What Is the Difference Between a Cobbler, Crisp, and Crumble?

What's really in a name? Let's investigate. 

Looking down on a golden-brown peach and blackberry cobbler ready to be served.
Pictured: Peach and Blackberry Cobbler. Photo: Meredith Food Studios

Cobblers, crisps, crumbles — these are some of the easiest and most versatile fruit desserts out there. Everyone loves a good pie, but these desserts offer the same fruit-and-pastry goodness without all the effort. We often use the names interchangeably, but there's actually a lot of variety within the world of free-form fruit desserts. Let's be sure you know your betties from your buckles.

What Do They All Have in Common?

Cobblers, crisps, crumbles, betties, buckles...the list goes on, all are variations of pie. They usually feature fresh fruit, as well as flour, sugar, and butter. Most are baked, though not all. Most importantly, they're quicker and easier to prepare than pie, yet they yield equally flavorful results.


best ever blueberry cobbler scooped to reveal the bright blueberries beneath the golden-brown crust.
Pictured: Best Ever Blueberry Cobbler. Meredith Food Studios

Likely the most famous of the group, a cobbler is a deep-dish fruit dessert in which a sweetened fruit filling is topped off with a biscuit-like dough. The topping may either cover the entire dish or be dropped on by the spoonful, allowing the fruit to peek through and earning it the name "cobbler" for its resemblance to a cobblestone street. Variations can be made with the biscuit dough on bottom (this was actually the original cobbler according, John Russell Bartlett's "Dictionary of Americanisms"), and some even use batter in place of biscuit dough.

Favorite Cobbler Recipes:


apple raspberry crisp in casserole dish
Pictured: Apple-Raspberry Crisp. Mackenzie Schieck

Another deep-dish fruit dessert, a crisp, refers to a fruit filling with a light, streusel-like topping made from sugar, flour, butter. A crisp's topping usually includes oats, which crisp up during baking and give it more of a crunch.

Favorite Crisp Recipes:


blueberry crumble with ice cream and mint garnish
Pictured: The Ultimate Berry Crumble. Chef John

So what's a crumble vs. a crisp? A crumble is just a crisp without oats in the streusel. It may feature nuts, but the streusel topping is usually a simple combination of butter, flour, and sugar that is more clumpy than that of a crisp.

Favorite Crumble Recipes:


two glass dishes with apple brown betties
Pictured: Slow Cooked Apple Brown Betty. lutzflcat

A betty consists of layers of fruit, usually apples, sandwiched between layers of buttered breadcrumbs or cubes. Once baked, the bread absorbs the juices, resulting in a texture that resembles bread pudding. If it's called a "Brown Betty," that just means that brown sugar is a major ingredient.

Favorite Betty Recipes:


A slice of fruit coffee cake with streusel topping
Pictured: Raspberry and Strawberry Buckle. Allrecipes

At first glance, you may mistake this crumbly dessert for coffee cake. It consists of a cake-like layer topped with fruit, then a final layer of streusel. It gets its name for its shape — the cake rises around the the fruit and buckles at the center where the fruit is.

Favorite Buckle Recipes:

Grunts, Slumps, and Pandowdies

You may or may not be acquainted with these lesser known fruit desserts. A grunt, also called a slump, is a fruit dessert that's topped with biscuit, pie crust, or cake. But here's where it differs from the rest: It's cooked in a covered Dutch oven or cast iron skillet on the stove, so it's effectively steamed, not baked. The name "grunt" is said to come from the noise it makes when simmering, and the name "slump" refers to what it does on the plate.

Finally, a pandowdy is a deep-dish fruit dessert similar to a cobbler, but there are a few major distinctions: The topping is made of rolled biscuit dough or pie crust that cracks as it bakes. Some even break up the topping with a spoon during the baking process to help the juices bubble up through the broken crust. Or you can use pieces and scraps of leftover pie crust to make this old-fashioned dessert.

Favorite Grunt, Slump, and Pandowdy Recipes:


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