A lovely treat when apples are in season, these easy apple crumble bars are a solid favourite. We use windfall apples from my Omi’s trees, since they can’t be stored or made into applesauce, and it’s become a bit of a tradition.
With a lightly sweet base and crumble topping made from the same dough, a date-sweetened apple filling, and a hint of warming spice, they are a special treat. The filling is also thickened with the dates and tastes vaguely caramelised.
Inspired by store bought apple pie granola bars, these make a great snack or light dessert. If you’re in a pinch or want to make them when apples are out of season, try adding apple butter as the filling instead of making your own.
Why You Should Try This Recipe
With autumn spices and a truly delicious apple filling, these are a wonderful dessert as cold weather starts to set in. They’re also almost entirely fruit sweetened and made with minimal ingredients.
- It’s a ten ingredient recipe: including water! These are ingredients you probably already have on hand (brown sugar can be used in place of coconut).
- The filling is instant apple butter: which is amazing, but usually takes hours to make – and you can have it ready in just a few minutes, with the shortcut of adding dates.
- It doubles as breakfast or dessert: like many of the recipes on OE, it’s light enough to have for breakfast or a snack but just sweet enough for dessert.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Rolled Oats: these are ground into a coarse flour, so feel free to use quick-cook if preferred. Use certified gluten-free oats if needed.
- Dates: soak the dates in very hot water for at least ten minutes before using for the crumble mixture if they’re hard. For the apple filling, it’s no problem if the dates are dry, as they’ll be cooked.
- Coconut Sugar: I find the texture is unpleasant for these bars when sweetened purely with dates, but a little coconut sugar makes all the difference.
- Coconut Oil: these require an oil that’s solid at room temperature for best results. Use refined coconut oil to avoid any slight flavour, or sub something like a good vegan butter.
- Non-Dairy Milk: I use oat milk, but any type will work. Don’t use canned coconut milk or cream.
Step by Step
1. Cook the apples: with the dates and juice or water, until softened.
2. Blend: use an immersion blender, or cool and blend in a small blender or food processor.
3. Make oat flour: blend the oats into a coarse flour.
4. Make the dough: add the other base/crumble ingredients and blend to combine.
5. Press: use two-thirds of the dough for the base layer, pressing very well.
6. Add filling: spread the apple filling into an even layer.
7. Top: crumble the remaining dough mixture over top.
8. Bake: for about 20 minutes, and cool fully before slicing.
I have tried making these with pre-ground oat flour, and they always turn out too dense and dry. Blending the oats into a coarse flour is ideal, and since you need a food processor for this recipe in any case, this is fine.
Tart apples are best if you have them. I use mostly boskoop for these bars, and really only make them in October and November when we have the apples from my Omi.
If you don’t have a square tin, feel free to use a rectangular one. Note that a larger tin will make for thinner bars – slightly smaller is better than too big.
Use gluten-free rolled oats to ensure the bars are fully GF if needed.
How to Store
Storage: keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to five days. They will stick to each other if stacked, and are best stored in a single layer.
Freezing: freeze for up to a month. For best results, freeze the bars in a single layer (for example, cut and then freeze in the tin) before transferring to an airtight container. They can be stacked after freezing through.
- Chill before slicing: the filling is on the softer side, and things can get a bit messy if the bars are warm when sliced. For best results, freeze for a few minutes first or refrigerate for at least half an hour.
- Remove seeds: this seems obvious, but be sure to check your dates for seeds before cooking or blending. Sometimes even seedless dates will have one or two, and it can destroy a machine (or your teeth).
- Don’t add too much milk: only add a tablespoon of milk to the crumble base at first, and really blend, to make sure you’re not adding too much liquid. If it’s still not coming together, add a teaspoon at a time, blending between each addition. This depends on how much liquid is in the dates being used.
More Apple Recipes
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Apple Crumble Bars
- 500 grams apples 3-4 medium
- 60 grams dates
- 1 tablespoon water or apple juice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Base and Crumble Topping
- 250 grams rolled oats, ground into a coarse flour
- 60 grams soft dates
- 60 grams solid coconut oil, room temperature
- 40 grams coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg fresh
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon oat milk if needed
- Apple Filling
- Core and dice 500 grams (3-4) apples and place them, along with 60 grams (1/4 cup) dates and 1 tablespoon water, into a small saucepan.
- Cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until soft. Stir in the cinnamon and cool slightly before blending until smooth. I use an immersion blender, but a heat-safe standing mixer would also work.
- Set aside to cool while you make the base mixture.
Base and Crumble Topping
- Preheat your oven to 180C (350F) and line a 20cm (8-in.) square baking tin with parchment paper.
- In your food processor, grind 250 grams (2 cups) oats into flour.
- Add 60 grams (1/4 cup) soft dates, 60 grams (1/4 cup) coconut oil, 40 grams (1/4 cup) coconut sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- Mix on high speed until a slightly crumbly dough forms. You should be able to press it between your fingers have it hold its shape. If it’s too dry, add 1 tablespoon milk and mix again.
- Using your hands, press about two-thirds of the dough into the prepared baking tin and reserve the rest for the crumble topping. Try to make it as even as possible, as it will be quite thin.
- Spread the apple filling over the base and then top with the remaining crumble mixture.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the tin before removing and slicing.
- Store the bars in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to five days, or freeze for up to a month.
This post was first published in October 2017. It has been updated with slight changes to the recipe as of October 2021.