Plum-Cardamom Crumble with Pistachios

This is an OUTSTANDING plum perfect summer dessert. It’s so quick and easy to toss together, it earns a no-sweat, RELAXED rating on the Stress-O-Meter!

How to make this plum easy dessert

image of ingredients

Pick the right plum!

The bounty of luscious summer fruit continues to call to me every time I walk into the supermarket, drive past a produce stand or visit my favorite farmer’s market. This week it was plums galore! In my part of the world, it was red plums and black plums on sale. In case you don’t know the difference, black plums have blue-black skin that binds the sweet, juicy deep red or purple colored pulp. Red plums, in contrast, are red on the outside and have a juicy yellow color pulp with a sweet/tart (almost sour) taste. I highly recommend using black plums for this recipe. In full disclosure, I used a combination of red and black plums, and I won’t do it again — it’s just a little too tart. Live and learn!

Red and black plums
. Black plums have sweet and juicy pulp, unlike red plums, which are sweet and sour with a tart flavor pulp.

Plum tips and hacks

Slicing the plums can get a little messy. The fastest way is to cut the plum in half and give it a twist. If luck is with you, half of the plum will easily come away from the pit. Take the piece with the stone still intact and slice it in half. Give it one more twist; in a perfect world, this will work. In my world, it worked for only a couple of the plums. The truth is, neatness doesn’t count! Go ahead and mangle those plums to your heart’s content. No one will know! Slice, chop or hack the plums into as evenly sized pieces as possible without stressing it.

Cutting the plums
Cutting plums can be messy! No worries, neatness doesn’t count.

Cardamom adds flavor and fragrance

jar and spoon of cardamom

The wonderful flavor and the aroma of the plum filling come from the cardamom.  Cardamom, which originated in India, has a “warm,” intense, slightly sweet taste that is somewhat minty, almost menthol-like. It can be a little pricey as it is harvested by hand. Also, it’s not an “everyday” spice. If you don’t have cardamom in your pantry, no worries; cinnamon makes a great substitute. The cardamon is in both the filling and in the crumble topping.

Lemon tips and hacks

lemon juice and zest
Fresh lemon juice and zest brighten up the flavor of the plums.

Freshly zested and juice lemon juice brightens up the flavor of the plums. Bottled lemon juice can be used (omit the zest), but freshly squeezed juice adds that “something-something” that bottled juice can’t replicate. Please forgive me for stating the obvious; I’m bringing it up because I’ve made this mistake in the past. Zest the lemon first! Then, juice it. It’s really, REALLY difficult to zest a juiced lemon!

Butter holds the topping together

cubes of butter on plate
Cube the butter

Cut the butter in small cubes and set aside for a couple of minutes

Pistachios add flavor and CRUNCH

Chopped nuts
Coarsely chop the pistachios.

The last prep task is roughly chopping the pistachios. I now buy shelled pistachios. However, when I had little ones running around, shelling was an excellent way to keep them occupied. Plums, cardamom, and pistachios are a time-honored flavor combo. Pistachios are contain fewer calories and more protein than most other nuts. Also, their essential amino acid content is higher than any other nut. However, walnuts also have a great crunch and flavor. Feel free to substitute. With the prep completed, the filling and the topping quickly come together.

Mixing it up

Two images of ingredients in a bowl
Combine the filling ingredients

Mix the filling ingredients (plums, lemon, flour, spice, brown sugar, and cornstarch) in a bowl. Do this first, so the fruit has a chance to start breaking down and get its juice on.

two images of butter and sugar in food processor
Pulse until clumps form

I make the crumble topping in a food processor. However, it’s not a necessity. I’ve made crumbles for years by hand — literally! Using your hands is an easy alternative to a food processor. If you don’t like playing with your food, use a large fork (or pastry cutter) to create a clumpy consistency.

dish with fruit and fruit with topping

Fruit crumbles and crisps are notorious for bubbling over in the oven. The easiest way to prevent this is to use a large enough baking dish. I recommend a 2-2½ quart baking dish. A 9-inch square baking pan should also work. I stay away from pie pans; they always seem overflow.  Add the fruit mixture to the baking dish. Sprinkle on the crumble and top with the pistachios.

To be on the safe side, if using a square pan, place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet/pan. It will be a whole lot easier to clean a baking sheet/pan than to clean an oven. Trust me. Nothing is worse than burnt-on fruit filling. (This would, again, be the voice of experience!)

Bake until thick and bubbly

baked crumble
Bake in a preheated 350°F oven

Let the crumble bake in a preheated 350°F oven for around 50 minutes. Start checking at 45 minutes with the knowledge that it may take closer to 60 minutes. When the juices have thickened, the fruit is bubbling, and the topping has slightly browned, it’s ready to come out. The broad time range is due to the actual amount of fruit (no one actually measures 8 cups of plums), so it’s very probable that there is more or less than the targeted 3 lbs. Also, oven temps do vary. If the calibration is slightly off, so will the cooking time. 

Zhoosh it up with whipped topping

Bowl with crumble and whipped topping

Remove the crumble from the oven and allow it to cool. A squirt of whipped topping or a scoop of ice cream is the best way to top off this sweet and tart dessert. Enjoy! 

dish on a cooling rack
Plum-Cardamom Crumble with Pistachios

Plum-Cardamom Crumble with Pistachios

Recipe by Jane BruceCourse: DessertCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time



This easy-to-make crumble makes the most of fresh ripe plums. The exotic aroma and earthy taste of cardamom combined with the crunch of the pistachios create a very impressive dessert.


  • 3 lb. ripe plums, sliced 1/3″ thick (about 8 cups)

  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced (2 tablespoons juice and 2 teaspoons zest)

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

  • 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, divided

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 6 Tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios


  • Prep: Preheat oven to 350°F. Slice (or chop, it’s okay to be messy) plums, discarding the pit. Zest and juice one lemon. Cut butter in small cubes. Roughly chop the pistachios
  • Toss plums, lemon zest, lemon juice, cornstarch, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom in a large bowl. Meanwhile, pulse flour and remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon cardamom in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is very sandy and starts to form larger clumps.
  • Transfer plums and their juices to a 2 – 2½ quart baking dish. Scatter the topping over the fruit, squeezing small fistfuls in your hand to bring it together, then breaking into smaller pieces of varying sizes. Sprinkle pistachios evenly over the topping. Bake the crumble until juices are thickened and bubbling and the top is golden brown, 45-55 minutes. Let cool slightly.


  • Lemon: Fresh is best, plus it provides both the juice and the zest, but bottled lemon juice is fine and it’s okay to omit the lemon zest.
  • Cardamom: Ground cinnamon also works
  • Pistachio: Substitute toasted walnuts

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