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Old-Fashioned Apple Dumplings are made with sweet cinnamon-sugar apples wrapped up in an easy, flaky pastry and baked in a homemade cinnamon syrup. We love them served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
There are so many delicious things you can do with apples beyond just apple pie! Some of our other favorite apple recipes are Apple Crisp, Crockpot Apple Butter, Baked Apples, Homemade Apple Fritters, and Homemade Caramel Apples!
Homemade Apple Dumpling Recipe
Please tell me you have a soft spot in your heart for this humble, classic dessert! Even though apple dumplings are lumpy and not much to look at with their misshapen appearance, they never fail to satisfy and they just bring so much joy.
What apple dumplings lack in looks they make up for with their rustic charm and wonderful flavor. Tender baked apples, flaky crust, and sweet cinnamon syrup work together to create a homey, vintage dessert that everybody adores!
I love old compilation cookbooks and have a bunch that I pull out and flip through every now and then when I'm looking for recipe inspiration. Some are from church groups or social clubs, and when we are traveling I keep my eye open for local ones to browse through for inspiration in my American Eats series.
But my two favorite compilation cookbooks are from family reunions when I was a kid. I remember being maybe 8 or 9 years old and my mom, grandma, and aunts submitting some of our favorite recipes along with our large extended family and then having these printed to distribute at a summer family reunion. My mom bought multiple copies and I still have one of each of them from both my grandparents sides.
Mine are splattered and stained from years of use, but when I spotted these apple dumplings the other day with my grandma's name credited for the submission, I knew I needed to make them for my family again and share them on the blog.
My grandma passed this year, but I have many, many memories of making and eating apple dumplings at my grandparent's house in Idaho when I was growing up. As much as I love apple pie, I remember making apple dumplings much more often.
I was surprised that my husband's only exposure to apple dumplings when he was growing up was in the form of the hilarious old "Apple Dumpling Gang" movie.
As a child I was tasked with the job of sprinkling cinnamon and sugar over sliced apples piled in little mounds on the dough. Then my grandma or mom would come along and wrap them up, then place them in a baking dish and cover them with the hot syrup before sticking them in the oven to bake.
That syrup is magical stuff. You may just want to double it up so you have extra for pouring over your ice cream.
The only thing I do differently from my grandma is I don't chop up my apple. Using whole apples that have been peeled and cored rather than chopped apples just makes it easier to wrap and gives a nicer presentation since the dumplings stand a little taller and hold their shape better. Plus, with my handy-dandy apple peeler and corer (which is from Pampered Chef but I have also seen them at Williams Sonoma), it's a quick and easy process that I can let my girls do while I prepare the pastry dough and syrup that the dumplings bake in.
As you can see in the photo of my grandma's recipe, there are some missing steps and I had to fill in some gaps since she doesn't specify critical components like how much sugar, cinnamon, or butter to use in the filling. But that's one of the things I love and find charming about these old cookbooks. This is how people used to cook, learning the recipe partially from what was written down, but also from the cook while they made it together.
It's something I try to keep in mind when writing and sharing my own recipes.
Easy apple dumplings
I say these are easy apple dumplings because the pastry dough is less fussy than making pie crust. It's a bit softer and doesn't require strict adherence to keeping the ingredients as cold as possible.
I have seen other recipes like the pioneer woman's crescent roll apple dumplings or the kind that call for a can of mountain dew to be poured over the top, which may technically require less effort. But I'm still pretty confident when I say that the extra minute or two of work to make these from scratch the old-fashioned way is completely worth it.
What apples to use
There are so many varieties of apples out there that are great for baking, but our favorites for apple dumplings are braeburn, granny smith, envy, rome, golden delicious, pink lady, and honeycrisp. The ones in these pictures were made with pink lady apples.
Just keep in mind that each dumpling is usually single-serving so you want to pick out apples that are medium-sized so they can cook through and soften. Also, it might be difficult to stretch the dough all the way around the apples if they are extra large.
How to make apple dumplings
- Make the pastry dough: In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, shortening, and salt using a pastry cutter to cut the shortening in until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and stir with a fork to combine, just like you would biscuit dough. It should all come together in a clump. Cover with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge while you prep the apples.
- Prep apples: Use a sharp paring knife or apple peeler like the one shown below to peel and core the apple. You can keep it whole, like I do here, or slice it up like my grandma always did.
- Roll out dough: Use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface. Slice the dough into 6 large squares.
- Assemble: Place one of the apples or a mound of sliced apple in the center of each square of dough. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon, and top with half a tablespoon of butter or push it down inside the now empty core. Fold up the dough around the sides, pressing it together at the top to enclose the apple completely. It can help to wet the edges of the pastry to make sure it holds together, but this is a rustic dessert and they don't have to look pretty.
- Make the syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, butter, and cinnamon. Heat until the butter is melted and the sugar is completely dissolved, then pour into the pan with the apple dumplings. You can pour it right over the top of the dumplings or just around the sides. You can sprinkle the tops of the dumplings with some coarse sugar, if you want a little extra crunch.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 30-40 minutes: You will bake until golden brown on the outside, but you can tell the apple dumplings are done inside by inserting a sharp knife into one of them. The apples should soften enough for the knife to go in fairly easily.
- Cool and serve: It's best to wait for at least 15 minutes before serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream so the apple dumplings have a little time to cool off first.
Tips & tricks
- Shortening vs. butter: You can absolutely use butter in these, but my grandma always used shortening and I wanted to stick as close to her recipe as possible.
- Fancy crusts: You can make apple dumplings more elegant by using small leaf-shaped cookie or pie cutters to cut out designs from spare dough to decorate the top.
- Store for up to 5 days in the fridge: I haven't tried freezing these, but I'm guessing they would do just fine for a few months in the freezer once cooked.
- How to serve: We think these are best served with vanilla ice cream on the side. They are similar to apple pie, but definitely their own kind of thing. Because they are cooked in their own syrupy sauce, we usually skip caramel sauce with these, but by all means go for it if you have some on hand!
More apple recipes to make
- German Apple Cake
- Homemade Apple Fritters
- Secret Ingredient Baked Apples
- Apple Cider Donuts
- Dutch Apple Pie
- Glazed Apple Pie Cookies
- Irish Apple Cake with Warm Custard Sauce
- German Apple Pancakes with Cider Syrup
- Apple Crisp
- Apple Strudel
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 6 Tablespoons shortening
- ½ cup milk
- 6 medium-sized apples peeled and cored
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 3 Tablespoons salted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups water
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and shortening in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the shortening into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. This step can also be done in a food processor. Add the milk and stir with a fork just until the dough clumps together. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge.
- Peel and core the apples using a paring knife or apple peeler.
- Roll out the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut into large squares and place an apple in the center of each square. Divide the butter, sugar, and cinnamon evenly between each of the apples.
- Wrap the pastry up around each apple, pinching the edges together to seal. Transfer to a 9x13-inch baking dish.
- Make the syrup by combining the water, sugar, butter, and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until the butter is melted and the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour the hot syrup over the apple dumplings in the baking dish.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and the apples pierce easily with a sharp knife. Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
- Any good baking apple will work for this recipe. We particularly like braeburn, honeycrisp, golden delicious, granny smith, envy, pink lady, and fuji apples for apple dumplings.