This apple crisp recipe is so easy – you don’t even have to peel the apples! The crunchy oat pecan topping makes this crisp extra delicious.
Nothing says fall like the cozy smell of warm apples and cinnamon. I mean sure, there’s the whole pumpkin spice thing, but apple cinnamon is my favourite flavour combination for this time of year. I love spiced apple cider, apple pie, apple turnovers… mmmm! So it makes sense that this apple crisp with oats and pecans is one of my favourite recipes for fall too.
The combination of juicy apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg is pretty tasty on it’s own, but once you add that buttery layer of crunchy oats and toasted pecans on top, it’s heaven!
This recipe is actually a revamp of a very simple apple crisp recipe that I came up with back in 2013. It was OK… but my cooking skills have definitely improved since then, so I wanted to make this apple crisp more flavourful and fun to eat.
You can still make this recipe super simple if you want to. The you can omit the pecans in the toppings and just use oats, you can skip the nutmeg and the other “secret ingredients” that I’ve added, and still have a really tasty apple crisp. This is one of those rustic recipes that you really can’t mess up.
The first, and probably most important element of this dish is the apples. You can use your favourite snacking apple, or combine apples to create a balance of sweet and tangy flavours.
I used just Honeycrisp apples when I photographed this recipe, but you could use SweeTango apples (which have a nice balance of sweet/tangy flavours), or do Honeycrisp + granny smith, or Cortland + Mcintosh etc. Use whatever tasty apples are available in your area. I have a particular hatred for red delicious apples though, so those are pretty much the only ones that I don’t recommend using.
Once you’ve got your apples home, give them a really good wash. We’re keeping the skins on in this recipe, so you want to make sure they’re really clean before you get to chopping! All I did with these was remove the core, then cut them into about 1-inch chunks. I used to do slices, but this way is faster and I actually like having thicker pieces of apple in the crisp now.
As I mentioned before, this recipe has a few “secret ingredients” that add a ton of flavour to this apple crisp recipe. The first one is Angostura bitters, which you might already be familiar with if you make cocktails at home.
Angostura bitters is an aromatic bitters product that is created from a blend of herbs and spices. It’s most well known as a key ingredient in popular cocktails like an Old Fashioned, but it can be a tasty addition to cooked dishes too. I like to add a teaspoon to my apple crisp to bump up the flavour of the spices, but you can definitely leave it out if you want to.
I did add a tiny amount of lemon juice to my apples to add some acidity and prevent browning, but if you’re using really tart apples you might want to either reduce or omit the lemon juice, or your apple crisp will turn out too sour.
The other “seceret ingredient” in this apple crisp recipe is fresh orange zest, which gets added to the oat pecan topping. This is a trick that I picked up from one of the kitchen staff members when I was working on The Main. One of the ladies had added it to an apple crisp recipe she was testing in the kitchen, and I was so in love with the flavour that I’ve been adding it to my crisps ever since.
That little bit of citrus flavour adds a fresh bright flavour to the dish, and it smells amazing too. I think lemon zest would be too strong, so if you don’t have an orange/clementine/tangerine you can just leave it out.
Once you mix together the oats, pecans, flour, brown sugar and zest, the next important thing to do is add the butter.
Personally, I think the easiest thing to do is to measure out a 1/3 cup of butter and stick it in the freezer. This allows the butter to firm up enough that you can grate it into flour, and work it in with your fingers without it completely melting. This is a trick that people use when making biscuits and pie dough, and it works well here too.
If you’d rather not go through that process, you can add cold or room temperature butter to the mix and work it into the flour with your fingers, a fork, or a pastry cutter. I find the topping crisps up better when there’s little bits of butter in the mix, instead of adding melted butter which makes everything a bit wet to begin with.
That being said, if adding melted butter is easier for you, go for it. You really can’t mess this up.
Once you work in the butter, you should have a somewhat sandy texture from where it clings to the flour. The mix will look a bit crumbly – this is what you want.
Adding the butter is the very last thing that you want to do before assembling the crisp, so make sure you’ve got your pan ready to go ahead of time so the butter doesn’t have time to sit and melt.
I used to go through the trouble of buttering my dish, but I skipped that step when I was testing this recipe, and my apple crisp didn’t stick on the pan once. That’s one less thing to do, which means this crisp goes from bowl to oven to my belly that much faster.
All you have to do is dump in the apple mixture, spread it out, then top it with the oat pecan topping. Then it goes straight into the oven for 45-50 minutes so the apples can cook down, and the oats can crisp up.
I like to let everything cool down a bit once it’s out of the oven, so the crisp can firm up a little bit, then I serve it warm with vanilla ice cream. The leftovers are great the next day with Greek yogurt for breakfast, or with ice cream or whipped cream again for another round of dessert.
I hope you enjoy making this recipe!
Apple Crisp with Oats and Pecans
Oat Pecan Topping:
- 1 cup quick cooking oats
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup pecans , toasted and chopped
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- zest of 1 orange , grated (optional)
- 1/8 tsp salt , (a pinch)
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter , cold or frozen
- Move an oven rack to the second lowest position in the oven. If you have more than one rack, leave one in the second highest spot as well.
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
Make the Apple Cinnamon Filling:
- In a large bowl, combine chopped apples with lemon juice and stir to coat.
- Sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg over the apples. Add the bitters, if using, and stir to combine. Set aside.
Make the Oat Pecan Topping:
- In a bowl, combine the oats, flour, pecans, brown sugar, orange zest and salt. Stir to combine.
- Grate in frozen butter or cut cold butter into chunks before rubbing into flour with fingers. Stop when the mixture becomes "sandy" or crumbly.
Assemble and Bake the Crisp:
- Spoon the apple cinnamon filling into an 8x8 baking dish, and spread into an even layer.
- Spoon the oat pecan topping on top of the apples in an even layer.
- Bake for 45-50 minute, or until apples are cooked through, juices are bubbling, and the topping has become golden brown in colour and somewhat crunchy (don't wait for a super hard texture). You can move the dish to the second highest rack in the oven to brown the top in the last 10 minutes, if you find it's not getting enough colour.
- Allow the crisp to cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Also good at room temperature.
- Honeycrisp works well, so does SweeTango
- Try combining apples to create a balance of sweet and tart flavours: Honeycrisp + granny smith, Cortland + McIntosh, etc.
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