This old-fashioned apple crisp smells 100 percent amazing while it’s in the oven, but that’s nothing compared to how it tastes! It’s the easiest, perfect apple crisp recipe for fall, redolent with cinnamon and cloves and hints of citrus, jammed with sweet-tart apples, and blanketed in a thick layer of crisp topping. And once you have the apples, you likely will have the rest of the ingredients already in your pantry for this simple dessert.
There is lots of topping…A deep, dense, non-apologetic layer of sweet oat-laced topping. We all know that’s the best part of the crisp, so let’s get in there. There almost can’t be too much of this crunchy, sweet, crumbly oat-centric loveliness. This recipe was inspired by Ina Garten’s apple crisp, and Ina is never wrong.
Let’s hold hands and admit something: the best part of a crisp is the topping. Sure, the spiced, sweet, tender filling is delicious, but aren’t you quietly ecstatic when your serving has a thick slab of crumbly crust on top?
(Long ago, we had a dinner guest who — while we were hustling around getting little kids to bed and stacking dishes — managed to eat his way through most of the topping of an apple crisp meant for 8, leaving behind the naked, beige soft fruit underneath. I just have no words for this.)
Table of Contents
The perfect apple crisp for fall, tender sweet-tart apples fragrant with cinnamon and cloves and hints of citrus blanketed in a thick layer of crisp streusel topping.Tweet This
This easy apple crisp recipe is the sum of two simple parts: the streusel topping and the apple filling.
- All-purpose flour – Provides structure and crumbliness for the topping.
- Brown sugar – You can use light brown or dark brown sugar, whatever is in your pantry. Either will add a hint of molasses flavor, which gives the dessert a terrific fall feel.
- Granulated sugar – I like the combo of white and brown sugars in streusel toppings, which results in an extra crunch and two levels of sweetness.
- Cinnamon – Make sure your ground cinnamon is fresh for the best results. Spices should be stored in a cool, dry place and used within 1 year.
- Kosher salt – You want to add a bit of salt to all of your baked goods to amplify flavor, just as it does in savory dishes.
- Butter – Use unsalted butter and make sure it is chilled so it cuts into the rest of the topping, making a pebbly texture that will result in a crispy, crumbly streusel.
- Oats – Use old-fashioned oats for the best texture. Steel-cut oats can be used instead of rolled oats, but they take longer to cook, so the apples may get quite soft by the time the topping is cooked.
- Apples – See below for the best apple choices!
- Lemon and Orange – The juice and the zest of one lemon and one orange give this crisp a hint of citrus flavor, which complements the warm spices and sweet-tart apples.
- Sugar – A bit more to bring out the natural sweetness of the apples.
- Spices – I use a combination of cinnamon and cloves, though you can use nutmeg instead of the cloves if you prefer.
Best Apples for Apple Crisp
Some people have very firm opinions (slight pun, slightly intended — stay with me) about which apples to use in pies, crisps, and other baked goods. I definitely like to use a mixture when possible to give every bite a slightly different twist. My favorite way to go is to mix some tart apples with a smaller amount of a sweeter variety. I like a bit of citrus for brightness and a bit of cinnamon (not too much; we want to taste those apples).
Use any apples that are firm (there’s the pun) so they will stand up to baking and have a nice texture. Jonagolds (sometimes called Jonathans), Braeburns, Honeycrisps, Mitsu, Cortlands, Winesap, Pink Lady, Empire, Granny Smith, and all manner of green apples are great choices.
When you go apple picking, you will probably pick several varieties of apples, and then when you get home, be unable to remember which is which type. That’s ok. Any apple that tastes good is good for eating, and any apple that is very firm is good for cooking. At least, that’s my basic rule of thumb.
Gluten-Free Apple Crisp
This is a great dessert to make gluten-free. You can substitute the all-purpose flour for a 1 to 1 gluten-free flour.
How to Make Easy Apple Crisp
- Make the topping: Mix together the flour, brown sugar, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until it looks like pebbles in sand. Stir in the oats.
- Make the apple filling: Toss your peeled and sliced apples with the zest and juice of the lemon and orange, as well as sugar and cinnamon.
- Assemble the crisp: Spread the apple filling into your prepared pan. Sprinkle over the topping.
- Bake: Bake for 1 hour or until the topping is golden brown and the apples tender. Feel free to eat it warm out of the oven with ice cream or whipped cream!
The difference between apple crisp and apple cobbler is the texture of the topping. Apple crisp topping is super crumbly and gets crispy and crunchy when baked, while apple cobbler topping has a more dough-like texture and is more fluffy and chewy when baked.
People often use the terms “apple crisp” and “apple crumble” interchangeably, as the difference is pretty small. Apple crisps tend to contain oats in their topping, while apple crumbles usually have a more cookie-like topping.
First, peel the apples and core them. Then, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces. I like to use these thicker slices so that the apples don’t get mushy in the oven. However, if you leave the slices too big, they won’t get tender. It’s all about striking a balance between the size of your apple slices and your baking time.
Yes, it would work to make this easy apple crispy with steel-cut oats. I tend to think that old-fashioned oats are the best here, as they cook more quickly and thus have a softer texture at the end. But if you have steel-cut oats and want to use them, just add another 10 to 15 minutes to your cooking time to allow them to cook completely.
Pro Cooking Tips
Getting the apples ready for the crisp is half the battle, so if you have anyone you can enlist to tackle that, you can ready the other ingredients and the topping in the meantime. If these two tasks can be accomplished simultaneously, then the whole crisp will take less than 15 minutes to get into the oven. And while you eat dinner, curling, fragrant wisps of crisp perfume will remind you that dessert is coming!
If you want to make the topping ahead of time, store it in the fridge so it stays cold. Sprinkle over the topping just before baking so it has that great crumbly texture.
Make-Ahead, Storage, and Reheating
You can make the crisp topping up to 3 days ahead of time and store it in the fridge. And, if you want to prepare the apples and assemble the whole crisp in the morning, you can bake it right before dinner. Keep it in the fridge until ready to bake.
Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. If you want to rewarm the crisp, just heat it for about 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven. I don’t recommend microwaving leftovers, as that will make the topping soggy.
What to Serve With Apple Crisp
More Apple Desserts
- Apple Coffee Cake
- The Best Streusel Apple Pie Ever
- Brown Butter Apple Streusel Muffins
- Dutch Baby Pancakes with Sauteed Apples
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Favorite Streusel Apple Crisp
For the Streusel Crisp Topping
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (chilled, cut into small pieces)
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
For the Apples
- 5 pounds apples (choose from Granny Smith, Macoun, or other apples that have good firmness and flavor, preferably a combination)
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- Vanilla ice cream or Sweetened Whipped Cream (to serve, see Note)
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Butter a shallow 9-by-13 or 3-quart shallow baking pan.
- Make the Topping: Place the flour, brown sugar, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt in a food processor and process to blend. Add the butter and pulse the mixture until it forms a nubby, pebbly texture, but not a paste. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the oats with a spoon so they don’t get minced up by the food processor. Hold the topping in the fridge while you prepare the apples if it’s warm in the kitchen.
- Peel and slice the apples about ½-inch thick. Toss them in a large bowl with the zest and juice of the lemon and orange, then sprinkle over the ½ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon, tossing so that the apples are evenly coated with the mixture. Transfer the apples to the prepared pan and evenly distribute the topping over the apples.
- Bake for about 1 hour until the apples are tender (slide a knife into the middle of the pan) and the top is browned. You can give it a minute or two under the broiler if you want to get the top a bit more browned, but watch it carefully. Cool on a wire rack until warm, and serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
- You can make the crisp topping up to 3 days ahead of time and store it in the fridge. And, if you want to prepare the apples and assemble the whole crisp in the morning, you can bake it right before dinner. Keep it in the fridge until ready to bake.
- Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. If you want to rewarm the crisp, just heat it for about 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven. I don’t recommend microwaving leftovers, as that will make the topping soggy.
- The whipped cream can also be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to a day.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.