apple crisp with xylitol gluten-free recipe

Granny Smith Apple Crisp

Baked green apples topped with high protein almond flour crisp; low carb and low sugar, sweetened with xylitol.

Here’s a lovely seasonal treat –gluten free apple crisp that’s simple and easy to make with very few, and very healthy ingredients. This recipe for Granny Smith Apple Crisp is particularly low carb because I use the low glycemic sweetener xylitol.

Since so many people have written to me to tell me they do not use agave, I thought it would be nice to research a variety of alternative sweeteners and experiment with them. Hence the use of xylitol (a low glycemic sweetener) in this recipe. My children couldn’t taste the difference and my doctor highly recommends xylitol for those that can digest it –it is not as easy to digest as agave for some people.

As always, use the ingredients that suit you best, and take the time to experiment with substitutions, as I cannot answer your (or my own) substitution questions without actually testing them in real life in my real kitchen.

apple crisp with xylitol gluten-free recipe note

As you can see from the note above, this recipe was a major hit with my older son. He left me a note on the dessert that said, “Mom, please do not let ANYONE eat the crisp. I want to eat it. TKS (Thanks).

Print Recipe
Granny Smith Apple Crisp
  1. In a 1.5 quart pyrex bowl, toss apples, xylitol and lemon juice
  2. Stir water and arrowroot together to make a slurry then toss into apple mixture
  3. In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, salt and cinnamon
  4. In a smaller bowl combine vanilla, coconut oil and xylitol
  5. Stir wet ingredients into dry --mixture will be very crumbly
  6. Sprinkle topping over apple mixture
  7. Bake covered at 350° for 45 minutes, until apples are soft and topping is golden brown

Every fall when I begin baking fruit desserts in earnest, I have the same internal dialogue –what is the exact difference between a crumble and a crisp? And every fall, without fail, I pull out my well worn copy of the Joy of Cooking and look this up again. I thought I would share what the good book says with all of you:

“For a crisp, the flour, butter, and sugar are mixed together like pie dough before the liquid is added, and the mixture scattered over the top.”

“A crunch is fruit sandwiched between two layers of sweetened, buttered crumbs; it is served cut into squares, like bar cookies , but is more fragile…Crumble is the British name for a crisp or crunch with oatmeal in the topping.”

Here are some more healthy gluten free recipes using apples:
Cinnamon Apple Cake
Caramel Apples
Fennel Apple Soup


  1. Marta says

    Hi Elena,

    It looks great, Im curious to know what is the size of the baking pan, 8 or 9″?
    Thank you
    Happy Holidays

  2. Katharine says

    Yummy! Made this with 3 granny smith and one honeycrisp. I subbed in erythritol with the apples (swerve) and used coconut sugar in the topping. And grassfed butter instead of coconut oil. I ate it hot with a scoop of So Delicious vanilla coconut milk ice cream….heaven! Your recipes are so valuable to me. I have to watch my blood sugar and am always surprised and happy about how well I tolerate your recipes. Having a treat is way more fun when it doesn’t sky-rocket my blood sugar.

  3. Julie says

    Hello Elana- I have been following your website for about a year now and have loved the recipes you provide. You are amazing and I look forward to being a “follower” for a long time. Also, I’m in Caslte Rock, CO so I love our somewhat “local” connection.
    I just made this apple crisp and have to say it’s divine. I did make some changes though that I thought I would share since it hi-lights another one of your recipes. First, I used Honey Crisp apples instead of Granny Smith. I LOVE Honey Crisps and couldn’t resist the sweater taste of them. Second, I used the same amount of “sugar” that you call for but instead I used 1/2 xylitol and 1/2 coconut sugar (I love the brown-sugar taste it provides and it’s also low glycemic). Third, I added additional cinnamon and then grated fresh nutmeg directly to the apples. Fourth, I doubled the crisp topping since I was making it for gluten-loving, sugar-loving friends and didnt want it to apoear too “healthy” LOL. Lastly, after the crisp had baked, I made a 1/2 recipe of your Vegan Caramel Sauce. I added pecans to it when it was done and then poured the caramel/pecan mixture on top of the crisp. It was absolutely amazing and our friends had no idea that it was a healthier treat than traditional crisps.

  4. Mia says

    Thank you for this great recipe!

    I doubled the recipe and made it the other day.

    I had to bake it longer for the apples to bake through. I added some ghee after baking it for a bit.

    Everyone enjoyed it :o).

  5. Taneil says

    Just thought I would let some people know about coconut nectar. It is nice to see a recipe with xylitol as it is a lot cheaper than coconut nectar. But for all you people who find a recipe that requires agave or honey and are on a candida/low glycemic diet, I have substituted coconut nectar for many recipes on here and they have always worked for me.

  6. Kathy L says

    Hi Elena,

    New to the gluten-free world and still learning so much! I made the Pear Crisp recipe from your book last night and it was quite delicious. Is there a way to get the topping to be “crunchy”?

    Many thanks!

  7. Alisa says

    I use stevia and coconut sugar for the very reason that I have too much bacteria in my intestines. They create too much gas and bloating from the other sugars. Did you know all bacteria feed off the food you eat in your intestines and thus create more or less gas depending on the food? Artificial sweeteners, sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc. are not recommended if you have stomach problems only coconut palm sugar and stevia. Check out the tv program “Know The Cause”. Quite amazing when you check out their website too and understand all the science behind it.

  8. AudreyV says

    Hi Elena,
    I made this last night with stevia and it was yummy. Or at least I think it was yummy with the few bites that I had. My two teen-age sons and two of their friends then ate the whole pan. So I guess it was pretty good, lol! I’m finding that sweet desserts just don’t agree with me, so it is nice to have a dessert with a lot of friut and a tiny amount of sweetener. Thanks for all of your hard work. Your recipes are my go-to recipes now, I’m still working my way through your first book, and starting on your second book. I’m hoping there’s another book in your future. Happy Holidays!

  9. Veronica says

    I made this tonight with three apples and one pear and honey as a sweetener. So, so good…a must repeat! Thank you

  10. Elyse says


    Yum! This is the perfect dessert for the rainy fall weather–and it’s sooo easy, too. I find that xylitol can be a great sweetner for occasional treats. Thanks for sharing this one. I loved the pear streusels that my grandmother made from the pear tree in the back yard, and this crumble brings back memories…

    I also just made your peanutbutter chocolate cupcakes from the cupcake book and they were amazing. I love them without the icing.

    I’ve been following your recipes for a long time now, first for yeast free, then for gluten free, and finally the next step for my health is grain free. The transition to grain free has been a no brainer for my fiance and I because your recipes are so good. My fiance has been gluten free since last March (for me!) and is cooking for the both of us thanks to the simplicity of your recipes. This kind of blows my mind and I feel it is such a huge compliment to your recipes. I had the ingredients in my pantry already, but it just amazes me that someone who has never even really thought about gluten or grain free eating before can get into the kitchen and create your recipes with such ease. He insists on eating the way I eat (it makes him feel better, too), but he loves how he now has a whole new way of looking at food. He is geninunely excited about each and every recipe. We know that we can stay healthy, but are never going to be deprived because if we want a treat or a good idea, we can look to your recipes for inspiration. If you had told either one of us two years ago that we could happily be eating grain free, I think we both would have been skeptical. And yet, here we are about to get into the kitchen to experiment with your red velvet cupcake recipe to bake our own wedding cake for our December wedding. :)

  11. says

    This looks fantastic! I purchased two boxes of apples at a local orchard recently, so we are always on the lookout for yummy new things to make with them (besides the pots and pots of applesauce!). I’m making this for breakfast tomorrow. Keep up the yummy work!

  12. says

    This is the perfect Fall dessert, I love it! Your recipes are great and aren’t intimidating, plus they usually include all the ingredients that are already in my pantry or fridge. Thank you, from one gluten-free girl to another.

  13. Anya says

    I use coconut nectar as the sweetener in most of my recipes. It substitutes 1:1 for agave and has worked with your recipes everytime.

    Coconut nectar is also nutritionally superior to agave.

  14. Cindy says

    Wow Elana’s website is always so positive… she shares her time with us when she wouldn’t have to… Her time is devoted to this site, her children, family and faith and we are allowed the privelege to share in these things… I am so thankful for her hard work even if I might not use the same sweeteners she does…Which I DO of course.. that’s why I continue to keep coming back to this wonderful site …. Elana Thanks so much for all your hard work and positive attitude…

  15. AnnMarie Deis says

    I have a holistic dentist who actually recommended that I chew xylitol gum after eating. It’s apparently good for teeth! Seriously, anyone could find something anything wrong with anything if they dug deep enough. I like xylitol in small quantities as well as honey, coconut sugar, date sugar, stevia, etc. Moderation! GREAT RECIPE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. says

    thank you for mentioning that xylitol is deadly to dogs ! very important for people to know this. as more and more people turn to xylitol, we need to spread the word.

  17. Katie says

    One of my favorite “sugar substitutes” for these kind of things is a pure fruit jam. The other day I made a pear cobbler with pears tossed in a plum jam I’d made. Obviously one would have to have an appropriately sweetened jam, but the other benifit is that you don’t need any thickeners either. For ripe peaches I don’t add any additional sweetener at all.

    • Saundra says

      Ii usually use a sweetener from because it is for diabetics and has a low glycemic index. My husband is diabetic, and doesn’t like the taste of stevia. Honey has a higher glycemic index so I try to avoid that for him in my baking. We have found no side affects or problems with wheylow.

      • Saundra says

        I forgot to add — that I have tried many of Elanas recipes and appreciate all of her efforts to share with us on her blog. Thanks so much Elana — you have been a lifesaver to me. That note from your son is just precious!! Love it.

  18. Jane says

    I would think sucanat, coconut sugar, date sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave..stevia if people like it.. there are so many options. There is sooo little sweetener in this it’s unlikely to have a big impact on blood sugar- there’s already other carbs in the dish, so as desserts go, even organic cane sugar.. why not. As long as one isn’t eating a steady diet of desserts (I could but I don’t :-)…

  19. Jane says

    Thanks for Jay for information re xylitol toxicity in dogs. Apparently as little as 3 gms can kill a 60 pound dog. That’s not very much xylitol. I’ve never tried it, have always been afraid to for this reason. I don’t have kids but a big worry for me in a household with kids would be… one of the kids giving the family dog a taste of some baked goods- pretty common and pretty hard to instill in kids that this could be dangerous. My thought is why have it around.. I view it the same way I’d view bleach or any other household toxin.

    The recipe does look beautiful, on a positive note!!! I’d just sub another sweetener.

  20. says

    Dear Elana

    I have had trouble with the last several bags of apples I have purchased in that the skins are soooo tough they are like leather. I have had this in the last couple bags of grannies, galas, johnygold, and cortland. Is there a way to tell before purchasing? Also what are the best for, eating, baking, sauce etc? Thanks

  21. Jay says

    No offence intended, but I’m always amazed that so many people think artificial sweetners are perfectly safe to consume. The latest fad being stevia, as it’s touted as an “all natural” product.

    Stevia may be an all natural product if you used the unsprayed plant leaves as your sweetener, but once those leaves have been put through a refining process, you are no longer eating a natural food.

    I’m a big fan of Elanas recipes, I’ve had great success with many of them, but do admit I’m disapointed when I see an artificial sweetener, in this case, Xylitol, as one of the recipe ingredients.

    I have two beloved dogs. Xylitol has been proven to be a toxic substance to dogs by the AMVA. Xylitol, even though its been shown can kill dogs, is still purported to be safe for humans to consume.

    I could be told a million times over that Xylitol is safe for humans to consume, but I’d never buy such a claim. How could I or anyone for that matter, feed my children a product that’s proven to be toxic to dogs, with a clear concience?

    For any of you that may have dogs. From the American Dog Breeders Association.

    Xylitol Poisoning

    Veterinarians are becoming more aware of Xylitol as a poison to dogs. The popular sweetener has many positive benefits to human health but like some other people products, it can be deadly to dogs. Clinical signs may be delayed for hours, making diagnosis more difficult but a sudden drop in blood sugar resulting in depression, loss of coordination, and seizures can happen quickly and requires immediate veterinary intervention. Our gratitude to Dr. Thorpe-Vargas for this timely information.

    Xylitol Poisoning!

    by Susan Thorpe-Vargas Ph.D

    The Animal Poison Control Center has reported a substantial increase in the number of cases of Xylitol poisoning. Xylitol is a sweetener that is found in sugar-free gum, candy, baked goods, desserts, toothpaste, and other oral-care products. It can also be purchased as granulated powder for cooking and baking.

    It can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening problems in dogs. In the October 1, 2006, issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 8 adult dogs were evaluated for lethargy and vomiting after ingestion of Xylitol. Five of the 8 were either euthanized or died.

    The Animal Poison Control Center managed more than 170 cases of Xylitol poisonings in 2005, up from approximately 70 in 2004. As of August, 2006, the poison control center had managed 114 cases in 2006. That may be due to the increased availability of Xylitol containing products or the increased awareness by the public and veterinarians.

    While it was previously thought that only large concentrations of Xylitol could cause problems in dogs, lesser amounts of the sweetener may also be harmful.

    Our concern used to be mainly with products that contain xylitol as one of the first ingredients, said Dr. Eric Dunayer, who specializes in toxicology at the center. However we have begun to see problems developing from ingestions of products with lesser amounts of this sweetener. He said that with smaller concentrations of Xylitol, the onset of clinical signs could be delayed as much as 12 hours after ingestion.

    Dogs that ingest substantial amounts of items sweetened with Xylitol can develop a sudden drop in blood sugar resulting in depression, loss of coordination, and seizures. These signs can develop quite rapidly, at times less than 30 minutes after ingestion of the product. Therefore, it is crucial that pet owners seek veterinary treatment immediately after ingestion or suspected ingestion of products containing Xylitol. The poison control center also reported that there appears to be strong link between Xylitol ingestions and the development of liver failure in dogs.

    Credit to: Dr. Vern Otte, DVM, State Line Animal Hospital, Leawood, KS and the Journal of the American Veterinary Association, October 2006.

      • Gretchen says

        I have read research on all artificial sweeteners including Stevia, when they are processed by the body they give off chlorine and this chlorine kills off the good bacteria that is in your gut. The new recommendations are to not consume any artificial sweetener, even those that claim to be all natural, because they are not. Stick to honey, which is also approved when following the Paleo diet, which this dish is listed under.

  22. Maria says

    I’m so glad you came up with a crisp recipe that doesn’t use agave, but I’m one of those people who can’t tolerate xylitol, so I’ll try it with erythritol instead. Maybe a little stevia too.

  23. Dianne Goldthorpe says

    A crumble is a mixture of flour, marg or butter, sugar and spice of choice. The flour and marg are mixed till thet look like breadcrumbs and then the sugar is added with the spice. The whole mix is then put over the fruit and baked at 350 till it is brown and bubblely. No wet stuff added. In UK where I come from no one has ever heard of a crisp except in a potatoe context !

  24. says

    I find Xylitol disgusting and for those with corn allergies, I just found this about Xylitol: It is found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, and can be extracted from various berries, oats, and mushrooms, as well as fibrous material such as corn husks and sugar cane bagasse,[2][3] and birch[citation needed].

    When I make this, I will try it with coconut sugar.

    • kelli says

      Xylitol can be very upsetting to little tummies too. I have 3 small children who get horribly sick from xylitol. I love the suggestion for coconut sugar!!

    • Mia says

      I buy my birch xylitol from I would never buy xylitol made from anything but birch.

      Please read the link “All xylitol is NOT created equal!”

  25. says

    This looks fabulous – and I love the very earnest note from your son! :-) I really appreciate you trying to accommodate everyone with their different sweetener preferences. You can’t please everyone all the time…!

  26. Hazel says

    I never use agave, stevia, or xylitol. My go to sweeteners are maple syrup or honey. I like Elenas post about agave, and sweetners in general-they should only be used in moderation. However, I really think it unusual when people call stevia or agave “all natural” as they are neither, both are highly refined and processed. I have found in all the recipes of Elenas, when I substitute maple syrup for agave they turn out perfectly.

    • Noel says

      My sweetener of choice is raw local honey. I use the rest in moderation — actually all sweeteners in moderation, but I figure honey’s been around so long, and I love that it’s not processed.
      Elana, all of your recipes using agave has worked so well for me b/c honey and agave are both liquid and similar in their sweetness. I’m sure maple syrup would frequently work well also.
      I’m going to have to adapt to the variation now. I find all the comments helpful since we all have different cooking and taste preferences. And this group is not afraid to experiment. : )
      Thanks for this recipe. I’m ready to make Apple Crisp!
      : )

    • says

      I have to agree with this… i feel like if I’m going to go to the trouble of making food from scratch, I don’t want too many over processed items in the item. It’s like making soup from scratch, but using cubes. I like maple syrup for sweetener – and anything that contains apples, raisins, carrots etc.will add to sweetness too.

  27. Charlotte Moore says

    We put oatmeal in our crisp in the south. Or at least most of us do. I always thought that made it a crisp and not a cobbler.

  28. says

    I’ve never baked with Xylitol but this looks delish, so Im might have to just give it a go :) How cute that your son loved it SO much!

  29. Jordan says

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I just got a TON of granny smiths from my CSA share yesterday, so I’m definitely going to try it tomorrow, though I am going to use stevia instead.

  30. says

    Thanks for using an agave substitute! I am expecting my first child, so agave is on the can’t-eat list for me right now. I think this might be tasty made with quinoa flakes as well, to imitate the traditional topping of rolled oats.

  31. says

    i made something very similar for rosh hashanah last week! i used stevia instead, and also some dried cherries and walnuts. it was pretty good but a bit drier than i would have liked- i wonder if the arrowroot and lemon juice might have helped with that?

  32. Danielle Mateyka says

    I just made this. Sooo good. I used stevia instead of xylitol and I added 1/4 cup of chopped dried cranberries to the filling. Just the other night I made your pumpkin muffins that were also amazing.

    • jodie says

      Me too! I was just trying to figure out why she never uses stevia which is an all natural sugar substitute.. it makes no sense to me – I absolutely love this website – it has completely changed the way I bake, but I always use stevia or stevia and applesauce in her recipies! Glad I am not the only one!

      • Lisa Daniel says

        I don’t use stevia because It does not taste good to me. i’ve tried and ruined wonderful recipes with it. Xylitol tastes like regular sugar but is better for you. It is great though if it works for you. =)

      • says

        I used the pre-measured packets. I used one in the filling mixture and two in the almond topping. You couldn’t taste the stevia at all. My husband who is super sensitive to the funny stevia flavor couldn’t detect any.

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