Possibly the easiest healthy apple crisp recipe ever! It’s vegan, refined sugar free, gluten free, oil free. And this toasty, comforting dessert—or breakfast—is chock full of whole food plant-based goodness.
Place a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8" x 8" baking dish with parchment paper, or use a non-stick dish.
To Make the Date Paste
Place the chopped dates and 2 tablespoons of water in a microwave safe bowl, cover, and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir, cover and microwave on high 30 more seconds.
Place the softened dates in a food processor. Start processing on low, and increase to higher speed as the dates begin to break down. Add water a little at a time and stop to scrape down the sides as needed to create a smooth paste. This will take several minutes. (See notes.)
To Make the Filling
Core the apples and cut each one into 8 sections. Then cut each section in half for 16 slices per apple, about 1/4 inch thick.
Place in a medium mixing bowl, add 1/2 the date paste (or at least 2 tablespoons) and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Toss well to coat all of the apple slices with the cinnamon and date paste
To Make the Topping
In a small mixing bowl, add combine the oats, 1/2 the date paste (or at least 2 tablespoons) and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Toss well to combine.
To Make the Apple Crisp
Pour the filling mixture into a parchment paper lined or non-stick 8" x 8" baking dish. Spread the topping evenly over the apples.
Place on a rack positioned in the center of the oven, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 55-60 minutes, or until the apples are fork tender and the dish is hot and bubbly. Check the apple crisp after about 45 minutes. If you notice the topping getting too dark, cover with foil and continute to bake covered.
Tips for making date paste. I like to soften the dates first so they're easier to break down in the food processor. The microwave is quick, but you can simmer them in a bit of water on the stove it you prefer. 5-10 minutes should be enough, or until they're very soft. It takes several minutes for the dates to get creamy and form a paste in the food processor. Stop and stir often, scraping down the sides and adding a little water at a time as needed. Don't worry if there are some little bits of date skin remaining. They'll blend right into the apple crisp.
Adjusting the sweetness. You can follow the directions exactly or use a little less date paste if desired. I've made this with as little as 2 tablespoons of date paste in both the filling and topping, and it's still sweet. However, depending on the size of your food processor it might be hard to make less date paste, so you'll have a little left over.
About the topping. I like my apple crisp with mostly apples and just a bit of topping. But if you prefer more topping you could increase the topping ingredients by 50% or more. The basic oats-cinnamon-date version is great, but my favorite simple topping is to add 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts! If you want a fancier topping, my sugar free granola recipe works great on this apple crisp.
About the apples. Most crisp varieties (Fuji, Gala, Cortland, Granny Smith) will work well here. I would not use Golden Delicious or a similar apple, as they're just too soft and sweet. I've made this recipe with both peeled and unpeeled apples, and while I think I prefer the texture with unpeeled fruit, both were great.
To speed things up: 1) soften the dates in the microwave, 2) use an apple corer/slicer if you have one (don't forget to peel the apples first if like them peeled, then cut each slice in half) 3) skip peeling the apples, 4) buy sliced apples or store-bought date paste, 5) use a silicone baking dish--no need for parchment paper and clean up is a breeze.
About the cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is considered to be safer that cassia cinnamon. (See more here.)