What Is Streusel Anyway?

Updated: Jun. 07, 2022

We all love that crumbly topping scattered over muffins and pies, but we have to ask: what is streusel exactly?

Growing up, meat loaf nights at home were always accompanied by blueberry muffins. It’s an inexplicable pairing, but one my siblings and I looked forward to—especially if the blueberry muffins were topped with streusel.

But what is streusel? And why did it always make my mom’s muffins taste all the better? Let’s dive in!

What Is Streusel?

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Streusel is essentially a crumb topping. It’s commonly sprinkled over the tops of muffins, coffee cakes, bars and pies. This crumbly topper is made with flour, butter and sugar. It gives baked goods a little extra texture and sweetness.

The term streusel comes from the German word streuen, which means to scatter or sprinkle. Streusel is a very common addition to German and Austrian desserts like kuchen and crumb cake.

And before you ask—streusel and strudel are totally different. Streusel is a topping while strudel is a type of German pastry.

How to Make Streusel

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Lucky for me, someone that always wants to add a crumb topping to any and all muffin recipes, making streusel is very easy. All you have to do is cut cold butter into the dry ingredients. You can do this with a pastry blender, fork or even your fingers. Then sprinkle the mix over the top of your baked goods before you pop them in the oven.

Streusel recipes and ratios vary by recipe, so just keep an eye on the measurements. You’ll also find that some streusel recipes call for extra flavors. Sometimes this is a pinch of salt, other times it’s added spices like ground cinnamon or nutmeg. Other times, streusel recipes may even call for chopped or ground nuts; that’s the case with this stunning Cherry Plum Slab Pie.

If you want to add more flavor to a basic streusel, start with spices. A half teaspoon of your favorite baking spices is a great place to begin. And you can easily swap out the sugar for brown sugar, just as you can swap in any gluten-free flour for the traditional all-purpose flour.

Recipes Topped with Streusel

If you need some crumbly and delicious inspiration, I’m a big fan of these streusel-topped recipes.

However, feel free to add a sprinkling of streusel on top of any muffin or coffee cake. Even a pie topped with this German-style crumble is hard to resist; this Maine Blueberry Pie is one of my favorites in the summertime.

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