Baked Fruit Desserts By Any Other Name: 16 Vegan Brown Betties, Buckles, Cobblers, Crisps, Crumbles, Grunts/Slumps, Pandowdies and Sonkers for Your Belly

Marla Rose
3 min readMay 24, 2024


After posting a fairly innocuous pictogram of different baked fruit desserts (pies not included!), I have learned from the ensuing tumult in the comments that if there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that all cobblers follow the same rules: Biscuits, definitely biscuits, on top, not on the bottom, never on the bottom.

Just kidding. We don’t agree at all!

The point is, we don’t have to agree. In my subsequent research, I have learned that not only do approaches to baked fruit with dough and/or streusel vary country by country, even hyper-regionally specific desserts, like sonkers, can have very different, stubbornly defended recipes as The Only Right Way even within very narrow geographic lines.

So maybe the truth of it is there are generally accepted ways (do crisps sometimes have oats and crumbles always?) but there is wide room for differences and it doesn’t matter all that much. Like language itself, perhaps food — how it is prepared, the various orthodoxies— is also a lost cause to gate-keep over as it’s imprecise, full of glorious variance and silly to get bent out of shape over. Maybe these differences don’t need to be excuses for which to condemn one another and can be points of entry for finding one another’s food culture interesting? It’s fully bizarre that I am talking about cobblers, etc. here but this is what we’ve come to as humans.

Let’s just enjoy, how about that?

Brown Betty

Brown Betties are baked puddings made with apples or other fruit and sweetened breadcrumbs.

Mom’s Apple Brown Betty via VegWeb
Strawberry Brown Betty via Fran Costigan


Fruit, usually berries, and cake batter baked together with a streusel topping, this dessert is akin to a coffee cake that buckles in the middle, thus the name.

Blueberry Buckle via The Full Helping
Mixed Berry Buckle via Knead to Cook


Deep dish fruit casseroles (sorry!) with biscuits, dumplings or even pie dough on the top, the bottom or both on the top and bottom. Traditionally, the pastry is on the top but who cares?

Cherry-Rhubarb Cobbler via Monkey and Me Kitchen Adventures
Easy Peach Cobbler via Nora Cooks


A deep dish baked fruit dessert with a streusel that usually includes butter (plant-based FTW!), flour, sugar and nuts in various combinations, as well as occasionally oats. The crumble is finer than in the crumble.

Apple Crisp via Loving It Vegan
Simple Cherry Crisp via Vegan Street


Like the streusel of the crisp, but more coarse and the topping always includes oats.

Fruit Crumble — Plum, Apple or Blackberry via School Night Vegan
Easy Apple Crumble via It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken


According to King Arthur, these terms are interchangeable and who am I to defy the official decree of a king? I have no idea, but I’m no fool. Grunts and slumps are biscuit or dumpling-topped fruit desserts that are cooked on the stovetop in a covered Dutch oven or cast iron skillet.

Fruit Grunt via PB With J
Strawberry Fruit Slump with Vanilla Ice Cream via Laure Carter


Despite a name that sounds like it came directly from a Eudora Welty short story, a pandowdy (also written as pan dowdy) is fruit, usually apples, baked under dough that gets pushed into the fruit as it bakes.

Apple Pandowdy via Oat Milk and Cookies
Mango-Pear Pandowdy via Sweet Inspire


Sonkers are syrupy cooked fruit topped with a thin, pancake-like batter and baked, specifically hailing from Surry County, North Carolina.

Blueberry Peach Sonker via Vegan Visitor
North Carolina Sonker (use vegan milk and butter) via Taste of Home

Does this cover it? Now let’s get to baking!

Marla Rose is co-founding partner of