Lemon Blueberry Crisp

blueberry crisp

Several months ago I watched Dorie Greenspan make madeleines on the Martha Stewart Show. While the madeleines looked divine, what struck me most from her demonstration was her handling of the lemon zest. Rather than whisk the zest directly into the dry ingredients, she placed it in a small bowl with the sugar and massaged the two ingredients together with her fingertips until she had created a moist and fragrant citrus sugar, a technique, she says, that serves to release oils from the zest into the sugar, making the lemon flavor twice as pronounced.

I still haven’t made the madeleines, but, when I remember to, I employ this citrus-sugar technique when appropriate when I’m baking. While it’s not critical — freshly grated zest, massaged into sugar or not, always adds a nice flavor — I have found that the technique does heighten the citrus flavor, which is especially nice in cakes and muffins and cobblers. Moreover, making the citrus sugar is kind of fun. Try it. It smells so good! And it makes just about the best fresh squeezed lemonade you could ever imagine.

The most recent dish I’ve given the citrus-sugar treatment to is my mother’s blueberry crisp, one of my favorites. Like most crisps, this one takes no time to prepare, and if you have a food processor, the topping — a mixture of flour, sugar, almonds and butter — comes together in seconds. The absence of oats and brown sugar in this crisp topping makes it particularly light and allows the lemon-sugared blueberries to really shine. Have a Happy Fourth Everyone.

crisp topping ingredients

Cuisinart with crisp topping

colander with blueberries

blueberries and lemon sugar

unbaked crisp

Lemon Blueberry Crisp
Serves 8-10

6 cups blueberries (3 pints), washed and stemmed
zest of one lemon
1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 teaspoon table salt (or 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold, unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes

vanilla ice cream for serving

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.

2. Place blueberries in 9×13-inch baking pan. In a small bowl, rub zest and sugar together with your fingers until sugar is moist and fragrant. Spread over blueberries and toss to combine.

3. Pulse sugar, flour, almonds and salt in food processor until nuts are chopped. Add butter and pulse until mixture begins to clump. Spread over blueberries. Bake 25 minutes or until crisp topping is browned and blueberries are bubbling.

4. Serve with ice cream if desired.


  1. says

    oh yum, this looks really good. I remember seeing/employing the lemon & sugar trick, but now I can’t remember what I was making. You’re right though, why not just do it whenever lemon & sugar are involved – great idea. Perhaps I’ll make this for a little impromptu “4th-from-afar” gathering. Happy crisp eating and fireworks watching!

  2. says

    What a great technique. I must remember that. For 4th of July I plan to make a cornmeal crust blueberry pie, but your crisp looks appealing as well.

  3. says

    Oh, Ali, this looks delicious. Once I find my kitchen and baking utensils (we move Tuesday and most everything is packed!) I’ll be sure to try this. Happy 4th of July!

  4. says

    I learned about zesting in sugar from Dorrie’s cookbook and it changed everything for me in baking. The crisp looks perfect with the lemon and almonds, which all combines so well.

  5. Mindy says

    I tried a lemon roll recipe from thekitchn and it used the sugar and lemon zest technique. I can’t wait to try it in this crisp! Happy 4th!

  6. Katykat says

    I have made it, and I declare it to be super simple and BEYOND delicious! I used a little less blueberries because I am cheap and didn’t want to buy more…but it turned out fabulous. But I fear for the clean up… was I supposed to spray the pan with pam or something? Oopsies! I also fear for my weight as I will likely eat 3/4 of the pan for dinner tonight. Once again Ali, you and your recipes have filled our home with joy (I also made your cornbread last night! when will the caloric intake end??)

    • says

      Katykat, I love you. So happy to hear that you made this! The cleanup shouldn’t be too bad. Maybe let it soak. I never spray the pan with anything. And when im really feeling lazy, I throw the whole pan in the dishwasher. Miss you chica!!

  7. Jess says

    If I have a almond allergy, is there a good substitute or can I just skip it?? Looks amazing. Thanks!

  8. leslie says

    I made this for the fourth of july. It was beyond delicious. the lemon rind sugar trick is so awesome. I will try it with different fruit also. thanks

  9. D. L. Gillan says

    This makes the best blueberry crisp I’ve ever tasted! I divided the recipe into 3 smaller baking dishes to give to friends and it worked perfectly. I had just U-Picked 8 lbs. of blueberries, maybe that has something to do with the delightful almost floral taste. Blueberries have such a mild flavor my Mom always added huckleberries to give a little zing….. but the lemon/sugar mixture makes a perfect balance of tart/sweet. The almonds are the perfect final touch. Excellent, excellent. A real keeper…. a forever favorite.

  10. D. L. Gillan says

    PS I must confess I almost ate an entire crisp (the smaller of the 3) before it cooled…. just to make sure it tasted that good! If I’d had ice cream on hand the whole thing would have been gone!

    • says

      D.L. Gillan — I am so happy to hear this! I am glad you share the enthusiasm for the recipe. I have tried so many crisp recipes, and they are always good, but there is something about the simplicity of this crisp topping that I think really sets it apart. Also, I have been known to polish off blueberry crisp by the half-pan… it’s hard to not just tuck in when it’s sitting out on the counter. THanks for writing in!

  11. Anne says

    HI Ali! I am going up to Little Compton, RI this weekend with a few friends and staying at a friend’s house her parents rented. I am going to make this Blueberry Lemon Crisp tonight and it will be making the trip with me… a perfect weekend hosting gift that all can enjoy. Thank you! xoxo

    • says

      Anne, so much fun! I wish I were headed to RI with you! My aunt and uncle have a house there and growing up, we would always spend a week there in the summer. I hope your friends enjoy the crisp!

  12. Mindy says

    The Lemon Blueberry Crisp is in the oven! I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for sharing such a great recipe.

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