Our Best Apple Crisp

December 15, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland
Author Notes

Fact: Apple crisp is the best apple-y dessert. It’s low-effort, with a bigcrumbly, sweet, juicy reward—like pie, minus all the drama. There are no rolling pins involved, no dough scrapers, no moments where you have to stop and watch an episode of Love Island because your gluten hasn’t had time to relax yet.

Another fact: The streusel topping is far and away the best part of apple crisp, no disrespect to the apples. A good recipe will yield streusel so delicious—buttery and sweet like shortbread, with a generous dose of salt—that it’d be well-worth eating on its own. Our best-ever apple crisp recipe knows this innately, and shows up ready to introduce you to a streusel layer you won’t be able to stop thinking about. You could use the same topping on almost any fruit: peaches, plums, a berry medley, cherries, pears. In addition to the usual suspects (flour and butter, we see you), it’s got brown sugar for caramely intensity, oats for nubby texture, and ground almonds for a deep nuttiness that will have you wondering if some bites are actually a fully formed cookie.

Last fact—I promise—is this: Most apple crisps don’t have nearly enough crisp. This recipe will make sure that never happens to you again. Crisp for all! Crisp for life! (But if you do prefer a thinner layer, no judgement—you can simply add a couple extra apples to the filling, plus another tablespoon or so of lemon juice and brown sugar, and spread everything out in a 9x13-inch baking dish instead of the 8x8, and the same amount of streusel topping will form a shallower layer.)

Before we turn on the oven, let’s talk apples for a sec. We like to use a firm, juicy kind that’s already delicious raw but also holds up well when cooked. Think varieties like Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, and Braeburn—and do feel free to include a mix. When it comes to peeling, that’s an intensely personal choice you must make in your own home and heart. (But psst: Leaving peels on the apples lends the fruit layer a beautifully rosy hue.)

This crisp is quite balanced, if we do say so ourselves, meaning you could happily serve it plain. You could also top it with fluffy whipped cream (bonus points if you stir in some sour cream or Greek yogurt) or vanilla ice cream. —Ella Quittner

Test Kitchen Notes

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—The Editors

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 6 or more
  • Crisp Topping
  • 2/3 cup (97 grams) whole raw almonds (with skins is fine)
  • 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (177 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/14 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons, 226 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cubed
  • 1 1/3 cups (131 grams) rolled oats
  • Apple Mixture
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 4 to 5 large apples (about 2 1/2 pounds)—a juicy, firm variety, like Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Braeburn, or a mix—peeled if you like, then cored, and cut into ~1/2-inch slices
In This Recipe
  1. Heat oven to 400°F.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, blend almonds until the biggest pieces are the size of coarse grains of salt, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the flour, sugar, and salt, and pulse until integrated. Add the butter, and pulse several times until it’s incorporated—the mixture should look like wet sand and hold together when pinched, with some unblended butter streaks visible throughout. Add the oats and pulse just to mix in, without chopping them much. Set in refrigerator to chill while you prepare the apples.
  3. Whisk the lemon juice with the cornstarch, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add the apple slices and toss gently until the slices are evenly coated. Transfer to a 8x8-inch baking dish (no need to grease it), set on a sheet pan for insurance against any drips reaching your oven floor. You want about 1 inch of space between the apple slices and top of pan, so if you have too many apple slices, reserve the extras and broil as a snack later.
  4. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the apples, breaking into olive-sized clumps where needed, and transfer to oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until topping is crisp all over and browning in spots, and the apple mixture is bubbling up at the sides. The apple pieces should be tender and easily pieced with a fork. (Note: If spots begin browning too deeply before the apples become tender, you can turn the temperature down to 375°F.) Let cool about 15 minutes before serving. (You could also serve at room temperature if you prefer.)

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Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.