These apple crisp bars are the perfect mix between apple crisp and apple pie! They feature a buttery shortbread crust, gooey cinnamon apple filling, and crumbly oat topping. These bars insanely delicious and perfect for all of your entertaining and holiday needs!

Apple crisp bars with crumble topping

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • These apple crisp bars are filled with warm spices and flavors.
  • They have three delicious layers.
  • The shortbread crust is buttery and tasty.
  • A gooey cinnamon apple filling makes these bars irresistible!
  • An oat crumble topping is the perfect top layer.
  • This recipe is nut free and gluten free.
  • Check out this Paleo Apple Crisp for another fun recipe!

Ingredients & Substitutions

Cold butter is used in both the shortbread crust and crumble topping. In both cases, use cold butter directly from the fridge. For the crust, beat butter with sugars until no clumps of butter remain. For the topping, slice cold butter into small cubes. Then use hands to incorporate butter into topping mixture. I do not recommend using coconut oil as a substitute.

Light brown sugar is used in the shortbread crust and the topping. Tightly pack brown sugar. If needed, coconut sugar or a low carb brown sugar alternative can be used.

Granulated sugar adds sweetness to the crust layer and the gooey apple filling. If desired, replace with more brown sugar or coconut sugar.

A hint of vanilla extract adds a great flavor to the shortbread crust.

Both gluten free 1 to 1 flour and all purpose flour can be used. The flour is in the crust and the topping layers. I am gluten free so I used King Arthur Flour gluten free 1 to 1 flour.

Gluten free apple crisp bars

When choosing apples, use both red and green apples. I used a mix of McIntosh apples and Granny smith. McIntosh apples get soft and tender while baking. They are also naturally sweet. Granny smith apples retain their shape more and add a hint of tartness. Use your desired kind of apple, but these are my suggestions. Peel, core and thinly slice apples before use.

One of the biggest flavors in these apple crisp bars is cinnamon! It is used in all three layers. Feel free to add a dash of nutmeg to any of the layers.

Lemon juice is used in the filling to help prevent the apples from turning brown in the oven.

Tapioca flour helps thicken the apple mixture. Cornstarch or arrowroot powder can be used.

When sautéing the apple mixture, add enough water to prevent apples from burning. I only needed ¼ cup water.

Old fashioned oats add a nice crumble to the topping. Use regular or gluten free. They are a much better option than quick oats due to their larger size and softer texture.

Choosing the Apples

Not all apples are created equal. Here are some tips and tricks for choosing which apples to use for these apple crisp bars.

Use a mix of soft and firm apples. Soft apples become tender while baking and yield gooey results. This is great for these bars! Firm apples maintain their shape better which adds more texture. Using a combination of soft and firm apples is best for apple crisp.

McIntosh apples are naturally sweet and soft. They bake beautifully and add a great sweetness to these bars. Granny smith are firmer and more naturally tart. They balance out the McIntosh apples well. Honey crisp apples are another great option for firm apples.

Peel and core apples before slicing into ¼ inch thin slices. Slice apples into evenly sized pieces to ensure even baking. I highly recommend slicing into long thin slices as opposed to small cubes. Thin slices lead to a more even layer of apples.

Apple crumble bars

Taste & Texture

These apple crisp bars taste like a mix between apple pie and apple crisp. The shortbread crust is buttery, the cinnamon apple layer is warmly spiced and the topping is sweet.

All three layers have distinct textures. The crust is similar to a pie crust but less dry. The apple filling is gooey and the topping is crumbly.

How to Make

Step 1

First, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8 inch by 8 inch pan with parchment paper.

Step 2

Make the crumble topping.

Step 3

Add all crumble topping ingredients to a mixing bowl. Use your hands, a fork or pastry cutter to incorporate butter into mixture. Mix until a crumbly mixture forms. Then, place bowl in fridge.

Step 4

Next, make the shortbread crust. Add cold butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar to a stand mixer bowl. Beat until no clumps of butter remain.

Step 5

Add in vanilla extract, flour and cinnamon to bowl. Stir until combined. Press dough into an even layer in lined pan.

Step 6

Bake shortbread crust for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Shortbread crust in pan

Step 7

While crust bakes, make the apple filling. Peel and core apples. Slice into ¼ inch thin slices.

Sliced apples

Step 8

Add all apple filling ingredients to a skillet over low heat. Stir gently to combine and stir occasionally for 5 minutes or until apples have softened. Add more water to the skillet to prevent burning if needed.

Step 9

Once shortbread crust has finished baking, pour apple filling on top. Spread into an even layer. Then, top apples with crumble topping.

Step 10

Bake for 35 to 36 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Golden apple pie bars in pan

Expert Tips & Tricks

To make the crumble topping, use a pastry cutter, fork or your hands to incorporate butter into dough. The mixture will be crumbly and not uniform.

For the shortbread crust, use cold butter right from the fridge. Then, cream butter with sugars until no clumps of butter remain.

Use a mixture of soft and firm apples for the filling.

Slice apples into evenly sized thin slices. Do not slice into cubes.

Allow bars to cool before slicing and serving! The apple layer is gooey. To speed this process up, place pan in fridge to cool more quickly.

How to Serve & Store

Serve apple crisp bars once cool enough to be sliced into. They are gooey!

Serve with caramel or vanilla ice cream on top.

Store bars covered at room temperature for up to 4 days. Alternatively, store bars in fridge for up to 7 days.

If desired, freeze individual bars for up to 1 month.

Stack of apple crisp bars

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of apples are best for apple crisp?

A mixture of soft and firm apples are best for apple crisp. McIntosh, Granny smith and honey crisp are all great options.

Can you freeze them?

Yes! Slice into bars and freeze each bar for up to 1 month.

Can you make these ahead of time?

Yes. These bars are much easier to cut into once cooled. Make up to 2 days ahead of time if needed.

Can I use all purpose flour?

Yes. Both gluten free 1 to 1 flour and all purpose flour work in this recipe.

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If you make this apple crisp shortbread bars recipe, I would really appreciate a review! You can find me on InstagramFacebook, and Pinterest. I would love for you to follow along! 

Apple crisp bars with crumble topping

Get the Recipe: Apple Crisp Bars

These apple crisp bars have all the flavors and textures of the classic dessert but they are easy to make and share! These bars feature a shortbread crust, gooey cinnamon apple layer and crumble topping. They are absolutely delicious!
5 from 15 votes

Ingredients

Shortbread Crust

Apple Filling

  • 3 red apples, I used McIntosh, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1 Granny smith apple, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp tapioca flour, or cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp water

Crumble Topping

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8 inch by 8 inch pan with parchment paper.
  • First, make the crumble topping.
  • Add all crumble topping ingredients to a mixing bowl. Use your hands, a pastry cutter or fork to incorporate butter into mixture. Mix until a crumbly mixture forms. Place bowl in fridge.
  • Next, make the shortbread crust. Add cold butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar to a stand mixer bowl. Beat until no clumps of butter remain.
  • Add in vanilla extract, flour and cinnamon to bowl. Stir until combined. Place dough into lined pan. Press into an even layer.
  • Bake shortbread crust for 15 minutes. Then remove from oven.
  • While shortbread crust bakes, make apple filling. Peel and core apples. Slice into ¼ inch thin slices.
  • Add all apple filling ingredients to a skillet over low heat. Stir gently to combine and stir occasionally for 5 minutes or until apples have softened. If needed, add more water to the skillet to prevent burning.
  • Once shortbread crust has finished baking, pour apple filling on top. Spread into an even layer. Then, top apples with crumble topping.
  • Bake for 35 to 36 minutes. Remove pan from oven. Allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Notes

  • Gluten free 1 to 1 flour or all purpose flour work in this recipe.
  • Use pastry cutter, a fork, or your hands to mix together crumble topping.  Mixture will be crumbly, not uniform.
  • For best results, use a mixture of red apples and green apples.  I used 3 McIntosh apples and 1 Granny smith apple. 
  • For the shortbread crust, use very cold butter right from the fridge.  Beat with sugars until no clumps of butter remain.
  • Sauté apples until slightly softened.  Add more water to the skillet to prevent burning if needed.
  • Allow to cool completely before slicing into bars and serving.  The apple layer is gooey!
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the fridge for up to 7 days.
Calories: 248kcal, Carbohydrates: 38g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 26mg, Sodium: 92mg, Potassium: 90mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 22g, Vitamin A: 332IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 20mg, Iron: 1mg

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