Apple Crisp

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Channel your inner pastry chef and bake up a warm apple crisp this season! Sauteeing the apples first ensures that each slice is tender and caramelized even before it hits the oven. The topping on this dessert is loaded with oats and spices.

Apple Crisp

The moment a piping hot apple crisp comes out of the oven, you’ll want to quickly grab a big spoon. This sweet treat may not be as fancy as apple pie, but it’s just as tasty and by far easier to prepare. The caramel glaze, cinnamon, nutmeg spice, and the rustic crumble topping are a winning combination. It’s hard to resist juicy spiced apples topped with crunchy oatmeal clusters.

The one thing that’s at risk when making apple crisp is undercooked fruit with a runny sauce. This happens when tart apples are tossed in raw with a flour-dusting then baked. The topping cooks faster, so the filling never softens and the juices don’t thicken up. The good news, this is easy to avoid by pre-cooking the apples.

Slices of Honeycrisp apples in a bowl with cinnamon spices and lemon zest on top

For a juicy apple crisp filling

To make a fork-tender filling with a syrupy glaze, pre-cook the apples. Make sure to cut them into uniform slices, about ¼-inch thickness to ensure even cooking and faster softening. To quick-start flavor development, the baking apple mixture is tossed with sugar, a pinch of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice to balance the sweetness.

A generous amount of apples are sauteed until crisp-tender and coated with the sticky cinnamon sauce. I notice that the apples drop to about half of their volume. Even though 3 pounds of apples seems like a lot, don’t forget the shrinking factor as moisture is released from their flesh.

Make sure not to overcook as the apples will still have more heat exposure when baked with the topping.

Honeycrisp apple slices sautéing in a pan

Crunchy topping texture

What makes for a good apple crisp topping with nice crunch is blending the right ratio of flour, brown sugar, butter, oats, and sweet spices. For the texture, I want to have large chunks that are crunchy and golden delicious on the outside, and slightly chewy in the center. If you can imagine tiny bites of oatmeal cookie crumbles, that’s what you’ll experience.

To achieve this, cut the butter into dime-sized pieces and place in the flour mixture. Once baked, the proteins in the flour deepen in color and harden while the sugar creates a caramel flavor. The result is a lightly sweet, but crunchy base.

Old-fashioned rolled oats are used because the flakes maintain their shape and stay chewy once cooked. If you’ve ever wondered the difference between a crisp or a crumble, they both have streusel-style toppings, however, crisps have oats and crumbles do not.

Person adding crumble topping to an apple crisp inside a casserole dish

What kind of apples do you use?

The best kind of apple to use for apple crisp is Honeycrisp. When fall rolls around until the end of spring, this juicy, tart, and sweet fruit is my top pick. They are great apples for cooking because they hold their shape, and don’t become mealy like red delicious apples.

If Honeycrisp is not available, then Fuji or Granny Smith apples are good substitutions. Fuji is closest to flavor profile with a slight more flower blossom taste, and Granny Smith is more tart for those who want their dessert to have just a hint of sweetness.

Extra topping ideas

This easy apple crisp recipe is by far my favorite fall dessert that you can bake and enjoy year-round. Eat it plain, sprinkle the topping with salt, or go a la mode with vanilla ice cream, the choice is yours. Maybe before you peel and slice, drizzle it with caramel sauce if you have a real sweet tooth.

Apple crisp from the oven with golden crunchy topping in a casserole dish

More dessert recipes

Gently pre-cook the apples for better texture

Don’t be tempted to crank up the heat to cook the apples in a shorter time. In this case, a little patience, constant stirring, and moderate heat prevent the apples from becoming too soft and mealy. Gentle heat helps to strengthen the internal structure of the fruit, so it keeps its shape once baked. We want intact apples, not applesauce filling.

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Apple Crisp

Easy apple crisp recipe using old-fashioned rolled oats and a simple saute technique that enhances the flavor and texture of the filling.
Pin Print Review
4.3 from 20 votes
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Dessert
Cuisine American

Ingredients

Apple Filling

  • 3 pounds honeycrisp apples
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • teaspoon nutmeg
  • teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Crisp Topping

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions 

Apple Filling

  • Set the oven rack to the center position. Preheat to 375ºF (191ºC).
  • Peel, core and cut apples to ¼-inch thick slices.
  • Combine sliced apples, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a large bowl.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium heat, once hot add 1 tablespoon butter and the apples.
  • Saute until the apples are crisp-tender, most of the moisture is released, and a syrupy sauce clings to the apples, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Lightly butter an 8 by 8-inch baking dish.
  • Evenly spread cooked apples into the baking dish.

Crisp Topping

  • Mix together flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg in a small bowl.
  • Cut butter into small ¼-inch pieces and add to the flour mixture. Use your fingers to cut the butter into the dry ingredients, pressing together to create large pebble shaped pieces of crumble topping, about the size of a dime.
  • Evenly sprinkle the topping over the apples.
  • Bake until the topping is golden brown and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes.
  • Wait 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe Video

Equipment

Notes

  • Granny Smith apples can be substituted for a more tart flavor. Fuji, Gala or MacIntosh apples can also be substituted for the Honeycrisp apples.
  • Apple crisp can also be baked in an 8 to 10-inch cast iron pan.
  • Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute gluten-free rolled outs and gluten-free flour. I recommend Bob's Red Mill brand for both products.
  • Make it Dairy-Free: Substitute coconut oil instead of butter.

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Nutrition Facts
Apple Crisp
Amount Per Serving
Calories 212 Calories from Fat 90
% Daily Value*
Fat 10g15%
Saturated Fat 6g30%
Cholesterol 26mg9%
Sodium 114mg5%
Potassium 44mg1%
Carbohydrates 29g10%
Sugar 19g21%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 305IU6%
Vitamin C 0.5mg1%
Calcium 17mg2%
Iron 0.7mg4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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19 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Judy Caywood says

    Good Morning Jessica,

    What a nice warming dessert for this cooler weather we are having. I have printed it for our son who is coming at Christmas too. Have added Honeycrisp apples and unsalted butter to my grocery app.

    Thank you for one wonderful recipe after another.
    Judy

  2. Carol Simon says

    You recipe sounds great, but how about giving the amount of apples in cups? Also, could the apples be cooked in a cast iron skillet and then the topping added and just baked in it, saving an extra pan to clean up?

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Carol- Great question! It’s about 12 cups sliced apples (at 1/4-inch thick slices). Yes, you can absolutely make the apple crisp in a cast iron skillet, that’s a great idea!

  3. Judy Caywood says

    Wow a knockout recipe. As always from you Jessica. I can’t wait to make this for my husband. I made it for the family while in WA state for my sister and brother-in-laws anniversary. This is another recipe I will make again and again. Now that I am back home I was telling my husband about it and he said will you make it for me and I said of course honey. I’m going to go get the ingredients soon. I just figured out how to give stars to your recipes so I’m going to go through and make all I have tried which is quite a few. I did use the honeycrisp and love that cooking the apples on lower heat until the sauce gets to that thicker stage. Amazing.

  4. Cathy Jerome says

    Jessica I made this last night omg so good ! Usually mine is too runny . Since I pre cooked as you suggested it was perfect.

  5. Amy Dutton says

    Good morning! Can any or all components be made ahead? I was all set to make an apple pie today but really would love to make this! Btw, I also am making your sweet potato casserole recipe 😀

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yes, it would be really easy to make each component ahead of time! Just cool the filling before chilling until ready to bake. Refrigerate the crisp topping, sprinkle and bake.

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