How To Make the Best Gluten-Free Crisp Topping

updated Jan 21, 2020
How To Make the Best Gluten-Free Crisp Topping
This crisp topping doesn't have any special flours in it and can be made entirely from pantry staples that you're likely to have on hand.

Serves6 to 8

Makes3 cups crisp topping

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(Image credit: Christine Han)

Having a freezer full of crisp or crumble topping is like having a dessert secret weapon. It allows you to turn any fresh fruit (or hey, even thawed frozen fruit) into an after-dinner treat without dirtying more than one bowl. Our traditional crisp and crumble toppings freeze incredibly well, but since you never know when a gluten-free guest might drop by, I highly suggest keeping both on hand. (Just label them clearly!)

This crisp topping doesn’t have any special flours in it and can be made entirely from pantry staples that you’re likely to have on hand. It bakes up toasty with a delightful chew, and you can easily adapt it to a more crumble-like texture without much more effort. Here’s everything you need to know about making a gluten-free crisp that you can memorize and know by heart.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Essentials of Gluten-Free Fruit Crisp Toppings

Crisps, crumbles, and cobblers have a reputation for being infallible. However, diving into the world of gluten-free baking, it’s best to arm ourselves with knowledge so that we can feed ourselves and our gluten-free friends well. Here’s what you’ll need to know for making the best gluten-free crisp topping.

  • The ingredients for a gluten-free crisp topping
  • The golden ratio for fruit to topping
  • How to turn crisp topping into a dessert secret weapon

(Image credit: Christine Han)

The Ingredients for a Gluten-Free Crisp Topping

I promised that this gluten-free crisp would be pantry-friendly, and it is, but here’s what you need to know. Just because oats are naturally gluten-free doesn’t mean that every package of oats is gluten-free. Oats are often processed (rolled, weighed, packaged) in facilities that process wheat or other gluten-rich products. Several manufacturers now process their oats and other gluten-free flours and starches on separate machinery to prevent cross contamination — and those are the oats we need to keep this crisp gluten-free.

Look for gluten-free labeling on rolled oats and then you can turn those oats into oat flour for this crisp topping. You can also buy oat flour and skip the at-home oat processing all together.

The Golden Ratio

You’ll need one batch — three cups — of this crisp topping for about two pounds of fruit. Crisp topping is amenable to more or less fruit, so you have creative license to use as little or as much as you want.

How to make this a gluten-free crumble topping

Crisps and crumbles are close cousins, with crisps being defined by their inclusion of whole oats. For a more crumble-like topping texture, process all of the oats into a fine flour and proceed with the same butter, sugar, and salt ratio.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

How to Use Gluten-Free Crisp Topping

Let’s say you’ve got a batch of this crisp topping whipped up and a bunch of fresh fruit you want to use up. Here’s how to bring the two together.

  • Slice the fruit into bite-sized pieces; this makes scooping and eating so much easier.
  • Then toss the fruit with a little cornstarch, lemon juice, and sugar.
  • Spread the fruit into a baking dish and top with the crisp topping. You’ll want roughly one cup of crisp topping for every 12 ounces of fruit.

Freezing Gluten-Free Crisp Topping for the Future

Here’s your secret weapon: Take one rainy afternoon in June and mix up three to four batches of crisp topping. Freeze each unbaked batch in a large zip-top bag and lay the bags flat in the freezer. You can then divvy out as little or as much topping as you need at a time. There’s no need to thaw the crisp topping before baking either.

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Heat the oven and prepare a baking dish: Arrange a rack in the middle of the the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat a 9×9-inch or 11×7-inch glass baking dish with butter; set aside. (Image credit: Christine Han)

How To Make the Best Gluten-Free Crisp Topping

This crisp topping doesn't have any special flours in it and can be made entirely from pantry staples that you're likely to have on hand.

Makes 3 cups crisp topping

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


For the fruit filling:

  • Butter, for coating the baking dish

  • 2 pounds

    fresh fruit, peeled and chopped as desired

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons


  • 1 tablespoon

    freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the topping:

  • 2 cups

    gluten-free rolled oats, divided

  • 3/4 cup

    packed light brown sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon


  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract (optional)


  • 9x9-inch or 11x7-inch glass baking dish

  • Coffee grinder, blender, or food processor

  • Pastry brush

  • Mixing bowls

  • Gallon-size zip-top freezer bag (optional)

  • Whisk

  • Cooling rack


  1. Heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat a 9x9-inch or 11x7-inch glass baking dish with butter; set aside.

  2. Make the fruit filling. Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl until lump-free, and then add the fruit and lemon juice. Toss gently to coat, then pour the fruit filling into the baking dish.

  3. Make oat flour. Process 1 cup of the oats in a coffee grinder, blender, or food processor fitted with the blade attachment until it resembles flour, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

  4. Make the crisp topping. Add the remaining 1 cup oats, sugar, and salt and stir until combined. Drizzle the butter and vanilla over the oat mixture and stir to combine. Set aside or store in the freezer in a zip-top freezer bag.

  5. Add crisp topping. Scatter the crisp topping evenly over the fruit mixture, leaving large clumps intact.

  6. Bake the crisp. Bake until the fruit juices are bubbling around the edges of the baking dish and the topping is golden and firm to the touch, 30 to 35 minutes.

  7. Cool and store the crisp. Let the crisp cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. If transporting to a picnic or party, let the crisp cool completely to give the fruit filling time to set.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The crisp topping can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Storage: Crisps will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week. Serve cold, room temperature, or re-warmed in a low oven for 20 minutes.