Learn how to make this delicious Caramel Apple Crumb Bars recipe! Layers of thinly sliced apple, walnuts, cranberries and caramel sauce in a delightful oatmeal crumble crust for the perfect fall dessert. Easy to throw to together too! Includes step by step recipe instructions and how-to video.
I’ve made this many, many times over the years, but this week my Caramel Apple Crumb Bars are an extra special dessert because my mom and I got to bake it together while they were visiting. It was a wonderful weekend filled with girl shopping and laughing over family memories.
Oh, and this dessert bar is spectacular for fall! Layers of thin apple slices, tart cranberries (optional), walnuts, and rich caramel sauce sandwiched between a delightful oatmeal crumb crust. I love to bake all of the fall things, like Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread or Apple Crumb Coffee Cake with a wonderful Cold Brew Latte. The smells of apples, cinnamon, and autumn spices are always the perfect answer to warming the soul.
What I love most about this dessert – besides the taste! – is how easy it is to put together. No making a separate crumb topping, just reserve some of the bottom crust. The caramel perfectly drips through the apple center to make everything fall into place, exactly the way autumn feels to me!
Ingredients and Notes
Here is an overview of what you will need to make these dessert bars with notes on substitutions below.
Flour: I use all-purpose flour, but wheat will also work as a 1:1 substitution in the oat bars.
Apples: Granny Smith are generally considered to be the best for baking, but other apple varieties will work.
Old Fashioned Oats: I much prefer Old Fashioned Oats for this recipe. Quick oats bake faster and produce a doughier consistency.
Cranberries: Cranberries are completely optional, but I love there tart pairing with the delicate apples and caramel sauce. Dried ones are definitely preferred.
Caramels: I use either caramel bits or caramel squares generally. There is a section below explaining how you can use store-bought caramel sauce from a squeeze bottle below.
Butter: Use unsalted butter. If you have salted, decrease the salt by ¼ teaspoon. The butter must be melted. Cut it into tablespoon sized pieces and pop in the microwave for a few seconds.
Brown Sugar: I have used both and Light or Dark Brown Sugar both work well, although dark brown sugar has a little more moisture in it.
How To Make Caramel Sauce
There are a few ways to make the caramel sauce in a pinch. My personal preference is to use these caramel bits, but you can substitute 32 caramel squares like these. Using real caramel to make the sauce from scratch has a more rich, buttery style caramel flavor.
However, you can also use store-bought caramel sauce. If using the squeeze bottle variety (like this one), I recommend thickening it up with of flour. In a small saucepan, combine 1.5 cups caramel topping and ½ cup flour with a whisk. Bring to a slight boil, stirring constantly and boil 1-3 minutes.
Step By Step Recipe Guide
The recipe quantities and notes are further down the page, but these quick instructions give you an idea of how it all comes together.
Prepare the Apples. Peel and core the apples for the fastest slicing. The apple slices should be pretty thin to bake well.
- Make the Oat Crumble mixture. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir in melted butter and mix until evenly crumbly and wet. Set aside 1 ½ cups of the crumble mixture. Press the rest into the bottom of your baking dish (Photo 1). Bake for 10 minutes.
- Spread apple slices over the baked crust. Sprinkle cranberries and nuts.
- Make the caramel sauce. In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, add the caramel bits. Stir frequently The caramel will thicken as it cools. Pour over the dish while still warm.
- Crumble the remaining oatmeal mixture evenly of the top. Press just slightly into the caramel sauce. Bake about 25 minutes. It is best to allow it to cool before cutting into bars, as the bars are more likely to fall apart if they haven’t been cooled.
Chef Tips for Making Apple Crumb Bars
- Here is the baking pan of similar size. It’s a 12 x 9 rectangle casserole pan so the bars are thicker than what they’d be if you used a traditional 13×9. You can make the same thing in a 13×9 pan but keep in mind that the bars will be slightly thinner.
- Be sure to really press in the crust, particularly the bottom. You don’t want the bars to actually crumble.
- Let the apple crumble bars cool completely before trying to remove them from the baking pan. At least an hour, longer if you can.
- These apple pie bars are especially delicious served warm with vanilla ice cream over top.
Watch The Recipe Video
I have also taped myself preparing these Apple Crumb Bars in the video below. The written instructions are in the recipe card further down the page.
LOOKING FOR MORE DELICIOUS CAKE AND CUPCAKES? CHECK THESE OUT:
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- 20 of the Best Homemade Cupcake Recipes
- Bailey’s White Chocolate Cake
- Carmelitas (Caramel Chocolate Cookie Bars)
Frequently asked questions
If all you have available is quick oats, it’s ok to use. I prefer the rolled oats because they have a more rustic, hearty chew to them. If you choose to go with quick oats instead, it will form a dough-like consistency with a more uniform texture.
If apples aren’t quite your thing, you can definitely swap them out for a different type if fruit. If you’re going for a similar consistency, I might try pears or even peaches. You could also try it with strawberries or a mixture of berries if you prefer.
You sure can! I love the tart flavor of cranberries, but you can omit them if that’s not your thing. You can also substitute them for a different dried fruit like chopped dates or raisins.
This is what fall weekends are all about! Walks through the autumn trees – where you’re all bundled up cozy, warm apple cider and hot cocoa, pumpkin patch shopping and carving, and this apple crisp. Every year. It’s a must!
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PS. If you make this recipe, leave a COMMENT AND A STAR RATING in the comments section at the bottom and be sure to take a photo and tag it #cravingcreative on Instagram! I appreciate you for taking the time to read about me and my family recipes.
Caramel Apple Crumb Bars
- 2 cups All Purpose Flour
- 2 cups Old Fashioned Oats
- 1 cup Brown Sugar light or dark is fine
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter melted
- 2 Granny Smith Apples peeled, cored and sliced thin
- ½ cup Walnut pieces
- ½ cup Dried Cranberries
- 1 ½ cups Caramel Bits See note for substitutions
- ⅓ cup Whipping Cream
- Pre-heat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13in baking dish.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir in melted butter and mix until evenly crumbly and wet.
- Set aside 1 ½ cups of the crumble mixture. Press the rest into the bottom of your baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Spread apple slices over the baked crust. Sprinkle cranberries and nuts.
- In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, add the caramel bits and whipping cream. Stir frequently until completed melted and smooth. The caramel will thicken as it cools. Pour over the dish while still warm.
- Crumble the remaining oatmeal mixture evenly of the top. Press just slightly into the caramel sauce. Bake about 25-30 minutes.
- Allow to cool completely before cutting and removing from baking dish. This allows the caramel to solidify and hold together. Feel free to warm up again for eating and top with vanilla ice cream for a special treat.