Apple Crumble

4.96 from 45 votes
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Feast your eyes on this delicious apple crumble with warm spices and a crunchy buttery topping. Sauteing the apples before baking speeds up the cooking time and creates a fantastic caramelized flavor.

Spoon full of apple crumble.

A freshly baked apple crumble is the perfect dessert for sharing, and it’s easy to make. When there’s not enough time to construct a classic apple pie, this sweet treat is a quicker alternative that delivers similar warm fruit flavors and a crunchy crust. The glazed caramel slices and buttery, crumbly topping go great with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

One of the biggest challenges with crumbles is thoroughly cooking the apple filling while achieving a dry, crisp surface. Don’t worry. I have a simple solution! Pre-cooking the fruit on the stovetop concentrates the juices before baking. This process also cuts down on bake time and gives less moisture for the flour crumble to absorb. The result is tender fruit and an extra crunchy top.

Apples slices sauteing in a pan.

Apple selection

When the fall season hits, grab a batch of Honeycrisp apples. Their fruit is sweet and tart yet balanced in flavor. Their juicy flesh is also sturdy enough for cooking and doesn’t fall apart like mealy red apples. You can use other types of apples like Fuji, McIntosh, Braeburn, or Golden Delicious if you want a sweeter filling. I would only use Granny Smith apples with a mix of other sweeter varieties for a more tart flavor.

Recipe Resources

Pre-cook the apples

I prefer to pre-cook the apples on the stovetop instead of guessing if they thoroughly soften during baking. This sauteing process allows you to see the juices release and concentrate. Slice them into ½-inch thick pieces. They will reduce by about half in volume.

Toss them with warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice and zest, brown and granulated sugar for a balanced taste. I add a small amount of flour to create a thick syrup-like glaze, but you can omit this for a thinner consistency. When sauteing, don’t let the apples turn entirely mushy as they will finish cooking in the oven. 

Make a crumble topping

Compared to rolling out a pie crust, a crumble topping is fast and straightforward to prepare. Just combine all-purpose flour with the dried ingredients first. A combination of dark brown sugar and granulated sugar adds sweetness, with some molasses for a deeper caramel note. Salt and cinnamon prevent the flour mixture from tasting bland.

My secret ingredient for a super crunchy texture is to add baking powder. The leavening agent slightly puffs up the topping, creating a more hollow, snappy bite. I also add melted butter instead of cold butter to hydrate the flour and bind the topping ingredients together. This technique develops more aromatic flavor compounds that taste like butterscotch, similar to making browned butter. It tastes like cinnamon graham crackers, so delicious!

Person placing crumble topping over apple slices.

Baking tips

The topping will be clumpy. You’ll need to break it into various pieces about the size of a dime. Sprinkle it evenly on top to cover the pre-cooked apples. Bake at 375ºF (191ºC) to cook the topping and further tenderize the fruit. The flour and sugars will harden and turn golden brown. The caramel flavors developed in the crust complement the cinnamon apple filling. 

The dessert tastes better when cooled for at least 30 to 45 minutes if you can be patient. Resting gives the butter and sugars in the topping time to cool and harden. It also allows the sauce to thicken up into a syrupy glaze over the fruit. 

Serve this with

Freshly baked apple crumble in a white baking dish.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between apple crisp and apple crumble?

They both have similar fruit bases and streusel-style toppings made from flour, butter, and sugar. The difference is that an apple crisp typically contains oats, while a crumble is just flour. Variations can be made in each, often adding chopped nuts for extra crunch.

What is crumble topping made of?

Typically all-purpose flour, sweeteners like brown sugar and granulated sugar, and melted butter to make it very crunchy.

How do you know when a crumble is done?

The topping should be dry to the touch and golden brown. The apple filling will soften and bubble on the edges of the baking pan.

What’s the best apple for baking?

Apples that hold their structure when cooked. For a sweeter and tart balance, use Honeycrisp, Fuji, McIntosh, or Braeburn. Use Granny Smith apples for a more tart flavor.

Does apple crumble need to be refrigerated?

Yes, since the crumble contains fresh fruit, refrigerate after cooling completely. The humidity will cause the topping to pick up moisture, so it’s best to eat within two days. Reheating in the oven at 350-degrees will help dry the surface and make it crunchy again.

Bowl of apple crumble with a scoop of ice cream.

Recipe Science

Sauteing the apples prevents a soggy topping

If you’ve ever had an apple crumble that wasn’t crunchy, it’s because the fruit was not pre-cooked before baking. Adding the apples raw to the baking pan will steam and release too much moisture. This liquid soaks up into the topping’s flour and gets soggy on the bottom instead of being crunchy throughout.

Apple Crumble

A freshly baked apple crumble with warm spices and a crunchy topping is a perfect dessert for sharing especially with a scoop of ice cream.
4.96 from 45 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Course Dessert
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

Apple Filling

  • 3 pounds honeycrisp apples, about 6 large apples
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, optional
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • teaspoon nutmeg
  • teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

Crumble Topping

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions 

Apple Filling

  • Set the oven rack to the center position. Heat to 375ºF (191ºC).
  • Peel, core, and cut the apples into about 1/2-inch thick slices.
  • In a large bowl, stir to combine sliced apples, granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour (if using), cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice.
  • In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apple mixture and saute until crisp-tender, and most of the moisture releases, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Lightly butter the bottom and sides of an 8 by 8-inch baking dish. Evenly spread the cooked apples inside.

Crumble Topping

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the melted butter and vanilla. Stir with a spatula to combine and press together to make large clumps.
  • Evenly scatter the topping over the pre-cooked apples. Break them into dime-sized pieces along with some smaller ones.
  • Place the baking dish on a sheet pan. Bake until the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 30 to 45 minutes. This allows the topping to become crispier and for filling to set.
  • Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Notes

  • Apple Substitutes: Golden Delicious, Fuji, Braeburn, Gala, or McIntosh apples taste similar to Honeycrisp. Use Granny Smith apples for more tartness.
  • Stronger Spiced Filling: Increase the cinnamon to 1 teaspoon, nutmeg to ½ teaspoon, and salt to ¼ teaspoon.
  • Make-Ahead: The crumble topping can be refrigerated for up to 7 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
  • Make it in a Skillet: Bake inside an 8 to 10-inch cast iron pan.
  • Make it Gluten-Free: Substitute with 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 2 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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 323kcal (16%)Carbohydrates 58g (19%)Protein 2g (4%)Fat 10g (15%)Saturated Fat 6g (30%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 1gCholesterol 26mg (9%)Sodium 190mg (8%)Potassium 236mg (7%)Fiber 4g (16%)Sugar 40g (44%)Vitamin A 384IU (8%)Vitamin C 7mg (8%)Calcium 47mg (5%)Iron 1mg (6%)

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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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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6 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Gayle says

    This was really good! I’m in my RV and we got delicious apples (Dudley and Zestar) in Wisconsin. I didn’t have baking powder so I used a lil soda. I also added probably 2-3 T of instant oats to the topping. And one T more of butter to the topping. I didn’t have nutmeg but that would have yummy—as I always used fresh nutmeg at home. The vanilla was a very nice touch to the topping!!
    My Mom always precooked her apples for pies—so this was what I was looking for in a recipe!! My toaster oven is what I bake in—the propane oven is worthless in this RV!! The toaster oven is hard to regulate and it started burning after 7 min😩—-but I covered it and turned the temp down and it turned out so good!
    Saved it to Pinterest—-we’re on the road a couple more weeks—-no more pie buying for my husband—now that I’ve got this recipe!! There will be wonderful cherry pie filling over in Michigan that will be perfect for this recipe!! Thank you!!

  2. Patti says

    Hi Jessica,
    I’ve got an abundance of frozen cherrys, I accidentally bought another large bag forgetting I had one at home. So to clear up some valuable freezer space, can I make this Delicious sounding Apple Crumble with cherrys and if so how many cups do u think I might need? I’m sure you probably haven’t made it with cherrys, but if I did it with apples, instead of how many apples, how many cups of apples, kind of like I’m completely new to baking, I’m not, but I just can’t figure this one out.
    I’m so So sorry this got so long.
    Any help I would be Greatful for.
    Thank you so much! I Love your site and your recipes!!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I would use about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of cherries, or about 8 to 10 cups. Let me know how it goes!

  3. Carly Baughman says

    I made this and it was wonderful! The apple suggestions, especially that alternatives, was immensely helpful because every single one of my grocers in town were out of honey crisp. I made this exact, except I did follow the note to add more spices. This was spectacular!!! I made this ahead except for baking; it traveled very well after I refrigerated it and kept it chilled on the drive and then baked. Everyone loved it. Its now gonna make an appearance at Thanksgiving.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Yay! Thank you for sharing your apple crumble experience. I’m so glad it will be on the thanksgiving menu.