Topped with a nutty, cinnamon-infused, oat-free crunchy crust, this gluten-free, paleo, vegan, and grain-free apple crisp recipe will knock your socks off. You’ll be proud to serve this better-for-you apple crisp to your friends and family—and as it bakes, it’ll will make your house smell amazing, too!
Easiest fall apple dessert!
I love my paleo berry crisp recipe because it’s not just an easy and versatile dessert—it also looks and tastes impressive enough to serve to guests. But when the weather turns chilly, my cravings shift from summer berries to baked cinnamon-apple-y goodness. That’s why I adapted my berry crisp recipe to make this amazing apple crisp. It’s like apple pie without all the work!
Paleo, Vegan-Friendly, and Oat-Free Apple Crisp
This simple apple crisp satisfies my deepest cravings for a cinnamon-infused fruity dessert topped with a crunchy, nutty topping. While many crisp recipes use oats as the main component of the streusel topping, I’ve found that replacing them with more nuts and coconut yields a tastier, crisper top. Plus, if you substitute chilled coconut oil for the ghee, you can even serve this dessert to your vegan and dairy-free pals. It goes without saying that this crisp tastes even better with a big dollop of whipped coconut cream or a scoop of plant-based ice cream!
If you’re like me, you love apple crisp and want to be able to eat it at a moment’s notice. So make a big batch of the crisp topping and freeze it for up to 6 months in an airtight container! With this secret weapon in your freezer, you can make a crisp anytime you’re in the mood for one (or if company drops by unexpectedly).
I don’t recommend making the entire apple crisp well in advance of eating it; after all, it really does taste best when it’s still warm from the oven. That said, I’m happy to report that leftovers can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days and you can warm them up in the microwave or oven. Unlike traditional apple crisps, my grain-free topping doesn’t get all mushy because it’s mostly comprised of nuts and coconut!
What are the best apples for baking?
The best baking apples to use in this homemade apple crisp recipe are the varieties with great flavor that hold their shape while they cook: Golden Delicious, Gala, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Mutsu, Braeburn, Cortland, Empire, and Pink Lady apples are fantastic for baking. Although Granny Smith apples hold their shape when baked, they can be too tart if used by themselves.
The one variety I don’t recommend for baking is Red Delicious—they get too mushy when cooked.
These ingredients for my apple crisp are simple to find and can easily transform a humble bowl of fruit into something spectacular!
- Almond flour: replaces all-purpose flour and adds even more nuttiness to the topping.
- Maple sugar or coconut sugar: either will work and they’re both good replacements for brown sugar in a traditional crisp.
- Diamond Crystal kosher salt: IMHO, a little bit of salt always balances out the sweetness in desserts.
- Ground cinnamon + cardamom: I love the combination of cinnamon and cardamom together, but you can use cinnamon only or a mix of cinnamon and nutmeg if you prefer.
- Chilled ghee or refined coconut oil: the chilled fat helps bind the streusel topping together. I throw the ghee or coconut oil in the freezer for 20 minutes if I forget to chill it well ahead of time.
- Whole raw pecans and almonds: feel free to mix and match the nuts in the topping (e.g., walnuts and hazelnuts are fantastic in the topping), but the combination of pecans + almonds is my favorite.
- Unsweetened coconut flakes: make sure you buy unsweetened flakes! Also, I find that the large flakes offer a better texture than finely shredded coconut.
- Apples: you’ll need 2½ pounds of apples, about 4 large ones (see above for the best varieties to use). I always peel them first because I don’t like the texture of baked apple skins. I prefer to cut my apples into ¼-inch wedges so they cook evenly in the time it takes the topping to get a golden crust.
- Maple sugar or coconut sugar: adds a little extra sweetness and helps the apples release some liquid.
- Tapioca starch: a grain-free thickener for the filling.
- Ground cinnamon: I love the combination of warm apples and cinnamon!
- Lemon zest and lemon juice: adds some zing to the filling. Make sure you zest the lemon before you juice it. It’s freaking hard to zest a cut-up lemon, people.
How to make the best apple crisp recipe
Make the crisp topping. Put the almond flour, maple sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom in a food processor work bowl fitted with a steel blade.
Add the chilled ghee or coconut oil (for vegan option).
Pulse the mixture 5 to 7 times or until the mixture has a coarse cornmeal-like texture.
Stir in the nuts and coconut flakes.
Pulse until the mixture looks like nubbly wet sand with some nutty bits—don’t overdo it because you don’t want to form a dough.
Transfer the topping to a bowl and chill it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Make the filling! While the topping is chilling, heat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle position.
Toss together the apples, maple sugar, tapioca, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
Add the lemon zest and juice and mix well with a silicone spatula.
Transfer the sliced apples to a 2-quart baking dish or pan (or 8-inch square or 9-inch round) and arrange them in an even layer.
Evenly distribute the chilled topping over the apples.
Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes or until the apples are easily pierced with a fork and the topping turns golden brown.
Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. I know it smells crazy-tempting, but let the crisp cool down before you eat it so you don’t burn your mouth!
Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with whipped coconut cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream (dairy free) if desired.
More paleo fall desserts
- Apple Bundt Cake
- Pumpkin and Carrot Muffins
- Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
- Pumpkin, Coconut, and Maple Custard Cups
- Pumpkin Muffins
- Pumpkin Mug Cake
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022).
PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD
Apple Crisp (Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free)
- ½ cup finely ground almond flour
- ⅓ cup maple sugar or coconut sugar
- ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 5 tablespoons chilled ghee or refined coconut oil, cut into small pieces
- ⅓ cup whole raw pecans
- ⅓ cup whole raw almonds
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 2½ pounds apples peeled, cored, and sliced into ¼-inch wedges (see post for best baking apples)
- 2 tablespoons maple sugar or coconut sugar
- 2 teaspoons tapioca starch
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- whipped coconut topping or ice cream optional
Make the crisp topping
- Put the almond flour, maple sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom in a food processor work bowl fitted with a steel blade.
- Add in the chilled ghee or coconut oil. Pulse the mixture 5 to 7 times or until the mixture has a coarse cornmeal texture.
- Toss in the nuts and coconut flakes. Pulse until the mixture looks like nubbly wet sand with some nutty bits—don’t overdo it because you don’t want to form a dough.
- Transfer the topping to a bowl and chill it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
Make the filling
- While the topping is chilling, heat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle position.
- Toss together the apples, maple sugar, tapioca, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
- Add the lemon zest and juice and mix well with a silicone spatula.
- Transfer the apples to a 2-quart baking pan (8-inch square or 9-inch round) and spread them in an even layer.
- Evenly distribute the chilled crisp topping over the apples.
- Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes or until the apples are easily pierced with a fork and the topping turns golden brown.
- Cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with whipped coconut cream or ice cream if desired.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Michelle, I have had to eliminate almonds, including almond flour, from my paleo diet. Any suggestions for substitute flours?
I’m not sure! Maybe tiger nut flour or chestnut flour?
I’ve had great success in recipes calling for almond flour to use: sunflower seed flour or brazil nut flour. It takes a bit of recipe testing, but these usually work well.
Thanks for this recipe- always looking for an apple crisp recipe. It’s my favorite dessert for the holidays too. I’ve used peeled cubes zucchini in place of the apples and no one in my family noticed. Just in case anyone has a lot of zucchini on their hands!!
Did you perhaps try this with maple syrup rather than maple sugar? I guess it would be too watery, but I’m always in the lookout for recipes that use what I normally keep in my kitchen! And I never buy maple sugar. Love all your recipes!
I haven’t tried it with maple syrup. I didn’t buy maple sugar until recently but it’s my new favorite paleo sweetener!
This was delicious! Made it tonight and it took tremendous willpower to not eat it for dinner.
Do you think this would work with less or no maple sugar? Or does the crisp need the sugar to bind together?
The crisp doesn’t need the sugar to bind together, but it won’t taste as good!
Has anyone tried this with pears instead of apples? I have a lot on hand that is like to use for turkey day!
Pears should work! This recipe is easily adaptable with lots of different fruit.
The blend of pears with pecans seem a match made in heaven. Go for it!
This recipe looos amazing. Can’t wait to make it. I was wondering If I could replace coconut flakes with something else like oats or anything?
They give me heartburn sometimes so want to avoid it.
Thank you 🙂
Oats aren’t paleo-friendly but if you can tolerate them, go for it!
This was delicious! I used hazelnuts because they were the cheapest on the shelf at the store, and I didn’t have a food processor so I hand chopped and hand mixed the crisp, came out great! Thank you!
INCREDIBLE! The BEST apple crisp I’ve ever had! The tang of the lemon zest makes it! I subbed arrowroot in place of tapioca and maple syrup instead of maple sugar. I’m sure the original is equally delicious. Thank you!