How to Make Any Fruit Crisp Without a Recipe

rhubarb crumble

How to Make Any Fruit Crisp Without a Recipe! You’ll go from craving to first bite in no time flat with this simple formula, recipe definitely not necessary.

fresh pears arranged in a baking dish ready to be made into a pear crisp

Making any fruit crisp without a recipe is a simple 6 step process

Good fruit (heck, even mediocre fruit) transforms as it bakes; the heat of the oven brings out big flavors and jammy textures. Add in a sweet crunchy topping and you have something truly magical ~ no wonder we crave them. This is humble everyday food that rivals any dessert at the swankiest restaurant.


  • Fruit crisps are so forgiving.  You could have fresh picked wild blueberries, farmers market plums, week old grocery store nectarines, or frozen cranberries…it’s all good.
  • Give it a good rinse. Most fruit needs minimal processing for a crisp or crumble.
  • No need to peel! I rarely peel my fruit because the peel adds good flavor and color to the dessert. Exceptions might be fruit with thick or tough peels like apples, and sometimes peaches. I don’t peel pears, plums, etc.
  • Cut the fruit into relatively small chunks or thin slices so everything cooks evenly. Of course you can customize here depending on what you like. If you dislike mushy fruit and want your fruit to retain some texture, leave it in larger pieces. If you like your crisps nice and jammy soft, stick with smaller pieces.
  • Berries are the easiest of all, just toss them in whole. Slice or chop larger berries like strawberries.
  • Can you use frozen fruit? Absolutely! Crisps are a great way to use frozen fruit. No need to thaw first, use from frozen.
stalks of fresh rhubarb ready to be chopped for a rhubarb crisp

Rhubarb for a gluten free Rhubarb Crisp, above.

Step #2 : sweeten, flavor, and (sometimes) thicken

  • Sweeten: Some fruit needs absolutely no sweetener, so if you’re a minimalist baker, feel free to keep it uber simple. Taste your fruit before deciding: if it’s very sweet, you may need to add lemon juice to counter that. If it’s pleasantly sweet/tart, leave it be. If it’s under-ripe or very tart, add a little sweetener in the form of granulated or brown sugar. Start with a spoonful or so. You can use honey, maple or agave syrup, or other alternative sweeteners as well, let taste be your guide. Caution: don’t over sweeten ~ the slight tartness of the filling contrasting with the sweet topping is one of the joys of a fruit crisp!
  • Flavor: I do like to add some flavoring to my crumbles and crisps, it really enhances the the fruit. Vanilla or almond extracts are the most common, and I love both.
  • Thicken: Some fruits do well with no thickener at all, especially if you’re ok with a juicy filling; apples, pears, peaches, blueberries, and blackberries can go it alone. But most will benefit from being tossed with a tablespoon or two of flour or cornstarch. Cornstarch is my preference, but for even more security, I like to us a product called Instant Clearjel. It’s a food starch with super thickening powers and is great when you want to be sure your filling is nice and thick.
plums in a bowl for a plum crumble

Plum Crumble, above

Step #3: fill your baking dish(s)

individual fruit crumbles in small jars
  • First make sure it’s oven safe.  It can be a 9×13 pan or an individual glass or bowl. I love to use small wide mouth canning jars for adorable individual servings.
  • Shallow baking dishes will work best so you can have the optimal ratio of fruit to topping.
  • I like to fill my baking vessel about 3/4 of the way full with fruit.
  • Keep in mind that fruit will shrink as as it cooks.
diced pears in a baking dish

Pear Crisp, above

Step #4: Make the crisp topping

making a crumble topping

Make Ahead Crumble Topping, above


A simple ratio of ingredients is 1 : 1 : 2 for butter/sugar/flour

This varies greatly according to taste, but that is a starting point. Feel free to play with this ratio, there are endless variations that work.

Ingredients for a crisp or crumble topping

  • Butter ~ (or use coconut oil for a vegan version.) The butter can be melted, room temp, or cold, all will work.
  • Flour ~ I use all purpose but whole grains or your favorite gluten free flours are great too.
  • Sweetener ~ brown or white sugar, maple syrup, honey, or any alternative sweetener you like.
  • A pinch of salt ~ don’t underestimate this flavor booster, even in desserts.
  • Oats ~ (optional.)
  • Nuts ~ (optional.)
  • Spices ~ (optional) I like to add a dash of cinnamon to most of my crisps, cardamom and nutmeg are also nice.
  • Extracts ~ (optional) vanilla and almond are favorites.


Mix everything together with your fingers. I sometimes melt my butter first, because it makes mixing in all the other ingredients a lot easier, but you can start with room temperature butter or cold, cut into small pieces. Work the ingredients together using your fingers or a fork. If using cold butter smash it between your finger tips as you toss everything together. Tip: I love to use my food processor for this job, too. Just pulse until you get your desired consistency.

Depending on the ratio of ingredients you’re using, your crumble will fall on a spectrum of dry and ‘floury’ all the way to a very buttery cookie dough texture. All are delicious.

pear crisp

Pear Crisp, above

Step #5: Bake!

baking a plum crumble

Vanilla Almond Plum Crumble, above

  • I bake all my crisps at 350F. Small, individual rammekins take about 25-35 minutes, larger crisps (like a 9×14 pan) will take about an hour.
  • Take a peek after 25 minutes. Unlike a cake, which can deflate, you don’t have to worry about opening the oven to check on your crisp, so go ahead and take a couple peeks if you’re not sure. You’ll know it’s done when the fruit mixture is bubbling around all the edges and the top looks nice and golden brown.
  • With crisps, err on the side of over baking rather than under baking; you want the whole thing to be bubbling hot, especially if you’re using a thickener that needs high temps to do its job.
rhubarb crisp just out of the oven

Rhubarb Crisp, above

Step #6: Enjoy!

berry crumble topped with ice cream

Make Ahead Crumble Topping, above

Crisps and crumbles beg for a creamy topping of some sort!

  • Ice cream is my personal choice,  stick with plain vanilla, the fruit should be the star of this dessert.
  • Whipped cream (even a drizzle of plain cream) can be left as is, or sweetened and flavored. I love to spike my whipped cream on occasion (see my maple pot de creme post for example.)
  • Whipped mascarpone cheese (find the recipe in my no bake strawberry cheesecake post)
  • You’ll want to let your crisp cool a little bit before digging in, the filling is seriously hot, and anyway the juices will get a chance to firm up a little bit. The longer it cools the thicker the filling will be.
Summer Jumble Fruit Crumble that turns rag tag leftover fruit into a fabulous dessert fit for company! ~
e book

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    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    Lola Osinkolu | Chef Lola's Kitchen
    August 30, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    Fruit desserts are so refreshing always! This shall surely work wonders!

  • Reply
    Joan Chamberlain
    August 30, 2020 at 7:04 am

    Great post, Sue. Thank you for this easy-to-remember recipe ratio. Fruit desserts are my absolute favorite, so I’ll be referring to this often!

  • Reply
    Rhonda Davis
    August 30, 2020 at 6:56 am

    Wonderful post! This post is ‘right on’ with simple, no nonsense ingredients, instructions, and methods. Fruit crumbles are wonderful desserts and have been used by mother and me for years to use what fruit is available to concoct yummy desserts.

    Your details still keep the fruit center stage and offer simple directions for adjustments with different fruits and/or Crumble toppings.

    • Reply
      August 30, 2020 at 7:02 am

      Thank you Rhonda <3

  • Reply
    August 30, 2020 at 6:47 am

    Is the 1:1:2 ratio by weight or volume?

    • Reply
      August 30, 2020 at 7:02 am

      I use volume.

  • Reply
    August 30, 2020 at 6:40 am

    How flavorful, sweet and crisp! It covers all, Sue,
    simply while it welcomes all sorts of ideas.
    Thank you!!!!

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