Before we get to the healthy apple crisp recipe, I have a confession to make.
After selling my house and traveling the world for the last year, it took me a while to get back into the swing of nailing good recipes once I landed back in the U.S. I had more fails than I’d had in the previous four years combined. It was like the last 10 years of recipe blogging had fallen out of my head, and I had some doubts if it would ever come back.
I’m happy to report that I was just being paranoid and clearly needed a reason to make a knock-out recipe, because this recipe turned out even better than I’d hoped! I just needed some fresh apples and fall weather to make it happen 😜
This recipe is:
healthy, gluten-free, dairy-free,
vegan, great for families, easy,
flexible, made with real food & delicious
Delicious Health Apple Crisp Recipe
Because what says fall more than apples, cinnamon and maple syrup? Please don’t say pumpkin spice lattes, because apples are the O.G.—nature has delivered an abundance of apples for far longer than chain stores have delivered fancy coffee. But don’t worry if you do love pumpkin spice; you can actually put some in your apple crisp if you want. Everyone wins!
Healthy apple crisp is a great recipe to keep in your rotation because it’s easy to put together, and it’s very forgiving and flexible to boot. It’s much easier than an apple pie but fills your home with the same yummy scents. It’s basically real love in the air (warm fuzzies included).
I scoured the internet pulling tips from various apple crisp recipes to create this ultimate healthier version. I loved Ina Garten’s advice to add in orange zest and juice, but in my version, the orange juice was just a little too over-powering; however, the zest was a win—it adds a special gourmet twist and worked perfectly. I also subbed out any white sugar for coconut crystals and maple syrup, because I’m a health coach—and let’s be real, I gotta maintain my street cred. Just kidding, it’s because coconut crystals are much lower on the glycemic index than white sugar, and maple syrup is a natural sweetener that is loaded with healthy minerals (nature always does it best, y’all). Coconut crystals (a.k.a. coconut sugar) come from the evaporated sap of a coconut tree. It looks a little like brown sugar and you can find it in the baking section of most health food stores or online. For the maple syrup, make sure you use 100% real maple syrup and not that fake pancake syrup-y stuff, which is mostly just corn syrup (yuck).
Now let’s talk apples. Use organic if possible. As of 2018, apples are still on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen™ list of the “dirtiest” produce around (in terms of pesticide usage, not dirt ;). More than 98 percent of samples of strawberries, spinach, peaches, nectarines, cherries and apples tested positive for residue of at least one pesticide. As always, though, do what works best for your budget. Non-organic apples are still way better than a Twinkie or a bag of chips. If you choose non-organic, peel all of the apples. As aways, wash all produce—organic or not—before using it.
This healthy apple crisp recipe is vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free if you make it as written. It’s definitely not sugar-free, as it’s meant to be a dessert, but it contains a considerably less amount of sugar than most traditional apple crisp recipes. As for a nut-free version, I don’t have one just yet, but I suspect you can eliminate the pecans and sub the cup of almond flour for another cup of gluten-free rolled oats and it will work out great.
Whole rolled oats are gluten-free by nature, but most are stored with or near gluten-containing ingredients. So if gluten-free is a priority, look for oats labeled as such. As for me, I buy the organic whole rolled oats in the bulk bins at the grocery store for about a dollar.
- For the apple layer:
- 4 firm tart apples (about 1½ pounds), such as McIntosh, Granny Smith or Pink Lady, peeled* and sliced thin
- ½ teaspoon grated orange zest (optional but recommended)
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (zest the lemon first)
- 2 tablespoons water (or bourbon or brandy for an adult twist)
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot starch OR 1 tablespoon gluten-free flour mix
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg (OR pumpkin pie spice)
- ½ teaspoon high-quality vanilla extract
- 1 big pinch of fine sea salt
- ½ cup real maple syrup (OR honey)
- For the topping:
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 cup whole rolled oats (use certified gluten-free oats if gluten-free is desired)
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- ⅓ cup real maple syrup (OR honey)
- ⅓ cup coconut crystals (a.k.a coconut sugar)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons cold unsalted grass-fed butter, vegan butter (like Earth Balance), diced OR ½ cup coconut oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Peel the apples if desired. In the photo here, I peeled two apples and left the skin on the other two. Slice the apples into thin (about ⅛-inch) slices. Place the apples in a large mixing bowl, add the rest of the ingredients for the filling, and toss to cover all of the apple slices. Pour into an 8x8 inch (or equivalent size) baking dish. Put the apples—uncovered—in the oven for 15 minutes while you make the topping to allow them to start releasing their juices.
- Make the topping. Combine all ingredients except the coconut oil (or substitute) and mix well until the mixture is in large crumbles. Use your fingers or a knife to sprinkle chunks of the coconut oil (or substitute) into the mixture; it should still resemble large crumbles. Carefully remove the apples from the oven, then sprinkle the topping mixture evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely. Place the dish back in the oven.
- Bake for 40 more minutes to 1 hour, until the top is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly. Check the topping 30 minutes after putting it in the oven. The topping should be crispy and lightly golden. If the topping is getting too dark or crispy, cover with foil for the rest of the baking time. The apples will continue to release juice and soften, so bake no less than 50 minutes total for the best texture. Serve warm with coconut whipped cream or vanilla ice cream of your choice.
2. Apple Crisp is forgiving and flexible. I gave you a bunch of substitutions if needed, but I think it’s best as written above without the substitutions.
3. You can peel the apples or not. I like to peel half and leave the skin on the other half. The skin is full of fiber and adds nice texture.
4. I used maple here because maple goes so well with apples, but you can substitute the maple for honey one for one.
5. The orange zest is optional and adds great flavor. This is a trick that Ina Garten uses in her classic recipe.
6. The purpose of the arrowroot starch is to thicken the filling—it’s a great gluten-free replacement. You can use regular flour or a gluten-free flour blend if desired. However nut flours or oat flour will not thicken the filling.
7. I use coconut oil to keep this dish vegan, but regular butter works if you tolerate dairy. Choose a grass-fed variety for better health and substitute for the coconut oil 1:1.
8. You can replace the 2 tablespoons of water with bourbon or brandy if serving adults for a gourmet, refined twist.
9. Some people skip the vanilla extract in apple crisp. I like it, but it’s optional. Use a high-quality Madagascar vanilla for the best flavor.
10. I serve coconut whipped cream with my healthy apple crips recipe, but vegan vanilla ice cream (or vanilla ice cream of your choice) work, too. (3-ingredient coconut whipped cream is on my blog).
11. This dessert is also delightful with ½ apples and ½ pears.
12. Don’t forget the salt! It really adds to the overall flavor and very little is used here.
13. To make this recipe no-sugar-added, eliminate the maple syrup and coconut crystals. It will be different and not as sweet, but still delicious. The no-sugar-added version is great for diabetics.
If you make it (I hope you do!), let us know in the comments below how it turns out.