My streusel topping recipe comes together in under 5 minutes and is the perfect topping for your favorite pies, cakes, and muffins! Made with common ingredients (and no pastry cutter needed!), this buttery crumb topping will be your new favorite!
A Buttery Crumb Topping
A super quick and simple recipe for you today! This streusel recipe has made an appearance on the blog many times before, but for those of you have found yourself with a coffee cake, batch of blueberry muffins, or apple pie in need of a crumble topping, I’ve got you (and your baked goods) covered.
My recipe is easier than most (no pastry cutter needed!), comes together in under 5 minutes, and yields a crumbly, crisp, buttery streusel that tastes great on just about anything. I also include plenty of notes to customize your crumb topping with your favorite nuts or spices.
Let’s get to it! And a note for any of those of you wondering: that streusel-covered muffin above is one of my coffee cake muffins!
Basic pantry staples are all you need for my streusel recipe:
- Flour. I have only tried this recipe with all purpose flour and so that is what I recommend.
- Brown sugar. I use a higher ratio of brown sugar to granulated sugar because 1) it helps the streusel to clump better and 2) I prefer the slightly richer, more robust taste. For an even richer streusel, feel free to use dark brown sugar.
- Granulated sugar. Regular granulated sugar balances the streusel and keeps it from becoming so sweet and rich that it’s cloying.
- Salt. The small amount of salt in this recipe balances out the sweetness and keeps the topping from being overly sweet.
- Butter. This is what brings the streusel together and makes the crumbly, clumpy crumble topping. Unlike many streusel toppings, I use melted butter rather than cold butter that you have to cut in with a pastry cutter. Not only is it easier and faster this way, it also gives the streusel a better flavor! I use unsalted butter in my recipe to best control the flavor (see more in my post on salted vs unsalted butter), but if you only have salted butter on hand simply omit the salt that is called for.
Spices or other flavorings are an optional addition if you’d like to take your crumb topping to the next level. I often add a pinch of cinnamon or a tiny sprinkle of nutmeg for some depth of flavor. Other options include pumpkin pie spice, cloves, cardamom, lemon or other citrus zest, or even a splash of vanilla extract. Mix in any dry spices with the flour/sugar ingredients, and any liquid ones can be whisked with the butter.
Some people also like to add chopped nuts like pecans or walnuts into their crumb topping, this is totally another option and I talk specifics in the recipe card.
How To Make Streusel
- Stir together flour, sugar (granulated and brown sugar), and salt. The brown sugar may be a bit clumpy, I usually try to break up the clumps a bit but it’s not a big deal if you don’t get them all, this will be a clumpy streusel anyway!
- Melt your butter, but let it cool enough so that it doesn’t feel hot to the touch (or it could melt the sugar and make your streusel greasy). Pour melted butter into the flour mixture.
- Use a fork to toss the ingredients until all of the flour has been absorbed. Don’t overdo it! You want this mixture to be crumbly with some distinct buttery clumps (the best part of any streusel), so just toss and claw the ingredients together with a fork until combined. If you over-mix, you’ll have a thick paste-like mixture.
Frequently Asked Questions
While I imagine some purists will argue with me, I feel comfortable saying that there is no clear, distinct difference, at least in present-day America. Streusel originated in Germany and was made by cutting butter into a mixture of flour and (white) sugar. Over the years, many people (including myself) have made subtle variations to improve upon the base recipe to their taste preferences, and in the US, streusel is often referred to as “crumb topping”. Whatever you choose to call it, you won’t notice much of a difference in taste or texture either way.
If you look up the word in the dictionary you’ll find that it simply means a crumbly topping. It originally came from a German word that approximately translates to “scattered” or “strewn”. Makes sense since we’re scattering it over our coffee cake!
Often this happens if the crumb topping is over-mixed or if the butter was much too hot. Over-mixing will leave you with a pasty, batter-like mixture rather than the crumbly topping you are aiming for. Using very hot butter can cause the sugars to melt, leaving you with a greasy and not crumbly mixture.
A Few Recipes That Use Streusel:
Let’s bake together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
Streusel Topping Recipe
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk or stir together flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt.1 ¼ cup (156 g) all-purpose flour, ½ cup (100 g) light brown sugar tightly packed, ⅓ cup (66 g) sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Drizzle butter over the mixture and use a fork to toss and claw the ingredients together until combined but still clumpy. Don’t over-mix or the streusel will become like a paste, simply toss together until mixture is clumpy, no longer dry, and the flour is completely absorbed.6 Tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter
- Scatter evenly over muffins, pie, or coffee cake before baking. While the baking time may be an extra minute or so due to the added bulk of the streusel, I recommend checking for doneness at the time indicated in the recipe before adding more baking time.
NutsWalnuts, pecans, or your favorite nuts make a fine addition to this crumb topping, I recommend finely chopping ⅓ cup of nuts (roughly 50g) and tossing them in with your flour and sugar. No other alterations are necessary.
Spices/vanillaThis recipe works well with a pinch of cinnamon (I use ¾ teaspoon, but adjust according to your own taste) or other spices such as nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, allspice, or pumpkin spice. Simply stir in your spice of choice with the flour/sugar mixture. A splash of vanilla extract will make the streusel richer and more flavorful. If desired, mix ½ teaspoon of vanilla in with the melted butter before adding the butter to the flour mixture.
Making in advanceYou can make this topping up to three days in advance of using. Simply store in an airtight container at room temperature then sprinkle over your cake/muffins/etc. before baking.
The best batters for streuselStreusel can be used to top most of your favorite goods (think muffins, pies, fruit crisps, and dense cakes like coffee cake). Keep in mind that the streusel is prone to sinking in very thin, liquidy batters and is best used on thicker, denser batters.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.