Paleo Apple Crisp

October 27, 2012 in Categories: , by

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Apple Crisp-015 copyI started playing with apple crisp recipes before I ever started the blog.  It was actually the first dessert recipe I ever tried to adapt (and one of the successes that gave me the confidence to start blogging in the first place!).  So, this one has seen a year’s worth of iterations to reach this awesome and delicious version.

One thing you’ve probably figured out by now is that I take some pride in creating the best paleo adaptations of Western foods.  Recipes like my chewy granola bars, perfect paleo pancakes, plantain crackers, graham crackers, perfect pumpkin pie, and chocolate chip “oatmeal” cookies represent some of my favorites.  Here’s another one to add to the list.  The crumble topping is a perfect combination of flavors, and it has some crunch and substance that highlights the flavor and texture of the apples.  This is another paleo dessert to share with your non-paleo friends and relatives—they won’t have a clue!

Picking a good apple is key.  The best cooking apples for this recipe are Fuji, mustu (aka Crispin) and Rome beauty.  Unlike a traditional apple pie, Granny smith apples, which are also good cooking apples, are just too tart on their own.  If you really want to use them, I suggest adding 1-2 Tbsp of organic cane sugar to them.

I also think this is one time where chopping nuts by hand works better than using a food processor.  The mix of different size pieces works especially well in the crisp.  If you want to save time, you could process half the nuts and then hand chop the rest (that’s actually what I do).

This recipe also highlights one of my favorite natural sweeteners. What is muscovado sugar?  It is a type of unrefined brown sugar with a strong molasses flavor, predominantly made in the Philippines and Barbados.  It also goes by the names of “Barbados sugar”, “molasses sugar” or “moist sugar”.  It retains its high mineral content because it is unrefined (I discuss why mineral content is so important in this post).  I have seen it in my local Whole Foods and it’s also available from amazon (for about half the price).  If you prefer, you could substitute sucanat/evaporated cane juice.

We actually enjoyed this apple crisp as a side dish with pork chops (it’s only one step removed from applesauce, after all!).  It’s also amazing served as a dessert plain or with my Best Ever Paleo Vanilla Ice Cream.

Prep Time: 90 minutes (including 60 minutes to chill topping)

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Yields: 6 generous servings

Apple Crisp-061

Ingredients (Crisp Topping):

  1. Chop walnuts and pecans by hand for the best texture.  Mix with almond meal, shredded coconut, muscovado sugar, and spices.
  2. Pour melted coconut oil over the top and stir to fully combine.  Pat down slightly and place in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes (1 hour is better), to harden.

Ingredients (Apple Crisp):

  • 6 medium to large apples (about 2½ pounds)
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • Crisp Topping (see above)
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Peel and core apples.  Cut into large bite size pieces (I cut into quarters and then slice each quarter into 5 or 6 ½”-thick slices).
  3. Toss apple with lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon and cardamom.
  4. Place apple in the bottom of a casserole dish, 8” or 9” square pan, or a 9” deep dish pie dish.
  5. Remove crisp topping from fridge.  Use a knife or your fingers to break/crumble into pieces, making sure there are some bigger pieces and some smaller pieces.  Cover the surface of the apples with the crisp topping crumbs.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes.  Then, turn the oven temperature up to 425F for 5 minutes to brown the crisp a little more (watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn).
  7. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.  Serve warm!



I just wanted to pass on that there is definitely a mistake in your directions… you omitted the part about making sure to double the topping since it is so unbelievably tasty that a traditional amount can’t possibly do 😀

Everyone should try this crisp! The particular mix of spices are new to me and are winning combination. We all really, really enjoyed this. The only snafu encountered was that I happened to eat a large part of the topping cold from the fridge and had to mix up some more!

I made this for the second time tonight and decided to double the topping recipe, for the exact same reason! Except that it didn’t ‘crisp’ all the way through. Any ideas as to making that possible?

Also, switching the nuts to 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup cashews, 1/2 cup macadamia nuts which I did on my first try is AMAZING. (Today I did 1/2 cup walnuts, 1/2 cup pecans, and 1/2 cup cashews which was still tasty but not as good.)

Macadamias are magic. Yum. I would just try cooking in a bigger baking dish so that your apple layer is thinner and your crisp layer is thin enough to crisp (and then you achieve the more crisp to apple ratio you’re looking for).

Genius! Thanks, I’ll try that. My family is going to be so bummed they have to eat this AGAIN. (kidding! The first batch disappeared within 24 hours. It makes a very tasty breakfast, lol.)

Is it at all possible to use maple syrup instead of the sugar? I want to make this last minute but don’t have either of the options you gave. Thanks for the great recipe!

I ended up using a combo of honey and maple syrup and it worked well! Mixed it with the coconut oil first. Thanks for the great recipe. It was a hit this Christmas.

Thanks for the recommendation on the honey and maple syrup. I’m going to try that, too as I don’t want to use granulated sugar at all. Going with raw honey and I have Vermont maple syrup.

This recipe is awesome! I made a few tweaks and it wasn’t quite paleo in the end but my coconut-oil-hating husband devoured seconds and then thirds! Am making it again tomorrow but think I might just have to double the whole recipe. Thank you!

Kate, is it the taste of the coconut oil that you husband doesn’t like? I use virgin coconut oil when I want a coconut taste but when I don’t want the coconut taste such as in scrambled eggs, I use expeller pressed coconut oil, the label states neutral taste and smell. There is definitely a difference! Hope this helps with your coconut oil hating hubby! Blessings!

Made this exactly as is and it was AWESOME! You can taste that it’s the real food, wholesome version of the cheap imitation one runs across these days! HUGE hit even with non-paleo friends. Thank you!

Tastes even better the next day (can’t believe it lasted in my house for that long)! Thanks for the recipe, so easy to make. Definitely a recipe to pass on 🙂

I would like to make this recipe into individual ramekins…would I reduce the oven temp and the cooking time? What would you suggest?

this looks wonderful, thank you, do you think substituting coconut sugar would work also? Hmm using an apple/berry mixture sounds good.

I do something like this every year when my apple trees are producing. I’ve found that mixing different apples together gives a much richer flavor and you really do NOT need added sugar. If I’m heavy on tart apples, i simply add some dried raisins or other unsweetened dried fruits. Since I’m allergic to almonds, I have to fiddle with different flours and have used organic chestnut flour often as well as coconut flour. I also add raw finely chopped ginger and use coconut CHIPS instead of the finer coconut. I serve with an organic yogurt (since I’m fine with fermented dairy products like kefir, yogurt or raw cheese). I rarely am able to use recipes ‘as is’ but almost always fiddle and tweek to suit my own individual allergies and food sensitivities.


I am going to save this recipe, may not make Apple Crisp, but Rhubarb Crisp could be in my future.


Adding 3 tablespoons of sugar – muscovado or not – to a recipe that already includes half a dozen medium-to-large sweet apples… I dunno. Quite a lot of simple carbs in there, don’t you think?

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