These easy apple crumble bars have a chewy shortbread base, a tart and sweet cinnamon apple layer, and a buttery brown sugar oat crumble topping.
The apple crumble squares are like a dutch apple pie in bar form, are a great make-ahead dessert, and my family and friends consider these a fall staple! Eat them cold, at room temperature, or gently reheat a quart in the microwave and serve with a caramel drizzle or a scoop of ice cream.
Fruit crisp (like this apple blueberry crisp) is a fall favorite dessert, and these apple crisp bars are an upscale version of just that! This apple dessert is great for parties, football tailgates, and are easily transportable. It has all of the warm apple spices you love in a fall dessert, with that classic streusel topping.
For more recipes with crumble topping, try:
- Apple Crumble Cheesecake
- Dutch Caramel Apple Pie with Crumb Topping
- Apple Streusel Coffee Cake
- Pumpkin Pie Crumble Bars
- Cinnamon Apple Crumble Muffins with Oats
Why You'll Love This Recipe
Easier to eat apple pie - While these bars taste just like apple pie, they're more simple to make, eat, and transport!
Make ahead - Because the bars need time to chill and set up in the fridge, it's the perfect dessert to make a day in advance of when you need them.
Fall flavors - These apple crumble bars are filled with cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and apples! Your kitchen will smell like you're mulling apple cider while baking a batch of these.
- All-purpose flour. It's important not to over-measure the flour in this recipe, otherwise, the bars can become dry and crumbly.
- Unsalted butter. This will be used in room temperature form for the shortbread, and melted form for the crisp topping.
- Spices. Cinnamon and nutmeg are used to create the warm fall spices in this apple dessert.
- Oats. Rolled oats (also known as old-fashioned oats) should be used. Quick cooking oats can be used if you can't source rolled oats.
- Sugar. Granulated sugar is needed for the shortbread and the apples, and light brown sugar for the streusel.
- Apples. Tart, firm baking apples should be used in this recipe. Granny Smith, Braeburn, Pink Lady, or Gala apples are all great options.
See recipe card for full ingredients list and quantities.
Substitutions and Variations
- Make the bars with firm peaches or other stone fruit like plums or apricots.
- These can also be made with blueberries, like in these blueberry pie bars.
- Quick-cooking oats can be used instead of rolled oats if you have trouble finding some.
- Add a drizzle of caramel sauce to the top before serving. Follow this caramel recipe!
- Half the recipe and make it in an 8x8" or 9x9" square pan.
How to Make This Recipe
There are three parts to this recipe: shortbread crust, apple layer, and crumble layer.
Start by preparing a 9x13" pan with parchment paper so you can easily remove the bars after they're chilled. Check out this quick video on how to prepare a pan with parchment paper.
One: Make the shortbread dough, then dollop pieces all over the bottom of the prepared pan.
Two: Use your fingers or a rubber spatula to pat the shortbread into an even layers, getting into the sides and corners. Par-bake this layer.
Hot tip! Have a bit of patience here. The amount of shortbread may feel too thin, but keep gently pressing it to cover the pan.
Three: Use a fork to mix together the ingredients for the streusel topping.
Four: Peel, core, and slice the apples, then toss with the flour and spices.
Five: Sprinkle ⅓ of the crisp topping on the par-baked shortbread.
Six: Layer the apple slices, slightly overlapping, over all of the shortbread. Insert extra apple slices into areas with gaps.
Seven: Gently press down on all of the apples to make them as flat as possible.
Eight: Sprinkle on the remaining crumble, then finish baking. Cool completely in the refrigerator before cutting into slices.
- Slice the apples rather thin so they can be layered nicely. Add any leftover apple slices where there may be gaps.
- Press down on apples before adding the crumble. This ensures an even bake.
- Allow the apple crumble bars to chill fully before cutting, otherwise they will fall apart.
- Using a long, thin knife to cut the bars is best. Avoid sawing motions and press down with one cut, then move on to the next area.
Absolutely. If you'd like to omit the oats, add an additional 2 tablespoons butter, ¼ cup flour, and ¼ cup brown sugar to the crumble topping.
Any tart, firm baking apples are great. granny smith, Braeburn, pink lady or gala apples are best.
A mix of fat (typically butter), flour, sugar (brown or white), and sometimes oats or nuts. It gets mixed together into a crumble and turns both chewy and crispy during baking.
Yes! stone fruit (nectarines, peaches, plums) are great to use, as well as blueberries. Be sure the fruit is very firm.
They're actually best made in advance because they require some chill time in the fridge. Apple pie bars are perfect to make a day ahead of time and serve the following day.
Store the bars tightly covered in the fridge for up to one week. Enjoy cold or at room temperature.
To freeze, wrap each cut slice in plastic wrap and a piece of foil, then add to a zip top bag. Freeze for up to 2 months. Remove all wrappings and thaw in the fridge on a plate.
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Apple Crumble Bars with Shortbread
- 13 x 9 inch pan
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3-4 medium apples peeled, cored and sliced ⅛" thick (see notes)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cup light brown sugar packed
- 1 cup rolled oats
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted
- Preheat the oven to 300℉ and line bottom and sides of a 13 x 9" baking pan with a parchment paper sling so you can easily pull the bars out after baked.
- Place the softened butter into a stand mixer (with paddle attachment) and turn on high speed for 4 minutes until it turns pale and slightly whipped. Scrape down the sides.1 cup unsalted butter
- Add in the sugar, vanilla, and salt and mix on medium speed for one minute. Scrape down the sides again.½ cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Add in the flour and mix on low until combined. The dough will look crumbly at first, then will come together and look slightly sticky (this is normal).2 cups all-purpose flour
- Scatter pieces of the dough all around the pan and press it (with fingertips) into the edges and middle until all the dough comes together to cover the pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Turn the oven up to 350℉.
- While the crust is baking, peel, core, and slice apples (⅛ inch thick). In a large bowl, combine the apples, flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and lightly toss until the apples are fully coated.3-4 medium apples, ¼ cup all-purpose flour, ¼ cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, and melted butter with a fork until just combined and crumbly.1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup rolled oats, 1 ½ cup light brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ cup unsalted butter
- Sprinkle one third of the topping over the shortbread, then layer the apples over the crumble in slightly overlapping horizontal lines. Gently press down on the apples with your hands.
- Once the apples are arranged, sprinkle the remainder of the topping evenly on top and bake for 30 minutes.
- Let cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate for 2 hours. Using the parchment slings, remove the full slab of bars to a cutting board and cut into 12 or more pieces and serve.