Red Wine Roasted-Rhubarb Compote

Perfect on its own, with yogurt or whipped cream, or spooned over cake.

A black bowl holding the red wine roasted rhubarb compote with some yogurt

Serious Eats / Canal House

Why This Recipe Works

  • Wine adds much more flavor to rhubarb than water.
  • Roasting (without stirring) keeps the rhubarb pieces whole.

Right on cue in April, spring whets our appetite for the bright flavor of rhubarb. It tastes like the season looks: watery and bright acid-green. It is one of the first plants up in our vegetable gardens, but before it appears there, it starts showing up in the markets thanks to commercial growers­­­­. These hothouse-grown red varieties have a milder flavor than the larger field-grown green and red ones, which are more robust and sour.

We look for long, thick, sturdy stalks, with the cut ends showing solid interiors and no signs of pithiness. Rhubarb needs to be refrigerated, or it will go limp and wilt, but a few hours of chilling in the fridge will revive it. Sometimes called "pieplant," rhubarb is botanically a vegetable, but is most often prepared like a fruit. The plants have 18- to 20-inch stalks topped with big, crinkled heart-shaped leaves. Never eat rhubarb leaves, whether cooked or raw; they contain oxalic acid (as do spinach and chard), which can be lethal if ingested in large amounts.

Lengths of rhubarb cut up on a black cutting board. There is a knife at the top center of the image.

Serious Eats / Canal House

Before modern medicine offered a pill for everything, people looked to nature for health and vitality—food was the best medicine. After a long winter of eating few fresh greens, they counted on rhubarb for a spring tonic. So this country has a long tradition of cultivating rhubarb; a patch of the stuff was a frequent sight in 19th-century American kitchen gardens.

Sugar being distributed over a bowl containing the cut up lengths of rhubarb.

Serious Eats / Canal House

We've both cooked a lot of rhubarb over the years, and together have landed on just the way we like it. After trimming off the ends, we slice the stalks into two-inch pieces and put them in a large baking dish. They release lots of juice as they cook, so we add minimal liquid. What we do add is wine, which contributes more flavor than water. We hold back on the sugar, too, adding just enough to tame the rhubarb's tangy taste. A single split pod of vanilla, meanwhile, offers richness and a sweet floral aroma.

Our Canal House style is to roast rhubarb in the oven, where a gentler heat surrounds the baking dish, rather than cooking it on the stovetop, where it can burn on the bottom. This allows us to avoid stirring it, which would inevitably break up the pieces and turn them to mush. After about 30 minutes, the combination of wine, vanilla, and sugar will have complemented and enhanced rhubarb's sharp, acidic taste. The result is a not-too-sweet compote featuring whole chunks of cooked rhubarb in a delicate syrup that's tart and bright, with plenty of aromatic depth. We then transfer it to a covered container and refrigerate it—or eat it, right then and there.

We make this over and over all spring, eating bowls for breakfast or dessert with yogurt or whipped cream, on top of a slice of old-fashioned pound cake, or with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

No matter how you decide to serve it, make sure to do it now, while you can. Rhubarb season signals the arrival of spring, but its time is all too brief.

April 2017

Recipe Details

Red Wine Roasted-Rhubarb Compote

Active 15 mins
Total 60 mins
Serves 8 servings
Makes 4 cups

Perfect on its own, with yogurt or whipped cream, or spooned over cake.


  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

  • 1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces; 100g)

  • 2 pounds (1kg) rhubarb, ends trimmed, stalks cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) red or white wine (see note)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). In a small bowl, combine vanilla seeds and sugar; reserve vanilla pod for another use. Using your fingers, work vanilla into sugar until evenly distributed. In a large bowl, combine vanilla/sugar with rhubarb pieces and toss well. Transfer mixture to a 10-cup baking dish and pour in wine.

    Red wine being poured over the sugar-coated lengths of rhubarb, which are in a blue metal baking vessel.

    Serious Eats / Canal House

  2. Roast rhubarb until very tender, about 30 minutes; avoid stirring as it cooks, which would break the rhubarb down into mush.

    Roasted red wine rhubarb in the metal baking vessel.

    Serious Eats / Canal House

  3. Set aside until cooled to room temperature. Transfer rhubarb pieces and syrup to a container, cover, and refrigerate. Serve rhubarb and its syrup alone or with plain yogurt, a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It is also delicious spooned over a slice of pound cake.

Special Equipment

10-cup baking dish


You can also use dry white wine in this recipe.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
85 Calories
0g Fat
18g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 85
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 5mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 7%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 9mg 45%
Calcium 99mg 8%
Iron 0mg 2%
Potassium 338mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)