For me, the smell of autumn is the scent of apple pies baking and cooling in the kitchen. And though I love baking a classic apple pie, sometimes I don’t feel like going through the process of making pie crust, chilling it, and rolling it out. Apple pie bars are my easy solution!
Apple pie bars feed a crowd! No need to worry about using a pie server and knife to cut out messy slices. The bars can be brought to a gathering or individually wrapped as gifts to lift someone’s spirits and to serve up and share with ease.
On top of all that, the bars are easy to make.
The dough you make for the crust doubles as the crumb topping. A little addition of optional pecans along with the rolled oats means the pie bars have texture and crunch to balance the sweet apple filling packed with all those glorious warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.
Think of these bars as a great fall flavor treat that you can hold in your hand.
What Apples Are Best for Apple Pie Bars?
I like to use a mix of different apples for these bars, as each apple tends to have different characteristics.
Some are tart, some are firm, some mushy, and some softer. If you use a mix of apples (I use two or three different varieties), you get more interesting texture and apple flavor.
I recommend using Granny Smith apples, which are almost always firm and tart in the mix. They ensure that your filling has some bite, firmness, and texture, without being completely mushy like applesauce. I also like to pick a sweeter apple.
For sweet apple options I like:
- Honeycrisp apples are super sweet and crisp.
- Pink Lady and Opal apples are nicely balanced with acidity and sweetness.
And if you’re lucky enough to get a hold of Gravenstein or Arkansas Black apples, both heirloom apples, grab a bunch. They are some of my favorite apples and I look for them every year. Their season is fleeting but they have great intense apple flavor.
Certain apples are better for sauces where they are prized for disintegrating easily. This means they are best to avoid for an apple bar (or pie) recipe. For this recipe, stay away from:
- Red Delicious
For more information on the best apples for baking, check out the Guide to Apples.
The Best Nuts for Crumb Topping?
These bars use pecans in the topping for crunch and flavor. If you aren’t a fan of pecans, you can easily swap out the same amount for another kind of nut. Any of these would work:
If you are allergic to nuts or don’t like them in your desserts, just omit them. Instead, add an additional 1/2 cup of rolled oats in place of the nuts.
To up the “crunch” factor, try sprinkling two tablespoons of sparkling sugar or turbinado sugar (sometimes sold under the name brand Sugar in the Raw). The larger sugar crystals will give a sweet crunch to the top of the bars.
How to Dress up Apple Pie Crumble Bars!
The beauty of these apple bars is the simplicity in making them!
Make a crumbly dough, use half for the crust, layer it with some sliced apples tossed in sugar and spices, then crumble the remaining dough over the top with some nuts. Once baked and cooled, dust it with a little powdered sugar to fancy them up a bit.
But you can take the bars in a few different directions. Try mixing up the spices in the filling. I kept the filling of the bars straightforward with a heavy dose of cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg. But any wintery warm spice works!
Add an additional 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of these spices to take it up a notch:
- Ground ginger
- Ground cardamom
- Black pepper
- Chinese five-spice blend
And, if you have a super well-stocked pantry or want to splurge on some esoteric spices, grains of paradise and long pepper both add warmth and earthy depth that folks won’t be able to place, but that blends wonderfully with apple.
Make Caramel Apple Pie Bars
Skip the powdered sugar step in this recipe and drizzle the top of the apple bars with caramel. You can even get more fancy pants and, after you drizzle the bars with caramel, sprinkle them with a bit of finishing salt for salted caramel apple pie bars!
Make it easy on yourself and use a store-bought caramel sauce or make your own homemade caramel sauce. Either way, the results are sure to be fantastic.
How to Store, Freeze, and Reheat Apple Pie Bars
These bars are best eaten the day they’re baked (as most desserts are), but they keep surprisingly well.
To Store: Keep the bars layered between pieces of parchment paper in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. The longer they are in the fridge, the more the crust and crumb soften.
To Freeze: Yes, you can freeze these bars! Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put in the freezer until frozen solid (about two hours).
To store the frozen apple pie bars transfer them to an airtight container or resealable freezer ziptop bag, with a piece of parchment paper between layers, for up to three months. Thaw them overnight in the fridge before serving.
To Reheat: You can refresh the bars by placing them on a baking sheet and warming them in a toaster oven or regular oven at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure to dust the bars with more powdered sugar right before serving, as the powdered sugar tends to absorb into the bar as it sits.
More Delicious Fall Bar Recipes
Apple Pie Bars with Crumble Topping
If you like a crispier crust then enjoy these bars the day you make them. If you want a softer, more tender crust make them the day before you plan to serve them.
- For the crust and topping:
- 2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups (180 g) rolled oats
- 1 cup (200 g) white sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (225 g) cold unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup (80 g) pecans, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- For the filling:
- 2 1/2 pounds apples, about 5 medium to large apples
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup (50 g) white sugar
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- To finish:
- Powdered sugar
Prepare the oven and pan:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking oil. Line with parchment paper, leaving some parchment hanging over the sides so it’s easy to lift the bars out of the pan.
Make the crust and topping:
In a medium-sized bowl add the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Cut the butter into 1/2-inch chunks and sprinkle over the dry ingredients. Use your fingers to squish the butter into the dry ingredients, breaking it down into small bits and mixing the dry ingredients together. The butter should be the size of small flat peas.
Beat the egg in a bowl, then drizzle it over the mixture, tossing with a fork as you go. Once all the egg has been added, continue to toss until the mixture has absorbed the egg and is evenly moist. Don’t worry if the dough seems crumbly.
Divide the crust and topping mixture:
Scoop out 1 1/2 cups of the mixture and place it another medium-sized bowl. Add the chopped pecans and cinnamon to this mixture and toss to combine. Place in the refrigerator as you continue with the recipe.
Form the crust:
Dump the remaining dough into the bottom of the lined pan and press down on it firmly with your hands or with the flat bottom of a cup to form an even layer of dough at the bottom.
Bake the crust:
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the edges of the crust just barely start to turn golden brown and the top of the crust looks dry.
Prepare the apples:
While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. Peel, core and cut the apples into 1/4 inch thick slices.
Make the filling:
Place the slices in the same bowl you made the crust in (no need to clean it). Drizzle the apple cider vinegar over the slices, then toss to coat. Add the white sugar, brown sugar, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Toss to coat.
Pour the filling over the baked crust:
Once the crust has baked, take it out of the oven and pour the apple filling over the crust. Distribute the apples evenly, making sure the entire pan is covered.
Top the crust and bake:
Take the crumb topping out from the refrigerator and sprinkle it over the entire apple filling. Place the pan back in the oven for 55 to 60 minutes or until the top of the crumbs are golden brown.
Cool and cut:
Remove the apple pie bars from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Use the overhang of parchment to lift the bars out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 bars by slicing straight down firmly with a sharp chef’s knife.
Dust bars with powdered sugar right before serving. These bars are great from the fridge, warm from the oven, or at room temperature!