These Apple Crisp Bars are made with a buttery shortbread base, layered with spiced apple slices and topped with a brown sugar crumble oatmeal topping. A fun twist on a classic that's sure to be a hit at your fall gatherings!
Posted: 4/3/2020; Updated: 8/29/2021
These easy apple crisp bars are going to be your go-to dessert for everything fall! They are simple to make, cut easily into large (or small) apple crisp squares for easy transport and eating, and store super well for days.
The base is chewy, the apples keep a slight crisp bite to them and are pleasantly spiced with warm fall flavors, and that crumble topping! It's my favorite part about the bars and I make it with oatmeal for extra texture and to replicate that classic crisp topping.
While slightly more labor intensive than a traditional apple crisp, it is well worth it to serve a crisp/pie hybrid and people will love it! These can be eaten cold or brought to room temperature. Warming them up may cause the shortbread to fall apart if you try to pick it up, but you could always just eat it with a fork!
Make these bars in a 13x9" pan, which serves 12 (or more). You can also half the recipe and make it in an 8x8" pan if you want a smaller quantity. See the FAQs at the end for instructions on how to freeze the bars!
Apple Crisp Shortbread Bars Recipe
There's three parts to this recipe: shortbread crust, apple layer, and crumble layer. Here's how to make the best apple crisp bars:
Start by preparing a 13x9" pan with parchment paper so you can easily remove the bars after they're chilled. Check out this quick video on how I prepare my pan. Also preheat the oven to 300℉.
To make the shortbread base, start by creaming the softened butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer) for four minutes. It will become light in color and slightly aerated. Then, scrape down the sides.
Add the sugar, vanilla and salt and beat on medium speed for one minute. Scrape down he sides again. Then, add the flour and mix on low until it's just combined. It will look crumbly at first, but then will come together into one mass.
Pluck off dollops of dough and place them all around the pan, especially along the edges. The dough is slightly sticky, so this is the best way to evenly distribute the dough. Use your fingertips to gently (and relatively quickly) press the dough around.
Have a bit of patience here - it will all come together. It will feel too thin, but this is correct! Once the dough is evenly pressed into the pan, bake the base for 15 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool. Raise the heat to 350℉.
While the base is cooking, peel, core, and slice the apples to ~⅛" thick and add to a large bowl. Sprinkle over the flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and toss together with a rubber spatula until there's no longer dry bits in the bottom of the bowl.
To make the crumble layer, simply mix the melted butter, flour, brown sugar, oats and salt with a fork until crumble and no dry pieces remain.
Sprinkle one third of the crumble topping over the shortbread base. Then, layer the apple slices in rows, slightly overlapping pieces and filling in any gaps as necessary. Lightly press the apples down with your hands.
Then, sprinkle on the remaining crumble topping evenly over the apples. Return to the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the topping is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Then, add to the fridge for at least 2 hours for the bars to firm up.
When ready to serve, cut the bars (using a sharp chef's knife) into 12 or more pieces and serve.
Absolutely. If you'd like to omit the oats, add an additional 2T butter, ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup brown sugar to the crumble topping.
You can! The best way to do this is to wrap each cut slice in plastic wrap and a piece of foil, then add the a ziptop bag. Freeze for up to 2 months. Remove all wrappings and thaw in the fridge on a plate.
Searching for more dessert bars?
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- Browned Butter Blondies (with chocolate chips)
Apple Crisp Bars (with shortbread)
- 13 x 9 inch pan
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature (113g)
- ½ cup granulated sugar 100g
- 2 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 240g
- 3-4 medium apples (see notes) cored and sliced ⅛" thick (~400g sliced)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour 30g
- ¼ cup granulated sugar 50g
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup all-purpose flour 120g
- 1 cup rolled oats 100g
- 1½ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted (113g)
- 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.
- Add in the sugar, vanilla, and salt and mix on medium speed for one minute. Scrape down the sides again.
- 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).
- 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.
- Mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, and melted butter with a fork until just combined and crumbly.
- 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.
These bars are so good! I halved the recipe into an 8x8 and it worked well. Super delicious and easy to make! Thanks for the recipe!
Yay!! Great news, I know 9x13 can be a bit much unless you're heading to party or such.
This is my go-to recipe when I’m wanting to make something to share because everyone loves it!
The Cozy Plum
Totally agree with this!! One of my favorites!
These bars were delicious!!! Shared them with friends and family and everyone loved them! Such a fun twist on a fall classic. The recipe was easy to follow and I loved the pictures included for each step to show you what things should look like. I will definitely be making these again! Thanks, The Cozy Plum!
The Cozy Plum
Wahoo! Love to hear this, thanks for the review, Shelley. These are some of my favorites...
I made these Apple Crisp Bars this morning and they were easy to make and are delicious. I delivered them with homemade beef vegetable soup and bread to my son and daughter-in-law who just brought their new baby home from the hospital. Fall, new baby, comfort foods--it can't get any better than this! Of course the baby stole the show but these bars were a close second.
Thank you Cozy Plum!
The Cozy Plum
Ahh, this sounds like a perfect way to celebrate! Very thoughtful, too. So glad you liked them Peggy!
These bars are so good! I used Pink Lady apples since that is all my local store had. They worked well. The crust was perfect and the crumb topping! I will be making these again.
The Cozy Plum
I'm so happy to hear this! I have made these with so many varieties and they pretty much all hold up! Thank you for making them 🙂
Ok the shortbread base MADE these! Such a nice combo of textures, and the apples really did hold up instead of turning to mush. Will be making again soon!
The Cozy Plum
I totally agree on the shortbread base! Great to hear!