Earlier this year, I received some really tough news. I briefly told my grandma about it, and she offered to watch some baseball games with me or let me sit on her back porch swing, a favorite peaceful place of mine, whenever I wanted so I wouldn’t feel alone.
The following week, she texted me. “Left something at your front door that needs special attention. 🙂 ”
I looked down at my dog. Usually calm and a little lazy in her old age, she had mysteriously raced into the house from sleepily sunbathing out back and sprinted around the entire downstairs, intently searching for someone or something in every room, for almost five minutes straight before returning to the kitchen to stare at me… Right as my grandma’s message arrived.
“Did you hear Grandma at the front door? Or smell her?” I smiled down at my dog, her tag wagging so frantically that it looked ready to fly right off. “Well… Let’s go see what she left.”
When I pulled open the front door, an envelope and white cardboard box sat on the porch. Tears pricked in the corners of my eyes. It held a gourmet crumb-topped apple pie from our favorite local maker, one with blueberries mixed into the filling too, and when I slipped out the card, the message on its front read “Sometimes we just need to hear, ‘I’m thinking of you,’ and know people are there for us.”
In my kitchen, I immediately snapped a photo and sent it to my grandma with a heartfelt thank you note. She texted me back. “Is blueberry okay? I can exchange for apple……”
Yet I instantly fell in love with that flavor combination, the juicy berries paired with the tender apples, along with the way the sweet crumb topping added a little crunch — and I jotted down a note to try baking something with those three components after I finished my first slice.
That eventually led to this healthy blueberry apple crisp! It has the same flavors and textures as that special pie that my grandma left on my doorstep. Without a crust underneath, it’s also faster and simpler to make than pie…
And quicker and easier desserts are always things I can get behind!
QUICK OVERVIEW – HEALTHY BLUEBERRY APPLE CRISP
Difficulty: Fairly easy, including for many beginner bakers.
Taste: Lots of bright, naturally sweet fruit flavors paired with a kiss of cozy cinnamon and comforting oats.
Texture: Soft, tender, melt-in-your-mouth apple slices and incredibly juicy berries topped with a crisp and crunchy streusel.
CRISP OR CRUMBLE?
Ahhhh, the world of fruit-centered desserts… Pies are straightforward and simple to recognize, regardless of whether they come topped with a crust, streusel, or nothing at all, and so are their cousins, tarts and galettes. A crust underneath, fruit on top, baked until delicious and sweet. Easy as, well, pie!
But… Then come the rest. Crisps, crumbles, cobblers, bettys, buckles, sonkers — and yes, even more. The list doesn’t end there!
We’ll save the rest for another day and just focus on those first two: crisps and crumbles. Both include a layer of fruit covered with a crunchy streusel. While a number of people insist that they’re different and staunchly maintain that only crisps should have oats in their topping, it seems like many agree (myself included!) that crisps and crumbles can have oats — and, therefore, that those two terms are interchangeable and refer to the same dessert.
From what I’ve gathered, it seems like “crisp” is a more popular term in the US, whereas “crumble” is used more in the UK. Personally, I grew up calling these desserts crumbles, but I now alternate between the two names, often without much rhyme or reason.
So, in a nutshell… Use whatever word you’d like!
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE A HEALTHY BLUEBERRY APPLE CRISP
With that little English lesson out of the way, let’s talk about the ingredients you’ll need to make this healthy blueberry apple crisp (or crumble!). Other than the fruit, there’s a very good chance you have everything on hand!
Oats. Both instant oats and old-fashioned rolled oats work! As a quick reminder, instant oats are also called “quick cooking” and “one minute” oats. They’re smaller and thinner than old-fashioned rolled oats, which means they’re much faster to cook (hence the “instant” part of their name!). They’re generally sold right next to the old-fashioned rolled oats, and they only include one ingredient: oats. (They’re not the kind that come in individual packets with flavors like apple cinnamon or maple brown sugar!)
I always keep instant oats in my pantry because they’re perfect for baking oatmeal cookies, and I also like using them to make the crumb topping of fruit crisps. Their smaller size makes it a little easier to break apart the clumps or streusel and sprinkle it more evenly over the top of the fruit.
Tip: You can use certified gluten-free oats to make your healthy blueberry apple crisp gluten-free!
So do many gluten-free flours! I’ve used millet, brown rice, tapioca, and almond flour with great success. Oat flour is another fantastic option (especially since you’re already using oats to make the topping!).
But whatever you do… Please promise me you will not substitute coconut flour. That’s the one kind that doesn’t work. It’s too absorbent, so it dries out the streusel topping and turns it into a sandy, crumbly mess. Stick with one of those other varieties instead!
Sweetener. I used pure maple syrup in this healthy blueberry apple crisp’s crumb topping. It’s the kind that comes directly from maple trees and only includes one ingredient: maple syrup. It’s often sold in thin glass bottles or squat plastic jugs (like this!).
Tip: If you can’t find pure maple syrup, then honey and agave work equally well!
Butter. I’ve used both regular unsalted butter and stick-style vegan butter to make fruit crisps. Regardless of which you choose, I have two bits of good news!
First, you only need 1 ½ tablespoons. Compared to traditional recipes that often call for a full stick, that small amount really helps keep your blueberry apple crisp low calorie and low fat!
Second, you’ll melt the butter. That makes it much faster and easier to whip up the crumble topping! Many classic recipes instruct you to cut cold butter into the dry ingredients… With two knives or a pastry cutter… Until it resembles small pebbles or coarse crumbs. That requires a decent amount of time and effort — but I found that wasn’t necessary for this particular streusel!
Tip: If you use stick-style vegan butter, then your healthy blueberry apple crisp will be vegan and dairy-free. (Egg-free too!) This one and this one are my two favorite vegan butters for baking. The latter melts really well — it doesn’t spit or splatter at all like some other brands do!
Cinnamon. You’ll use this in both the crumb topping and fruit filling of your healthy blueberry apple crisp. It’s a classic pairing with apples, and I found its coziness brought out the juicy sweetness of the berries too.
Tip: I highly recommend Saigon cinnamon! It’s richer and a bit sweeter than regular cinnamon, and it’s practically the only kind I now use in my baking. I buy it online here. It’s really affordable!
Apples. I love red Fuji apples! They have an amazing flavor, and they’re so sweet that they don’t require any additional sweetener. They also have a wonderful texture: firm and crisp when raw, yet soft and melt-in-your-mouth tender when baked. (Not mushy or mealy!)
Blueberries. Fresh are best for this particular recipe! Because blueberries often have a stronger flavor than apples, I tested a 2:1 ratio of apples to blueberries to make this healthy fruit crisp. I loved the way that turned out — the two flavors balanced each other beautifully!
Tip: For fruit pies and crumbles (or any other fruit-centered dessert!), try to use all fresh OR all frozen, rather than blending the two. When you mix fresh and frozen fruit, the filling can bake unevenly.
Cornstarch. This thickens the fruit juices released while your healthy blueberry apple crisp bakes. I tried omitting it or using a teensy tiny amount, but… That yielded a very wet filling, and liquid flooded across the bottom of the plates, bowls, and baking pan. Still tasty, but very soup-like — and not the texture I wanted!
Boosting the amount of cornstarch immediately solved that! The fruit turned incredibly soft and tender, and the juices became lovely and thick. In my book, that’s the perfect crumble dessert!
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST BLUEBERRY APPLE CRISP
Let’s cover how to make the best healthy blueberry apple crisp! This recipe is rather straightforward, but I still have some tips for you, starting with…
Measure correctly. This is really important for the oats and flour in the crumb topping! Use this method or a kitchen scale. (← That’s the one I own!) Do not, whatever you do, scoop either one from the container. This can result in accidentally adding up to 1 ½ times as much, and too much of either ingredient will make the streusel sandy and dry, therefore preventing it from holding together. It only takes a few extra moments to measure properly, and I promise the sweet streusel is absolutely worth it!
Use the correct pan size. An 8”-square pan, 9”-round cake pan, and 9”-round pie plate will all work. They have very similar surface areas (64 in2 and 63.6 in2, respectively!), so your healthy blueberry apple crisp will bake and turn out the same, regardless of which pan you use.
Tip: If using the round pan option, measure directly across its middle (aka the diameter!) from one lip of the opening to the other. If using a square pan, measure across its top edge, not the bottom! Some square baking dishes have sloped sides, so they’re 9” across the top and closer to 8” across the bottom. If that’s true for your baking dish, it’s actually a 9”-square pan and too big for this recipe. Use a 9”-round pie plate or cake pan instead!
Topping first. I typically make the crumb topping first, even before preparing the fruit. It’s really easy! Mix together the dry ingredients, pour in the wet, and stir everything together. Yup, that’s it!
Prep the fruit. The fruit is the star of this dessert, so we’ll give it the most attention and love!
For the apples, it’s up to you whether you peel them or leave the skin on. I often do the latter because it’s easier and faster! Regardless, it’s important to cut your apples into ¼”-thick slices. Then cut each slice into thirds. (See the photo below for a visual!)
I know, I know… This sounds high maintenance and time consuming, but there’s a reason! If you leave the apple slices whole, or in halves instead of thirds, you end up with big gaps in the filling. Blueberries then cluster together to fill those gaps — thus preventing them from being evenly distributed throughout — which means some portions end up with virtually all blueberries and no apples. Not good!
If you make your apples thicker, more like ½”- to ¾”-thick chunks, they take longer to cook and don’t always soften fully. The goal with the thin, smaller apple chunks is to make them closer in size to the blueberries, which ensures all of the fruit bakes at around the same rate!
As for those blueberries, make sure they’re freshly washed! Just pop them in a colander, run them under the tap, and shake the colander a few times. The water clinging to those freshly washed berries helps dissolve and evenly distribute the cornstarch throughout the filling.
After adding the fruit, cinnamon, and cornstarch to a bowl, toss it thoroughly. Yes, thoroughly. Spend a couple of minutes doing this — and longer than you think you should! Keep going until all of the cornstarch has dissolved and flecks of cinnamon coat every apple slice. (The apples sometimes stick together, so pry them apart when needed while stirring!) For the best taste and texture, you want a very even distribution throughout the filling.
Then gently press the filling into the pan, and try to make it as flat and even as possible. This helps prevent the crumb topping from falling into the cracks and sinking to the bottom. And while we’re on the subject…
Break up + sprinkle the streusel. The streusel tends to clump (a LOT!), so break it up into small pieces before showering it over the fruit. Yes, itty bitty pieces. Somewhere between the size of miniature chocolate chips and peas. As long as you’ve used the correct pan size and break up the streusel, you’ll have enough to fully cover the fruit in an even layer!
But… I also understand that not everyone has the time or patience to break up the clumps that much. If that’s you, then you can easily double the streusel ingredients! 😉
Bake. This healthy blueberry apple crisp requires a nice, long trip to the oven. Leave it in until the juices bubble around the edges and the fruit feels soft. And then…
Cool + chill. Yes, both are necessary! Cool the crisp to room temperature (or at least until the bottom of the pan is only slightly warm to the touch!), then slide the pan into the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours. Longer is even better!
If you tried serving it earlier, while the crisp was still fresh from the oven and warm, the filling would still be like soup. However, cooling and chilling allows the cornstarch to fully work its magic and completely thicken the fruit juices. It also lets the flavors meld and marry… Which yields the best blueberry apple crisp texture and taste!
FAQS ABOUT HEALTHY BLUEBERRY APPLE CRISPS
Is this blueberry apple crisp gluten-free, vegan, clean eating, low fat, or low calorie?
Yes — to all of the above! As written, it’s naturally clean eating, egg-free, low fat, and low calorie (compared to traditional recipes!). It also has no added sugar in the filling. There are options to make this blueberry apple crumble gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan as well!
Can I substitute steel-cut oats?
No, I don’t recommend it. They don’t bake the same or soften properly. Stick with old-fashioned rolled oats or instant oats instead — or the gluten-free versions of them!
Can I use a different flour?
As long as it’s not coconut flour! It makes the crumb topping sandy and dry, but just about any other flour will work.
What are the best apples to use?
Red Fuji apples! They have a great flavor and natural sweetness, so the filling doesn’t need any extra sweetener.
Can I use frozen blueberries?
I generally don’t recommend mixing fresh and frozen fruit (see the “Blueberries” header in the “Ingredients to Make a Healthy Blueberry Apple Crisp” section above for more information!), but… If that’s the only option you have, then go ahead. Just keep in mind it’ll affect the baking time and finished result.
Can I skip the cornstarch?
I don’t recommend that either. It’ll yield a soup-like filling. (See the “Cornstarch” header in the “Ingredients to Make a Healthy Blueberry Apple Crisp” section above for more information!)
I didn’t have enough streusel to cover the top. Why is that?
There are two main culprits. The first is using too big of a pan, so measure your pan and make sure it’s the correct size. The other is not breaking it up into small enough bits. They should be between the size of miniature chocolate chips and peas. If you don’t have enough — or don’t feel like breaking it up into that small of pieces! — then you can easily double the streusel ingredients. (See the “Use the correct pan size” and “Break up + sprinkle the streusel” headers in the “How to Make the Best Healthy Blueberry Apple Crisp” section above for more information!)
Can I serve this blueberry apple crisp warm from the oven?
Please don’t! It needs to cool and chill to allow the cornstarch to work its magic and fully thicken the fruit juices. The filling will be very liquidy and soup-like if you try to serve it too soon. However, it reheats nicely, so that would be my recommendation if you’d like to serve it warm instead!
How should I store this blueberry apple crisp? And how long does it last?
Store it in the refrigerator covered with foil. It should last for at least three or four days, if not longer!
And again… A huge thank you to my grandma for her love, incredible kindness, and inspiring this sweet and special dessert. ♡ Then when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amys.healthy.baking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your healthy blueberry apple crisp!
Healthy Blueberry Apple Crisp (Crumble)
FOR THE STREUSEL
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and coat an 8”-square pan OR 9”-round pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- To prepare the streusel topping, whisk together the oats, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in the maple syrup and melted butter. Stir until fully incorporated.
- To prepare the filling, thoroughly toss the apples and blueberries with the cornstarch and cinnamon in a large bowl until evenly coated with cinnamon and the cornstarch has completely dissolved (with zero visible white specks – and the apples often stick together, so pry them apart when needed!).
- Transfer the filling to the prepared pan, and gently press down with a spatula or the back of a spoon until the top is even and flat. Sprinkle evenly with the streusel. (The streusel typically clumps a LOT, so break it up into really small, itty bitty pieces as you go!) Very gently press the streusel into the filling with your hands. Bake at 350°F for 65-75 minutes or until juice bubbles around the edges and the apples are very fork tender. Cool completely to room temperature; then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving to allow the juice to fully thicken.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Apple Crumble
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Blueberry Crumble
♡ Healthy Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
♡ Healthy Peach Crumble
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Apple Pie
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy crumble dessert recipes and healthy summer recipes!