Maple-Walnut Pear Crisp

My friend Sea at Book of Yum invited me to be a part of her Thanksgiving Recipe Carnival, and since she is so darn sweet, I simply couldn’t say no. The idea behind this particular event is a bit unique … she wants to show people that it doesn’t need to be difficult to feed gluten-free vegetarians and vegans for Thanksgiving.

Book of Yum - A Vegetarian / Vegan Thanksgiving Event

I’m not a meat alternative guru, so I thought I would stick with one of my specialties, baking. At first, I dreamt up some elaborate ideas, but then I realized, why complicate things? Thanksgiving can be tireseome enough without having to accomodate special diets. Simplicity wins almost every time.

So I went with one of my top two favorite desserts (tied with cookies), crisp. I’ve never been a fan of pie crust anyway, I prefer just the filling and a nice crispy topping. And the great thing about crisp is that you don’t need gluten or eggs to bind, and you can even adjust it as you go, adding more sugar if you want it sweeter, more flour for drier, more liquid for more moisture. Very forgiving.

In terms of making a crisp gluten-free, there are actually many options. For extra simplicity, you can go paleo and just use nuts for all of the flour. Truth be told, I wasn’t a big fan of that option. I like a little flour in my crisp. However, I did find that coarsely grinding nuts added nice texture to the crisp and was actually a great replacement for oats (certified gluten-free oats can be hard to find, and some people who are gluten-free cross-react to oats regardless!) and some of the added fats. From there, the flour is very flexible.

People who aren’t gluten-free normally might want to just pick up gluten-free flour blend at the store. I recommend one that uses a brown rice, rice, or sorghum flour base for the most appeal. I tried one that was bean (garbanzo) heavy and um, yuck. That was our personal taste though! You can also get away with just one or two flours in a gluten-free crisp. In one batch (the Pecan-Apple crisp, see my link below – oh and I cheated, the picture below is the pecan-apple crisp – I didn’t get a picture of the pear one, sorry!), I used just brown rice flour and tapioca starch. It turned out great. You can use cornstarch for the starch in a pinch, which may help to simplify things further for non-gluten-free bakers.

Oh, and I have to talk about the fruit. I often read reviews of crisp recipes on recipe sites where people complain that the recipe didn’t work because the filling turned out mushy. This is NOT the fault of the recipe. Choose your fruit wisely people! Not all varieties are the same. Some are firmer than others, and hold their shape when baked, others turn to mush. For crisp, I recommend D’Anjou (or just Anjou) Pears. They are firm, smooth (easy to peel), and pretty easy to find, even organic varieties.

Alright, enough of my blabbering. Let’s get baking …

Recipe: Oat-Free Maple-Walnut Pear Crisp

Summary: Crisps are amazingly versatile for various diets, particularly since the topping is permitted to be crumbly. Ingredients that bind or help with rising are of little to no concern and there’s no need to fuss with trying to get the perfect flaky crust! This particular crisp recipe isn’t overly sweet (as far as crisps go – but it’s still dessert-like!). I made it this way on purpose, so that it would be an excellent canvas for your favorite dairy-free vanilla ice cream or as something that pairs nicely with afternoon tea or coffee. If you prefer a more “sugary” topping, you can increase the brown sugar to 2/3 cup or more … give the topping a taste test and adjust to your liking. If it’s too sweet, simply cut in a little extra flour and/or starch – up to 1/4 cup.


Crisp Topping:

  • 3/4 Cup Walnuts
  • 3/4 Cup Flour (see flour note below)
  • 1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar (and I mean packed!)
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil (can sub Palm Oil Shortening if desired), solid or softened, but preferably not melted

Fruit Filling:

  • 5 Cups Pears, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup or Packed Brown Sugar


  1. Preheat your oven to 350ºF and lightly grease the sides of an 8×8 baking dish (I use glass). No need to grease the bottom here; you are just keeping the topping from sticking to the sides of the pan.
  2. Place the walnuts in your spice / coffee grinder, and pulse them 4 or 5 times to coarsely grind with some chunks remaining. I do this in two batches.
  3. Place the walnuts, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, spice (if using), and salt in a large bowl, and stir with a fork to combine.
  4. Add the coconut oil and maple syrup and stir with a fork to create a coarse meal. It will be a wetter, chunkier crumb than some crisps. That is okay. Just make sure you mash in any large chunks of coconut oil.
  5. As for the fruit, place the pears in your prepared baking pan and drizzle with the lemon juice.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine (no cornstarch should remain visible).
  7. Shake the pan down a bit to even out the fruit (this will pack it down a little too), and then evenly sprinkle the crumble topping over all.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping begins to brown.
  9. Let the crisp cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. Serve topped with vegan vanilla ice cream.

Quick notes

Flour: Crisps and crumbles are very forgiving when it comes to flours. If you don’t have dietary issues, feel free to use all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour for the flour. I made ours gluten-free using a gluten-free all purpose flour (Namaste’s Perfect Blend works well, but there are many options in stores). Another option (if oats are okay) is to grind 3/4 cup oats in your spice grinder to make a flour (takes just 30 seconds), or make your own flour blend with 1/2 cup brown or white rice flour plus 1/4 cup starch (I prefer potato and/or tapioca starch for baking). Remember, if you are gluten-free and want to use oats, be sure to get certified gluten-free oats.


See my Maple-Pecan Apple Crisp Recipe for another version on Go Dairy Free.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegan, Dairy free, Egg, free, Gluten free, Peanut free, Soy free, Wheat free

Number of servings (yield): 6

Copyright © Alisa Fleming.

Gluten-Free, Vegan, Soy-Free Maple Pecan Apple Crisp