The best 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe

Desserts like apple cobbler, apple crisp, and apple pie practically scream autumn. The combination of juicy, sweet apples and warming spices like cinnamon are just so comforting on a cold day. Serve them warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream after dinner, or enjoy them for breakfast the next day. Somehow, they're still equally satisfying when enjoyed cold out of the fridge!

While we like all kinds of apple desserts, apple cobbler is one of our favorites. You don't have to fuss around with rolling out pie crust (like with apple pie), and its sweet biscuit topping comes together super quickly. It's pretty easy to make, but we wondered if there was a way to simplify making homemade apple cobbler. So we took a look at traditional recipes and came up with a time-saving version that uses store-bought cinnamon rolls instead of making the topping from scratch. Did our 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe turn out as good as a regular cobbler recipe? Read on to find out.

Gather the ingredients for this 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe

We've made 3-ingredient cobblers before, but we were excited to make a version specific for apples. Since apples are in season during the fall, we grabbed four fresh apples, chopped them up, and tossed them with cinnamon sugar and water to create our filling. If you're making this recipe when you don't have access to great apples (or you want a time-saving shortcut), feel free to use a 21-ounce can of apple pie filling instead.

When it came to the topping, we thought about making this 3-ingredient apple cobbler using cake mix. It worked when we made 3-ingredient peach cobbler, and it would certainly work here. But we really wanted to celebrate the wonderful flavor pairings of apples and cinnamon, so we chose a container of cinnamon rolls with icing instead. Of course, you could certainly swap in apple filling in our peach cobbler recipe and follow those instructions if all you have on-hand is a box of cake mix.

You'll find the full list of ingredients, including the step-by-step instructions, at the end of this article.

Choosing the right apples for a 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe

There are so many different apple varieties, and each comes with unique characteristics. Some apples are better suited for baking while others are better enjoyed fresh. We won't go through all the different types of apples here, but we can make some recommendations. Granny Smith apples are the classic choice for making baked apple treats. They hold their texture exceptionally well because they're extremely acidic, which also gives the apple pie filling a sweet-tart flavor. Some people like making apple cobbler exclusively with Granny Smith, while others like mixing these sour apples with sweet apples like Jonagold and McIntosh apples.

We wanted this 3-ingredient apple cobbler to be as sweet as possible, so we chose Honeycrisp apples. These are some of our favorite snacking apples because of their bright flavor, and we like them for baking because they don't break down as much as other apples. Combined with a little cinnamon sugar, they create a sweet, complex flavor that keeps us digging in for bite after bite.

In the end, feel free to experiment with your own mix. Play around with sweet-tart Braeburn, Jonathan, and Gravenstein apples, or pick up sweeter varieties like Fuji, Golden Delicious, or Crispin apples.

Should you peel the apples when making this 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe?

Many people will say that apples must be peeled for recipes like apple pie, apple cobbler, and apple crisp. The peels prevent the apples from melding together when baking, so the pie filling won't be as soft and delicate if the peels are left on the apple.

That said, we tend to leave the peels on when baking with apples. The peels add color to the pie filling, and they also create a delightful crunchy texture. Removing the peels also discards much of the apple's nutritional value. According to Healthline, apple with skins contain more vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and potassium than an apple without the peels.

Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Do you want a soft, cohesive filling? Peel the apples before chopping or slicing them. If the apple's nutrient value is more important than its texture, go ahead and slice your apples with the peels intact. Either way, this 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe is going to taste delicious, so don't sweat it too much.

How to make your own cinnamon sugar for this 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe

If you can't find cinnamon sugar at the grocery store, don't fret: You can easily make your own at home. Cinnamon sugar is simply the combination of sugar and cinnamon. The spice addition elevates regular white sugar, giving it a warming, comforting flavor. The store-bought kind has a slight advantage, as the two ingredients can meld together as they sit on the shelf, but homemade versions taste just as good. If you have time, you can make them a day in advance to let those flavors come together.

The basic ratio is to use one tablespoon of cinnamon for every 1/4 cup of sugar. Cinnamon sugar keeps in the pantry for about a year when it's stored in an airtight container, so don't be afraid to make extra. That way you'll have it on-hand anytime you want to make this recipe. Making it at home also lets you experiment and branch out to use other types of warming spices. We've made some incredible infused sugar using apple pie spice (cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and ground allspice) and pumpkin pie spice (apple pie spice with the addition of ground ginger).

Do you have to use canned cinnamon rolls to make a 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe?

We like using canned cinnamon rolls for this recipe because it's so easy. Simply open the can, cut the cinnamon rolls, and use them as a breaded topping for this 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe. That said, you can definitely make some substitutions if you need.

Canned biscuits would absolutely work in this recipe. To give them a cinnamon-roll flavor, you'll need to flatten out the dough using a rolling pin. Then, coat the dough with a few tablespoons of melted butter and about a tablespoon of cinnamon sugar. Roll the dough up so the cinnamon coating is peppered throughout the dough before cutting the roll into small, bite-sized pieces.

You could also use boxed cake mix for this recipe. It won't have the same dense texture as cobbler topping, but the dessert will turn out just as sweet and comforting. Follow the recipe below, sprinkling the cake mix on top of the apple filling after it bakes. Add a stick of unsalted butter (cut into 12 pieces) on top and bake the cobbler for 40 to 50 minutes, until the cake topping is golden brown.

Chop the apples to make 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe

Now that we've reviewed all the ingredients for our 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe, it's time to get baking. Grab your apples and peel them, if desired. You can toss them in a little lemon juice as you work to keep the flesh from turning brown, but it's not necessary if you work quickly. Then remove the cores from the apples and cut them into slices or small, bite-sized pieces. Again, this is a matter of preference: The slices will become softer as they bake, while the larger pieces maintain some texture and crunch.

Toss the apples with the cinnamon sugar and a little water. Place the filling in an 8x8 casserole dish and cover it with a piece of aluminum foil. Bake the mixture for 40 minutes, until the apples are softened and have released some liquid. The liquid should be bubbling at the end of the cook time. You can do this step ahead of time and refrigerate the mixture when it cools, or you can skip this step altogether and use a can of apple pie filling instead.

Cut the cinnamon rolls into small pieces to finish this 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe

While the apple pie filling is baking, open the cinnamon rolls and set the icing packet aside. Cut the rolls into small, bite-sized pieces. Be sure to separate the pieces, as they will have trouble baking if they're all stuck together.

If you're using the optional chopped pecans, add them to the apple pie filling. Then, place the chopped cinnamon rolls on top of the apples, making sure that they're not piled up on top of each other. The cinnamon rolls will bake best if they're in a single layer.

Bake your 3-ingredient apple cobbler in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes. The cinnamon rolls will be golden brown and firm when the dish is finished. If any of the rolls are soft and gooey, bake the cobbler for an additional five minutes (covering the pan as needed to keep the rolls from burning). Let the cobbler cool for at least five minutes before spreading the icing over top of the cinnamon roll topping.

How did our 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe taste?

It doesn't get much better than warm, cinnamon-spiced apples served with a sweet dough topping! This 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe was so simple, but it tasted just as fantastic as homemade versions of this fall dessert. Our unpeeled apples still had some texture, but they were soft and gooey in all the right ways. The addition of cinnamon sugar provided the perfect level of spice and sweetness, especially when paired with already-sweet Honeycrisp apples.

Using chopped cinnamon rolls for the cobbler topping was undeniably easy. Instead of dirtying up a bunch of mixing bowls to create homemade sweet biscuits, we just opened a can of premade dough. We liked the texture of the cut-up rolls, but we also wondered if you could make a version without using a knife. Our second test batch used canned apple pie filling and uncut cinnamon rolls. Although we preferred the original recipe, this slightly lazier version still tasted great, so you definitely have options when making this easy 3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe.

3-ingredient apple cobbler recipe directions

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Serves: About 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 apples
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 (13-ounce) container cinnamon rolls with icing

Note: You can substitute 1 (21-ounce) can apple pie filling for the apples and cinnamon sugar

Optional ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel the apples, if you wish. Peeled apples are softer and come together to create a more cohesive filing, while unpeeled apples have more nutrients and maintain their texture better while cooking.
  3. Remove the apple cores and cut the apples into slices or small, bite-sized pieces, depending on your preference.
  4. Toss the apples with the cinnamon sugar and water. Place the filling into an 8x8 casserole dish.
  5. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes, until the apples are softened and the mixture is bubbly.
  6. NOTE: If you're using canned apple pie filling, skip the baking step. Simply place the apple pie filling into the pan and proceed with the remaining steps.
  7. Meanwhile, open the cinnamon rolls and set the icing aside. Cut the cinnamon rolls into small, bite-sized pieces.
  8. If you're using the optional chopped pecans, add them to the apple now.
  9. Place the cut cinnamon rolls on top of the apples in a single layer in the baking dish.
  10. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the cinnamon rolls are golden brown and cooked through.
  11. Let the cobbler cool for at least 5 minutes. Spread the icing over the cobbler and serve warm.