Apple Crisp Shortbread Bars


Apple Crisp Shortbread Bars have all the flavor of an apple crisp without all the fuss! This is an easy recipe with only 5 ingredients, and no need to prebake the crust. Slow Cooker Apple Crisp Shortbread Bars are sweet, decadent little bars that your house will smell amazing while they’re cooking. Really and truly, this is my favorite recipe for using up leftover apples 🙂


The best apple crisp shortbread bars! Made with a shortbread crust and a buttery almond crumble topping. All the flavors of apple pie, but easier to make!

Fall is solidly upon us and with Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, my brain is busy planning desserts for the holiday. While pie is traditional for Thanksgiving I am always looking for ways to simplify the big meal.


  • A quick and easy buttery shortbread crust makes the base layer.
  • An apple filling with fresh apples makes the middle layer and gets cooked on the stovetop prior to baking. This helps to intensify the apple flavor in these cookie bars.
  • A crumb topping without oats finishes out the top layer and who doesn’t love a good crumble topping?
  • They can be handheld, no need for a plate or fork. Unless you want to add a scoop of cinnamon ice cream, which would be an excellent idea!


  • Unsalted butter ~ if you only have salted, omit the kosher salt.
  • Brown sugar ~ I always use dark brown sugar, but light brown works fine too.
  • Granulated sugar ~ for sweetness and structure.
  • Kosher salt ~ helps balance the flavors.
  • Vanilla extract ~ adds flavor.
  • All-purpose flour ~ gives structure to the shortbread.
  • Ground cinnamon ~ adds the perfect amount of spice to the topping.
  • Almond flour ~ adds texture and flavor to the crumb topping.


Start by creaming the butter, sugars and salt together until light and fluffy. Then add the vanilla, followed by the flour. Use your clean hands to press ⅔ of the crust into a parchment lined 8×8 baking pan and set the last third of the crust aside for the topping.

Then place the pan in the freezer while the oven preheats. Once the oven reaches 350°F, bake the shortbread crust for about 18 minutes, until just barely golden at the edges. While the crust bakes, prepare the apple filling.


Start by peeling, coring and chopping the apples into bite size pieces about ¼ of an inch thick. Then toss the apples with lemon juice, granulated and brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Next melt the butter in a large saucepan and then add the chopped apples. Once the apples are simmering, reduce heat to medium or medium-low and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the filling mixture is thick. Add the vanilla and reduced apple cider (if using ~ maybe you have a little leftover from making apple cider sugar cookies?) about 10 minutes into simmering.


Take the remaining shortbread crust and add almond flour and cinnamon. Use your clean hands to pinch the mixture together until it’s crumbly.


Once the crust has baked and the apple filling has been cooked, it’s time to layer it all together.

Place the apple filling over the baked crust, the middle will likely sink as you add the apples and it may seem like there are more apples than you need. Then sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the apples and bake.

Once the topping browned, remove the apple crisp bars from the oven and allow to cool before slicing and serving.


A combination of sweet and tart apples is best for this easy apple dessert. I like Granny Smith for the tart and Pink Lady for the sweet. Other good options include Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, Gala, and Cortland. Feel free to find what combination you like best.


Store the apple squares in an airtight container {or tightly wrapped} in the refrigerator for up to five days. They can also be frozen, see the recipe notes for how to freeze.

If you would like to rewarm the bars, place them in a 300°F oven for about 10 minutes.

The Best Apple Crisp Bars

The Best Apple Crisp Bars

feature a brown sugar shortbread crust, plenty of apples, and a buttery crumb topping! Bake until the top is golden and serve with vanilla ice cream! Sure to become one of your favorite apple desserts!

Apple Pie Bars

I don’t know where you live… but here in the Hudson Valley, it’s slowly but surely beginning to feel like Fall!

The mornings are cold and crisp. Almost all of the trees have begun their transformation from green to orange, red, and yellow. And our farmers market hauls have transitioned from tomatoes and peppers to apples and pumpkins. No cranberries yet! But I have a feeling they’ll be making their debut within the next few weeks.

But for now, it’s ALL about apples! We love almost any dessert involving baked apples, but these apple crisp bars are a household favorite. My fiance and I both have a lot of self-control when it comes to dessert (we kind of have to given my profession lol). But we couldn’t stop eating these!!! Charlie said they were so good he literally “couldn’t concentrate on what I was saying” while he was eating one. They’re THAT good! So I’d recommend not trying to have any serious conversations while enjoying these apple crumb bars lol. You’ve been warned 😉

Apple Crumb Bar Recipe

  • butter: preferably unsalted, but salted will work in a pinch! just omit the salt called for.
  • brown sugar: light or brown sugar work fine!
  • granulated sugar: any brand will work!
  • all-purpose flour: be sure not to pack your flour! instead lightly spoon it into the measuring cup then level it with the flat edge of a knife.
  • salt: balances out the flavors and cuts the sweetness.
  • apples: cored, peeled, and thinly sliced. you’ll want 8 cups of apple slices, which is about 8 large apples. I love using granny smith, but any variety will work.
  • lemon juice: from a fresh lemon! a small amount will keep the apples from browning.
  • cinnamon: adds a cozy spice! essential for apple crisp!
  • oats: for our crisp topping! use old-fashioned oats, not instant!
  • salted caramel sauce: optional! but if you love the caramel apple flavor combo, I highly suggest it!
  • vanilla ice cream, for serving! whipped cream would be equally delicious.

How to make Apple Crisp Bars

Shortbread Crust

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (F). Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing a few inch overlap on two of the ends. This will help you get the bars out of the pan easily! Spray the pan and parchment paper with non-stick baking spray. Then set it aside while you make the shortbread!
  2. Beat the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Fold in the flour and mix until combined. The dough will be crumbly! This is normal!
  3. Press the dough evenly into bottom of your prepared pan. Bake for 16 minutes, or until the dough is slightly golden and puffed. Don’t worry if it looks soft! It will continue baking later!
  4. Remove from oven, place on a cooling rack, and set aside. Keep oven at the same temperature.

Apple Filling

  1. Peel, core, and slice your apples! Don’t slice them too thick or too thin. About 1/4″ is perfect.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the apples and the lemon juice. Toss really well to ensure all of the apples are coated. Then toss in the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Mix until the apples are thoroughly coated.
  3. Arrange the sliced apples in a semi-even layer on top of the partially baked crust. Set aside while you quickly make your crumb topping!

Oatmeal Crisp Topping

  1. Cut butter into cubes and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, both sugars, cinnamon, and flour. Add in the cubed butter and, using two forks or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until oat mixture resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle topping evenly over the apples.
  3. Bake, uncovered, for 45 to 50 minutes, or until topping is golden brown and the apple mixture is bubbling. Let cool in the pan for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.


These apple crisp bars are the perfect mix between apple crisp and apple pie! They feature a buttery shortbread crust, gooey cinnamon apple filling, and crumbly oat topping. These bars insanely delicious and perfect for all of your entertaining and holiday needs!


  • These apple crisp bars are filled with warm spices and flavors.
  • They have three delicious layers.
  • The shortbread crust is buttery and tasty.
  • A gooey cinnamon apple filling makes these bars irresistible!
  • An oat crumble topping is the perfect top layer.
  • This recipe is nut free and gluten free.


Cold butter is used in both the shortbread crust and crumble topping. In both cases, use cold butter directly from the fridge. For the crust, beat butter with sugars until no clumps of butter remain. For the topping, slice cold butter into small cubes. Then use hands to incorporate butter into topping mixture. I do not recommend a substitute.

Light brown sugar is used in the shortbread crust and the topping. Tightly pack brown sugar. If needed, coconut sugar can be used.

Granulated sugar adds sweetness to the crust layer and the gooey apple filling. If desired, replace with more brown sugar or coconut sugar.

A hint of vanilla extract adds a great flavor to the shortbread crust.

Both gluten free 1 to 1 flour and all purpose flour can be used. I used King Arthur Flour gluten free 1 to 1 flour.

When choosing apples, use both red and green apples. I used a mix of McIntosh apples and Granny smith. McIntosh apples get soft and tender while baking. They are also naturally sweet. Granny smith apples retain their shape more and add a hint of tartness. Peel, core and thinly slice apples before use.

One of the biggest flavors in these apple crisp bars is cinnamon! It is used in all three layers. Feel free to add a dash of nutmeg to any of the layers.

Lemon juice prevents the apples from turning brown in the oven.

Tapioca flour thickens the apple mixture. Cornstarch or arrowroot powder can be used.

When sautéing the apple mixture, add enough water to prevent apples from burning. I only needed ¼ cup water.

Old fashioned oats add a nice crumble to the topping. Use regular or gluten free. They are a much better option than quick oats due to their larger size and softer texture.


Not all apples are created equal. Here are some tips and tricks for choosing which apples to use for these apple crisp bars.

Use a mix of soft and firm apples. Soft apples become tender while baking and yield gooey results. This is great for these bars! Firm apples maintain their shape better which adds more texture. Using a combination of soft and firm apples is best for apple crisp.

McIntosh apples are naturally sweet and soft. They bake beautifully and add a great sweetness to these bars. Granny smith are firmer and more naturally tart. They balance out the McIntosh apples well. Honey crisp apples are another great option for firm apples.

Peel and core apples before slicing into ¼ inch thin slices. Slice apples into evenly sized pieces to ensure even baking. I highly recommend slicing into long thin slices as opposed to small cubes. Thin slices lead to a more even layer of apples.


These apple crisp bars taste like a mix between apple pie and apple crisp. The shortbread crust is buttery, the cinnamon apple layer is warmly spiced and the topping is sweet.

All three layers have distinct textures. The crust is similar to a pie crust but less dry. The apple filling is gooey and the topping is crumbly.



First, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8 inch by 8 inch pan with parchment paper.


Make the crumble topping.


Add all crumble topping ingredients to a mixing bowl. Use your hands, a fork or pastry cutter to incorporate butter into mixture. Mix until a crumbly mixture forms. Then, place bowl in fridge.


Next, make the shortbread crust. Add cold butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar to a stand mixer bowl. Beat until no clumps of butter remain.


Add in vanilla extract, flour and cinnamon to bowl. Stir until combined. Press dough into an even layer in lined pan.


Bake shortbread crust for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.


While crust bakes, make the apple filling. Peel and core apples. Slice into ¼ inch thin slices.


Add all apple filling ingredients to a skillet over low heat. Stir gently to combine and stir occasionally for 5 minutes or until apples have softened. Add more water to the skillet to prevent burning if needed.


Once shortbread crust has finished baking, pour apple filling on top. Spread into an even layer. Then, top apples with crumble topping.


Bake for 35 to 36 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.


To make the crumble topping, use a pastry cutter, fork or your hands to incorporate butter into dough. The mixture will be crumbly and not uniform.

For the shortbread crust, use cold butter right from the fridge. Then, cream butter with sugars until no clumps of butter remain.

Use a mixture of soft and firm apples for the filling.

Slice apples into evenly sized thin slices. Do not slice into cubes.

Allow apple crisp bars to cool before slicing and serving! The apple layer is gooey. To speed this process up, place pan in fridge to cool more quickly.


Serve apple crisp bars once cool enough to be sliced into. They are gooey!

Serve with caramel or vanilla ice cream on top.

Store bars covered at room temperature for up to 4 days. Alternatively, store bars in fridge for up to 7 days.

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