Buttery, crunchy streusel topping. Perfect for coffee cakes, quick bread, muffins, and even folding into ice cream!
The best part of most baked goods is that buttery crumb topping. Just about everyone likes to secretly break off a couple of extra crumbs when they make a quick trip into the kitchen.
What is streusel?
It is a buttery crumb topping that originates from Germany. The term allegedly translates to "scattered, sprinkles, or strewn" in reference to how you add it to the top of many desserts. Traditionally, it is made without oats, but over time it became a common addition as well as chopped nuts.
You only need a few ingredients to make the perfect streusel. It can be divided and multiplied as much as needed for any particular need.
- Flour - We need all-purpose flour for this recipe, but you can use bread or cake flour in a pinch.
- Old-fashioned oats - This is optional, and I typically only use it if I want to turn my streusel into a crisp topping. To add some in, substitute some of the flour for the oats.
- Sugar - I like a mix of brown and granulated sugar, but you are welcome to use all of one type.
- Salt - A healthy pinch of salt is all you need to liven things up and really make the crumb so irresistible.
- Cinnamon - You don't need to add cinnamon if you don't like it, but I think it adds a welcome dimension to the mixture.
- Butter - You don't need to splurge on fancy butter for this, but please only use unsalted butter.
A note on butter
There are three ways you can change your streusel texture, and it all involves on the temperature of your butter and how you add it to your other ingredients.
- Cold - This is the traditional way to use butter in this recipe. It leaves you with the crispiest texture.
- Room temperature - This method makes it easier to incorporate the butter into the flour. It can leave you with a less crisp topping, but you can fix that by chilling the streusel before using.
- Melted - This is both the easiest and hardest way to make the topping. You can accidentally develop gluten when mixing the butter into the flour and you need to work to make your crumbles. I do not recommend this method.
How to make
Putting together the streusel is so easy. Most people prefer to use cold butter, but I find this method works better for me to fully incorporate the butter into the flour fully so you get lots of large crumbs.
- Mix together the dry ingredients and stir well.
- Cut up the butter and let it get to about room temperature.
- Use your hands to rub the butter into the dry ingredients.
- Press the mixture together tightly.
- Refrigerate for about 20 - 30 minutes.
- Grab large chunks and gently break apart over your recipe.
If you want to bake the streusel on its own to fold into something like ice cream, Crumble on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350F until it is golden brown.
Making streusel can be a bit messy using your hands. i recommend using a pastry cutter or fork to work the butter into the dry ingredients until it forms large crumbs.
You can make streusel topping ahead of time. It will keep for about 3 days in the refrigerator, or up to a month in the freezer as long as you store it inside an airtight container. I always like to keep some handy to add to muffins and other treats.
How to use
You can add a streusel topping to just about anything. There are very few limits to how you can use this crunchy, buttery topping. Here are some of the most popular uses:
- coffee cake
- fruit crumbles
- fruit crisps
- quick bread
- sweet potatoes
- and yes, even ice cream, see my peach crumble ice cream for example
For many people there is no true different and the words are using interchangeably.
You can freeze unused and unbaked streusel in an airtight container for up to a month. You can also bake the streusel on its own and add it to yogurt, ice cream, in between cake layers for a nice crunch, or even just snack on them as-is.
Yes! You can use vegan butter or margarine, just remember the final texture will be slightly different. You can replace the flour with a gluten-free baking mix.
Now that you have some amazing streusel, you can put it to good use with some of these recipes. Try starting with this blueberry crisp, banana coffee cake, pumpkin coffee cake, cinnamon roll coffee cake, apple crumble, or these carrot cake muffins.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 cup unsalted butter cubed and room temperature
- Stir together the flour, both sugars, salt, and cinnamon together
- Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture until thoroughly combined and crumbly.
- Chill in the refrigerator or place in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before using.