Whole-Foods Plant-Based Apple Crisp / Crumble No-Oil, Nuts Instead of Butter

This is a yummy, healthy and satisfying plant-based vegan dessert, after school snack for kids, bedtime snack for yourself, mid-day treat… Whatever you prefer, so many options!

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To make an apple crumble / apple crisp recipe that is more whole-foods plant-based, this recipe uses nuts instead of butter, in the oat topping.

With pecans, or cashews, you will still get that mouth feel, and satisfaction, that fat gives, but in a healthier delivery package (the natural whole nut).

Nuts have antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients that margerine, oils and butter do not have.  Plus, nuts are crunchy, a great texture for a crispy apple oat topping. 


How Do You Get the Apple Crumble Topping to Stay Together Without Butter?

Lemon juice.  Fat free lemon juice.  Use a food processor, oats, spices, nuts, sugar, and lemon juice.  So easy, and if you don’t over process them, you’ll get a healthy vegan crumble fruit dessert that’s  just right.

The lemon in the topping and spices on the apples, help this last for days on the counter, natural preservatives I suppose.  Lasts longer in the fridge, the topping stays firm.

If you use freshly squeezed lemon juice, you are again increasing your antioxidants and other nutrients.

What Kind of Apples to Use in Apple Crisp?

You can use peeled apples, or leave the peels on your apples (will result in a drier fruit filling, but still tastes good).  You can use green apples, or red, or crabapples.  Each type of apple will taste a little different.  

If you make apple dessert often enough, you might start to adjust the sugar content lower, or higher, when you know the apples are sweeter or more tart.

Cornstarch Makes it Gluten Free

To thicken the apple filling, follow the instructions to sprinkle the cut apples with a lovely blend of warming spices, cornstarch, and a small amount of your favourite sugar. Makes for a decent consistency, rather than being too juicy, and cornstarch is gluten-free.

Oats are naturally gluten free as well.  If you are super sensitive, you can buy some that are also labelled gluten free – meaning they have not been processed in a facility that processes grains with gluten.

Whole Foods Compared to Traditional Desserts 

This recipe won’t taste as sweet, or as buttery, as a traditional apple crisp, but it allows you to gently enjoy the natural taste of the apples.  

Also you won’t have a sugar crash, or regret eating this vegan dessert.  It should make you feel really good in your tummy, and in your body, after eating! 


slicing apples

Healthy Apple Crisp (Apple Crumble) Gluten Free, Vegan, No-Oil

Incredibly simple to make, and very tasty! This low-calorie, healthy, gluten-free, oil-free, no-butter apple crisp / apple crumble recipe has an oat crumble topping that is crisp, not soggy, and is held together by lemon juice and enhanced by nuts (without butter or margarine).
For this recipe, I often use crabapples from my apple tree, but green apples and red apples work as well.  
A touch of cornstarch in the filling ensures your apple crisp is not watery, it will thicken, and  have a consistency like apple pie, but be gluten-free.
Even sour tasting apples transform into a delicious healthy dessert, or snack, without much added sugar. The nuts taste so good, you won't miss the butter at all!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American, Canadian, Plant Based, Vegan, Western
Servings 12 servings
Calories 238 kcal


  • 3 Quart Casserole Dish, Uncovered
  • Food Processor

Instructions and Ingredients

For the Apple Filling:

  • 9 cups apples Green or crabapples work well. Sliced (I use an apple slicer) peels on or off. A large apple yields approx. 1 1/2 cups. Better to use more apples than not enough.
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup sugar white sugar mixes in well, that's what I prefer

For the Oat Topping:

  • 3 cups oats rolled, quick cooking
  • 1/3 cup sugar or dry sweetener of your choice. Lately I use brown sugar (packed), for the color, white also works.
  • 1 1/4 cup pecans I keep my pecans in the freezer.
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice fresh squeezed or bottled, about 2 lemons.
  • 2 tbsp water if needed - see notes about how to process the topping for the consistency you want.
  • Preheat oven to 350° F, take out a 3 Qt, or 9 x 13 casserole dish, no lid required.  

Prepare the Fruit Filling

  • Peel and cut apples, into evenly sized cubes, or thin slices.  The smaller you cut the apples, the juicier it will be. Also it will cook faster.
    Time saving tip: You can push a slicer through each apple to make 6 or so pieces, then cut each slice lengthwise in half.  
    Option: leave the peels on. Note: It will take longer to cook this way.
  • Spread apples evenly into the casserole baking dish, with love. 🙂
  • Use a fork, in a small bowl mix: cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar until well combined and lump free.  
    Sprinkle evenly over the apples.
    No stirring required.

Prepare the Crumble Topping

  • Process Dry Ingredients: In a food processor, on med-high speed, blend oats, sugar, pecans, cinnamon, and nutmeg just until mixed, the pecans should still be a bit chunky. About 15-20 seconds.
    You aren't trying to turn the nuts into flour.
  • Add Water to Lemon Juice: While processing on medium, or low, slowly add the lemon juice and water to make the mixture crumbly, sticky, and moist. The mixture should start climbing the walls.   About 1-2 minutes on low.
    Important: stop processing before it gets too lumpy / stuck together, or it will be too wet to sprinkle easily.
    Moisture content of your nuts / oats makes a difference, so this takes some technique and adjustments here!
    To make the topping lumpy (I like clumps, but my kids don't), process longer on fast speed, with more liquid, and it will form into little balls.  
    To make the topping more even, process less and don't add any extra water.
    You are in control of your topping consistency!
  • Spread the oat topping crumble evenly over the apples.  If you did over process, don't worry, you can break up any lumps with a large spoon, in the food processor, then spread it over. It will still taste great!
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes, uncovered.
    Check at 20 minutes, and every 10 minutes after, to make sure the topping isn't burning. I think fresh lemon juice might burn more easily than bottled lemon juice. Still testing this out...
    The apple crisp is done when the fruit is bubbling and the topping is light brown in the center. 


I'm learning, the smaller / thinner the apple pieces are cut, the more juicy it will be.  
One time I used old apples (had been in my fridge for about 8 weeks, yes a little embarrassing, but this happens to me).  They were dried out, and didn't produce enough juice to mix with the sprinkled cornstarch mix.  I ended up adding about 1 cup water in the bottom of the dish and finished it in the microwave.  Lesson learned - don't use dried out apples!  Or put water in if you do.
We don't mind it being a little different each time!  Always gets all eaten up!


Nutrition Facts
Healthy Apple Crisp (Apple Crumble) Gluten Free, Vegan, No-Oil
Amount Per Serving (1 / 12th of recipe)
Calories 238 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 51mg2%
Potassium 212mg6%
Carbohydrates 39g13%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 19g21%
Protein 4g8%
Vitamin A 51IU1%
Vitamin C 7mg8%
Calcium 28mg3%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword apples, crisp, crumble, gluten free, gluten free dessert, gluten free snack, healthy dessert, healthy gluten free apple crisp, no-oil, nuts, oats, pecans, Plant Based, quick, vegan, vegan dessert, Whole Foods
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