My friend Sea at Book of Yum invited me to be a part of her Thanksgiving Recipe Carnival, and since she is so darn sweet, I simply couldn’t say no. The idea behind this particular event is a bit unique … she wants to show people that it doesn’t need to be difficult to feed gluten-free vegetarians and vegans for Thanksgiving.
For many of us, cooking “free-from” has become second-nature. But getting there takes time. Many are still in the beginning phases or are simply trying to cater to loved ones. Plus, not everyone has access to specialty dairy-free products and fifteen different flours.
Fortunately, some of the best foods on the planet (in my humble opinion) can be made without dairy, eggs, or gluten (though if you prefer, you can use a wheat-based flour in this recipe – no problem!) … and this includes one of my all-time favorite desserts, apple crisp.
Crisps are amazingly versatile for various diets, particularly since the topping is permitted to be crumbly. Ingredients that bind or help with rising are of little to no concern and there’s no need to fuss with trying to get the perfect flaky crust. You can even adjust it as you go, adding more sugar if you want it sweeter, more flour for drier, more liquid for more moisture (remember, humid or dry climates can cause variations in recipes!). Very forgiving.
In terms of making a crisp gluten-free, there are actually many options. For extra simplicity, you can go paleo and just use nuts for all of the flour. Truth be told, I wasn’t a big fan of that option. I like a little flour in my crisp. However, I did find that coarsely grinding nuts added nice texture to the crisp and was actually a great replacement for oats and some of the added fats (people who aren’t usually gluten-free, probably don’t want to invest in seeking out gluten-free oats!). From there, the flour is very flexible. People who aren’t gluten-free normally, might want to just pick up gluten-free flour blend at the store. I recommend one that uses a brown rice, rice, or sorghum flour base for the most appeal. I “made my own” flour blend with just two gluten-free flours. See my notes in the recipe below to see what I used and for various options.
Keep in mind … apple crisp is not just about the topping. Choosing the right apple for the filling is just as important. I often read reviews of crisp recipes on recipe sites where people complain that the recipe didn’t work because the filling turned out mushy. This is NOT the fault of the recipe. Choose your fruit wisely people! Not all varieties are the same. Some are firmer than others, and hold their shape when baked, others turn to mush. For crisp, my favorite apples to use are Golden Delicious. They are just slightly tart (I find that Granny Smith’s work great in baking, but require more sugar), and hold their shape nicely. A few others that I’ve used recently with success were Fuji, Cortland, and Braeburn apples.
Special Diet Notes: Maple-Pecan Apple Crisp
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, optionally gluten-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian.
- ¾ cup pecans
- ¾ cup flour (see flour note below)
- ½ cup packed brown sugar (and I mean packed!)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (can sub Palm Oil Shortening if desired), solid or softened, but preferably not melted
- 5 cups apples, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or packed brown sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF and lightly grease the sides of an 8×8 baking dish (I use glass). No need to grease the bottom here; you are just keeping the topping from sticking to the sides of the pan.
- Place the pecans in your spice / coffee grinder, and pulse them 4 or 5 times to coarsely grind with some chunks remaining. I do this in two batches.
- Place the semi-ground pecans, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl, and stir with a fork to combine.
- Add the coconut oil and maple syrup and stir with a fork to create a coarse meal, making sure to mash in any large chunks of coconut oil. If the mixture is too dry, feel free to add up to 1 tablespoon of additional coconut oil (for richer) or maple syrup (for sweeter). I liked it as is though.
- As for the fruit, place the apples in your prepared baking pan and drizzle with the lemon juice.
- Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine (no cornstarch should remain visible).
- Shake the pan down a bit to even out the fruit (this will pack it down a little too), and then evenly sprinkle the crumble topping over all.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping begins to brown.
- Let the crisp cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Serve topped with vegan vanilla ice cream.
Variations: See the Maple-Walnut Pear Crisp Recipe that I also made, for another autumn-inspired option.
Diet type: Vegan, Dairy free, Egg, free, Gluten free, Peanut free, Soy free, Wheat free