A warm crunchy, grain-free (Paleo) apple crisp that is worthy enough for dessert when paired with your favorite ice or whipped cream, but also healthy enough to just as well enjoy for breakfast with a dollop of (cashew) yogurt. Sweet coated apples are topped with a nut and seed mixture that you can make either ultra crunchy or deliciously soft and gooey! It's, of course, also gluten-free with a dairy-free vegan option.
You know me by now. Most of my baked goods are simple and easy-to-make, and this recipe is no exception. You'll have to gather a few ingredients before embarking on this bake, but everything comes together rather quickly. And because it's a grain-free apple crisp that's not too sweet, not too heavy, you want to add enough flavors to make it warm, buttery, and utterly comforting.
If you are feverishly loyal to the classic apple crisp, then look away now. I'll understand. Because the topping in this apple dessert has no flour, baking powder, arrowroot, white or brown sugar, baking soda, or oats—you get the drift.
Instead, it's a mixture of nuts, seeds, coconut flakes flavored with freshly grated ginger, warm cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and wrapped in melted butter—you can use extra virgin coconut oil or coconut butter—that then goes on apples coated with a homemade date paste. It's good!
Ingredients and a few notes
Note: optional but highly recommended ingredients not shown in the picture above are a drizzle of molasses and some olive oil, or swap them for maple syrup and coconut oil.
A few notes you might want to glance over before making this grain-free apple crisp recipe.
- Apples: I prefer apples that are crunchy, sweet, and sour, like Arkansas Black or the green Granny Smith apples. They are juicy, and their lemon-like acidity will balance out the naturally sweet flavors. But I have also used crisp and very sweet ones like Gala, Honeycrisp, or Pink Lady apples. Peel the apples—yeah, it's a bit more work, but you'll get no tough surprises.
- Nuts: Usually, I go for a mix between raw pecans, Brazil nuts, or walnuts and mix in some pumpkin seeds. But you could easily add in some raw almonds, macadamia, hazelnuts, or sunflower seeds.
- Coconut Flakes: I love how they add a subtle and natural sweetness to the crumble mix, and they become very crispy once baked.
- Vanilla extract: you could swap this for maple extract.
- Butter: it's a must in this recipe, but if you want to keep it dairy-free, swap this for coconut butter or coconut oil with a non-dairy butter flavor.
- Cashew milk: Hazelnut or almond milk are other great options. I would imagine that any other plant milk will do, but I usually go for creamy nut milk.
- Optional but highly recommended: A drizzle of molasses and an olive oil coating are optional ingredients, but it just takes this apple dessert to the next level—not sure why I made them optional because I never skip them, nor should you. Plus, molasses adds a warm, robust, and subtle sweetness that I love. It's sweet enough for me, but you could go for maple syrup for extra sweetness and use extra virgin coconut oil instead of olive oil (all things you can play with).
Note: I like my apple crisp, not too sweet, and rely on the ingredients' natural flavors. If you like it sweeter but want to refrain from using any extra maple syrup or molasses, use apples that are naturally more sugary and definitely go for the Gala, Honeycrisp, or Pink Lady.
Make a healthy apple crisp for breakfast
If a breakfast apple crisp sounds good to you—maybe even with a generous spoonful of your favorite yogurt—then I suggest making the topping with coarsely chopped nuts, seeds, and coconut flakes. And don't worry, it still will be plenty buttery with warm flavors, a crispy browned nutty topping, and sweet baked apple chunks underneath.
You can even eat it cold, straight out of the fridge, first thing in the morning, or quickly warm it up if you have a little more time to spend.
Want a simple yet warm apple-filled breakfast dish on workday mornings? Work with a coarsely chopped nut mixture combined with coconut flakes, ground cinnamon, fresh ginger, and a tad of salt. Then, coat this nutty mix with melted butter (it smells heavenly). You want a cup or two of that same mix stirred in with the date-sweetened apples, while the rest is used to create a beautiful topcoat to brown in the oven.
The apples to nut mixture ratio are beautifully balanced, and everything comes out crunchy, with deliciously crisp and naturally sweetened apples.
Or make the apple crisp soft and gooey for dessert
Achieve a more soft and gooey topping by blending the nuts and coconut flakes first into a nutty meal before flavoring it. The top beautifully browns, creating a slightly crunchy texture but with a softer consistency that mixes well with the juicy apples.
The melted butter together with a part of the flavored ground nut mixture is mixed in with the apples and then the rest is coated on top.
This is more a dessert-like grain-free apple crisp, which requires a bit longer in the oven—45 minutes tops for the apple to soften and the nutty crumble to brown.
Make it a real treat
Most of the time, this grain-free apple crisp does not survive for more than two days, and I am equally guilty of not being able to resist picking at it straight from the fridge. What can I say? I am only human.
It's quite irresistible as-is, but if you want to make it a real treat, then a scoop of your favorite ice cream served on top is highly recommended. I have somewhat of a weakness for a butter pecan flavor, and a little scoop goes a long way.
Have any leftovers?
Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for weekday morning meals. This grain-free apple crisp easily reheats in the microwave or for a couple of minutes over the stove.
It stays fresh for up to 4 days.
More apple recipes
One of my favorite and old-time apple dessert dishes are baked stuffed apples with Belgian raspberry beer. The beer slightly thickens in the oven, adding a light sweet syrupy touch that you can pour over each individually served apple—It's fingerpicking good!
Another one of my favorites is the apple-bacon pancake. Everything goes eventually into one large oven-safe skillet, and this recipe is made with nutty buckwheat flour, making it again grain-free. A delicious pancake worth sharing!
- 8 medium apples, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 5 (Medjool) large dates, pitted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup of cashew milk, or any other nut milk
- 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses—you can also use maple syrup but it will make the apple crisp a tad sweeter.
- 3 cups chopped nuts and seeds—I use Brazilian nuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, but have also used walnuts in the past. Any one of these will do or purchase a raw nut mix.
- 2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground ginger
- 1 pinch of sea salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted—coconut butter to keep it vegan-friendly or dairy-free
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Prepare the apples
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spread out the chopped apples in a 9 by 11-inch baking dish, set aside.
- In a blender or food processor, mix the dates with vanilla extract and milk until you get a light brown paste.
- Stir the date paste into the chopped apples until well combined.
- Drizzle the molasses (or maple syrup) equally over the apples; set aside.
Make a crunchy apple crisp topping for breakfast
- In a small bowl, combine the chopped nuts, coconut flakes, ground cinnamon, ginger, and salt.
- Stir in the melted butter until well combined.
- Take two cups of the buttery nut mixture and stir it into the reserved chopped apple mixture (directly in the baking dish) until well combined.
- Layer the rest of the buttery nut mixture equally on top of the apples—coating it.
- Drizzle olive oil evenly on top of the content in the baking dish.
- Bake for 30 minutes and until the top is brown and crunchy and apples are cooked through.
Make a softer apple crisp topping for dessert
- Use a blender or food processor to pulse the chopped nuts, coconut flakes a few times until you get a coarse nutty meal.
- Transfer the nut meal to a small bowl, and stir in the ground cinnamon, ginger, and salt until well combined.
- Stir the melted butter and 2 cups of the nut meal into the reserved chopped apple mixture (directly in the baking dish).
- Layer the rest of the nutty meal on top of the apples—coating it.
- Drizzle olive oil evenly on top of the content in the baking dish.
- Bake for 45 minutes and until the top is brown and crunchy and apples are cooked through.
Equipment: An 11 by 9-inch baking dish.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 360Total Fat: 22.9gCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 9.4gSugar: 29.6gProtein: 3.6g
Disclaimer: This nutritional data is calculated using third party tools and is only intended as a reference.
This post was originally published in April 2017 and has been updated with an updated recipe, new pictures, and new information.
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