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Apple Crumble

I have a soft spot for Apple Crumble (and Apple Crisp) because it is one of the recipes my teacher used in my first cooking class in high school. However, it can be high in sugar, carbs, and other ingredients that many people today are trying to avoid. So I offer you this treat.

One taste of this delicious dessert and you’ve won’t believe it is both gluten and refined sugar-free. The addition of fresh thyme adds a subtle savory note to the otherwise sweet flavor profile of this classic recipe.

Apple Crumble

Apple Crisp

Apple Crumble

A gluten- and sugar-free recipe.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword apples, dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings 6


  • 6 large apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoon 100% apple juice, sugar-free
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Topping Ingredients:

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup almonds, sliced
  • 1/3 cup honey, preferably local
  • 3 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

To Serve: (Optional)

  • Vanilla bean ice cream or freshly whipped cream


  • Place top oven rack in the center position and pre-heat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8” x 8” baking dish and set it aside.
  • In a large non-reactive bowl, toss apples with fresh lemon juice.
  • Add maple syrup, apple juice, cinnamon, allspice, thyme leaves, and salt. Toss to combine and set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, combine topping ingredients and stir until oats are thoroughly coated and all ingredients are well combined. Set aside.
  • Pour apple mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer.
  • Spread the topping evenly across the top in a uniform layer, as well.
    Apple Crisp ready to bake
  • Place into the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. If the top layer is nicely browned, cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.
  • Continue baking for another 15-20 minutes or until the apple crisp is nice and bubbling. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.
  • Serve warm with some vanilla bean iced cream or freshly whipped cream, if desired.
    Apple Crisp with Ice Cream on top

Tip: Choose firm apples, such as Granny Smith or Pink Lady, for this recipe. These varieties will hold up well to the heat of baking without turning to mush. Read my apple tips on the page for Cinnamon Baked Apples.

What is the difference between an Apple Crumble and an Apple Crisp?

If you’re a Brit, Aussie, or Kiwi, then you are probably asking this question because in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, the term “Apple Crumble” refers to both. However, here in the United States, as well as in Canada, we make a distinction between the two desserts.

An Apple Crisp, also called an Apple Streusel, is made with a streusel topping. Streusel is made by cutting together a fat, usually butter, some flour, sugar, and more often than not, some cinnamon. The topping is crumbly and sweet. If you use a leavened flour, such as Bisquick (which is my go-to), then it puffs up a little, as well.

An Apple Crumble, on the other hand, has a topping made from rolled oats and brown sugar. In this recipe, I use honey instead — thus removing the refined sugar.

Interestingly enough, if you try to look up the history of the Apple Crumble, you find a lot of information about the Apple Streusel, which was invented in Britain around World War II. Other related dishes include:

  • Apple Cobbler, which has a biscuit topping
  • Apple Brown Betty, which has a buttered bread topping
  • Apple Pandowdy, which has a pastry topping

All are related to the Apple Pie.

From what I could gather in my research — and I’ll have to dig deeper at a later time — is that most of these recipes were created out of something akin to necessity. The cook didn’t have the ingredients to make an apple pie, so they invented something that worked with what they did have. That is how much kitchen creativity happens — taking a look at the ingredients on hand and pulling them together in new ways.

Creative Cooking Tips Banner

Wondering how you can unleash your kitchen creativity on this recipe while preserving its gluten-free and processed-sugar-free qualities. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Try molasses instead of honey. Molasses is made from brown sugar, so you’ll get a bit of the recipe’s original qualities. However, it will be less sweet than honey or brown sugar.
  • Try a different gluten-free flour. You can substitute almond flour with oat flour, buckwheat flour, cashew flour, or sunflower seed flour. You can also experiment with coconut flour, but it will change the flavor profile significantly enough that you’ll need to play around with other ingredients, as well.
  • Substitute the allspice for cloves. They have very similar flavor profiles.
  • Use another natural syrup instead of maple syrup. Molasses is a good choice. You can also try out honey or agave nectar.

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About the author

Carma Spence has been experimenting in the kitchen since she was four years old and loves trying out new recipe ideas. She is the author of Bonkers for Bundt Cakes and Your Perfect Pie, as well as author and contributor to several more non-food-related books. With Carma's Cookery, she is taking her passion for empowering people and blending it with her passion for cooking, gift-giving and entertaining.

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