What makes this gluten free apple crisp recipe the best is a combination of warm spices, brown sugar, big chunks of tender apples and extra crisp topping.
How to prepare the apples for this gf apple crisp
This apple recipe calls for chopping your peeled and cored apples into chunks. That way, the apples in the filling remain chunky and don’t turn into applesauce.
To ensure that no one bites into a crispy piece of apples, and instead all the apple chunks are perfect fork-tender, we begin by baking the filling alone in the baking dish. The baking dish during this step is covered with foil to capture the steam they give off, which helps to cook the apples quickly but still gently (stirring once after 15 minutes, to make use of the liquid that forms on the bottom of the baking dish).
When the crumble topping is added, the apples are about halfway to being fork-tender. When you return the apple crisp to the oven without the foil cover, the crisp topping bakes and browns beautifully in just the time it takes for the apples to finish baking and make a delicious, caramel-style sauce.
If you’d prefer to slice the apples into 1/4-inch thick slices, you can follow the instructions for preparing the filling in our recipe for gluten free apple crumble. A crumble is similar to a crisp but with a chunky, nubby, coffee-cake type topping that gives when you bite into it.
Gluten free fruit desserts
Not all gluten free fruit dessert recipes follow the same rules. If you’d prefer to make a fruit dessert with berries, for example, you’d need a different recipe, like our master gluten free crumble recipe, which can be made with any berry or combination of berries.
Not only do berries bake differently than apples and stone fruits, but their flavor profiles are different. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and even blackberries begin to break down as soon as you apply heat on the stovetop or in the oven.
Stone fruits, like peaches and nectarines, and to a lesser extent apricots and plums, are more fibrous than berries. Apples are much more fibrous than other fruits, so they must be baked longer and often differently (like this apple crisp recipe, where we parbake them first for 30 minutes without the crisp topping).
Although all the warm spices, like cardamom, nutmeg, and cinnamon, are perfect for apples and even stone fruits, berries are best with a touch of sugar and salt alone.
What’s in the gluten free apple crisp topping?
A crisp is a crustless fruit-based dessert with a warm, brown sugar topping that “crisps” really well in the oven. Unlike in a crumble, we don’t want the topping to hold its shape during baking.
If you see any large clumps of topping when it’s raw, break them up! That’s why we don’t refrigerate the topping unless the butter was too hot and the topping is really really loose.
In this topping recipe, you’ll find the simplest ingredients. They are:
- Gluten free flour, for structure
- Granulated sugar (for crispness and sweetness)
- Light brown sugar (for sweetness, caramelization, and aroma)
- Butter, for fat, crispness, and flavor
- Certified gluten free oats, for texture (but they can be replaced if you can’t have oats)
- Warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, for aroma and warmth
- A touch of salt, to brighten the flavors
Other easy gluten free apple desserts
I used to consider baking with apples to be something best reserved for the chill of fall weather, when apples are in season—especially here in my home state of New York. After all, I only buy summer fruits like fresh berries and watermelon when they’re in season.
But apples are like bananas these days: always available in every grocery store, and always just as good as they’ll ever be. In apple season, there are more varieties available, but you’ll almost always find Granny Smith apples and they’re ideal for using in this recipe, and these other easy gf apple desserts:
- Gluten Free Dutch Apple Pie
- Gluten Free Apple Cider Donuts
- Gluten Free Apple Fritters
- Gluten Free Apple Crumble
- Miniature Handheld Gluten Free Apple Pies
- Gluten Free Apple Slab Pie
How to make gluten free apple crisp without oats
When properly sourced, certified gluten free oats are gluten free. However, you may still need or want to avoid them. In this recipe, it’s quite simple:
To replace the ½ cup (50 g) of certified gluten free old-fashioned rolled oats in the gf apple crisp topping recipe here, please use one of the following:
- an equal amount, by weight, of quinoa flakes (buckwheat flakes would also work, but they’re not easily available in the U.S.); or
- ¼ cup (36 g) additional all purpose gluten free flour blend. Just use more of the gf flour blend you’re already using.
For more guidance on how to replace oats in gluten free baking, our post on oat substitutions in baking takes a deep dive into the subject.
Ingredients and substitutions for this easy gluten free apple crisp
How to make gluten free dairy free apple crisp
The only dairy used in this recipe is the butter in the topping. Since we’re melting the butter, and we want it to brown, I think nearly any butter substitute would work well here.
If you use Earth Balance buttery sticks or another margarine-type dairy free butter alternative, you may have to reduce the second baking time, so just watch it carefully for browning. If you’re using vegan butter, like Melt brand or Miyoko’s Kitchen brand, there shouldn’t be any difference in baking.
How to make gluten free oat free apple crisp
In brief, if you can’t have or would prefer to avoid even certified gluten free oats, try replacing them with 50 grams of quinoa flakes, or an additional ¼ cup (36 g) of your all purpose gluten free flour blend. For a more complete discussion of making gluten free apple crisp without oats, please see that heading above.
A personal apple-adjacent note
When I first published this post in 2011, my three children were 9, 7, and 6 years old. Each year, they would run down through the orchard, just like they did in this photo from 2011.
They’re all teenagers now (the oldest is nearly out of her teens). Sometimes, when the stars align, one or two of them will still agree to go apple picking with us, as a family.
Even if they’re just in it for the crisps, pies, and muffins that I always bake for weeks afterward, I’ll take it. I’m certain, when we were in the thick of those young ages, I didn’t take it in enough. You never do, really.
Gluten Free Apple Crisp
For the crisp topping
- 1 ½ cups (210 g) all purpose gluten free flour blend (I used Better Batter)
- ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum omit if your blend already contains it
- ½ cup (50 g) certified gluten free old-fashioned rolled oats See Recipe Notes for substitute
- ⅓ cup (67 g) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg optional
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup (109 g) packed light brown sugar
- 12 tablespoons (168 g) unsalted butter melted and cooled
For the apple filling
- 2 tablespoons (18 g) gum-free gluten free flour blend See Recipe Notes for substitute.
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅓ cup (100 g) packed light brown sugar
- 3 pounds (about 6 large apples) Granny Smith apples (or other tart and firm apple) peeled, cored and chopped into 3/4-inch cubes
- ¼ cup (2 fluid ounces) lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For serving (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish and set it aside.
Prepare the crisp topping.
- In a medium-sized bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, oats, granulated sugar, cinnamon, optional nutmeg and salt, and mix to combine. Add the brown sugar, and mix again, working out any lumps.
- Add the melted butter, and mix to combine well. The mixture will be thick. Chill only briefly if at all loose or warm. Set the topping aside.
Prepare the apple filling.
- In a large bowl, place flour, cinnamon, salt, and brown sugar, and toss to combine well, breaking up any lumps in the brown sugar. Add the apples, and toss to coat the apples completely.
- Transfer the filling to the prepared baking dish, add the 1/4 cup lukewarm water and vanilla extract, and stir to combine again. Spread the apple chunks into an even layer.
- Place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, cover the dish with aluminum foil, and place it in the oven to begin to soften the apples. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove and uncover the dish to stir the apples. Cover again, return to the oven, and continue to bake for another 15 minutes.
- Remove the baking dish from the oven and place on a heatproof surface. Remove the foil, stir the apples and spread them again into an even layer.
- Scatter the crisp topping evenly on top, breaking up any larger clumps of topping, and press gently on top to help the topping adhere to the apples.
- Return the dish to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown (about 25 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving warm, topped with the optional vanilla ice cream.