Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Crab apple pie bars didn’t sound too bad, which was my reasoning for creating this recipe.
I’m a huge apple fan, and although crab apples are small, they are perfect for making pies and bars.
We have a large crab apple tree in our backyard, as seen in the photos below.
Let me show you how to make these easy crab apple pie bars.
Update 2023: At the end of this blog post, I created a different version using the crockpot, almond flour base, and reduced sugar version.
Come And Get Your Free Crab Apples
Each year the tree gives us an abundance of crab apples that we hate to waste.
I often put an ad on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace to pick your free crab apples.
If you don’t have a crab apple tree, ask friends or search online through Facebook community groups.
People come in droves for the free crab apples, and I always ask what they will make.
There are not too many recipes to make with crab apples; if you’ve never tried one, they are tart.
I don’t mind munching on fresh crab apples picked from the tree as they are an excellent snack.
I have one pet peeve for preparing them for a recipe such as these crab apple pie bars.
The good news is I’ve mastered my crab apple chopping by cutting around the apple, leaving the core.
Crab Apples In Ontario, Canada
Although there are many varieties of crab apple trees worldwide, only one is in Ontario.
The wild crabapple Malus coronaria is the only species of apple native to Ontario, where it is confined to southwestern Ontario (for more information see Natural Resources Canada factsheet).
Crabapple blossoms are important for many insects including bees. Larval and adult insects, mammals, and birds eat apples.
Crabapples tend to be sour but are still used to make jams and other condiments. Apple wood is good for cooking and smoke from it is a preferred flavouring for cheese and meat.Canadian Tours Crab Apple Trees
Common Crab Apple Recipes
Applewood is an excellent wood for firing up the charcoal grill with added flavors to whatever you BBQ.
I have gifted crab apple tree wood to our neighbor, who uses a charcoal JR Kamado grill like the one we bought from Amazon Canada.
Once the flowers bloom on the crab apple tree, they brighten up the entire back corner of the garden.
Often we see bees and birds inside the tree doing whatever they need to do.
We’ve lived in this house since 2009, and the tree has given us crab apples all but one year.
Typical Crab Apple Recipes
Some of the specific crab apple recipes I’ve made are pretty simple.
- Crab Apple Butter
- Crab Apple Jam we made when our homestay student from Spain stayed with us for a month.
- Crab Apple Spice Jelly (baby shower gifts, Christmas gifts)
- Cherry Rhubarb Crab Applesauce
- Crab Apple Vinegar (last year, we did this but haven’t tried it yet, but I’ll crack a bottle open today)
I’m unsure if I’d ever try this, but pickled crab apples are another way to use or preserve them.
Why I Made Crab Apple Pie Bars
That’s why today I wanted to make crab apple pie bars which initially were supposed to be pie.
I’m not the best with pastry, and I’ll stick to bars judging by the homemade cherry pie I made yesterday.
The flavors are always on point, but I can never get a pie to look good.
By the way, that’s cinnamon on top. I dumped too much on it and just spread it.
OMG… I don’t want to talk about it. It is a delicious pie, though.
The cherry pie filling was easy to make.
However, I think I did pretty well with these crab apple pie bars, if I say myself.
Unlike my cherry pie, they are easy to make, remove, and cut into presentable squares.
Let me show you how I made my crab apple pie bars.
How To Make Shortbread For Crab Apple Pie Bars
- 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup of packed brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
Preparing The Shortbread Crust
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
- Grease and line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper that hangs over the edges
- Add the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extra in a mixer, then mix until fluffy for 3-5 minutes.
- Add the dry ingredients, flour, and salt slowly to the butter mixture and combine.
- Press the buttery crust dough into the bottom of the parchment-lined baking pan.
- Use a spatula to ensure the crust is even so it bakes evenly.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown
- Remove from oven to cool while you make your crab applesauce mixture.
Crab AppleSauce Filling Ingredients
- 6 cups of crab apples washed, cut, removing any seeds but leaving the peel on.
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum or cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup of cold water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup cold water
Making The Crab Applesauce
- In a medium pot, add the chopped crab apples with the skins on
- Add cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, salt, lemon juice, butter, and vanilla extract.
- Add 1/4 cup cold water and xanthan gum or cornstarch in a small bowl and mix.
- Pour the mixture over the apples in the pot, then stir until combined.
- Add another 1/4 cup of cold water over the apples.
- Let the crab applesauce cook until the apples are tender, stirring often for about 15-20 minutes.
- If you need to add a bit more water, do so, as it should have an apple sauce consistency. (see photos)
- Remove the crab apple mixture from the heat and squish it using a potato masher, leaving it chunky.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
Oatmeal Topping Ingredients
- 1 1/4 cups of large-grain oats
- 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cold cubed butter
- 1/2 cup white sugar or brown sugar
Making The Oat Topping
- Add the large-grain oats, flour, and cubed cold butter into a large bowl and mix with your fingers until you have pea-sized chunks.
Putting The Crab Apple Pie Bars Together
- Pour the crab applesauce mixture over the pre-baked shortbread base.
- Spread evenly and then crumble the oat mixture over the top, followed by the sugar.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- Take the whole pan of bars out once cooled using the sides of the parchment paper.
- Cut into 20-24 small squares or larger, depending on preference.
2023 Crab Apple Pie Bars Switch-Up Recipe
My crab apple pie bars for 2023 slightly differed from when I originally made the recipe.
One difference was that I filled the apple pie inside the crockpot, not on the stove.
Doing so turned the pie filling into a delicious thick apple sauce but very bright red.
You can see the color difference between the bars, which is phenomenal.
Instead of using brown and white sugar in the crab apple pie filling, I used white.
I also made a delicious almond flour base for the 2023 crab apple pie bars.
Often when I make my recipes years later, I like to update any changes or options for my readers.
These small changes made a delicious crab apple pie bar but a bit more tart.
Serve the crab apple pie bars with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce.
Add chopped walnuts or pecans to the crab-apple pie mixture, or add them over when you serve.
Lastly, you can use crab apple sauce as a filling for a crab apple pie.
Perhaps now that you’ve tried this recipe, you will plant a crab apple tree or search for freebies in your community.