Apple Crisp Topping


This easy to make Apple Crisp Topping is made with a blend of cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter. It’s delicious on top of any crisp! What makes a good apple crisp? Is it the crust or is it the apples? Or is it both? This post will tell you everything you need to know about making a crisp topping. We’ll go over different ingredients, how much of each ingredient you should use, and different topping recipes that are tried and true.

Apple Crisp

Crunchy, crispy apple crisp recipe! This is the easiest of the apple desserts. Just bake sliced tart apples topped with a streusel oat topping, with plenty of brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Serve with ice cream!

Easy apple crisp topped with two scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, butter, and oats?

Welcome to the essential ingredients of an apple crisp, one of the most simple and easy of apple desserts!

This apple crisp recipe comes from my friend Sue Jackson of Littleton, Massachusetts. She introduced it to me years ago and it has since become a favorite.

Easy Apple Crisp Recipe

One of the reasons I love this recipe is how easy it is to make. It’s as no-fuss as you can get.

  • To make it, you just layer sliced peeled apples that have been tossed with lemon juice and vanilla in a baking pan.
  • Then top the apples with a mixture of brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and oats
  • Bake!

Crunchy Apple Crisp Topping

It’s the crunchy topping that makes the apple crisp “crisp.” The brown sugar, oatmeal, and butter topping mixture caramelizes while it bakes, giving you a blanked of crispy, caramel-y wonderfulness over the baked apple slices.

Leftover Apple Crisp for Breakfast

Just like a slice of apple pie makes the best breakfast, so does this apple crisp! Make extra for leftovers, and serve a spoonful on top of a bowl of yogurt.

Do you have a favorite way of preparing apple crisp? If so, please let us know about it in the comments.

Apple crisp recipe topped with vanilla ice cream.

Best Toppings for Apple Crisp

  • French Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Cinnamon Ice Cream
  • Caramel Sauce
  • Whipped Cream

Like the best apple pie ever, but easier as a crisp.

This deep-dish easy apple crisp recipe, with a brown sugar and oatmeal topping, has all the satisfaction of a homemade apple pie, in half the time and work. 

easy apple crisp with oatmeal streusel topping

Finished apple crisp with brown sugar oatmeal crumble topping.

All About This Easy Apple Crisp Recipe

When it comes to fall and winter baking, a warm homemade apple crisp hits all the right marks: sweet, cinnamon-kissed apples generously topped with a brown sugar and oat streusel, baked to golden-brown perfection.

Best of all? A crisp does not require a pie crust. Instead, apples are layered right into a pie pan, topped with an easy crumb topping, and baked.

This gives you all the satisfaction of apple pie, with a lot less work. Now read on for all the details, and the recipe.

honeycrisp apples for apple oatmeal crisp

Honeycrisp apples are a great option for this crisp, due to its crunchy, sweet characteristics.

Apple Crisp vs. Crumble vs. Cobbler

The terms apple crisp and apple crumble are often used interchangeably. And the general idea is the same: sliced apples tossed with sugar and cinnamon on the bottom, topped with a streusel made from some combination of butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and perhaps nuts or oats.

apple crisp apples with streusel crumb topping

After slicing the apples, toss with sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and a bit of lemon juice.

But for those who sometimes like to get technical (and I count myself among those people), here’s the difference between apple crumble and apple crisp:

  • An apple crisp has a streusel topping made with oats
  • But apple crumble has a streusel topping made without oats
  • And apple cobbler has a biscuit topping

oatmeal crumble streusel for pie

The homemade oatmeal crisp topping should have the texture of wet sand.

How to Make the Apple Crisp Oatmeal Topping

This is an apple crisp, and stays true to the oat streusel crumb topping. The recipe is simple:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of brown sugar with 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup oatmeal, cinnamon, and salt. Mix.
  2. Add cold, diced butter. Work it in with your hands until crumbly.
  3. Chill until ready to use.

Be sure to use rolled oats and not quick oats. Quick oats tend to become lost in the recipe. Rolled oats have more structure and will remain visible when baked. The oatmeal crisp texture should be like wet, crumbly sand.

unbaked apple crisp with oatmeal topping

Apple crisp ready to get baked in the oven.

Apple Crisp With Oatmeal Topping: Recipe Steps

After you make the oatmeal crisp topping, make the apple filling.

  1. Peel and slice the apples.
  2. Toss the apples with sugar, flour, a pinch of salt, cinnamon, and a squirt of lemon juice. Lemon juice brightens the flavor of the apples.
  3. Pour the apples into a deep-dish pie plate. Give them a light press to settle them into the pie plate.
  4. Top the apples with the crisp topping.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the apples are bubbly and the crisp topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  6. Cool for about 20 minutes, then serve on its own or with vanilla ice cream.
easy apple crisp with oatmeal streusel topping

Which Apples Are Best for Baking Apple Crisps and Pies?

All apples are not created equal, especially when it comes to baking them.

The best baking apples for pies, tarts, crisps, and crumbles are apples that keep their structure and don’t turn to applesauce when baked. The key is to find a very crisp apple with some note of tartness, not overly sweet.

My favorite baking apples are tart, crisp Granny Smith apples. But I also love: Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Braeburn.

easy apple crisp with oatmeal streusel topping

Finished crisp, with golden-brown topping and soft, caramelized apples.

Which Apples Are Worst for Apple Pie, Crisps, and Cobblers?

Not to hate on this widely-available apple, but if you have an option, avoid Red Delicious apples. I think this is true in general, but especially for baking.

The pale color and often mealy texture of Red Delicious, combined with a blandly sweet flavor, will not make an apple dessert with the flavor or texture you deserve.

Why this is the BEST apple crisp:

  • Cinnamon glaze – Unlike most apple crisp recipes, the apples are tossed in a simple cinnamon glaze sauce that really takes it to the next level!
  • Easier than pie – We all love apple pie, but apple crisp is much easier and quicker to prepare, and tastes just as good!
  • Crowd Pleaser – Top this with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it is irresistible! Double it and bake in a 9×13” pan, for a larger group.

How to make Apple Crisp:

Crumble topping: In a medium size bowl combine the crumb topping ingredients with a fork or pastry blender until well combined. Refrigerate.

Oats, flour, cinnamon brown sugar and cubed butter in a bowl to make cumb topping for apple crisp.

Peel and Slice Apples: I use a Johnny Apple Peeler to peel, core, and slice the apples all at once. It’s inexpensive and makes the process a lot faster!

Toss Apples in Sauce: Add melted butter and flour to a small bowl and stir to combine. Add lemon juice, milk and vanilla and stir well. Stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Toss the apples in the sauce, then pour mixture into a 8×8” baking dish.

Bake: Sprinkle the crumble topping over the top of the apples. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. Allow the baked apple crisp to rest and cool for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. This will give the sauce a chance to thicken a little more as it cools.

A baking dish with baked apple crisp in it, hot from the oven.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce, if desired. Complete HEAVEN!

Pro Tips:

  • Choose the right apples for baking:
    • Granny Smith apples are my favorite for baking because they bring a tart flavor and crisp texture that blends well with sweet desserts. Gala apples, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, or any tart apple will also work great for baking. But if you don’t have tart apples on hand (or maybe you just picked a lot from an orchard), ANY kind of apples work for apple crisp.
  • Peel, Core, and Slice at the same time!
    • I suggest peeling apples for apple crisp because the skin on the apples will not break down during baking and can make for a tougher texture.  I use my Johnny Apple Peeler for this part because it PEELS, CORES and SLICES the apple all at once! I once made this apple crisp for a party of 200 people and the Johnny apple peeler was a life saver.

Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead:  Make the apple filling as instructed but add an extra splash of lemon juice to keep the apples from turning brown. Store in an air-tight container, in the fridge, for up to one day. Make the crumb topping and store separately in the fridge.

To Freeze: Prepare and bake apple crisp as directed. Cool completely, then cover with a double layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then warm in a 350°F oven for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Recipe Variations:

  • Gluten Free Apple Crisp: Substitute Gluten-free flour and oats.
  • Apple Crisp Without Oats: Omit the oats and add an extra ⅓ cup flour and ⅓ cup brown sugar.
  • Crockpot Apple Crisp: Place prepared apple filling in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add crumble topping. Place a few paper towels on top of the oat topping, to keep condensation from the lid from making the topping soggy. Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 6-8 hours until apples are tender.
  • Instant Pot Apple Crisp
  • Dutch Apple pie: Pour the apple filling into an unbaked pie shell. Add the crumb topping on top. Bake for about 45 minutes, until apples are tender. Cool for 2 hours before slicing and serving.

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