With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, desserts are an essential part of any holiday meal. You can distinguish between the widely-adored pies, cakes, and puddings that adorn the table this time of year, but when it comes to fruit-centric desserts, the lines get a little blurry. Is that cherry pastry-looking thing your great aunt brought a crumble? A cobbler? Crisp? Maybe you’re just calling it a cobbler because it’s easier to just slap a name on it.

With such similar names, these three baked treats obviously have some similarities. Cobblers, crumbles, and crisps all contain a type of fruit topped with a pastry (think peach cobbler, blueberry crumble, etc). They often require less preparation and work than baking a pie, so they’re a delicious, convenient alternative.

The difference, however, specifically lies in each’s pastry topping.


A cobbler has the most pastry topping of the three. The fruit filling is topped with biscuit-like dough or batter, and it’s named for its cobblestone-like appearance, with bits of fruit peaking through the topping. Some cobblers are even made with cake batter or cookie dough.  


A crumble is the medium between a cobbler and a crisp. It has a streusel topping, which is usually just a simple mixture of butter, flour, and sugar, and is prepared in a baking dish or casserole dish. This sugary, melt-in-your-mouth dessert is perfect with apples, berries, or peaches, and with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.


The crisp is similar to a crumble, but it contains oats, which gives it its name. A crisp is the least structured, as a simple topping of oats, butter, flour, and sugar give it a light, airy texture. Interestingly, however, the terms crisp and crumble may be used interchangeably, since the only true difference is the addition of oats.

It’s important for any foodie to know that not all fruit pastries were created equal. Whether you’re keen to the doughiness of a rich cobbler, or the light, crunchy taste of a crisp, now you can name them properly, and be the one who corrects your friends when they say ‘apple crumble’ not ‘apple cobbler’.