Delicious and easy apple crisp recipe with buttery oat topping. For maximum flavor, saute the apples first to ensure each piece is tender and caramelized before hitting the oven.
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When a piping hot apple crisp comes out of the oven, your kitchen will fill with amazing aromas. This sweet treat may not be as fancy as classic apple pie, but it’s just as tasty and easier to prepare. It’s one of my favorite fall desserts, especially when served warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The key to a great apple filling is ensuring the fruit is cooked thoroughly, preventing a runny sauce. I do this with my apple crumble as well. Undercooking commonly happens when raw apples are tossed with flour, then baked. The result cooks the topping faster, while the filling never softens, and the juices don’t thicken. The good news, this is easy to avoid by pre-cooking the apples.
What kind of apples do you use?
The best kind of baking apple to use is Honeycrisp. This juicy, tart, and sweet fruit is my top pick from fall until the end of spring. They are great for cooking because they hold shape and don’t become mealy like Red Delicious apples.
You can use other types of apples, such as Fuji or McIntosh. Fuji is closest to the flavor profile with a slightly more flower blossom taste. Granny Smith apples offer a more tart flavor profile, and I recommend using them with a combination of sweeter varieties for a balanced taste.
Pre-cook the apples
Peel and cut the apples to a uniform 1/2-inch thickness to ensure even cooking and faster softening. To quick-start flavor development, toss the apples with sugar, a pinch of salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and zest to balance the sweetness.
Saute the apple mixture in melted butter until crisp-tender and coat with the sticky cinnamon sauce. The apples will reduce to about half 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. Do not overcook since the apples will still have more heat exposure when baked with the topping.
The crunchy oat topping
After experimenting with the crisp topping, I found the proper ratio of flour, brown sugar, butter, oats, and sweet spices. I use old-fashioned rolled oats because the flakes maintain their shape and stay chewy once cooked.
Cut the cold butter into dime-sized pieces before adding it to the oat-flour mixture. You can try including larger chunks for a more interesting crumble top texture.
Add the topping then bake
Evenly coat the surface of the apples with the oat mixture, then add to the prepared baking dish. Once baked, the proteins in the flour deepen in color and harden while the sugar creates a beautiful caramel flavor. Once the topping is golden brown, the outside will be brittle with a slight chew in the center.
If you can imagine tiny bites of oatmeal cookie-like crumb topping, that’s what you’ll experience. The result is a lightly sweet but crunchy texture.
Serve this with
They both have streusel-style toppings made of butter, sugar, and flour as the base. However, crisps have oats, and crumbles do not.
Pre-cooking the apples first evaporates some internal moisture that would otherwise cause steam inside the oven and beneath the crisp topping. The result is a crunchy texture with a sauce that clings to the fruit.
You can saute and chill the apples 3 days before assembling and baking. You can make the topping 5 days ahead and refrigerate or freeze it for up to 30 days.
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, patience, constant stirring, and moderate heat prevent the apples from becoming too soft and mealy. Gentle heat helps retain the structure, so it keeps its shape once baked. We want intact apples, not applesauce filling.
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- 3 pounds honeycrisp apples
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
- Heat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the center position. Heat to 375ºF (191ºC).
- Prepare the Apples – Peel, core, and cut the apples into ½-inch thick slices.
- Make the Filling – In a large bowl, stir to combine sliced apples, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
- Cook the Apple Filling – Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the butter and the apple mixture. Saute until crisp-tender, and most of the moisture is released, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Prepare the Baking Dish – Lightly butter the bottom and sides of an 8 by 8-inch baking dish. Evenly spread the cooked apples inside the dish.
- Mix the Dry Ingredients – In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.
- Make the Topping – Cut cold butter into ¼-inch cubes and add to the flour mixture. Use fingers to break the butter into the dry ingredients, pressing together to create large pebble-shaped pieces of crumbly topping, about the size of a dime. Evenly sprinkle the topping over the apples.
- Bake the Crisp – Bake until the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
- To Serve – Serve warm with desired toppings.
- Apple Substitutes: Gala or McIntosh apples have a taste similar to Honeycrisp. Use Granny Smith apples for a more tart flavor.
- Make it in a Skillet: Bake inside an 8 to 10-inch cast iron pan.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute gluten-free rolled oats and gluten-free flour.
- Make it Dairy-Free: Substitute coconut oil instead of butter.
- Storing: Cool completely then cover with foil or transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Heat individual portions in the microwave in 15 to 30-second intervals until warm. You can bake the whole dish at 350ºF (177ºC) until the top is crisp and the filling is warm.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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