The Best Sugar-Free Apple Crisp

The Best Fruit-Sweetened Apple Crisp

October is almost over and if you’re like me, you’re probably searching for ways to use up all the apples you picked this fall. Apple crisp is always my go-to.

I hesitated to call this recipe “the best” apple crisp because first of all, I’m not that confident in myself and second of all, it’s based on my opinion. However, when I tried to find a version without added sugar, I wasn’t surprised to find that every recipe contained either artificial sweeteners or maple syrup/honey.

Also, I don’t like using the term sugar-free because technically, there’s still sugar (carbohydrates) in dates, apples, oats and flour. I usually prefer the terms “no added sugar” or “sweetened with fruits”. This dessert still has a lot of carbs, but it doesn’t have any “added sugar”. Does that make sense? So instead, I used the term fruit-sweetened.

Alright, I’m done. I just wanted to clarify the way I see things. 😉

The Best Sugar-Free Apple Crisp - Unsweetened Caroline

This recipe would make a great healthy Halloween dessert! Or breakfast. I’ve done that before. Honestly, this recipe is probably healthier than most baked oatmeal.

The Best Sugar-Free Apple Crisp - Unsweetened Caroline

I guess I should get back to the recipe.

I used Cortland apples since that’s what I had, but feel free to use your favorite apples for baking. I also left the skin for added nutrients (and out of pure laziness), but once again, feel free to peel them! If it’s baked long enough, I find that the skin becomes soft enough, but it probably depends on the apples you’re using. I combined the diced apples with a bit of cinnamon and lemon juice for added flavor and layered them at the bottom of a 12″ cast iron skillet (I used one from Victoria Cookware). It makes a thin, gooey yet crispy apple crisp. My favorite!

The Best Sugar-Free Apple Crisp - Unsweetened Caroline

The Best Sugar-Free Apple Crisp - Unsweetened Caroline

Then, you move on to the best part: the topping.

The apples add a bit of sweetness in this recipe, but I felt like it needed a bit more. I only added 1/4 cup of dates which is really not a lot, but in my opinion, that’s all it needed. I must say though, if you’re used to eating rich desserts, you might not find it sweet enough. In this case, feel free to add a few tablespoons of maple syrup. The texture of the topping might change a little, but I’m sure it would still be delicious! Like I said earlier, this recipe is healthy enough for breakfast. You could drink a glass of milk (or soy milk) for added protein. YUM!

For the topping, I used a combination of oats and spelt flour. I tried a version with whole wheat flour which was also good! I haven’t tried a gluten-free version, but you could try using a gluten-free flour mix if needed. I started by cutting in cold margarine into the flour and then added mashed/pureed Medjool dates, oats and salt. Once it’s all mixed together, you crumble it on top of the apples and bake it for 45-50 minutes until the apples are tender and the topping is golden brown. 

The Best Sugar-Free Apple Crisp - Unsweetened Caroline

Finish it off with a big scoop of plain nice cream! Yup, that’s what I’m eating this Halloween. Hope you try it too! 

The Best Sugar-Free Apple Crisp
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5 from 2 votes

The Best Fruit-Sweetened Apple Crisp

A gooey yet crispy apple crisp sweetened with fruits only! Healthy enough for breakfast and tasty enough for dessert. By far the best way to use all the apples you accumulated this season.
Course Dessert
Cuisine vegan, vegetarian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 9


  • 6 cups Cortland apples
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon


  • 1 1/2 cups spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup margarine (use vegan if desired)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup Medjool dates + 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt


  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Dice apples and place them in a 12" cast iron skillet. Sprinkle with cinnamon and lemon juice. Stir to combine.

Make the Topping

  • Add the flour and margarine in a medium bowl. Make sure the margarine is cold (right out of the fridge). Cut the margarine in the flour until the mixture is crumbly, either using a pastry cutter or food processor. I just used a fork.
  • In a high-speed blender, blend your Medjool dates and water. If your blender is not strong enough, you can get messy and mash your dates with the water using your hands. Transfer to your medium bowl.
  • Add your oats and salt. Mix all the ingredients together. Crumble the mixture on top of your apples.
  • Bake for 45-50 minutes until the apples are tender and the topping is golden brown. Let it sit a few minutes before serving.



You can keep the skin on the apples if preferred.
Feel free to use your favorite apples for baking.
You can also use butter instead of margarine.
This recipe also works with whole wheat flour. To make it gluten-free, you can use brown rice flour or oat flour.

If you try this recipe, make sure to tag your photo #unsweetenedcaroline on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Don’t forget to also tag me @unsweetened.caroline on Instagram so I can see your creations!


  • Amy Rosebrock

    This looks amazing! Using dates as a sweetener is brilliant!
    Seems to me that using dates you would still be able to get that golden brown crisp that sugar normally makes. I have found the Truvia blend does the trick, but am not a fan of using it, plus having to abide by a mainly Candida diet, Truvia still has too much sugar in it, so I have struggled finding ways to be able to enjoy holiday treats. I will be trying this one for sure though! Thank you!

  • Dana

    5 stars
    Thank you for this unsweetened recipe!!! I’ve spent two days browsing trying to find a proper no added any sweeteners recipe, and yours was the only one I found.

    I wonder, if we skip the dates, would it work to add extra cinnamon instead?

    • Unsweetened Caroline

      I’m so happy you like the recipe, thank you for sharing your thoughts! And yes, it would work, however, just keep in mind that it will taste a little less sweet and more like a breakfast crumble. I would also recommend using sweet apples. Enjoy! 🙂

  • Heidi

    5 stars
    I LOVE how this recipe is sweetened with fruits (and not with sugar alternatives) and I appreciate how you use the term “fruit-sweetened” and not sugar free. I made this recipe last week with my 2-year old and we both loved it!!! We used prunes instead of dates because that’s what we had on hand. My only critique is that the topping dried out a little while cooking. I’m not sure if this was due to using prunes instead of dates? We’re going to make it again today and cook it at 350 F instead of 375 F.
    I’m eager to try other fruit-sweetend recipes of yours! Thanks for sharing your delicous recipes! 🙂

    • Nourished by Caroline

      Hi Heidi, I’m so happy you both loved it! Thank you for your feedback! You can also increase the butter a bit if you want it a little less dry. Cooking it a little less could help too. I haven’t tried it with prunes, so it’s hard to say, but every oven is a little different too. Thanks again and I hope you’ll enjoy the other recipes! 🙂


    This recipe is excellent – I used prunes, instead,
    I also looked for sugar free cobblers, finding only recipes using artificial sweeteners.
    With the information on artificial sweeteners not being good for you, I was discouraged.
    Fruit sweetened makes a lot of sense.
    I have found that when limiting sugars, just like when limiting salt, a little sweetener goes a long ways in tasting, and fruit sweetening is enough.
    I made a recipe of apple pumpkin pudding, with just apple for the sweener, and with the spices, it was just fine.
    I hope you will consider doing a whole section on fruit sweetened deserts.
    Maybe plant based deserts? No added sugars? Our bodies will like it.

    • Nourished by Caroline

      Hi Helen, thank you so much for the feedback. I’m happy you enjoyed the recipe! And I agree, our taste does adjust to eating less sugar. Every dessert on the blog before 2020 was sweetened with fruit and a few in 2020 were as well. You’ll also find many plant-based desserts. Some older ones do have eggs, but all new recipes are completely vegan. I do love the idea of making a fruit-sweetened section now that there’s a bigger variety on the blog. Thank you for the suggestion and I hope you’ll enjoy the other recipes!

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