Rhubarb apple crisp with orange zest, served here with vanilla ice cream - Diversivore.com

Rhubarb Apple Crisp

In Recipe by Sean29 Comments

Rhubarb Apple Crisp

With Orange Zest and Cinnamon

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I love a fancy dessert, full of technique and artistry – but this is not that dessert.  This is simplicity.  It’s also a great example of bright and joyous bounty of spring cooking.  The first crisp rhubarb of spring combines with the apples, oranges and oats carried over from winter.  It empties out the pantry while embracing the first fruit of the year (yes, yes, rhubarb isn’t technically fruit – but eggplant is, so who cares?).

This dessert is perfect for all sorts of reasons.  Not a big fan of baking, but you want something sweet?  This is ultra-easy and really forgiving.  Perhaps you’ve wanted to try using rhubarb to do something for some time, but you didn’t want to get into more complex dishes?  The rhubarb itself is wonderful, but in combination with apple and orange zest its part of a sweet fruity trinity.  Or maybe you’ve just got a massive rhubarb patch, and you just can’t imagine what you’re going to do with it all (again).  No matter what the case, this is the dessert for you.  This is the dessert equivalent of Monday night cooking; it comes together in a snap and leaves you satisfied.  In fact, go ahead and do it on Monday night.  We need more dessert on Mondays.

Alright, I’ve convinced you it’s easy.  Now here’s why you should really make this dish: it’s amazing.  To be honest, I built this around the fact that I had a little less rhubarb than I thought, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way.  The sourness of the rhubarb shines against the sweet and familiar apple, and the orange zest adds incredible depth and fragrance without overpowering.  Another key to a crisp is, obviously, the crispy upper layer.  In my opinion, you want the earthiness of the oats to stand out a little, which is why this crisp calls for much less sugar than some recipes out there.  After all, if you’re looking to drown rhubarb in sweetness, you might as well not be using it.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering (I know I was) this is a crisp because the topping contains oats.  Take the oats out and it’s a crumble.  Replace the topping with biscuit dough and it’s a cobbler.

Recipe Notes

This is eeeeeeeasy, so don’t stress about it too much. The fruit amounts are ballpark, so don’t be afraid to go a little over or under depending on what you have available. You could also experiment with other fruits to compliment the rhubarb – berries would work very well (though you might want omit the orange zest or switch to lemon).

I will say one thing about the sugar – you could really use anything between 3/4 cup and 1 cup depending on the sweetness of the apple, the tartness of the rhubarb, and your own personal tastes. I think that a rhubarb crisp should still have some of the tangy tartness of the rhubarb intact, so I err on the lower end.

You can eat this hot or cold, on its own or with cream, ice cream, whipped cream… you get the picture.

Nutritional Summary

All things being equal, it’s a fairly guilt-free dessert. There’s a lot of fruit here, which is good. There is still a fair amount of butter and sugar, but it’s spread out well and you’re not getting too much in a serving. Note that the nutritional info shown does not include ice cream, cream, etc.

It’s dessert, so don’t overdo it. That’s about all I’ll say.

Ingredient Pages

No Ingredient Pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe.  Like to see one?  Let me know in the comments below or by email.

Pantry Pages

No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe.  Like to see one?  Let me know in the comments below or by email.

  • Vegetarian
  • Inexpensive

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4.25 from 4 votes
Rhubarb apple crisp with orange zest - Diversivore.com
Rhubarb Apple Crisp
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
45 mins

A good rhubarb and apple crisp has a lot of the charm and flavour you'd find in a good pie, but none of the hard work. But don't be fooled by its simple preparation - it's nuanced and amazingly tasty.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, North American
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 202 kcal
Rhubarb Apple Filling
  • 3.5 cups rhubarb chopped (~450g/1 lb)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (see note)
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 medium fuji apple or similar firm but sweet apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Orange zest
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oats (steel cut or rolled, preferably)
  • 1/2 cup butter melted
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Combine all of the filling ingredients together in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Pour into a 7 x 11 (or 9 x 9) glass or enamel baking dish and set aside.
  3. Combine the topping ingredients (you can use the same bowl as before without cleaning it) and mix thoroughly. Crumble evenly over the filling.
  4. (Optional) Sprinkle a little extra brown sugar (as finely as you can manage) on top to help it brown a little.
  5. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Serve with ice cream of fresh whipped cream.
Recipe Notes

You could actually go anywhere between 3/4 cup and 1 cup on this dessert, so adjust to your own personal preference for sweetness, and based on the size and sweetness of the apple you use. Personally, I think it's important to let the taste of the rhubarb shine a little, so I don't like this overly sweet.


  1. I did not know about the crisp, crumble, cobbler thing, but now that you mention it … of course. I love, love, adore crisp! I love it more than pie, but please don’t tell that to pie. When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to pick rhubarb out of the back yard garden and eat it out of hand, so whenever I see the word, I’m conditioned to pucker and my eyes water a bit. But I’ve never had it with apple and orange.I like that you’ve been moderate with the sugar.

    1. Author

      Thanks Jeff! My mom would pick it out of the ground and eat it as a kid too… but she would sit there with a bowl of sugar to dip it in. I totally know what you mean about the pie thing – I mean, I love pie, but when you see how good and how SIMPLE crisp is… it’s pretty easy to get hooked. You really should try it with the apple and orange – and I know this might sound odd, but a sweet/perfume-y crisp apple like a Fuji works (in my opinion) way better than a tart Granny Smith.

  2. I would have your lovely delicious crisp over any fancy overly sweet dessert! Love it, can’t wait to go back to Canada, just for the rhubabrb and it’s use in crisp, crumble and cobbler all equally yummy (in Italy, or at least in and around Rome, no one uses rhubarb 🙁 ).

    1. Author

      Aww, well thank you! I think there’s a lot to be said for simple-and-sweet. And I do hope you make it back in time for wonderful rhubarb!

  3. This is one of my favorite desserts! Love the simplicity of a crumble. I’m envious of your love of artistic, challenging desserts my skills (especially with pastry) are just not there yet… One day, life goals! Thanks for sharing the recipe and the reminder to bake a crumble for Sunday dinner dessert!

    1. Author

      Well, I may like fancy desserts, but we’ll have to see whether or not I can pull one off for the blog or not. So far my tastes have been for the simple and underappreciated (like this, or my chocolate mousse). In any case, I’m glad you enjoyed this!

    1. Author

      I totally agree – fancy is nice once in a while, but simple desserts let great ingredients shine through. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Love, love, love rhubarb desserts! I’ve never tried adding orange zest to my rhubarb crisp. Next time. And I’m with you on erring on the side of less sugar.

    1. Author

      Orange zest works REALLY well with rhubarb, and the tart/sweet taste of the apple just brings the whole thing together. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes to dial it back a little on the sweetness!

  5. I think crisps and crumbles are up there contending to be my favourite desserts! I love that you added orange zest to yours: very fun and light!

    1. Author

      They’re so charming and simple and… perfect! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like them, and they come together so easily. Thanks for the compliment – the orange zest really does jump out and add a unique element.

  6. Sean, this looks delicious!!! I love crumbles, crisps and cobblers. It was my mother in law that told me you DON’T dare put oats in crumble, eek! Since then, I have learned the difference. I have never ever had rhubarb in crumble or crisp and I bet it is absolutely wonderful.

    1. Author

      I’m amazed how many people have told me they’ve never had rhubarb this way! It’s practically MADE for this kind of dish – easy to work with, and the taste and texture are just awesome when it cooks. And I have to say – I’m glad I know the difference between a crisp and crumble now too. It always kind of bugged me. That being said, apparently the linguistics vary a little regionally, so… who knows? 🙂

  7. Daaaaang I sure do love the sound of this, buddy boy. I totally saw rhubarb at the supermarket this morning and I asked Nick if he’d like it, but he sort of shrugged, so I moved on. I think I might just have to grab it next time, and make this!

    1. Author

      Well thank you kindly. I think lots of people THINK they don’t like rhubarb… and those people need to try this crisp (or my strawberry rhubarb jam with balsamic vinegar).

  8. We think alike Sean! I went on an endless hunt on my bike yesterday to find rhubarb where I live (only one store stocks it right now, boo!) to make my upcoming strawberry rhubarb *crumble*. (Not a crisp, like you clarified in your post!)

    This looks great. Plus, crisps/crumbles are just about the easiest dessert to whip together and still be a crowd-pleaser. Plus with a scoop of vanilla ice cream like you have there? Yummmmm.

    1. Author

      They are easy, and they’re SO satisfying! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who enjoys the rhubarb hunt (though now I’ve gotten my own happy plant to harvest in my back yard). Thanks for commenting, and thanks for the compliments!

    1. Author

      Thanks Liliana! It is awesome when a dessert is satisfying but simple. Fancy is nice once in a while, but this is pure comfort food for me.

  9. Sean, I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to get it all out, my thoughts on this recipe. First off, I love that you have put yourself in the place of your readers and assured them of how easy and ‘doable’ this recipe this is. I also love the way you’ve presented the nutritional information in such a fresh, informative and vibrant way. We NEED this to be the way of the future where we are providing sound information but in a fresh and non-judgmental way. I applaud you. I’m not sure if you see yourself as a maverick or not but I find so often in the food and wine industry we just are having such a rough time adapting to the times. What you are doing is cutting edge and I love it!!!
    Now, personally “rhubarb, apple and orange zest – the trinity of sweet fruit.” You poetical minx you! I love how you’ve blended the words and the ingredients together to bring out the artistic side of cooking. This is the crux of blogging for me! Rhubarb crisp recipes are a dime a dozen and although we have no copyright on a list of ingredients – THIS – is how we truly make it ours, an expression of our hearts.
    Thank you so much for sharing, caring and commenting on FBC. You are such a breath of fresh air.
    Kellie from Princess & The Yard Ape

    1. Author

      Wow, Kellie I don’t even know what to say. Thank you so much for your incredibly kind words. I don’t know that I consider myself a maverick, but I do have very strong feelings about the way things should be done, and a very strong desire to go out and do them. I love what I do and I love sharing it with people.

      I must say, I totally agree with you about writing and recipes – anyone can throw a recipe up on the web (whether or not they actually came up with it is a whole other story…) but the writing, thought, and care that surrounds it is something else all together.

      Thank you again. Honestly, you made my month. I’m so glad to know that you enjoy the work I do and the recipes I present.

  10. It’s so exciting when spring produce starts showing up at the market. I love the sound of this! Just like you said, it’s the perfect way to clear out the pantry and winter produce, while celebrating rhubarbs arrival. Yummy!

    1. Author

      I know just what you mean Natalie. I mean, not only is it gorgeous, it just screams “SPRINGTIME!” Thanks for coming by!

  11. Pingback: Almost 200 Chocolate-Free Cakes, Pies, Tarts & Crumbles - Drugstore Divas

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