Award-winning gluten-free apple pie cookies, for when you want pie without the hassle. These cookies have an almond flour shortbread base with apple pie filling and a drizzle of salted caramel sauce on top.
You read that right. These are award-winning gluten-free apple pie cookies. Zoella (age 7) first made them as her entry into her school's Fall Festival Apple Baking Contest and took first place. While I helped her develop the recipe, it was her concept and she baked them all by herself, including peeling and chopping the apples. When the cookies won, we agreed the recipe deserved a forever place here on Snixy Kitchen. As well as a place on your holiday dessert tray.
These cookies have all the tastiness of apple pie without all the hassle of chilling and rolling pie dough. Fancy cookies inspired by classic apple pie, but in the cutest little grab-and-go bites.
These gluten-free apple pie cookies have:
- Buttery gluten-free shortbread cookie base: Rolled in cinnamon sugar and pressed like a thumbprint cookie, this dough requires no chilling. These cookies are a cinnamon twist on the almond flour cookie used to make my gluten-free cherry pie cookies.
- Spiced apple pie filling: Rather than a long bake time, this apple pie filling is quickly cooked on the stove and cooled. You can it even speedier by subbing in chopped store-bought apple pie filling!
- Salted caramel drizzle: Top them off with a homemade salted caramel sauce to make them extra decadent. If you don't have the time to make the caramel sauce, the cookies are incredible even without it, so you could skip the caramel or else sub in store-bought caramel.
Ingredients for gluten-free apple pie cookies
Save for the apples and perhaps the gluten-free flours, most of the ingredients you need are pantry staples!
For the shortbread cookie base
To create the tender buttery cookie base, this recipe uses a combination of superfine-blanched almond flour and tapioca flour. The result is a gluten-free almond thumbprint cookie that's crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.
- Bob's Red Mill Super-fine Blanched Almond Flour: Finely ground almond flour gives a hint of sweet nuttiness with the classic flavor of a freshly baked cookie. Almond flour also adds moisture and fat to the cookies, which means you need more flour than a traditional cookie recipe to keep them from spreading, but this also allows them to stay thick and moist.
- Bob's Red Mill Tapioca Flour: If used alone, almond flour would create a snappy cookie, but paired with tapioca flour, it becomes soft and pillowy on the inside. Tapioca flour adds chewiness and fluffiness to the cookie crumb and keeps the cookies from being too dense.
- Ground cinnamon
- Unsalted butter, room temperature
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla and almond extracts: If you don't have almond extract, you can just use additional vanilla extract in its place! The almond extract is subtle and does not make it taste like almonds, but helps create a robust flavor
For the apple pie filling
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar: Light or dark works!
- Ground cinnamon
- Cornstarch: To thicken the juices
- Lemon juice
- Vanilla extract
For the caramel sauce
- Granulated sugar
- Heavy cream
- Unsalted butter
How to make Gluten-Free Apple Pie Cookies
- Prepare the apple pie filling. Melt the butter in a skillet and add the apples, cooking until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook until the apples are tender, but not mushy. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely in the fridge.
- Prepare the caramel sauce. Heat sugar and water, stirring just until sugar melts. Let cook until the sugar begins to turn amber-colored. Remove from heat and pour in the cream, butter, and salt. Stir with a whisk until smooth. Transfer to a heat-proof container and let cool while you prepare the cookies.
- Make the cookie dough. Sift together dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar, then add in extracts. Mix in dry ingredients until it forms a moist dough. One at a time, roll balls of dough in cinnamon sugar, transfer to a baking sheet, and press a "thumbprint" into it. Repeat.
- Bake cookies at 350° for 14-15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Spoon filling into cookies.
- Drizzle with caramel sauce.
Tips for Gluten-Free Apple Pie Cookies
Use a cookie scoop
When cookies are all the same size, they bake up more evenly. To make even 1½ tablespoon-sized cookie dough balls, use a small cookie scoop.
Tip: use the same cookie scoop to drop your apple pie filling into the centers of the cookies!
Roll dough into tight balls
Firmly roll the cookie dough into a ball in the palm of your hands. If the cookies are not tightly rolled, when you press the "thumbprint" the dough may crack.
Prevent cracking by pressing immediately after rolling
As the cookie dough balls sit, they develop a thin shell that will lead to cracking when pressed. To prevent this, work one at a time: roll out a cookie dough ball, toss it in cinnamon sugar, and press the "thumbprint" into it. Repeat.
That being said, preventing cracking is just a personal choice and doesn't affect the taste of the cookies at all!
USE A MEASURING SPOON FOR PERFECT "THUMBPRINTS"
Thumbs are not round (duh), so if you choose to use your actual thumb, your cookies will be less uniform. I recommend using a 1 teaspoon size measuring spoon to carefully press the "thumbprints" into the cookies. This will make a deep well that's perfectly round.
Apple Pie Filling FAQ
What kind of apples to use for the apple pie filling?
The best apples for apple pie filling are crisp apples that will hold up against the heat of baking (or, in this case, cooking). My two favorites are granny smith and honeycrisp.
Granny smith apples have a natural tartness balances dessert nicely, and honeycrisp apples are crisp and firm with a nice combination of sweet and tart.
Keep in mind that different apples cook up at different rates, so you may need to cook your apples more or less depending on which ones you choose!
Do I need to peel the apples for the filling?
I recommend peeling the apples for this filling. Since the apples are cut into smaller pieces than for pie, bits of peel will also become more noticeable. Peeled apples will create a soft melt-in-your-mouth texture when cooked.
Can I use store-bought apple pie filling?
I highly recommend making the quick homemade apple pie filling so you can control how sweet your apples are. However, if you want to save time, you can sub in store-bought apple pie filling. Chop the filling up into smaller pieces and, if the apples are still too crisp, you can sautee the filling a bit to cook the apples until they're tender.
Can I make these apple pie cookies in advance?
All the components of these cookies can be made in advance! When you're ready for cookies, just bake the dough (if you haven't already!), assemble, and serve.
- Apple pie filling: Make the apple pie filling in advance, storing it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Caramel sauce: Make the caramel sauce in advance, storing it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Cookie dough: You can chill or freeze the cookie dough before baking. Roll the cookie dough balls in cinnamon and sugar and press the thumbprint into the dough before chilling. Chill unbaked for up to a week or freeze for up to 6 months. Either way, chill them in a single layer on a baking sheet until firm (to prevent them from sticking to one another) before transferring them to an airtight container or bag for longer storage. Bake the cookies straight from the fridge or freezer, adding 1-2 minutes to the baking time.
- Baked cookies: You can also bake the cookies in advance before adding the apple pie filling. After letting the cookies cool completely, store them in an airtight container for up to 2 days before adding the filling. Alternatively, freeze the fully baked and cooled cookies in an airtight bag for up to 6 months. Let come to room temperature before adding the filling and serving.
How to store apple pie cookies
These cookies are best eaten within 24 hours. Over time, the moisture from the apples will start to soften the cookie beneath. Store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Note: if you like softer cookies, store them at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Alternatively, you can store the components of the cookies separately for longer storage (see above!)
Apple Pie Filling
- 4 medium apples, such as granny smith or honeycrisp, peeled and cut into ¼ to ½-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoon brown sugar (light or dark)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1½ tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1¼ cups (140g) Bob's Red Mill super-fine blanched almond flour
- 1 cup (112g) Bob's Red Mill tapioca flour/starch
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus ½ teaspoon more for rolling
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons (78g) granulated sugar, plus ¼ cup more for rolling
- ¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- Prepare the apple pie filling. Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, cooking until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes (more or less, depending on the variety of apple). Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook until the apples are tender, but not mushy, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely in the fridge.
- Prepare the caramel sauce. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally just until the sugar melts. Let cook until the sugar begins to turn amber-colored. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the cream, butter, and salt until smooth. Transfer to a heat-proof container and let cool while you prepare the cookies.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix ¼ cup sugar with ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl for rolling and set aside.
- Sift together almond flour, tapioca flour, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix to combine.
- Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter, mixing until well combined. Mix for 30 seconds longer to moisten the dough until very pliable.
- Working one at a time, roll 1-1½ tablespoons (~20g) of dough into a tight 1-inch circle, smoothing any cracks (the tighter you roll the dough, the less likely it is to crack). Tip: use a small cookie scoop for even cookies. Gently flatten into a disc and toss the disc in the bowl of cinnamon sugar to coat. Place 1-inch apart on the baking sheet and carefully and slowly use your thumb or the back of a 1-teaspoon measuring spoon to make a deep indent, smoothing any cracks if desired. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Bake for 14-15 minutes, until the cookies are set and the bottoms are just barely golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Fill each thumbprint with 1 tablespoon of cooled apple pie filling (tip: use a small cookie scoop for easy mounds). Drizzle with caramel sauce and serve.
- Store any leftover cookies in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 20 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 123Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 37mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 11gProtein: 2g
This nutritional information has been automatically calculated, and as such, may be incomplete or inaccurate. Please reference the specific ingredients you use for the most accurate nutritional information.