Community Fruit Rescue & THE BEST Vegan Apple Crisp

Having grown up in the midwest, apple picking is a staple of fall activities. So when I found out about Community Fruit Rescue, I immediately signed up to volunteer.

What is Community Fruit Rescue? In their own words…

“Community Fruit Rescue is a coalition dedicated to harvesting and distributing the surplus urban fruit growing throughout Boulder, Colorado.

We envision a resilient, just and collaborative community where everyone has access to healthy and local food, humans and wildlife coexist, and waste is minimized.

That’s why we organize neighborhood harvests, where public and private trees bearing large amounts of fruit are harvested by neighbors and friends and their children in the course of a fun afternoon, providing fruit to all participants and plenty of extra to share with food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens”

So on a Thursday evening, I joined a group of volunteers to harvest an apple tree in someone’s yard. We picked as many apples as we could reach and divided them into classes.

A: Perfect or nearly perfect apples. Volunteers and owner of the tree can take what they want, with the remainder donated.

B: Apples with minor cosmetic flaws. Will be donated to food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens.

C : Apples with flesh punctures rendering them not suitable for human consumption. Will be donated to wildlife refugees.

D: Rotting apples. To be composted; keeping them off the ground helps prevent bears from wandering into the community.

I’m not sure how many pounds total we picked off the tree, but between my friend Ashely and I, we took home 10 pounds, barely putting a dent in the bins of apples.

Apple Bins
Bins of A, B, and C apples

I don’t have a single bad thing to say about this experience. My friend and I got to catch up while doing something that positively impacted the community in several ways, and I got some delicious organic apples to bring home.

M'Lyn Picking
Standing atop a ladder, I was determined to get as many apples from the top as I could.
Ash Picking
My friend Ashley, who joined me in volunteering, getting the hang of using the picking poles.

I urge you to try to find a community fruit rescue in your city!

So what to do with all my apples? I had big plans of canning apple butter in addition to baking delicious treats, but the busy month caught up with me and I decided to forego the canning process. Instead I made extra apple crisps to share with my pottery classmates and neighbors.

Vegan Apple Crisp 2

My vegan crisps got rave reviews, so I decided to share my recipe here! What sets this one apart? The orange and lemon icing drizzle, a hearty, crunchy crisp topping, and slight notes of orange citrus (thanks, Ina!) accompanied by spicy cinnamon in the apple base.

The BEST VEGAN Apple Crisp

Vegan Apple Crisp 1


For the base:

  • 3 – 5 pounds apples (I like a large proportion of crisp to apples so I usually use around 3 lbs.)
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the crisp topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/2 pound cold vegan buttery spread (I use Earth Balance)

For the drizzle:

  • 1 – 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1  cup powdered sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray food-grade coconut oil on baking dish appropriate for size of apples. (9″ round works for 3 lbs of apples, 9″ x 13″ works for 5 lbs of apples)
  2. Peel, core, and cut the apples into large wedges. Combine the apples with the zests, juices, sugar, and spices. Pour into the dish.
  3. To make the topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oats, and vegan butter with an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.
  4. Place the crisp on a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly.
  5. While the crisp bakes, make the drizzle. With a whisk, combine the fruit juices (1 teaspoon at a time) and powdered sugar until drizzly consistency is reached. Drizzle with a spoon over the slightly cooled baked crisp. (letting the crisp cool for a while ensures the drizzle won’t just melt into the rest)

What are your favorite activities? What fall recipes do you want to see next? Let me know in the comments!

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