These apple pie bars taste just like apple pie but in simple-to-make bar form. Made with buttery shortbread crust, layers of juicy apples, and crunchy, cinnamon streusel, these apple pie bars are the perfect fall dessert!
The fall weather has me craving all things apple! From caramel apple pie to baked apple cider donuts and caramel apple cheesecake, fall baking wouldn’t be complete without a few more apple recipes on the blog.
I’m obsessed with this apple pie bar recipe for a two reasons: one, they taste amazing (I wouldn’t post it if I didn’t love it!). Not only do I love the cinnamon-apple flavor, but the combination of textures of crumbly shortbread crust, cooked, juicy apples and crunchy streusel is divine. And two, they’re essentially like a simplified apple pie that requires no chilling time and can be made very quickly.
How to make apple pie bars
These apple pie bars are made with three layers:
- Shortbread cookie crust
- Baked apples
- Cinnamon streusel
Start by preparing the shortbread cookie crust
- Cut cold butter into cubes.
- Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Then, pour into a food processor.
- Add the cold, cubed butter to the food processor with vanilla extract. Then, pulse gently a few times until the mixture looks like course crumbs. It may seem a bit dry, but the mixture should come together nicely when you pinch a bit of it with your fingers. If you find it’s a bit dry, add just a teaspoon of water or milk to bring the mixture together.
- Pour the cookie mixture into an 8×8-inch baking dish lined with parchment paper. Press down firmly to pack the dough together to form a crust.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes at 300°F/150°C, or until the edges appear golden.
Baker’s tip: While the crust is baking, you can prepare the apples and streusel.
Prepare the apple filling
- Slice the apples. Peel your apples and slice them into ¼-inch thick pieces.
- Mix with melted butter and vanilla extract. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss the apples with melted butter and vanilla extract to evenly coat.
- Toss with remaining ingredients. Toss the coated apples with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg (if using), flour, and salt. Toss evenly to coat. Set aside.
Make the cinnamon streusel
- Combine the dry ingredients. In a medium-sized bowl, toss the oats, flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon together.
- Cut in the butter. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like course crumbs. It’s okay if some of the butter pieces are bigger than others.
- If your crust is still baking, place the streusel in the fridge to keep it cold.
Assemble your apple pie bars
Once you remove the crust from the oven, increase the oven temperature to 350°F/180°C.
- Layer the apples on the warm crust. Place the apples on top of the warm crust, pressing into the crust gently. Layer the apples as evenly and a tightly as possible. Keep in mind that the apples are going to bake down, so don’t worry if it seems like there are too many.
- Top with streusel. Evenly spread the streusel on top of the apples.
- Bake. Bake for 30 minutes until the streusel is golden brown. Allow to cool and preferably chill for 2 hours in the fridge before slicing and serving.
Can I garnish my apple pie bars?
These apple pie bars taste amazing on their own, but these are my favorite garnishes and toppings if you want to dress them up!
- Classic Caramel Sauce: Gooey and heavenly.
- Quick and Easy Caramel Sauce: A super simple caramel sauce recipe that tastes amazing.
- No-Churn Vanilla Ice Cream: The easiest vanilla ice cream recipe you’ll ever make.
- Whipped Cream: Classic, fluffy whipped cream with a hint of vanilla.
What kind of apples should I use?
I prefer using tart apples for this recipe to prevent the apple pie bars from becoming too sweet. Granny Smith are ideal, but feel free to use whatever you like or have on hand, just keep in mind sweeter apples will make your bars sweeter.
Tip: If you use sweeter apples but don’t want your bars to be too sweet, you can reduce the amount of brown sugar you toss with the apples. Try using 3 tablespoons instead of the ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon the recipe calls for.
Tips for making perfect apple pie bars
-Don’t overwork the shortbread crust dough. After you’ve pulsed the cold butter with the dry ingredients a few times, you don’t want to work the dough too much because it will make the crust too dense. Gently press the mixture into a pan to create the crust.
-Don’t cut the butter into the streusel ingredients in a food processor. I’ve found that this makes the butter pieces too small and gives the streusel a somewhat melty appearance after baking. To ensure nice, crunchy streusel pieces, use a pastry cutter, two forks, or even your hands to cut the butter in.
-Keep the streusel cold. The cold butter pieces create the beautiful, crunchy streusel topping, so don’t let it get too soft before baking. I highly recommend keeping your streusel in the fridge if you don’t use it right away.
-Line your 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper. I recommend lining the entire bottom and sides of the pan with a large piece of parchment paper, leaving enough overhang on the sides so you can easily lift the bars from the pan. This makes them much easier to cut.
More of my favorite apple recipes
- Apple Cinnamon Pancakes: Soft, fluffy, and topped with juicy apple compote.
- Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake: Buttery vanilla cake topped with gorgeous caramel apple slices.
- Caramel Apples Scones: Soft, crumbly scones with cooked apples and gooey caramel sauce.
- Apple Toffee Cupcakes: Moist, tender apple-cinnamon cupcakes topped with creamy toffee frosting.
- Caramel Apple Rolls: Decadent and full of fall flavors, these sticky apple rolls taste incredible.
Apple Pie Bars
These apple pie bars are made with buttery, shortbread cookie crust, layers of juicy apples, and crunchy, cinnamon streusel.
- 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (115g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 large tart apples, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and sliced into ¼-inch thick slices
- 2 tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter, melted
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup +1 tablespoon (60g) light or dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons (25g) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg, optional
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup (45g) all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup (20g) old-fashioned/rolled oats
- ¼ cup (50g) light or dark brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch salt
- ¼ cup (55g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
- Caramel Sauce for garnish, optional
Note: The apples should be layered on a warm crust, so make sure that by the time the crust is out of the oven, the apple filling and streusel are ready.
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease or line a 8×8-inch pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang on the sides for lifting the bars out of the pan after baking. Set aside.
To make the shortbread crust: Process flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and vanilla and pulse until mixture becomes crumbly and resembles coarse meal. Alternatively, you can crumble all the ingredients together in a bowl using a pastry cutter. The mixture may seem a bit dry, but it should come together nicely when pinched with your fingers. If you notice it's a bit dry when you do this, add a bit of cold water to bring the dough together. Sprinkle mixture into prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer to form the crust. Bake for 15-25 minutes, until the edges appear golden. While the crust is baking, prepare the apples and streusel.
Make the apple filling: Place the sliced apples, melted butter, and vanilla extract in a medium-sized bowl. Toss to coat. In a seperate bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, then add to the apples and toss to combine.
Make the streusel: Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a medium bowl. Cut in the cubed, chilled butter with a pastry cutter, two forks, or even your hand until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Assemble the apple pie bars: Evenly layer the sliced apples on the warm crust, pressing down gently. The apples should be packed together tightly. Sprinkle the top with streusel and bake for 30-35 minutes until the streusel appears golden brown.
Allow to cool completely on a wire rack at room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until completely set. Then, lift the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper and cut into squares.
Drizzle with caramel sauce, if desired.
Apples: I prefer using tart apples for this recipe to prevent the apple pie bars from becoming too sweet. Granny Smith are ideal, but feel free to use whatever you like or have on hand, just keep in mind sweeter apples will make your bars sweeter.
If you use sweeter apples but don’t want your bars to be too sweet, you can reduce the amount of brown sugar you toss with the apples. Feel free to use 3-4 tablespoons instead of ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon, which the recipes calls for.