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Gluten Free Apple Pie Bars

|| byKat|6 Comments

These gluten free apple pie bars combine the perfect buttery, crisp shortbread crust and crumb topping with a juicy apple pie filling. They taste incredible and they’re really easy to make. The recipe uses just one shortbread cookie dough for both the bottom crust and the crumble on top, which makes the process of making and assembling them super straightforward.

Gluten free apple pie bars on a sheet of brown parchment paper.

I’m pretty sure that this is the single best apple dessert I’ve ever made or tasted. The combination of the buttery, crisp, just-crumbly-enough shortbread crust and crumble with the juicy, perfectly spiced apple pie filling is simply DIVINE.

The addition of a layer of ground walnuts adds even more flavour, and makes this simple dessert taste like something from a grandmother’s book of recipes – slightly nostalgic, perfectly cosy and like the most comforting, warm hug.

If you can’t tell, I’m IN LOVE with these gluten free apple pie bars and I could easily write an essay (or several of them) all about how insanely delicious they are.

Gluten free apple pie bars on a sheet of brown parchment paper on top of a large wooden serving board.

The great thing about this recipe is that there’s just one cookie dough that you have to make for both the bottom crust and the streusel/crumb topping. Many recipes require you to make two separate doughs for the top and the bottom – but I really wanted to make this recipe as simple and straightforward as possible.

With that in mind, you also don’t have to pre-bake the bottom crust. You just need to press a bit over half of the shortbread cookie dough into a baking tin, sprinkle on some ground walnuts (for extra flavour and to absorb some of the moisture from the apples), arrange the apple pie filling in an even layer on top, and finally crumble over the remaining cookie dough.

It really doesn’t get much easier than that. And the results are INCREDIBLE.

Close up view of a gluten free apple pie bar.

Before we get to the bits and bobs of making these amazing apple pie bars – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!

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Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.

The apple pie filling

The recipe uses the same apple pie filling as my gluten free apple turnovers. It’s super quick and easy to make, and it’s so ridiculously good I could seriously eat it by the spoonful.

To make the apple pie filling, you just need to combine unsalted butter, diced apples (the apple pieces should be about ½-inch/1.5cm in size), light brown sugar, cinnamon, a pinch of salt and lemon juice in a large skillet and cook them over medium-high heat with frequent stirring for about 5-7 minutes, or until the apples are softened and the juices have thickened into a thick, syrupy consistency.

You want the apples softened but they should still have some texture to them. It’s better to err on the firm side with the apple pieces, as they will soften even further during baking.

Close-up view of apple pie filling.

It’s important to use a large skillet with a large surface area instead of a pot or saucepan, because the larger surface area speeds up the moisture evaporation. This ensures that a lot of the moisture released by the apples will have evaporated by the time the apples have softened, so that the final filling won’t be too wet.

Make sure that the apple pie filling has cooled completely to room temperature before you assemble the apple pie bars. You can also prepare it a few days in advance and keep it in the fridge until needed.

The gluten free shortbread cookie dough

As mentioned above, this recipe uses a single shortbread cookie dough both for the bottom crust and for the streusel or crumb topping.

This means that the baked cookie dough needs to strike the right balance between being sturdy enough so that you can easily cut and pick up the baked apple pie bars without them crumbling apart, and also buttery enough so that the crumble topping spreads very slightly during baking.

The butter-to-flour ratio is crucial here:

  • If the butter-to-flour ratio is too high, the crumb topping will spread nicely during baking, but both the crust and the crumble on top will be far too delicate and crumbly.
  • If the butter-to-flour ratio is too low, the baked bars will be nicely crisp and sturdy, but the crumb topping won’t spread enough during baking.

I’ve optimised this recipe to give perfectly crisp and buttery gluten free apple pie bars that are easy to slice into individual portions and that you can easily pick up, while also ensuring that the top crumble spreads just enough during baking. So, make sure to follow the recipe below precisely and accurately – and, for best results, weigh your ingredients with a digital food scale!

Gluten free apple pie bars on a sheet of brown parchment paper.

The layer of ground walnuts

This is an optional extra step, but I really recommend sprinkling a layer of ground walnuts over the bottom shortbread crust before you add the apple pie filling layer.

The ground walnuts serve two purposes:

  • They absorb some of the moisture from the apple pie filling, so that the bottom shortbread cookie crust doesn’t end up too soggy.
  • They add the most fantastic flavour to the apple pie bars, and somehow transform them into a more refined and elegant (and also somewhat nostalgic) dessert.

Assembling & baking the gluten free apple pie bars

To assemble the gluten free apple pie bars:

  1. Press just over half of the shortbread cookie dough into a lined 9-inch (23cm) square baking tin, and smooth it out into an even layer (this is easiest done with a small offset spatula). When lining the baking tin, I recommend leaving some parchment/baking paper overhanging, as that will help with removing the bars from the tin later on.
  2. Sprinkle the ground walnuts in an even layer on top.
  3. Arrange the apple pie filling in an even layer, and drizzle over all the syrupy juices that the apples have released.
  4. Crumble over the remaining shortbread cookie dough. Try to get an even coverage, but it’s okay if a few apple pieces peak through here or there.

Then, bake the apple pie bars at 350ºF (180ºC) for about 40-45 minutes or until the crumb topping is evenly golden brown. Allow the bars to cool *completely* to room temperature before removing them from the baking tin and slicing them into individual portions.

It’s VERY important that the apple pie bars are cooled completely before you remove them from the baking tin. While they’re still warm or hot, they will be much crumblier and more delicate, so they will be more difficult to handle (they’re more likely to crack and crumble if you try to remove them while they’re still hot or warm).

Gluten free apple pie bars on a sheet of brown parchment paper on top of a large wooden serving board.

Should gluten free apple pie bars be refrigerated?

You don’t have to keep these gluten free apple pie bars in the fridge – unless you add something like a caramel or a cream cheese drizzle on top, or similar. In that case (because the drizzle would contain dairy), I do recommend refrigerating them.

How long to gluten free apple pie bars keep?

The apple pie bars keep very well in a closed container at room temperature (or in a cool, dry place) for about 3-4 days. Though, in our house, they usually don’t last that long… yes, they’re *that* good.

Gluten free apple pie bars on a sheet of brown parchment paper on top of a large wooden serving board.

And there you have it: everything you need to know in order to make the most delicious, cosy, flavour-packed gluten free apple pie bars. I’ve just made them again (for the third time in just two weeks) and somehow, they just get better and better every time I taste them.

I hope you’ll love them as much as I do.

Happy baking!

Signature of the author, Kat.

An apple pie bar on an off-white dessert plate, served with a dollop of whipped cream and chopped walnuts.

More amazing fall desserts

If you’re looking for more incredibly delicious fall desserts, you’re definitely in the right place!

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Gluten Free Apple Pie Bars

These gluten free apple pie bars combine the perfect buttery, crisp shortbread crust and crumb topping with a juicy apple pie filling. They taste incredible and they’re really easy to make. The recipe uses just one shortbread cookie dough for both the bottom crust and the crumble on top, which makes the process of making and assembling them super straightforward.
Print Rate
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook/Bake Time 40 mins
Total Time 1 hr 40 mins
Servings 12

Ingredients

Apple pie filling:

  • 55 g (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 7-8 medium (about 1.5kg, 3 lb) slightly tart, firm eating apples, cored, peeled and diced into ½-inch (1.5cm) pieces (I recommend apple varieties such as Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Jazz or Braeburn.)
  • 100 g (½ cup) light brown soft sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt

Shortbread cookie dough:

  • 180 g (1½ sticks + 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
  • 150 g (¾ cup) light brown soft sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 360 g (3 cups) plain gluten free flour blend (I used Doves Farm Freee plain gluten free flour that doesn't have any xanthan gum added. You can also mix your own gluten free flour blend using this recipe. Note that for this homemade blend, 1 cup = 150g, so ideally use a digital food scale for best results.)
  • ¾ tsp xanthan gum (Omit if your gluten free flour blend already contains xanthan gum.)
  • ½ tsp salt

You will also need:

  • 80 g (⅔ cup) ground walnuts

Instructions

Apple pie filling:

  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter.
    Tip: It’s important to use a large skillet with a large surface area instead of a pot or saucepan, because the larger surface area speeds up the moisture evaporation. This ensures that a lot of the moisture released by the apples will have evaporated by the time the apples have softened, so that the final filling won't be too wet.
  • Add the diced apples, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt, and stir to combine.
  • Cook for 5-7 minutes over medium-high heat with occasional stirring, until the apples are softened and the juices have thickened into a thick, syrupy consistency.
    Tip: You want the apples softened but they should still have some texture to them. It’s better to err on the firm side with the apple pieces, as they will soften even further during baking.
  • Make sure that the apple pie filling has cooled completely to room temperature before you assemble the apple pie bars. 
    Tip: You can prepare the apple pie filling a few days in advance and keep it in the fridge until needed.

Shortbread cookie dough:

  • Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and line a 9-inch (23cm) square baking tin with parchment/baking paper.
    Tip: When lining the baking tin, I recommend leaving some parchment/baking paper overhang, as that will help with removing the bars from the tin later on.
  • In a large bowl, mix the softened butter, light brown sugar and vanilla together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until combined.
    Tip: Don’t cream or aerate the mixture – you don't want to incorporate air into the cookie dough, as that can make the bottom crust and the crumb topping puff up and/or spread too much, and it can result in apple pie bars that are too crumbly and delicate (note the absence of any raising agents for the same reason).
  • Sift in the gluten free flour blend, xanthan gum and salt.
  • Mix it all together until the dough starts clumping together, then give it a thorough knead to bing it together into a smooth ball with no patches of dry flour. The dough might crack in places, but it should hold together well without being too crumbly.

Assembling and baking the gluten free apple pie bars:

  • Press just over half of the shortbread cookie dough (about 380g) into the lined 9-inch (23cm) square baking tin. Smooth it out into an even layer, this is easiest done with a small offset spatula. The thickness of this bottom cookie dough layer should be about ¼-inch (7mm).
  • Sprinkle the ground walnuts evenly across the cookie dough crust, all the way to the edges.
  • Arrange the apple pie filling in an even layer on top of the ground walnuts, and drizzle over all the syrupy juices that the apples have released.
  • Crumble over the remaining shortbread cookie dough (about 315g). Try to get an even coverage, but it’s okay if a few apple pieces peak through here or there.
  • Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for about 40-45 minutes or until the crumb topping is evenly golden brown.
  • Allow the bars to cool *completely* to room temperature before removing them from the baking tin (with the help of the overhanging parchment/baking paper) and slicing them into individual portions.
    Tip: It’s VERY important that the apple pie bars are cooled completely before you remove them from the baking tin. While they’re still warm or hot, they will be much crumblier and more delicate, so they will be more difficult to handle (they’re more likely to crack and crumble if you try to remove them while they’re still hot or warm).

Storage:

  • The gluten free apple pie bars keep very well in a closed container at room temperature (or in a cool, dry place) for about 3-4 days. 
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