The best way to celebrate fall after all that apple picking you may or may not be doing is with a scoop of warm Vegan Apple Crisp. It’s just like the classic fall dessert, but better (and vegan)!
If you love stress-free desserts that don’t skimp on flavor, you’ll fall hard for this vegan apple crisp recipe. Sliced apples are tossed with maple syrup and a medley of warm spices, then baked with a simple streusel topping. The apples come out gooey, saucy, and tender while the topping is the perfect combination of crunchy, crispy, and chewy.
Get ready for the smell of autumn to waft through your kitchen as this baby bakes. Yes, it’s quick and easy, but is still impressive enough to bring to Thanksgiving dinner! Your family and friends will be clamoring for a second scoop of the sweet-salty, gooey, and crunchy goodness.
Why this recipe works
Dreamy fall flavors (and aromas)
Who needs artificial-scented fall candles when you can bake a homemade apple crisp? Trust me when I say your house will smell amazing once this dessert is in the oven.
Traditional apple crisp is made with classic fall ingredients, like apples, butter, oats, and maybe cinnamon. Let’s be real. It’s nice but not that exciting. My deluxe vegan version delivers the comforting flavors you associate with fall but it will also impress the heck out of your tastebuds.
A mix of sweet and tart apples are tossed with lots of cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, ginger, and just a touch of ground cloves and cardamom for pizzazz. To finish, the apples are tossed with maple syrup for a rich caramel-like flavor, as well as vanilla extract to give every bite that extra warmth.
And you can’t have apple crisp without a streusel on top! The oat crisp topping is enhanced with browned vegan butter and pecans, adding a nutty and rich indulgence you won’t find elsewhere.
This dessert is a celebration of texture. A crunchy, crisp, and just slightly chewy streusel topping meets warm and gooey apples baked to perfection.
Melted vegan butter keeps the crisp topping rich while cane sugar and maple syrup help caramelize. All of that goodness combined with oats and pecans yield a crispy, crunchy, and buttery streusel.
Want in on the secret ingredient? Flaxseed meal helps bind the topping together just enough, allowing it to stick to apples better while baking.
Treat yourself to the crisp paired with a scoop of creamy vegan vanilla ice cream or vegan whipped cream for an even more perfect textural combo!
Testing note: In our tests, we found that baking the crisp at a slightly higher temperature than standard (375ºF) yielded a crisp, golden brown topping and perfectly cooked apples. When baked at 350ºF, the topping didn’t brown well and the longer bake time meant the apples got a little too soft/overcooked.
Easy and convenient yet impressive
This grown-up apple crisp has one important quality in common with the classic version: it’s simple to make!
Pastry chefs AND novice bakers alike can master this vegan apple crisp recipe. It’s much easier to make than a lot of other classic desserts (I’m looking at you, apple pie!), making it a must-have in your back pocket during fall.
The best apple crisps are made with a mixture of tart and sweet apples with a crisp texture. This mixture yields the perfect blend of flavors and prevents the crisp from being one-note and too sweet. Skip to the Tips section for apple variety recommendations.
Tip: Don’t skip tossing the apples with lemon juice. Rather than make the crisp taste lemony, it (1) prevents the apples from browning and (2) adds a subtle tartness which helps balance the sweetness in the dessert.
The main difference between an apple crisp and an apple crumble is the oats (at least according to some sources). Here, the oats add a delightful crispy and crunchy texture, compared to a softer apple crumble which skips the oats.
Whole old-fashioned rolled oats add a nice crisp texture to the streusel (affiliate link). Do not use quick-cooking oats. They’re rolled thinner, which means the crisp can’t be baked as long. And skip the steel-cut oats.
All-purpose slightly thickens the apple filling and helps bind the topping together.
Gluten-free? Check out the FAQ section to find out which flour substitutions work best.
Maple syrup + cane sugar
You’ll usually find apple crisp recipes made with cane sugar and brown sugar. However, I decided to test a version that uses maple syrup instead of brown sugar, and I’m so glad I did.
The maple syrup (1) keeps the apple filling moist and saucy and prevents it from drying out; (2) helps the crisp topping caramelize better and get crunchier in the oven.
Refined sugar-free alternative? Replace the cane sugar with coconut sugar. The texture may not be as crisp, but will still taste great.
It isn’t a fall dessert without a medley of warm spices! Cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cardamom add a beautiful warmth to the crisp, enhance the sweet flavor of the apples, and make this classic dessert a bit more interesting and sophisticated.
Do yourself a favor and grate the nutmeg yourself. Its powerful yet nuanced depth of flavor makes the apple crisp taste its best. You can usually find whole nutmeg in the spice section of most grocery stores.
Chopped pecans are toasted in vegan brown butter to bring out their nutty flavor. Additionally, the protein in the nuts helps the butter brown even better. Win-win!
You’ll typically find me adding nuts to all kinds of unlikely recipes, like my Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole and Vegan Banana Muffins because their soft crunch is so appealing. Pecans aren’t usually used in apple crisp topping but I love them so much!
Shopping tip: Buy pre-chopped pecans! Not only are they typically cheaper but they also don’t require any prep work.
Substitute: Walnuts work well. Head to the FAQ section for nut-free substitutions.
Vegan butter brings a rich and buttery mouthfeel to the crisp without making it feel heavy. We also found that during testing, melted butter yielded a crunchier, crispier topping. In contrast, chilled butter gave us a dry, granola-like topping that didn’t adhere to the apples very well.
But we’re not just using regular melted butter—a grown-up apple crisp needs browned butter. Brown butter is basically melted butter that’s simmered until it takes on a rich, dark brown color and a toasted nutty flavor.Vegan butter doesn’t brown quite the same as dairy-based butter because it doesn’t contain milk proteins. Thankfully, the protein in pecans enhances the brown color and rich nutty flavor, helping it look and taste just like the real thing.
Vegan butter brands: I’ve tested vegan butters quite a bit and love Violife salted butter, which contains some fava bean protein that aids in browning. I also liked Miyoko’s vegan butter (it browns quickly because of the cashews) and Country Crock Plant Butter. Earth Balance buttery sticks are widely available but they don’t change much in color; that said, the flavor does taste nuttier and it’s a totally fine option to use.
Vanilla and Salt
Just like in a chocolate chip cookie or brownie recipe, vanilla extract and salt enhance the flavor of the apple crisp significantly. Desserts often taste flat without this duo. Salt is especially important here as it prevents the apple crisp from tasting cloyingly sweet.
Add the vegan butter to a stainless steel or light-colored saucepan or skillet. Heat over medium heat. Continue stirring until it’s melted, foamy, and bubbling.
Add the pecans and toast them with the butter for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl to stop cooking.
Peel the apples and slice them into wedges or slices, ¼ to ½” thick (.6 to 1.25 cm).
Add them to a large bowl with the lemon juice, then toss to coat.
To complete the apple filling, stir the maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, flour, and pinch of sea salt into the bowl with the apples.
Next, make the topping: stir the flour, oats, salt, cane sugar, maple syrup, flaxseed meal, and cinnamon into the browned butter-pecan mixture. Stir it with a fork until it’s somewhat sticky and sandy.
Transfer the apple filling to the greased skillet or baking dish. Scatter the crumb topping evenly on top of the apple filling.
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake the crisp until the juices are bubbling around the sides, the apples are fork tender, and the crisp topping is golden brown.
Rest for 20 to 45 minutes before scooping and serving. Enjoy!
Tips for making this recipe
Use a variety of sweet and tart apples
For the best vegan apple crisp, use a mixture of tart and sweet apples with a crisp texture that won’t get soggy when baking.
Whatever you do, make sure to steer clear of soft apples with mealy flesh, like Gala, McIntosh, and Red Delicious. You can also check out this post on the best apples for baking from the Food Network.
Here are some great apple pairing options:
- Honeycrisp (sweet and subtle tart with a crisp texture) with Granny Smith (tart; they bake up soft but not mushy).
- Pink Lady (sweet and tart with a crisp texture) with Golden Delicious (sweet with a mild flavor; best with a stronger-flavored apple).
- Braeburn (sweet and slightly tart with a crisp texture) with Jonagold (tart yet sweet).
Peel or no peel?
To peel or not to peel – it’s a common question in apple crisp recipes!
I prefer to peel the apples. Yes, it takes 5-ish extra minutes. But in my tests, the unpeeled apples had a chewy, slightly toothsome texture.
That said, the flavor of the unpeeled apples was still great. So if the texture of baked apple peels doesn’t bother you, you can skip the peeling to save some time.
If you do a lot of apple baking, I’ve been told this apple peeler and corer contraption makes things lightning fast (affiliate link).
Don’t skimp on the salt!
The perfect scoop of apple crisp is sweet and salty. Skimping on the salt will make it way too sweet and unbalanced.
If you’re not sure how sweet or salty the apples or crisp topping should be, you’re in luck because you can taste both the apple filling and the crisp topping before baking them together. Not sweet enough? Add an extra tablespoon of sugar or maple syrup. A bit too sweet? Add a pinch more salt.
Brown the butter in a light pan
I like to brown vegan butter in a stainless steel or enameled cast iron saucepan or skillet. A lighter pan doesn’t necessarily affect the flavor of the butter or the end result, but it WILL allow you to see how the browning is coming along.
How to slice the apples
In our tests, the perfect apple slices were sliced to ¼” to ½” thickness (.6 to 1.25 cm). Any thinner than ¼” and the apples will be overcooked and soggy; anything thicker than ½” and the apples will feel too fat and cumbersome to eat.
Keep an eye on the crisp topping
If the apples are still not tender (i.e., if they meet resistance when poked with a fork or knife) after 35 minutes of baking but the topping is getting browned, loosely cover the pan with foil. This helps the apples cook and prevents the top from burning.
Let it rest
After baking, set the crisp aside to cool down and firm up. Leave it for a minimum of 20 minutes, although I’ve found 45 minutes is the sweet spot for firm apples and mess-free scoops.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Replace the flour in the apple filling with 1 ½ tablespoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch.
2. Replace the all-purpose flour in the crisp topping with a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend that contains xanthan gum in the ingredients. We typically use King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Measure-for-Measure Flour or Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour (affiliate links).
3. Use certified gluten-free rolled oats.
While we enjoyed this gluten-free version, it doesn’t deliver the same exact crisp topping texture, so if you can tolerate gluten, I recommend making the original version.
You can bake the apple crumble in any other oven-safe 2-quart or 2L baking pan instead. Check it after 35 minutes – if the topping isn’t golden brown or the apples aren’t cooked, continue baking for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Cover the pan with foil if the topping is browning but the apples aren’t yet tender.
Use whatever you have access to. Most vegan butters are salted, and this recipe was tested with salted butter.
So if you’re using unsalted vegan butter, I’d add more sea salt to the crisp topping (an extra 1/4 teaspoon, then taste it and adjust).
Refined coconut oil works if you don’t have access to vegan butter, but it won’t have the same buttery taste. Again, add more salt as noted above.
You can even use olive oil if you prefer, but you’ll want to use an olive oil that isn’t too strong in flavor. Again, add a bit more salt.
Omit the pecans from the topping and add (1) an extra ¼ cup (25g) of oats plus (2) ¼ cup (20g) of unsweetened shredded coconut. Or skip the coconut and add an extra ¼ to ½ cup (25 to 50g) of oats.
If you want to reduce the sugar, use 1 or 2 tablespoons less of maple syrup in the apple filling. And use 1 or 2 tablespoons less cane sugar in the topping. You’ll also want to use slightly less salt to avoid a too-salty dessert.
If your apples are very sweet, you can also dial back on the maple syrup in the apple filling.
Kind of! The streusel topping can be mixed together 2 to 3 days before baking. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge to keep it moist and fresh.
Apples brown very quickly, so I don’t recommend slicing or baking them ahead of time.
You can store the leftovers (covered) in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, place the baking dish back in the oven at 325ºF / 165°C for 15 to 20 minutes or until warmed through.
You can freeze the baked and cooled apple crisp for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating and serving. To reheat, bake covered at 350°F / 175°C for 20 minutes, or until heated through.
More fantastic fall sweet treats
If you love this Vegan Apple Crisp, please give it a rating and review below! And of course, tag me with your remakes on Instagram!
- 3 pounds (1.3 kg) of apples (about 8 medium apples or 6 jumbo apples) (see Note 1)
- 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup (80g) pure maple syrup
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract (not imitation extract)
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or ¼ teaspoon pre-ground nutmeg)
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (see Note 2 for GF)
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 stick or 8 tablespoons (112g) vegan butter, sliced into thick pats (see Note 3)
- ½ cup (60g) chopped pecans (or walnuts) (see Note 4)
- ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (110g) all-purpose flour (see Note 5)
- 1 cup (100g) old-fashioned rolled oats
- A heaping ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (80g) organic cane sugar
- ¼ cup (80g) pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- For serving: vegan vanilla ice cream or whipped topping (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC. Arrange a rack in the top third of the oven (the crisp will brown better here). Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 12-inch cast iron skillet or 2-quart (2 L) baking dish with oil, cooking spray, or vegan butter.
- Toast the butter and pecans. Set a medium bowl aside, big enough to fit the crisp topping. Add the sliced butter to a stainless steel, enameled cast iron, or other light-colored saucepan or skillet (don’t use a dark pan or nonstick). Turn a burner to medium heat and heat the butter. Stir occasionally with a silicone spatula.a. Once melted, foamy, and at a bubble (it should take ~ 3 minutes), cook for another 1 minute, stirring frequently (standing back as needed, as it might sputter). b. Now add the chopped pecans and stir frequently for another 2 minutes. c. Take the pan off the heat and pour into the medium bowl to stop cooking. Set aside to cool a bit while you prep everything else.
- Peel the apples, then slice into wedges or slices ¼” to ½” thick (.6 to 1.25 cm), cutting around the core (see Note 6). Add apples to a large bowl and cover with the lemon juice. Toss with a spatula or your hands to ensure well-coated (so they don’t brown).
- Prepare the apple filling. Mix the apple mixture with the remaining filling ingredients: maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom if using, flour, and pinch of salt. Mix until well combined. Transfer to the greased skillet or pan, using a silicone spatula to get any residual liquid out of the bowl. Spread the apples out as evenly as possible.
- Make the crisp topping. Once the butter-pecan mixture has cooled off a bit, add the remaining topping ingredients: flour, oats, salt, cane sugar, maple syrup, flaxseed meal, and cinnamon. Mix together with a fork or your hands until it’s a somewhat sticky, slightly sandy mix.
- Use your hands to scatter the crumb topping evenly on top of the apple mixture (I like to vary the size of the clumps). Transfer the pan to the oven and bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the juices on the sides are bubbling, the crisp is golden on top, and the apples are tender when pierced with a fork or knife.
- Let rest for at least 20 minutes, ideally 45 minutes, so the apples can set up more.
- I recommend using a mix of tart and sweet apples with a crisp texture. I used half Honeycrisp apples and half Granny Smith. Check out the Tips section for more apple variety suggestions.
- Gluten-free version: use (1) replace the flour in the apple filling with 1 ½ TBSP arrowroot powder or cornstarch; (2) use gluten-free all-purpose flour in the topping (use a blend that contains xanthan gum); (3) use certified gluten-free rolled oats.
- If using unsalted vegan butter, I recommend adding an extra ¼ teaspoon sea salt to the crisp topping. Taste it, add more as needed.
- Nut allergy? Omit the pecans from the topping and add (1) an extra ¼ cup (25g) of oats plus (2) ¼ cup (20g) of unsweetened shredded coconut. Or skip the coconut and add an extra ¼ to ½ cup (25 to 50g) of oats.
- This is the same as 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons flour. If not using a measuring scale, remember to spoon and level your flour to properly measure it.
- If you don’t mind the chewy, slightly toothsome texture of unpeeled baked apples, you can skip the peeling. Once peeled and sliced, you should end up with ~ 9 cups or 1kg of sliced apples.