Apple crumble bars — melt-in-your mouth buttery shortbread crust, soft caramel apples, crispy crumble topping. These caramel apple bars are delicious, easy to make and will make your home smell like fall.
(Love cooking and baking with apples? Check out this collection of sweet and savoury apple recipes to kick off apple season.)
I love making apple crumble bars. Easier to make than apple pie, just as delicious!
Apples are available year-round but nothing beats baking with them in the autumn and filling your home with all the fall feels.
Hope you enjoy these caramel apple bars, apple crisp bars, apple pie bars or whatever else you end up calling them in your family. They are easy to make, packed with caramel apple flavour, just the thing we need to kick off fall baking.
Why you’ll love these caramel apple crumble bars
You’ll love making these easy apple squares because:
- The shortbread crust is just the right amount of thickness and is melt-in-your mouth buttery
- The crispy oatmeal crumble is packed with cinnamon flavour and so easy to put together
- You don’t have to cook the apple filling
- And they’re delightfully sweet and sticky because of the caramel
What you’ll need
They’re so easy to make too. The ingredients are simple and easy to find. You probably already have most of them sitting in your pantry.
- All purpose flour
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Rolled oats
- Ground cinnamon
- Egg yolk
- Vanilla extract
- Caramel squares
- Half and half
And apples, of course. Plus, ice cream! These bars are amazing topped with ice cream.
I use my handheld mixer to beat the shortbread crust, though you can also use a pastry cutter or two forks.
Other than that, all you’ll need are:
- A 9×9 inch baking pan
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
A vegetable peeler will make your life easier but it’s not necessary.
I like to use my bench scraper to cut the apple bars into squares though a knife will work too.
And I always recommend investing in an oven thermometer — they are inexpensive and so useful. It’s so important to bake at the correct temperature and you might be surprised just how inaccurate your oven temperature is.
Easy recipe with step-by-step photos
These apple crumble bars have 3 components: the shortbread crust, the vanilla caramel and the crumble topping.
First, preheat your oven to 400F. Lightly grease a 9×9 inch baking pan and set aside. I don’t line my pan with parchment paper in this recipe.
How to make the crust for apple crumble bars
To make the crust, start by combining flour, butter, sugar, salt, an egg yolk and vanilla extract in a bowl.
Using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the flour mixture until it resembles a course meal.
Transfer to a 9×9 inch baking pan and press to the bottom with your hands. Make sure to pack it in and get to all the corners.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until it turns a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow cool.
How to make the vanilla caramel sauce
While your crust is baking, melt your vanilla caramel candies in a heavy bottom pan over low heat. When they are almost completely melted, add half and half, and salt.
Stir to incorporate and remove from heat.
How to make apple crumble topping
Next you can turn your attention to the oat crisp, which is the easiest thing ever.
Simply mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl until combined and evenly moist. That’s it!
Assembly and baking
Now that you have everything ready, you just need to put everything together.
Put apples on top of your baked shortbread crust.
Drizzle with your prepared caramel sauce.
Top with your prepared oat crumble.
Then bake for 30-45 minutes or until the apple filling is tender and the crumble is crisp and golden brown.
Cool completely in the pan before cutting into squares. Drizzle with more caramel sauce and top with ice cream if desired.
Baking tips and recipe FAQs
When picking the kind of apple to use for this apple pie bars recipe or for baking in general, remember that the best variety is sweet as well as tart and, more importantly, firm and crisp enough so it doesn’t turn into mush when you bake it (unless you want it to turn mushy, of course).
My default is granny smith apples, and this is what I use when making these bars.
They are crisp and bake really well. They are also more on the sour side and that provides a nice balance for desserts.
You shouldn’t limit yourself to just one apple variety though. You should experiment and see what kind of apple you like. Mix and match until you find your favourite, tastiest apple combination.
Store leftover apple pie crumble bars in an airtight container. You can leave them on your counter or store them in the fridge.
You can also freeze them, like how you would brownies. Wrap each apple square in plastic wrap then aluminum foil and place them in a freezer-safe container or Ziploc bag.
To thaw, bring down to the fridge the night before.
Stored properly, apple crumble bars should last about 3 days on your counter, up to a week in the fridge, and at least a month in the freezer.
You don’t have to cook the apple filling beforehand, which make this recipe so easy! All you need to do is peel and dice.
I always use Kraft Classic Caramels in this apple crumb squares recipe but you can also use Werther’s Soft Caramels. Of course, you can make your own caramel sauce! I have an easy, foolproof salted caramel sauce recipe you can try.
There are 2 things I learned when using vanilla caramel candies for making caramel sauce.
One: they harden faster.
But don’t worry. You can just zap them in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, stir and you’ll have lovely caramel sauce again.
Two: they are stickier. But that is not a bad thing at all. In fact it’s a great thing.
It worked so well with these bars that I don’t think I will sub my homemade sauce for this particular recipe.
The bars — already crispy and soft to begin with — take on another layer of texture (stickiness!) — for one amazing bite.
You’ll notice that this recipe only uses 1 egg yolk. Don’t throw that egg white away! There are so many things you can do with it.
Check out this recipe collection that gives you several recipes to use leftover egg whites.
Other delicious apple desserts
Apples are available year-round but they are amazing in the fall. And there are so many apple varieties to choose from!
I love baking with apples; if you do too, check out these delicious apple desserts:
- This apple crisp cheesecake is sure to be the star of your thanksgiving dessert table.
- For a simple, everyday apple treat, rustic apple galette fits the bill nicely. Like these bars, it’s your favourite apple pie without all the work.
- And these baked apple turon is a delightfully delicious twist on the popular Filipino snack.
These apple crisp bars are so easy to do. Make and bake the crust, put chopped apples on top, pour caramel sauce, top with crumble, then bake again.
Before you know it your kitchen will be smelling of caramel apples and, to borrow from Martha Stewart, that’s a good thing! Enjoy!
Apple Crumble Bars
For the Shortbread Crust:
For the Apple Filling:
- 2 pcs Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and roughly chopped
- 20 pcs caramel squares
- 2 tbsp half and half
- ¼ tsp salt
- Using a handheld electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 ½ cups flour, ½ cup butter, ¼ cup sugar, ⅛ teaspoon salt, 1 egg yolk and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Beat on low speed until it resembles a coarse meal.
- Press to the bottom of your pan using your hands. Make sure to really pack it in and get to all the corners.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until it turns a light golden brown. Remove and let cool. Don't turn the oven off; lower the oven temperature to 350F.
- While the crust is baking, melt 20 caramels in a heavy bottomed pan over low heat. When they are almost completely melted, add 2 tablespoons half and half and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir to incorporate and remove from heat.
- Next turn to your oat crumble: simply mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
- Stir until combined and evenly moist.
- To assemble your apple crumble bars, place chopped apples on top of baked crust.
- Drizzle with caramel sauce.
- Then top with oat crumble mixture.
- Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the apples are tender and the crumble is crisp and golden brown.
- Cool in the pan before cutting into squares. Drizzle with more caramel sauce and top with ice cream if desired.
Nutritional information are estimates only.
Did you make caramel apple bars? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.