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How to Make Streusel Topping for Crisps and Pies

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Who needs pie dough? Use this sweet streusel recipe instead.

unbaked streusel topping on an apple crisp

A good streusel recipe should be among everyone’s basic baking recipes. Made with flour, sugar, butter, and cinnamon, streusel can be used to top fruit pies, crisps, and crumbles as well as coffee cakes, muffins, and baked goods.

Learn more about how to make and use a versatile streusel topping, below.

How to Make Streusel for Pie, Crisp, and Crumbles

How to Make Homemade Streusel Topping

This homemade pie crumble recipe and technique is simple:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of brown sugar with 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup oatmeal, cinnamon, and salt. Mix.
  2. Add cold, diced butter. Work it in with your hands until crumbly.
  3. Chill until ready to use.
raw streusel topping for pie after being hand mixed
The streusel topping should be the texture of coarse, wet sand.

Homemade Streusel Recipe Tips

First, be sure to use rolled oats and not quick oats. Quick oats tend to become lost in the recipe. Rolled oats have more structure and will remain visible when baked.

When making homemade streusel, be sure to get the texture right. The oatmeal crisp texture should be like wet, crumbly sand. The cold butter is key here. Warm butter will just smear into the streusel and become greasy.

What is Streusel? Crisp vs. Crumble vs. Streusel vs. Cobbler

According to the official dictionary definition, streusel is “a crumbly mixture of fat, sugar, and flour and sometimes nuts and spices that is used as topping or filling for cake.”

So by that definition, crisp and crumble toppings count as streusels.

apple streusel pie in pie pan

The terms apple crisp and apple crumble are often used interchangeably. And the general idea is the same: sliced apples tossed with sugar and cinnamon on the bottom, topped with a streusel made from some combination of butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and perhaps nuts or oats.

But for those who sometimes like to get technical (and I count myself among those people), here’s the difference between apple crumble and apple crisp:

  • An apple crisp has a streusel topping made with oats
  • But apple crumble has a streusel topping made without oats
  • And apple cobbler has a biscuit topping

So whether you call your streusel dessert a crisp or crumble, we call it delicious.

streusel topping for crumbles crisps and pie

You’ll also love these great recipes:

How to Make Homemade Streusel Topping (With Recipe)

Streusel topping makes a cinnamon-sweet, perfect topping for fruit pies, crisps, and crumbles. Here's a great all-purpose streusel recipe, and details on how to make it step by step.
And here's an easy apple crisp recipe to use your streusel!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Approximate Standard Pie Baking Time50 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Austrian, French
Keywords:: apple crisp, apple crumble, cinnamon, dessert, easy, how to make crumble topping, how to make streusel, pie recipe
Servings: 1 recipe, enough to cover a standard 9" pie or crumble


  • 1 cup light brown or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup; 1/4 pound) cold, unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  • In a mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, oats, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to mix.
  • Add the diced, cold butter. Work the butter into the sugar-flour mixture with your fingers until the texture resembles coarse, damp sand. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Top your pie, crisp, or crumble of choice with the streusel topping. This recipe is enough for one generously-topped 9" or 10" pie.
    PRO TIP: Most streusel or crumb topping pies, crisps, and crumbles are baked at around 400°F. I suggest this excellent, easy apple crisp recipe.


  • 5 stars

  • 5 stars
    This turned out very well. Used as part of the apple crisp as well. Could this be used for coffee cake? How many nuts would I add if I wanted to add nuts? Thank you.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Tom! You could certainly use this for coffee cake topping. I might add a pinch more cinnamon, and add about 3/4 cup to 1 cup walnut pieces. Enjoy!

  • Sara W.

    5 stars
    I made this as part of the apple crisp recipe and it is very delicious. I love the brown sugar and cinnamon flavor. Thank you!

5 from 3 votes

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