crumbles are VERY forgiving and you could use any variety of apple for the filling. That being said, some varieties are better for baking, while others are known for flavour:

  • If you use apple varieties that break down when heated (like McIntosh apples, Empire, Jona Gold, Paula Red, etc.), you end up with a saucier apple crisp. Delish!
  • If you use a firmer apple that can take the heat and keep its shape (like Granny Smith, Delicious, or Cortland apples), you end up with soft pieces of fruit on the bottom of your crisp. That’s great too!

Apple crisp ready for the oven

Using more than one type of apple

Combining apples that cook down and become saucy with apples that hold their shape makes for an apple crisp that is the best of both worlds, but truly, any apple will do!

I like to combine McIntosh apples with Cortlands because the McIntosh bring a lot of flavour (bright, slightly acidic) but tend to break down when cooked, while the Cortland apples are good for holding their shape when cooked though they have a milder flavour. Both of these apple varieties are readily available in my area, year round. 

Freshly baked apple crisp with oat crumble and blue and white linen


Thickeners for apple desserts

Apples require little to no thickeners and this is especially dependant on the dessert you are making and the type of apples. For example, for this maple apple pie, I used just 30 mL (2 tablespoons) of flour to thicken up the apple filling for the pie, which was made with almost 2 kilograms (4 pounds) of apples!

I don’t add a thickener to the apples in an apple crisp, generally. Whether or not you do is entirely up to you, but apples aren’t known for releasing so much water as they bake, so a little thickener goes a long way in a dessert like this. And given that there isn’t too much water in apples, you should stick to flour as a thickener, if you want to use one. Cornstarch and tapioca are too powerful for this recipe. You’d end up with a dry, goopy filling. Save the tapioca for a dessert with berries or rhubarb, like this blueberry rhubarb crisp. In that case, you NEED tapioca because the fruit release a ton of water as they bake.

Freshly baked apple crisp in a speckled round white baking dish with handles, a blue and white striped linen, serving spoon, as well as white bowls and wooden spoons

If you feel like a thickener is necessary for your apple crisp, add 15 to 30 mL (1 to 2 tablespoon) of flour to thicken apple filling with 1.25 kg (2.75 lbs) of apples. You wouldn’t need much more than that. And if you find your apple crisp is watery, if you didn’t use a thickener for the apples, try adding a little flour to the filling next time. The flour will help gel the water so that the filling is less loose and watery.

Serving a round white speckled baking dish of apple crisp into white bowls with wooden spoons and blue and white linen

Topping for fruit crisps

Fruit crisps are a fruit dessert where the prepared fruit are baked with oat crumble on top. If there’s no oats in the recipe, it’s a fruit crumble. Some crisps have a very “powdery” or granular topping that is hardly held together. Other crisp toppings can be more chunky. It’s a matter of personal preference.

 I like to make my crispy toppings for fruit crisps and crumbles like cookie dough, as opposed to a sandy mixture. This is a similar topping to the one in this apple crumble cake. I worked the topping together until it forms a sweet cookie dough with a thick texture. Then I can drop globs of the dough over the fruit before baking.

Cold butter vs melted  vs softened

For most crisps and crumbles, recipes suggest to use cold butter, working it into the dry ingredients as you would for pie dough. With this technique, I find that the topping is less clumpy and more powdery because there is no liquid to bind the dry ingredients together and the butter is too cold to do that job well.

Lately, I’ve been making crumble toppings for fruit crisps with softened butter and working it into the dry ingredients until the mixture forms cookie dough, using my fingertips. This way, you can use your fingers to break it apart into larger nuggets of dough and scatter those big chunks of cookie dough over the fruit: this way you end up with larger hunks of topping over the fruit. The topping becomes very crunchy as it bakes.

You can also use melted butter to help bind the dry ingredients and this is another easy way. With this method, I think a fork would be best for mixing the ingredients together. Again the topping will form larger clumps than with cold butter, giving you a more crunchy, cookie-like topping.

Serving a round white speckled baking dish of apple crisp into white bowls with wooden spoons and blue and white linen

For the crisp topping, I used all-purpose flour, but feel free to explore alternatives, replacing up to half with whole-wheat or even a gluten-free flour like buckwheat (which adds a stronger, earthier flavour). You could also replace some of the flour with more oats, depending on how you like your crumble topping. Apple crisp is highly adaptable so there’s room for experimenting and for tweaking the recipe to make it your own.

  • replace up to half the amount of all-purpose with an alternative flour, like buckwheat flour, whole wheat, or even rye:
    • use 30 grams all-purpose flour + 30 grams buckwheat flour (or whole wheat or rye flour)

Although the gluten in a crumb topping isn’t as vital as it is in a cake, I don’t suggest replacing all of the all-purpose flour with buckwheat or another alternative flour because the flavour would be very strong. If you want to make the topping gluten-free, combine half buckwheat and half oat flour or millet flour, for example.

Feel free to add nuts to the crumble topping as well. Add 60 mL (1/4 cup) of chopped nuts (like pecans, walnuts, or almonds) when making the crumble topping.

A serving of apple crisp served à la mode with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, served next to speckled dish of apple crisp, more bowls and spoons, blue and white striped linen,

To store, cover the apple crisp with a layer of aluminum foil AFTER it’s cooled completely. If you cover it when warm, your oat crumble will soften from the humidity trapped under the foil. If that happens, pop the apple crisp back in the oven at 350 ºF to warm it up and help crisp the topping. I store apple crisp at room temperature, and it gets eaten within a day or two.

This apple crisp serves 6 people (or 4 people generously), and if you only want to make a portion for yourself, try this apple crisp for one recipe that makes just one serving in under 5 minutes!

Apple crisp

This easy apple crisp is topped with chunks of sweet dough that bake into crunchy nuggets of cookie.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword apple crisp
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 413kcal
Author Janice


1.5 L baking dish
Sheet pans


Oat crumble topping

  • 115 grams (½ cup) unsalted butter softened
  • 100 grams (½ cup) light brown sugar
  • 63 grams (½ cup) all-purpose flour you can also use a mix of all-purpose and buckwheat, or all-purpose and whole wheat
  • 70 grams (¾ cup) rolled oats (or large flake oats)
  • 1.25 mL (¼ tsp) Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt

Apple filling

  • 1.25 kg ( lb) apples I used 5 McIntosh and 3 Cortland
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) light brown sugar
  • 30 mL (2 tbsp) all-purpose flour optional thickener for filling
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) lemon juice
  • 5 mL (1 tsp) vanilla bean paste
  • 3.75 mL (3/4 tsp) ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg freshly grated

Additional optional toppings

  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) rolled oats (or large flake oats)
  • 15 mL (1 tbsp) Turbinado sugar


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 1.5 L baking dish and set it on a large rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.

Oat crumble topping

  • Mix the butter, brown sugar, all-purpose flour, oats, and salt. You can do this with your fingertips, working the mixture until a cookie dough forms. Set aside.

Apple filling

  • Peel and core the apples then slice them.
  • Toss the apples with the sugar, lemon juice, flour (if using), vanilla bean paste, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Make sure the apples are evenly coated. Pour them evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
  • Scatter globs of the crumble topping over the apples, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oats and 1 tablespoon of turbinado.
  • Bake the apple crisp for about 1 hour, until the apples are cooked through, the topping is golden browned, and the filling is bubbling.
  • Let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Tried this recipe?Mention @kitchenhealssoul or tag #kitchenhealssoul!


Calories: 413kcal | Carbohydrates: 67g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 92mg | Potassium: 305mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 43g | Vitamin A: 591IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 47mg | Iron: 1mg


alternative flours, apples, buckwheat, cinnamon, crumble, fall, fruit, spices

12 Responses to Easy apple crisp

  1. Juanita September 20, 2011 at 10:01 AM #

    You’re very right – crumbles are very forgiving! They’re my go-to dessert when I’m craving something quick and moderately healthy.

    I love the bowl the apples are in, as well as that very funky wooden serving spoon.

  2. September 20, 2011 at 2:15 PM #

    What’s the difference between a crisp & a crumble? I have no clue! 🙂

  3. El September 20, 2011 at 2:17 PM #

    Lovely dish. Looks delicious!

  4. Ann September 20, 2011 at 2:39 PM #

    Yummy! I love a forgiving dish. If it’s forgiving, it gives the opportunity to make a second dish that requires more time!

  5. S.V. September 20, 2011 at 2:59 PM #

    I can never tell the difference between a crisp and a crumble lol. All I know is that I love the stuff on top and nothing beats a classic apple crisp. This looks fantastic.

  6. Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. September 20, 2011 at 9:28 PM #

    This just makes me want to curl up on the couch with a big bowl of this warm apple crisp and enjoy the fall weather coming our way!

  7. Erin September 21, 2011 at 5:28 PM #

    This is gorgeous! I am hoping to go apple picking this weekend!

  8. Jan September 22, 2011 at 11:24 PM # I don’t really know the difference either. Apparently one’s American, and the other’s British. I’m Canadian, so who knows what I made 😉

  9. Jan September 22, 2011 at 11:26 PM #

    @Juanita The serving spoon is actually part of a set of salad tossers that I got on my trip in Malaysia! They make me happy 🙂

  10. Terra October 4, 2011 at 1:00 AM #

    I always say that too, is it a crisp or a crumble? Either way, they are AMAZING:-) Perfect Fall treat! Hugs, Terra

  11. Shirley December 5, 2011 at 4:30 AM #

    That looks delicious and welcoming, and I like that it’s made in a skillet. I’ve made many a cobbler but never a crisp, so I have to try this real soon.


  1. Fruit desserts | Kitchen Heals SoulKitchen Heals Soul - June 23, 2020

    […] though it could still have nuts. The fruit is on the bottom in crumbles, as it is in crisps. This apple crumble doesn’t have oats in the topping, so it’s definitely a crumble. So is this cherry […]

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