Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Each year, I look forward to the summer, when fresh local tomatoes, peaches, and berries are at their peak. Even on the hottest days, you’ll find me in my kitchen with the oven and stove on, snacking on fresh produce and sipping an iced tea as I turn my farmers market haul into something delicious—like fresh tomato sauce, preserves and pickles, and, of course, all kinds of fruit desserts.

Though I enjoy biting into a ripe, juicy peach and savoring the fruit on its own, I can’t resist a bowl of peach crisp, still slightly warm from the oven and topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. My standards for peach crisp are high; given that a perfectly ripe peach is already nearly impossible to top, the crisp has to make the most of the fruit and nothing less will do. With a jammy, sweet filling of vanilla-scented peaches beneath a crunchy topping of whole-wheat flour, oats, and toasted pecans, my go-to peach crisp is good enough to warrant turning on the oven in the middle of summer. 

Because I find loose peach skins in a crisp to be distracting and unpleasant, I strongly believe that peeling the peaches is an essential step. It’s easy enough to do—a quick blanch is all it takes to slip the ripe peaches out of their skins. After that, I’ve found that macerating the fruit in a mixture of light brown sugar and vanilla paste draws out its natural sugars, resulting in a juicier, more flavorful filling once baked.  

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

A quick blitz of whole-wheat flour, light brown sugar, rolled oats, and pecans with butter in a food processor makes a speedy topping in under 5 minutes of prep time. Though you could swap out the whole-wheat flour with all-purpose flour, I don’t recommend it. The whole-wheat flour, along with the toasted pecans, lends the crisp a pleasant nuttiness that complements the sweetness of the peaches. 

Turning on the oven may be the last thing you want to do on a blistering hot day, but it’s worth doing for a dessert that will fill your home with the smell of buttery, toasted oats and sweet, jammy fruit.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. In a large bowl, set up an ice bath by filling it halfway with cold water and ice. Set aside.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

For the Filling: Using a sharp paring knife, score small X at base of each peach; set aside. Using a slotted spoon or spider, lower peaches into boiling water and cook until the scored skin at the base of each peach begins to loosen and peel back, about 1 minute. (Firmer peaches may need up to 3 minutes.) Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer peaches to the ice bath and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Working with 1 peach at a time, start at scored X on the base of peach and use a paring knife to peel back and remove loosened skin from peach. Discard the skins and repeat with remaining peaches. Cut each peach in half through stem end and remove pit. Slice the peeled peach halves into 1/2-inch thick wedges (see notes).

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In a large bowl, whisk together the light brown sugar, tapioca starch, salt, and vanilla paste. Stir in peach slices and toss to coat. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

For the Topping: In a food processor, pulse whole-wheat flour, light brown sugar, and salt until well-combined. Add oats and toasted pecans and pulse until pecans just start to break apart, 2 to 3 pulses. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal with some pea-sized pieces (see notes).

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

To Bake: Scrape the macerated peaches and their juices into a 9- by 9-inch square baking dish and press into an even layer. Sprinkle topping evenly over the filling. Bake until the topping is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for 30 minutes. Serve.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Special Equipment

9- by 9- inch or 2-quart baking dish


If your peaches aren’t of the freestone variety, their pits may not release easily. If you can’t remove the pit easily, cut the flesh off the pit as close to the pit as you can (similar to how one removes the flesh on a mango), then slice the peach flesh. It’s okay if they aren’t perfect slices—the crisp will still be delicious!

Vanilla extract may be substituted for vanilla paste. 

To make the crisp topping without a food processor: In a large bowl, whisk together the whole-wheat flour, light brown sugar, and salt. Add the butter to flour mixture and toss with fingers until butter pieces are thoroughly coated with flour mixture.With your fingertips, smash each cube flat and continue pressing and breaking up the butter until you have pea-sized pieces. Add the rolled oats and pecans to the flour mixture and toss until crumbly.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Cover and store at room temperature for up to three days.

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