How to Make the Best Apple Crisp

Learn how to make apple crisp—the easy homey alternative to classic apple pie.

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Easier than pie and quicker than cake, apple crisp is the perfect autumn dessert. If you’ve never made it before, you’ll be amazed at how simple the whole process is—and how scrumptious the results are. Homey and welcoming, apple crisp has earned its status as a classic. It makes the most of the nation’s all-time favorite fruit, it’s a favorite with food lovers of all ages, and it’s nearly impossible to screw up!

Even better, apple crisp is a perfect base for improvisation. Once you’ve learned the basics, it’s a natural next step to make it your own. Try different spices, different apples—even different fruits entirely! It’s a crowd-pleasing dessert that has an easy, timeless appeal.

What Kind of Apples?

There are a ton of different apple varieties out there, but when it comes to baking a crisp, you’ll want a firm apple that will hold its shape rather than dissolving down into a sauce. This particular recipe has a healthy amount of both brown sugar and granulated sugar, so a tart apple is needed to balance out all that sweet. Try Granny Smith, Cameo, Cortland or Jazz apples the first time out and see what you think!

Test Kitchen tip: For more on baking with apples, check out our handy guide to the common apple varities.

A few varieties of apple are available in the supermarket year-round, but if you prefer your seasonal farmer’s market haul, here are some tips on how to store them.

How to Make Apple Crisp

Taste of Home

When it comes to making apple crisp, there are two main types—a streusel topping and an oat topping. We recommend this classic oat-topped crisp by Gertrude Bartnick of Portage, Wisconsin, as a perfect starting point. Streusel crisps are delicious too, of course—but they’re a bit softer. Start off with an oat base and topping that lives up to the name “crisp!” Here’s what you need to start:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups chopped peeled apples
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Vanilla ice cream, optional

Test Kitchen Recommended Tools for Making Apple Crisp


Step 1: Make the Oat Mixture

Use butter or shortening to grease a 2-1/2-qt. baking dish or a nine-inch square baking pan, and set it aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon. Use a pastry cutter to cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly. The oats are a great help here; they’ll actually keep you from cutting the mixture too fine. Pour half the mixture into the prepared pan—distribute it evenly and press down gently but firmly to create a crust.

Step 2: Add the Apples

Next, grab your preferred variety of apples. Peel, core and slice them. Since this recipe doesn’t call for too many apples, a simple hand peeler will work just fine. If you’re serious about peeling apples for pies, sauces and more, check out other peeling options.

Once sliced, pour the apples in on top of the crust.

Step 3: Make the Syrup

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, water and vanilla. Turn the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it’s boiling, cook and stir for two minutes or until it’s thick and clear. Keep an eye on the heat, and turn it down if it’s boiling too vigorously—you don’t want your sugar to burn.

Step 4: Assemble and Bake

Pour the syrup over the apples, and sprinkle with the remaining crumb mixture. Don’t press down; the top crumb coat should be loose.

Bake at 350°F for 60 to 65 minutes or until the apples are tender. (Use a fork or a wooden skewer to test the apples.) Cool 15 minutes before serving. Apple crisp is delicious warm (but you don’t want to burn yourself).

What Do You Serve Apple Crisp With?

The classic topping for apple crisp is vanilla ice cream, no question. Warm crisp, melting ice cream… it’s a match made in heaven. However, you can go with other options. Heavy cream, either whipped or simply poured over, is simply delicious. So is a big dollop of mascarpone or crème fraiche!

Is Apple Crisp Good the Next Day?

Apple crisps are famously good right out of the oven, but they’re good the next day, too. Just don’t reheat them in the microwave! Microwave heating ups the moisture content, making all that delicious topping more gummy than crispy. Instead, reheat your crisp in the oven at 350°.

How Do You Make Apple Crisp Healthier?

There’s a reason a nine-inch baking pan of this crisp serves eight people: It’s a decadent, intensely sweet dessert that’s designed to be eaten in small amounts and balanced with a creamy pairing of ice cream or another dairy treat.

But if you want it less sweet, you can cut some of the sugar. Some sugar is necessary to create the syrup, but you could cut the granulated sugar by about half with no adverse effects. If you do use less sugar, consider using a sweeter type of apple, like a Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Fuji or Golden Delicious.

Now that you’ve mastered this classic recipe, you can experiment to make the recipe your own, or have fun exploring other ways to use apples!

Hazel Wheaton
Hazel is a writer and editor who has worked in the publishing industry for over 25 years in the fields of travel, jewelry arts and food. As the editor of the Taste of Home Christmas Annual (among other titles), she's in the holiday spirit all year round. An enthusiastic baker, she's known for her cookies, cakes and other baked goods. And she still wishes she could cook like her mother.