Butterless Apple Crumble Recipe

It’s only recently that I’ve realized that the crumble topping of a fruit crumble doesn’t have to be made with butter to be crisp and delicious.

Did you know? Am I the last person to find out?

The epiphany came from my intensive granola-making activities: after all, isn’t granola a second cousin to the crumble topping? And if I make granola with oil, not butter, why not try that in a crumble?

And so, for the past few months — since the beginning of this year’s apple season, really — I have gone butterless with all of my apple crumbles. (And I’ve made quite a few.)

There are several benefits. First, the crumble topping is considerably faster to mix: measure the ingredients, combine in a bowl, stir with a fork, and that’s it, you’re done. No dicing of butter, and no rubbing either. It takes five minutes tops, including the time to put all the ingredients and utensils back where they belong and wipe down the counter if you’ve spilled a little flour, which no recipe prep time in the world accounts for.

I like to half-peel the apples in alternating strips. Not because I’m half-lazy, though maybe I am, but because I like the rustic touch a bit of apple skin provides.

Second, I find that the absence of butter shifts the balance of flavor so that the (good unrefined) sugars that you use, the spices, and of course the apples themselves, sing through with a more subtle complexity.

And third, those who avoid dairy for whatever reason will be grateful for an apple crumble they can eat, especially one that can stand proudly on its own, without the crutch of crème fraîche or ice cream that seems to be automatically tacked on.

One more note about my apple crumbles of late: I like to half-peel the apples in alternating strips. Not because I’m half-lazy, though maybe I am, but because I like the rustic touch of finding a few pieces of apple skin in my crumble, and half-peeled apples deliver just the right amount. I also pick a mix of apple varieties — like I do for my apple tarts — to get as vivacious an apple taste as possible.

I hope you’ll give it a try. But for the die-hard butter lovers out there who simply must have it in their apple desserts, I recommend this rather outstanding brown butter spiced crisp.

Butterless Apple Crumble Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Serves 8.

Butterless Apple Crumble Recipe

Ingredients

  • 100 grams (3.5 ounces, about 3/4 cup) flour (I use spelt flour)
  • 100 grams (1 cup) rolled grains of your choice (oat, spelt, wheat, rye, quinoa, rice, barley... or a mix thereof)
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) rapadura sugar
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) unrefined blond cane sugar (you can use the combination of unrefined sugars that you prefer, or just one)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon mango powder (at Indian markets ; substitute the spice of your choice)
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) oil (I use a bottled blend of four organic oils)
  • 1.5 kilos organic apples (3 1/3 pounds, about 8 medium), preferably a mix of varieties, some that keep their shape when cooked, some that don't

Instructions

  1. Make the crumble topping up to a day in advance: in a medium mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients from flour to oil, and stir well with a fork to combine, making sure all of the dry ingredients are moistened by the oil. If making in advance, transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge.
  2. On the day of serving, preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Peel the apples in alternating vertical stripes so that you retain some, but not all of the peel. Quarter and core the apples, then cut into smallish chunks.
  3. Arrange the apple chunks over the bottom of a baking dish (the one I generally use is a 25-cm or 10" square) and sprinkle evenly with the topping.
  4. Insert in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until the apples are tender and the topping golden brown, checking regularly to make sure it doesn't darken too much (if it does, cover loosely with a piece of parchment paper).
  5. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. You can bake the crumble a few hours in advance, and reheat slightly before serving: if the oven was in use for the main course, I'll just put the crumble in the cooling oven while we eat. The leftovers are fantastic straight out of the fridge the next day.
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  • http://breadandmilkandblackberries.blogspot.com/ Ruth

    Ooooh! What a stroke of genius! Can’t wait to try it for myself!

  • http://bakeology101.blogspot.com/ Kartik @ Bakeology 101

    Clotilde, this is a godsend! I know the oil still provides the fat, but at least it’s healthy. And I love anything with apples – I mean, I made a apple buttermilk cake recently. Apple crumble, you’re next.
    Thanks, Kartik

  • http://www.zomppa.com Belinda @zomppa

    This looks wonderful!! I’d love this with a big scoop of ice cream!

  • http://www.cookingbreakdown.blogspot.com DANIELA

    interesting indeed!

  • http://wildeinthekitchen.blogspot.com Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen

    You weren’t the last to know, I was in the dark too! Great tip, rubbing butter into sugar is always a messing proposition.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Yes, definitely not my favorite baking task. :)

  • http://www.carolineskitchentable.com Caroline

    Oh my, I’m behind as well… still using butter in my crumbles. BUT, I do love using coconut oil for granola.

  • Niko

    Sprinkle or press the topping down firmly?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I just sprinkle it on. Incidentally, I do the same with the butter version. I’ve never seen a recipe that instructed you to press the topping — what do you think would be the purpose?

  • http://Blog.SabletHome.com Marianne

    I love this idea – can’t wait to try it! Thanks so much.

  • http://bakeology101.blogspot.com/ Kartik @ Bakeology 101

    The other thing I just noticed and find very interesting is the dried mango powder (also called amchoor). We’ve normally used it for Indian cooking to give it a twang, but this is the first time I’ve seen it in a dessert. Quite creative and intriguing.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks Kartik! I like to use an acidulated spice in my crumble toppings to give it a twang, as you so rightly put. It works especially well with apples. Sometimes I use roasted lemon zest powder, sometimes I use amchoor.

  • http://www.ladystiles.blogspot.com Michelle

    Brilliant! Pure bliss without the fat. Can’t wait for fresh local fruit!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Without the saturated fat, but not without fat: note that the butter is replaced with oil.

  • http://passioneats.blogspot.com Pennie Tirsch-Azran

    Wow, as hard as it is for me to imagine a crumble topping without butter, I think you may be on to something. And you described how the change makes a difference in the flavor perfectly–have to give this a try!

  • http://chiocolat.blogspot.com Chihiro

    After I try the chicken with the bread crust, I need to make this. So many granola recipes are practically cookie crumbs anyway. I wonder if it’s possible to skip the flour altogether? Must experiment!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      You could tweak this to use no flour at all, but I don’t know why you would — you can use flour from any kind of grain you like.

      • Donna Newby

        I like the idea of no butter rubbing – much better – thank you!

        You have me confused – How can you make crumble without any flour?

        Have you any idea also how to make the crumble go like crumble without using sugar or anything artificial (sugar wise); is their something natural I could use which isn’t going to suppress my immune system like sugar does. I use molasses in cake, flapjacks, etc. but this would just result in a very sticky mess in a crumble – this has me stuck – any ideas?

        I’d be ever so grateful of any suggestion you may have – I absolutely love crumble!

        Thank you for your recipe x

        • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

          What I meant was that you could make the crumble mixture with just the rolled grains and no flour. As for your sugar question, I’ve never tried it with a liquid sweetener, but I agree with you that it might not crisp up at all. But I haven’t experimented with this, so I’m sorry that I don’t have any further suggestion.

  • rachel keller

    Hmm, really curious to know what the four oils are in your blend…I can imagine a nut oil would be nice for part of it. Is the mango powder in there to add tartness? Nice idea!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      This blend of oil is made of sesame, olive, rapeseed and squash seed oils. A nut oil would be nice, but most of them don’t react well to heat and should be used as a seasoning/finishing oil, so I don’t know that a crumble would be a good use of them.

      As for the mango powder, see my response to Kartik above!

  • http://naturally-delicious.blogspot.com/ renee

    I love the idea of apples which bake up with different textures, as well as, varied flavors. Can you let us know what oils are in the mix you use? Maybe we can duplicate it.
    Thanks Clotilde,as always, for your inspiration and originality.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks Renee! I’ve just detailed the oils in my blend in my response to Rachel above.

  • Barbara Stanwick

    Thank you so much. I’m always looking for non dairy recipes for a lactosa intolerant friend, and I love apple crisp, so I couldn’t be more grateful for your recipe.

    And still one question

    What rapadura sugar is?

    Hugs!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Here’s a link to the wikipedia entry for rapadura sugar.

  • http://theinternationalcookingclub.blogspot.com Stephanie

    Good idea indeed!!!!!!! Going to try it for sure.
    I made one the other night with oatmeal only! No flour needed. And then to my apples I added some Blueberry sauce…. HAve you tried that one before?
    Ciao -Steph

  • http://www.21stcenturyhousewife.com April @ The 21st Century Housewife

    This is a fantastic idea and I can’t wait to try it. I don’t like to admit to being lazy, but sometimes having to rub the butter into the flour just puts me off making crumble as it seems to take so long. Thank you for another wonderful recipe!

  • http://www.cheapbeets.wordpress.com Molly

    You’ve certainly peaked my interest! Can’t wait to try this out.

  • http://www.pande.ca Maya

    This recipe is great! As a Toronto Chiropractor, I get patients asking me about dairy free options. Butter is the one thing that many people feel they can’t remove from their diet because it’s everywhere. I’m going to suggest that they come here to check this recipe out! Thanks so much!

  • http://www.audefrance.com Sam Mooney

    Sounds delicious and I’m going to try it. My daughter and son-in-law love crumble.

    I never peel apples any more. Not for cake or pie or crumble. I always tell people that it’s because a lot of the goodness is in the skin. Really it’s because I hate peeling apples. No complaints so far. And I always try and use a variety of apples.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for sharing your little secret. It made me smile. :)

  • http://virtuallyhomemade.blogspot.com virtuallyhomemade.blogspot.com

    If you are short on time you could use a high quality healthy granola from a health food store. As well, you can buy gluten free oats at my natural store and therefore make this a wheat and gluten free dessert! Sounds like indulging without too much guilt!

  • http://lacaffettierarosa.wordpress.com Caffettiera

    It is always a great pleasure to find one of your recipes. I actually quite like the flavour of butter in a crumble (who doesn’t, by the way?), but I am curious about this one. I like everything that makes the fruit shine.

  • http://food-hound.blogspot.com The Food Hound

    It would take a herd of cattle dragging me through the streets of Paris to get me to give up butter… but if I HAD to, this is a lovely alternative crumble topping!

  • http://www.foodies-heaven.co.uk Foodies Heaven

    In these days when everything seems to be simple adaptations on recipes its nice to see something that goes away from the norm and try to be different, will try this out very soon.

  • Liz Thomas

    Now you’ve done it! My husband loves crumble but I hate making it — if he sees this article then I’m in trouble!

    Seriously though, it’s the butter bit I cannot stand and I always find that the juice from the fruit soaks into the crumble making it soggy.

    Seems to me that using oil may, apart from being so much easier to make, keep the topping crisper. I’m certainly going to give it a try.

    One thing though — you say, “since the beginning of this year’s apple season” … In March? In France? Surely the trees are barely in bloom yet? Or are you referring to imported apples?

    Apples here in Macau all year round — all our food is imported from one place or another with some good stuff coming out of China these days.

    Cheers!
    Liz

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Sorry that wasn’t clear: I meant since the fall, when the first apples of the season arrived on market stalls. Usually the year’s local crop lasts vendors through the winter, and the stock of storage apples start dwindling down by mid-spring.

  • RB

    Truly the joy of baking is to use 100% real butter. Have you ever seen Paula Deen in France? The oil just sounds like it could lack in flavor and taste. Is this very oily? I don’t really consider butter a dairy product like milk and yogurt. It is really a fat, like oil.

    Silly question, what is “unrefined blond cane sugar”? Where would you buy this?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      It is not really a question of whether or not you consider butter to be a dairy product: it is, and people who are lactose or casein intolerant have to avoid all dairy products, including butter.

      Unrefined blond cane sugar is available from natural food stores.

  • http://www.french-alps-tours.com Cynthia in the French Alps

    How about that? Guilt-free Apple Crumble. Of course, that big lump of vanilla ice cream doesn’t count. Great recipe. Thanks.

  • http://souperior.wordpress.com Emma

    This is just what I’ve been searching for! I have to do a dairy-free dessert for 12 on Sunday & normally would be loathe to do something for a crowd without trying it first but this sounds like it can’t fail! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Moe

    Please note, folks: veggie oils are highly refined and don’t hold up to heat. They turn to trans fats when heated. Please use coconut oil, it is very heat and shelf stable.

  • http://www.bakedinmaine.com Lisa@bakedinmaine.com

    This looks easy and very healthy.
    I LOVE a fresh hot apple crisp….

    Yes, to ice cream!

  • http://www.bakedinmaine.com Lisa@bakedinmaine.com

    ps. I may add some lemon zest, yum!

  • http://www.culturezest.org/home/users/detail?UserHexID=73427218-9BE9-4919-8842-F2D519B90147 Morgan

    This sounds amazing. Could you use regular coarse brown sugar rather than rapadura sugar?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Absolutely: as the recipe indicates, you can use whatever combination of sugars you prefer.

  • Karen

    Simon Bryant (Australian chef) has a recipe where he uses apple syrup instead of sugar in his crumble, using olive oil in lieu of the butter would make it extra healthy.

  • http://www.yoursmartkitchen.com Cooksandlay @ Your Smart Kitchen

    Hi Clotilde, I’m here again! Butterless is healthy. I can’t wait to try your recipe but I think I’m replacing apples with peaches for cobbler day. Thanks for the added info Moe, that’s smart.

    Cooksandlay
    http://www.yoursmartkitchen.com

  • linda

    I’ll bet an all-olive oil version would be great, too. I read about using olive oil in granola in a Melissa Clark piece in the NY Times and I have to say, it’s the best I’ve had. It doesn’t steal away any of the notes from the spices, as you noted was a plus with the oil blend vs butter, and lends a lovely, unique but subtle flavor. This sounds great – my vegan friends will be grateful!

  • http://blog.khymos.org Martin

    I’ve had a bag of amchur (dried mango powder) sitting on my shelf for ages. Now I know what to try with it! Thanks :)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Happy to be of service! Now you can start using it up, half a teaspoon at a time. :)

  • Andrea

    Clotilde,

    Do you have any advice to make a crumble that is neither sandy nor gooey? I never seem to get the right balance. For the record, I tried your recipe with the ingredients I had in my kitchen, and the result was rather like sand than crunchy, some flour has not mixed with oil when I put the mix on the apples. Should I have put more oil?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      In my experience, the amount of oil listed here is enough to moisten all of the dry ingredients, but if you find that it isn’t, you can add a little more.

  • Statgirl

    Thank you for this recipe! This weekend I’m making dessert for a friend who can’t have wheat, eggs, or dairy. Sometimes it feels impossible to find desserts that don’t have at least one of those 3 ingredients. I can’t wait to serve her this!

  • Julie D.

    Nice recipe except I will use butter (or maybe coconut oil). Unless you can’t eat dairy, butter is much healthier than refined vegetable oils especially rapeseed. People have traditionally used butter and not newfangled refined oils. Heart disease in America has actually increased during the period when consumption of saturated fat has decreased.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for your thoughts, Julie. I’ll note that I’ve never thought (or written) that butter is not a healthy option. It’s not why I use oil in this recipe (see advantages listed in the post above).

  • http://www.simplybaking-Sabine.blogspot.com Sabine

    I’ve been trying to make healthier versions of desserts lately, thanks for the great recipe!

  • Aisha

    Hi Clotilde! That crumble looks lovely, and I like the fact that the skins add dots of colour to the dish :)
    I used to make my crumbles with oil when I was in a “no-butter” phase, but recently been using only butter!
    Since rhubarb season is in full swing (though the heat here in Normandie is giving my go-to organic farmers trouble – they say rhubarb needs a lot of water!), I was thinking of subbing rhubarb for the apples in your recipe. I’m worried though, that the rhubarb might release more juice. Do you think I should mix in some cornstarch or tapioca with the rhubarb to absorb the excess liquid? Or would it not be a problem?
    Any recommendations for a spice mix that goes well with rhubarb? Orange zest? Ginger? No spice? (No amchoor I guess considering the tartness of rhubarb!)

    Thanks a lot for your advice! What I love most about your recipes Clotilde, is how reliable they are. And that, more than the (stunning!) taste and originality, is crucial.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I think this would be fantastic with rhubarb, and I wouldn’t do anything special about the rhubarb juice, I don’t think it will be a problem. As for the spice, I like your suggestions of orange zest and ginger. You could also use a touch of cardamom or cinnamon.

      And thank you for your kind words, Aisha, they’re sincerely appreciated.

      • Aisha

        Made this last night with rhubarb (threw in a sad apple I had lying around) with orange zest and cinnamon as the spices. It was yum! I love how the butterless topping turned out, really crispy like granola, and the spices took center-stage. Thanks again Clotilde and have a wonderful weekend du 1e mai :)

        • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

          Thank you for reporting back on this, Aisha, I’m delighted it turned out to your liking!

  • statgirl

    I made this a couple weeks ago and it was soooo good, I’m going to start making all my crumbles butter-free from now on! I served it with cashew cream, which was a wonderful dairy-free complement to the crumble, and I felt so good serving my friends this dessert that was relatively low in sugar but high in fiber and protein — I felt so healthy!

    Here’s the cashew cream recipe if anyone is interested. I don’t usually measure things very precisely, but the ratio I typically use is about 2 cups of cashews with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Blend in a blender or food processor until it starts to come together in a clump. Add water a little at a time, until it’s really smooth and creamy has reached whatever consistency you prefer (thick or thin). It’s a scrumptious topping for any fruit dessert, but it went especially well with this crumble.

    I can’t wait to make this crumble with all the different fruits that will be around this summer!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for reporting back on this recipe, and sharing your cashew cream recipe. Much appreciated!

  • http://apronappeal.com Gwenevere

    You had me at butterless. As much as I love it. I can’t eat it until I’m done nursing.

  • Sara

    Another great butter-free crumble topping is:

    1 cup Oats
    2 tbsp chopped Walnuts
    1/4 tsp Salt
    2 tbsp Honey
    1 tbsp Oil (Vegetable oil is fine, but Walnut oil would be better)

  • Penguin

    Thanks for the recipe. Tried it tonight and it was a heat with the family. I did not use only apple though because I had blueberries and raspberries. The three fruits mixed together to give a lovely taste.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      So glad, thank you!

  • http://www.massagebydanasaltlake.com Dana

    my family loved this butterless apple crumb on Christmas day. I am converting to more natural foods including gluten and dairy free. I did a couple of things differently so thought I would share them. I used Bob’s Red Mill gluten free and dairy free flour (made of garbanzo bean, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, fava bean flour – made in US) I poured 1/2 cup of pure apple cider over the apples while baking, and I broiled the crisp on low for about 3 minutes. It was so delicious. Thank you! Love your blog. I’ll be back frequently.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for reporting back with your tips and modifications!

  • Rachel

    Clotilde, merci bien pour cette recette. Je l’ai fait aujourd’hui et c’etais super! C’est le plus facile crumble que j’ai fait essayer. Je n’ai pas poudre de mangue et cannelle, mais c’est toujours tres bien. Mais je pense que 1/4 tsp de sel serait encore plus bien.

    Pardon pour mon francais – j’ai etudier le francais pour deux annees et j’ai peur j’ai oublier tout!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Merci Rachel, j’en suis ravie, et bravo pour votre français !

  • Jney

    Could i use agave nectar instead of sugar? Mabe this would mean i would use less oil? Awesome recipe thankyou xoox

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      You could try using agave nectar here, but I suspect the topping would be less crunchy. You can also play around with the amount of oil, as this is by no means a carved-in-stone kind of recipe, but the amount of oil is unrelated to the kind of sweetener you use. Let us know what you end up trying!

  • Charlene

    I now make my apple crisp with coconut oil instead of butter, and pecans instead of flour. The family loves the new version.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      You know, I’ve tried it with coconut oil, but found the topping didn’t get crisp. A nut flour instead of the flour sounds great! Would you share the proportions you use?

  • http://tenacioustinkering.com Jayne @ Tenacious Tinkering

    Perfect crumble recipe for me! I was going to make crumble for church lunch tomorrow then realized I was out of butter. I remember making crumble without butter before. I’m so going to steal your recipe and take all the credit. Haha! Thanks for the fabulous recipe.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I hope everyone enjoys this, Jayne, do report back!

  • JWA :)

    Many thanks for the recipe – I needed to make something butter-free, so this was perfect.
    As a tweak, I made it with a mixture of half apples and half frozen mixed red fruits (blackberries, red currants etc.,) which are easily available all year round in any supermarket (in France). I also mixed muesli with ground oats… And I had to use about 50% more oil (Isio 4), but no worries there.
    I only added about 50 gms of dark brown sugar because the muesli was sweetened. Everything worked out brilliantly, and I had a very crunchy crumble.
    However, I’d be grateful to know what I could do to make it bind! I like my crumble to be a bit chewy!…. If I’d had more sugar would that have had that effect? – Or more juice in the fruit?… I’d be grateful for your thoughts Clotilde. – Joyeuse année! :~)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for reporting back! Although I’ve never tried it, I think adding an eggwhite to the mixture (or soaked flaxseed if you prefer to avoid animal products) could help bind it. Let me know if you try that!

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