Apple crisp is often celebrated as an easier alternative to pie. But honestly, its merits go far beyond that comparison. Its crunchy, oat-studded topping is the ideal contrast to tender apples, and its short, no-frills ingredient list lets the natural flavor of the fruit shine. It’s also in and out of the oven before you can say “Granny Smith”—especially if you take a few clever shortcuts.
This 3-ingredient version is the speedy, seasonal dessert you’ve been searching for. Thanks to the ingenious use of instant oatmeal packets and a quick headstart on the stove, it comes together even faster than usual and barely dirties a single spoon. It’s not too sugary, making it an exciting choice for breakfast (I love it with plain Greek yogurt), but it’s equally at home paired with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Once you’ve tried it once, get ready to experiment. Swap in ripe pears for the apples (or peaches in the summer), or use the crumbly oat topping on pies or baked apples. There’s no way it won’t be delicious.
The Best Apples for Apple Crisp
For a mix of flavors and textures, I like to pair a sweet variety (Honeycrisp, Gala, Braeburn, or Jonagold) with a tart one (Pink Lady, Winesap, or Granny Smith). I also prefer to bake with medium to large apples, simply because they’re less tedious to peel. At the end of the day, prioritize what’s already in your fridge.
Caramelizing the Apples
Working with so few ingredients means finding creative ways to build flavor, and cooking the apples in butter (a trick I picked up from Gordon Ramsay) does exactly that. Plus, because the apples are teetering on tender when they enter the oven, we can crank up the heat and cut the bake time in half. The high heat also helps the topping achieve better browning.
Making an Instant Oatmeal Topping
The addition of oats (and sometimes nuts) is what separates a crisp from a crumble, so it’s an essential part of our dish. But instead of flavoring them ourselves, we’re turning to instant oatmeal packets, which have the sugar and spice built right in.
The exact brand and variety is up to you, allowing you to tailor this crisp to your taste buds and what you have on hand. Maple and brown sugar is my personal favorite (along with anything with raisins), though apple crisp purists may want to opt for cinnamon and spice.
You could even use this as an opportunity to work in some protein, since some brands (like Kodiak Cakes) boast up to 12 grams per serving. If it’s important to you, consider the ingredient list: some packets have more additives than others.
Once you’ve taken your pick, you’ll work in cold butter, using your fingertips to create moist clumps. Stick it in the fridge while you sauté the apples, which will keep the butter cold and maintain the topping’s texture.
Apples for Breakfast
- Apple Bread Pudding
- Apple Butter
- Apple Coffee Cake
- Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- Apple Bread
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Arrange a rack in the center of the oven.
Make the topping:
Add the instant oatmeal to a medium bowl. Add 6 tablespoons of the butter and press and squeeze it into the oats with your fingertips until moist crumbs form. Transfer to the refrigerator.
Sauté the apples:
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch skillet (preferably oven-safe, like cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized in spots and beginning to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. (Reduce the heat to medium if the apples are browning too quickly.) Remove from the heat.
Add the topping:
If you’re not using an oven-safe skillet, transfer the apples to a 2-quart baking dish.
Scatter the topping over the apples. It likely won’t cover them entirely.
Bake the crisp:
Bake until the juices around the edges of the skillet are bubbling, the apples are tender, and the topping is golden-brown and crisp, 18 to 24 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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