Pear Cranberry Crisp

Gluten-free pear cranberry crisp

I have Friendsgiving on my mind. Not Thanksgiving and its boring, beige, turkey-mashed-potatoes-and-gravy plates, but the boozy Thanksgiving-with-friends edition that we call Friendsgiving. Friendsgiving features turkey, of course, but also offers many colorful, vegetarian sides and at least two pies. At least.

I’m attending two Friendsgivings this year: one this weekend and one the next, which will be shortly followed by the real Thanksgiving with my family. I’ll be rolling into December in my stretchy pants.

pear and cranberries

I thought I’d share this pear and cranberry crisp in time for your Friendsgiving(s) and Thanksgiving feasts. No, it’s not pie, but it’s fresh, simple and gluten free. The recipe is based off this summer’s popular strawberry rhubarb crisp. I filled it with fall-appropriate pears (apples would also be great) and tart cranberries, which sweeten up as they bake. I also mixed in some walnuts, brown butter and spices for even more fall flavor.

I wanted to be able to share this dessert with my gluten-free friends, so I searched around for gluten-free topping substitutions. I found my friend Dana’s recipe, which had similar proportions and called for almond meal instead of wheat flour in the topping. So simple!

gluten-free crisp topping

Now then, to peel or not peel the pears. That is the question. I did not peel my pears. However, I later wished that I had peeled the pears because I found the texture of the skin to be a little distracting. My friends did not. I’ll say it’s up to you, but I would peel the pears if I were you. I think a vegetable peeler would be the easiest way to go about it.

how to make a pear cranberry crispPear cranberry crisp recipePear cranberry crisp

Gluten-Free Pear Cranberry Crisp
4.5 from 2 reviews
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 to 8
Honey-sweetened pears and cranberries with a gluten-free oat and almond meal topping. Feel free to substitute apples for the pears if you prefer. This simple dessert is perfect for holidays or any cold day, really!
Pear cranberry (or apple) filling
  • 4 large Bartlett pears or Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds), peeled, cored and sliced into small bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot starch or 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Gluten-free walnut, oat and almond meal topping
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup almond meal or almond flour
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ⅓ cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt (Greek or regular)
Don't forget the vanilla ice cream!
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a 9 by 9-inch baking dish, mix together the pears (or apples), cranberries, honey, arrowroot or cornstarch, lemon juice, ginger and cinnamon.
    2. Optional: brown the butter for a more complex flavor. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Swirl the pan by the handle often so the butter doesn’t splatter. Continue to heat the butter, swirling frequently, until you see little brown flecks in the bottom of the pan (this will take about three minutes).
    3. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the oats, almond meal or flour, walnuts, brown sugar and salt. Mix in the Greek yogurt and browned butter (or melted butter). Stir until all of the flour is incorporated and the mixture is moistened throughout.
    4. Dollop spoonfuls of the oat mixture over the filling and use your fingers to break up the mixture until it is evenly distributed (no need to pack it down). Bake for 55 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling around the edges, the top is turning lightly golden and most of the cranberries have burst. Let the crisp rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream, I insist.
    • Adapted from Minimalist Baker's gluten-free strawberry nectarine crisp and my strawberry rhubarb crisp.
    • To make this recipe nut free, omit the walnuts and use ¾ cup whole wheat flour and ¾ cup oats instead of the almond meal and oats specified above. It will no longer be gluten free. If you want to keep it gluten free, I suspect that you could replace the almond meal with oat flour or more oats (haven't tried that, please comment if you do!).
    • To make this recipe vegan, I believe you could use melted coconut oil in place of the browned butter/yogurt (use 4 tablespoons coconut oil and add up to 3 more, until the topping mixture is moistened throughout) and maple syrup instead of the honey. I haven't tried it, though.
    • Wait, what's arrowroot starch? Arrowroot starch is a great thickener to use in place of corn starch, which is often genetically modified. It’s gluten free, too. Look for it in the baking section of well-stocked grocery stores or buy it online.

    I almost forgot! The latest Foodie app for iPhones and iPads offers 40 Thanksgiving-themed recipes. Download it for free here.


    1. Lia says

      I’m remaking those individual pear crisps today but this is going on the list for next week!! I’m a fresh cranberry fiend this time of year!

    2. says

      Good call leaving the skins on! Makes it look so much prettier! I’ve never heard of anyone adding Greek yoghurt to a crumble topping but it looks incredible! What do you reckon would be a good sub to make it vegan?

      • says

        I used yogurt in place of some of the butter, but I think you could just use vegan butter or coconut oil as specified, then add more until the topping comes together.

    3. says

      This looks so tasty. Crisp and warming, but nuttier than a traditional crumble. Love the idea of friendsgiving, by the way, and lots of pies…

    4. says

      such a great recipe Kate… I love that you didn’t put a crazy ton of butter, I’ve seen ridiculous versions of this recipe. I love Apple Crisp, will have to try Pear Crisp, but I absolutely love the addition of cranberries. So festive!

    5. says

      Absolutely lovely. I remember your strawberry rhubarb crisp and I bet this is a wonderful variation of it. I haven’t made a crisp in a while, and I think it’s about time. I might try those vegan suggestions you listed, I bet they would taste great with pears and cranberries.

      • says

        Thanks, Katy! Crisps are my fruity dessert of choice since they’re so easy to make. Please let me know if you try the crisp with the vegan suggestions!

    6. says

      I think I have, like, FIVE Friendsgivings to go to this year so stretchy jeans shall definitely be necessary. Especially if i’m going to place myself in the near vicinity of this crisp. BIG yum.

    7. says

      Gorgeous!! I love that your crew does Friendsgivings too. I’m all for stretching this holiday (especially with the boozy food) as long as possible. :)

    8. says

      Hi Kate! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now so I just first wanted to drop in and say hi! I absolutely love this post – photos are beautiful and this crisp is the perfect friends-giving recipe. It’s refreshing to come across a dessert that’s healthier.
      Secondly, you’ve inspired me to start a blog of my own – – and wanted to let you know you’re on my “Favorite Links” list!
      Hopefully we’ll meet in the near future! Cheers!

    9. says

      This recipe looks so gorgeous and perfect for a relaxing, fun dinner with friends. We’ve always had Friendsgiving on actual Thanksgiving, but now that I’m so close to family, I’m thinking a true Friendsgiving might be in order. Cheers to all of your feasts!

    10. says

      Gosh, I love Friendsgiving, though this year may be the first time we won’t be doing one :( I may just have to make this for our family meal! Have a wonderful part 1 of 3. Nothing wrong with rolling towards December in your stretchy pants!!

    11. lindsay says

      yummm… perfect for all the extra ingredient i have on hand right now (including the bag of cranberries i got to make your cranberry-maple skillet cornbread – so good!).

      for my vegan cooking i usually just sub earth balance for butter and it turns out great! (used a stick of Earth Balance instead in the cornbread too)

    12. Karen says

      This looks delish! I’m wondering if I could use maple syrup in place of the brown sugar…Not sure what quantity tho.

      • says

        Hey Karen, it might be easier to just skip the syrup in the topping and add a little more honey or maple syrup to the filling. I’m not sure how the added moisture from the liquid sweetener would affect the topping.

    13. Mindy says

      Made this for thanksgiving and it was an absolute hit! Didn’t even reach for the pumpkin pie after. Thanks for a great recipe!

    14. Jess says

      I made this yesterday and it was wonderful! I wouldn’t change a thing! Thank you so much for sharing. I think I have finally found my “go-to” dessert, to add to my little cooking repertoire :)

      Oh- and that pretty little spoon in your picture- I have the same silverware! It was meant to be. Now I’m going to comb through your recipes and see what other treasures are on here!

      • says

        Jess, I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed the crisp so much! Thank you for commenting. That silverware came from my grandmother. I love using her cooking utensils in my photos. :)

    15. KMS says

      This has become a go to holiday recipe for us. It’s hard to find gluten free, refined sugar free deserts that taste delicious. I just replaced the brown sugar with coconut sugar and you’d never know. I’ve also made it with apples and cranberries and did the strawberry rhubarb crisp filling from your site, but with this topping. All were fantastic. :-)

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