Crab apples are safe to eat, and are a great fruit to use in desserts. Learn to make crab apple crisp from all the fruit you didn't know you could use!

The other day I caught myself admiring the gorgeous crab apple tree sitting outside the window.  The color of the tiny bright red fruits was stunning against the turning of the autumn leaves and blue sky.  It is the season for apple crisp, but my apple tree is too young to produce.  So I started wondering if crab apples were edible.  A quick internet search revealed that I was pretty safe taking the chance.

So that night I made crab apple crisp!

Before taking the plunge I plucked a crab apple from the tree and bit into it.  It was toe curling bitter, but tasted like a type of apple.  Undeterred, I picked a bunch and started preparing them by removing the stems and most of the seeds, which was tedious.  The larger the type of crab apples, the better.  Crab apples are generally safe to eat, though like apples, the seeds do contain a type of cyanide.  However the amount is so small you would have to thoroughly chew and eat quite a few apple or crab apple seeds to experience any toxic effects.

To make crab apple crisp, you can use any apple crisp recipe you would like, although I would try to stay away from recipes that avoid sweeteners, as crab apples are usually a lot less sweet than regular apples.  The bitterness of the crab apples reminds me of cranberries; you wouldn’t generally pop a bag open and eat them plain, but baked in desserts they are wonderful.  Below is a recipe I used:

Yield: 10 servings

Crab Apple Crisp

Crab Apple Crisp

Have an over abundance of crab apples? Then this crab apple crisp is perfect for you!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes


Crab apples:

  • Enough crab apples to fill the pan 1 1/2 to 2 inches (I eyeballed it until it looked like a good amount)
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Oatmeal crisp topping:

  • 2 3/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup melted butter or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt (if not using salted butter)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix together ingredients in the "crab apple" section, place in 8x8 or similar size baking dish.
  3. In the "oatmeal crisp topping" section, mix together dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then combine.
  4. Crumble the oatmeal crisp topping over the crab apple mixture in the pan, cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  5. Take off tin foil and bake for 25-30 minutes more.
  6. Cool slightly and serve with your favorite type of ice cream!

Crab apples are safe to eat, and are a great fruit to use in desserts. Learn to make crab apple crisp from all the fruit you didn't know you could use!



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Do you have any favorite recipes for crab apples?


Photography by Jennifer Leung Johnson


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