The Difference Between Cobblers, Crumbles, Crisps, Buckles and More

Don't know your cobblers from your crisps? Your pandowdies from your grunts? We'll fill you in on all the subtle differences between these fruit desserts.

No matter the season, a cobbler—no wait, a crisp or maybe a buckle or perhaps a grunt—is always welcome on the table. While we all know that we love these fruity desserts, when it comes to cobber vs. crisp vs. crumble vs. buckle vs. all the rest of these treats, it can be hard to know the difference.

Before we get into the specifics, know this: All these desserts start with sweetened, baked fruit and have a layer of batter, crumbs or some carby-goodness piled on top. Now let’s get into all the nuances!

Cobbler

Taste Of Home's Iva's Peach Cobbler Recipe; DessertTaste of Home

Of all these fruit-forward desserts, cobblers have been around the longest in the American lexicon. The term cobbler was officially coined by the Dictionary of Americanisms in 1859 as “a sort of pie, baked in a pot lined with dough of great thickness, upon which the fruit is placed; according to the fruit, it is an apple or a peach cobbler.”

1859 definition aside, cobblers are baked desserts that start with a layer of sweetened fruit—be it peach, blackberry, blueberry or some combination thereof. Then a biscuit-like batter is spread or dolloped across the top. When baked, the top of the dessert can look a bit like a cobblestone street (there’s where the dessert gets its name).

Crumble

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A crumble starts with a layer of sweetened and occasionally spiced fruit (though this Pumpkin Crumble proves that you can expand your definition of fruit!). Then a layer of streusel-like topping is crumbled over the top. This topper is typically made with a combination of butter, flour, sugar and sometimes nuts.

Crisp

Cranberry Apple CrispTaste of Home

Crisps are very similar to crumbles. The difference here is all in the topping. Crisps tend to incorporate oats and nuts into the topping which gives the finished dessert a crunchier texture.

This Cranberry Apple Crisp has an exceptionally crispy finish thanks to quick-cooking oats and plenty of pecans.

The great joy of crisps (and really any of the desserts here) is that they are very versatile. Here’s how to make a crisp with any fruit.

Buckle

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The methodology for baking buckles can vary from recipe to recipe, but the end result is the same: a fruity bake with a cakey texture.

For some recipes, like this Classic Blueberry Buckle, fruit is folded right into the buckle batter. Other recipes, like this Lemon Raspberry Buckle, call for the fruit to be layered on top. Most buckles are then topped with a streusel-like topping for a little extra sweetness and crunch.

And where did this dessert get its peculiar name? When the batter rises around the fruit, it often buckles in the middle.

Pandowdy

Pear PandowdyTaste of Home

This dessert is similar to the rest because it starts with a base of sweetened fruit. However, a pandowdy (or pan dowdy) is topped with a crumb similar to pie pastry. In fact, you can use your pie crust scraps to make an easy pandowdy. Just crumble pieces and scraps and layer them on top of the cooked fruit.

If you don’t have an extra batch of pie pastry in the freezer, no worries. This recipe for Pear Pandowdy uses a similar method to making pie pastry with flour, a touch of sugar and cold butter. Once combined, no need to roll—just crumble and scatter on the top of your fruit.

Betty

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Sometimes called a Pan Betty or Brown Betty, these desserts are made with cooked fruit (just like all the rest on this list). Betties, however, use bread or crackers in lieu of a batter or crumble.

To elevate day-old bread from leftover to dessert, Betties include sugar, butter and spices. You can further sweeten these treats by adding ice cream or whipped cream. This Apple Betty is served with homemade whipped cream flavored with a dash of almond extract.

Slump

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A slump is very similar to the rest of these baked fruit desserts. Fruit is layered on the bottom of a pan, sometimes even a cast-iron skillet. It’s then topped with dollops of biscuit-like dough and baked.

Occasionally slumps are served upside-down-cake-style when turned out of the pan, but we recommend skipping the fuss when you make this Skillet Blueberry Slump. Just pull it out of the oven and top with vanilla ice cream; these treats are some of our favorite a la mode desserts.

Grunt

Cherry GruntTaste of Home

A grunt is very similar to a slump. The only difference between a grunt and a slump is that the biscuit dough is technically supposed to be rolled out into a single sheet and laid on top of a grunt. However, the terms grunt and slump are often used interchangeably. A lot of “grunts” use dollops, too, like this Cherry Grunt.

Sonker

Blueberry sonker dessertTiffany Dahle for Taste of Home

Even if you’re familiar with cobblers and crisps, buckles and brown Betties, a sonker might be a new one for you! This fruit-filled dessert is popular in parts of North Carolina, though we’d argue it should make the leap to kitchens across the US.

Sonkers start with a cooked fruit base like the rest of these desserts. Then a thin, pancake-esque batter is poured over the top. The hot fruit begins to cook the batter from the bottom, and when the dessert is popped in the oven, the heat there crisps up the top. Sonkers are typically served in square casserole dishes and taste best eaten warm.

Subtle Differences, Sweet Results

As you can tell, these fruit-filled desserts are all very similar to one another. If you call your version of a slump a cobbler or if you like to think of your crisp as more of a crumble, that’s just fine. No matter what you call it or how you bake it, these crisps, cobblers and crumbles are all rustic, delicious desserts.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.
Jacqueline Weiss
Jacqueline is a blogger and writer, passionate about sharing the latest in helpful tips and trends in food and cooking. In her spare time, you’ll find her trying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen.