For most of my life, I only thought about rhubarb when I heard Garrison Keillor sing about it on the radio. But when I started going to college in southern Indiana, it was impossible to miss the vibrant red stalks filling the farmers' market each spring. Rhubarb is an odd vegetable—the stalks are incredibly tart and the leaves are toxic. Treat it right, though, and it's absolutely delicious. Most recipes cut the rhubarb with lots of sugar, though sweet spring fruit can also get the job done. We love rhubarb in sweets like pies and compotes, but its tart flavor is also right at home in cocktails and nonalcoholic drinks. From rhubarb crisps to a fruity Sidecar variation, keep reading for 17 of our favorite rhubarb recipes.
Quick-Pickled Rhubarb With Lemongrass and Ginger
Quick-pickling is an easy way to get a few extra weeks out of produce with a short season. Here we pickle rhubarb in a brine flavored with lemongrass and ginger, plus plenty of sugar. Go with light brown sugar, which will balance out the tart rhubarb and has a deep, robust flavor that can stand up to the intense aromatics.
Barbecue-Rubbed Pork Shoulder With Stovetop Rhubarb Ketchup
Making ketchup at home is fun because you can play around with adding other ingredients to the base of tomatoes, vinegar, onions, and sugar. For this recipe we turn to rhubarb to give the sauce a fruity, sour kick. The tart ketchup is just what you need to cut through the richness of a fatty roasted pork shoulder.
Red Wine Roasted-Rhubarb Compote
This super simple dessert is nothing more than rhubarb roasted until tender with wine, sugar, and a vanilla bean. You just need half a cup of wine—rhubarb releases lots of liquid when it cooks. The not-too-sweet compote is delicious with pound cake or ice cream, but serve it with yogurt and you've got yourself breakfast.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote With Fennel
Strawberries and rhubarb are a beloved combination for good reason—sour rhubarb needs sweetness, and ripe in-season strawberries have plenty of sugar. In this compote we chop the rhubarb into small pieces then cook it down with the sweet strawberries and aromatic fennel seed.
Our rhubarb crisp has a couple tricks up its sleeve. We cook the rhubarb in batches, baking half of it before mixing in the rest, to give the dish some textural variation. In addition, a quarter of a teaspoon of baking soda helps take a little of the acidic edge off the rhubarb. If you have elderflower liqueur on hand, pouring in few ounces accentuates the rhubarb's flabor.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
You can substitute a third of the rhubarb with ripe strawberries to give your rhubarb crisp a sweeter, more complex flavor. The streusel topping is one of the most important parts of a crisp, and we make ours with brown sugar, whole wheat flour, rolled oats, cinnamon, anise seed, Chinese five-spice powder, and lots of butter.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
We keep going with the strawberry and rhubarb combo for this pie—arguably one of the most classic rhubarb desserts around. Macerating the strawberries and rhubarb with sugar draws out excess moisture, which means you can use less starch as a thickener and end up with a more intensely flavored pie.
Millionaire's Cherry Rhubarb Jam
A quick pickle will last for a few weeks, but if you want rhubarb all year then canning is the only way to go. This sweet-tart rhubarb jam is made with rhubarb, sweet cherries, vanilla bean, and Grand Marnier. The result is a canning-ready treat with sophisticated tropical and citrus notes.
Gluten-Free Rhubarb Pie With Sorghum Crust
This dessert is something of a pie-galette hybrid, and the simplicity of the filling—sliced rhubarb, lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch—really allows the rhubarb flavor to shine. The grainy, rustic crust is totally gluten-free, thanks to a mix of sorghum flour, sweet rice flour, and tapioca starch.
Strawberry Rhubarb Kuchen
The German dish kuchen is a coffee cake stuffed with fruit. This version starts with a yeasted cake, onto which we pipe a layer of strawberry-rhubarb filling and finish with a crumble topping made with brown sugar, butter, and spices. The dairy-rich dough won't rise too much, but make sure it fills about half the depth of your pan before adding the filling and crumble.
Layered Toasted-Coconut Puddings With Red Fruit Purée and Coconut Cream
Rote grütze is another German dessert you might not be familiar with—it's a pudding made by cooking groats and red fruit and it's usually served with cream. This untraditional take on the dish is made by layering a toasted-coconut pudding, puréed rhubarb, strawberries, and raspberries, and an aerated cultured coconut cream in individual jars.
Let's start our adventure in rhubarb drinks with the simplest one imaginable—this beautiful pink juice is literally just rhubarb and water. You might be skeptical of the lack of sugar, but just trust us and give it a shot—after the juice is chilled and strained it comes out refreshingly sweet-tart.
Booze-Free Rhubarb Lime Gimlet
A bracingly vinegary rhubarb shrub stands in for booze in this nonalcoholic gimlet variation. It gets sweetened with maple syrup and it also gets a little extra tartness from freshly squeezed lime juice. We finish it with just a couple ounces of seltzer—enough for some fizz but not enough to overly dilute the shrub.
This nonalcoholic cooler is made with a homemade rhubarb syrup, ginger beer, and lime juice. The complex syrup is flavored with fresh ginger, orange zest, and allspice berries in addition to the rhubarb. Look for a spicy ginger beer like Bruce Cost to stand up to the tangy rhubarb.
Better-Than-Cream-Soda Rhubarb Cocktail
A mix of rhubarb-vanilla syrup, Pisco, and Scottish ale already probably sounds like a strange drink, but it gets even weirder—the cocktail manages to taste remarkably like cream soda. The thick Pisco gives the drink a creamy texture, its citrusy notes complement the rhubarb, and the vanilla brings out the toffee flavors of the beer.
I love Boulevardiers, seasonal produce, and puns, so the Rhuboulevardier was basically made just for me. It's got the same base of bourbon and sweet vermouth as the classic, but instead of Campari we use Gran Classico and a tart, fruity rhubarb syrup.
A classic Sidecar is made with brandy, Cointreau, and lemon juice. This fruit-forward variation uses sweet pear brandy and replaces the lemon juice with a rhubarb shrub. We also shake in an ounce of simple syrup, which tempers the tartness of the shrub without making the cocktail too sweet.