Rhubarb—technically a vegetable, but usually treated like a fruit—isn't the commonest of all produce, given its narrow association with particular months and regions. When I was growing up, it was practically a foreign concept to me, but once I started college in southern Indiana, it was hard to miss: Each spring, our local farmers market would be overrun with piles of the vibrant red stalks. Puckeringly tart when raw, rhubarb is especially tasty when its sourness is tempered through cooking with sugar and/or pairing with sweet fruits—as in what is arguably its most ubiquitous vehicle in the States, strawberry rhubarb pie. But there's plenty more to do with this pretty spring treat. We've assembled 15 recipes that will encourage you to bring home an armload of rhubarb, from ketchup and jam to cocktails and juice. Note: Only the stalks of rhubarb plants are edible, while the leaves are poisonous—be sure to discard any that find their way into your grocery bag.
Quick-Pickled Rhubarb With Lemongrass and Ginger
Rhubarb's season is awfully brief, so if you love the stuff, try this quick-pickle recipe to extend its shelf life a bit. Here, we submerge sliced rhubarb in a brine flavored with Asian ingredients like lemongrass and ginger. You'll need a lot of sugar to balance out the tartness of the rhubarb—we prefer the deeper, more robust flavor of light brown sugar, which stands up well to the powerful aromatics.
Barbecue-Rubbed Pork Shoulder With Stovetop Rhubarb Ketchup
Homemade ketchup is a snap to make on the stovetop using ingredients like tomatoes, vinegar, onions, and sugar. Adding rhubarb to the mix gives it an extra punch. Its fruity, sour flavor is perfect for cutting through a fatty roasted pork shoulder, seasoned with a smoky rub and served with a beer-based pan sauce.
Millionaire's Cherry Rhubarb Jam
Naturally, another way to keep your rhubarb love affair going strong is to turn it into jam. In this one, the rhubarb's bite is softened with sweet cherries, and vanilla bean and Grand Marnier give the jam sophisticated tropical and citrus notes. Pleasantly sweet-tart, it's just as good on a biscuit sandwich with Brie as it is solo on toast. It's also canning-ready, giving you a way to enjoy rhubarb all year long.
If you've never tried rhubarb pie, that Midwestern delicacy memorably celebrated by A Prairie Home Companion, you're in for a treat. In accordance with its down-home origins, our version is a simple dessert with a filling of rhubarb, sugar, and tapioca starch, and the perfect way to usher in spring. Don't panic over the crust—with a food processor, our Easy Pie Dough takes just 10 minutes of work.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Some rhubarb devotees are scandalized when their beloved pie filling is adulterated with any other ingredients. But, for us non-purists, adding sweet strawberries to tangy rhubarb is a classic and delicious move. Here, we start by macerating the fruit with sugar, which draws out excess moisture and firms up the filling—allowing you to use less starch as a thickener and get a more concentrated, pure fruit flavor.
Gluten-Free Rhubarb Pie With Sorghum Crust
This gluten-free dessert is part pie, part galette, and all fruity goodness. We substitute a mix of sorghum flour and sweet rice flour for wheat flour in the crust, for a grainy, rustic consistency that contrasts nicely with the rhubarb.
Crepes With Blackberry-Rhubarb Compote
This recipe combines rhubarb with blackberries to form a refreshing compote, with a touch of maple syrup added for sweetness. Vanilla extract and orange juice lend extra flavor. The compote winds up fairly tart, making it a pleasant foil for buttery crepes. Serve the crepes and compote alone for brunch, or add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to bring them firmly into dessert territory.
Strawberry Rhubarb Kuchen
A kuchen is a German relative of the buckle, a fruit-studded coffee cake. It's a rich yeasted cake, spread with a layer of fruit filling and finished off with a crumble topping made with brown sugar, butter, and spices. We recommend using a piping bag to apply the strawberry-rhubarb filling so it goes on evenly. Perfect with a frosty glass of milk.
Layered Toasted-Coconut Puddings With Red Fruit Purée and Coconut Cream
This dessert is inspired by rote grütze, a German pudding of red fruits cooked with groats and served with cream. We make ours by layering a blend of rhubarb, strawberries, and raspberries; a toasted-coconut pudding; and an aerated cultured coconut cream in individual Mason jars. It's definitely an involved recipe, but for an impressive dinner-party menu item, it's totally worth the effort.
Recipes don't get much simpler than this: just sliced rhubarb simmered in water, creating a beautiful pink liquid. Despite the rhubarb's sourness, you honestly don't need to add any sugar here: Once you strain and chill the juice, you'll find it's refreshingly sweet-tart in the same way that a homemade lemonade is.
Booze-Free Rhubarb Lime Gimlet
A shrub is a tart beverage base made of fruit or vegetables simmered with vinegar and sugar. We love using them to make nonalcoholic drinks, like this gimlet variation. Maple syrup balances out the tang of the rhubarb shrub and lime juice, and a little seltzer finishes off the drink without diluting the flavors too much.
Another nonalcoholic cocktail, this cooler mixes a homemade rhubarb syrup with spicy ginger beer and lime juice. Fresh ginger, orange, and allspice berries add depth to the syrup, which you can make in advance—just blend it with the lime juice, ginger beer, and ice to make a big-batch pitcher drink for a party.
Better-Than-Cream-Soda Rhubarb Cocktail
It sounds crazy, we know, but this concoction of rhubarb-vanilla syrup, Pisco brandy, and Scottish ale ends up tasting like the best cream soda you've ever had. The thick, citrusy Pisco plays well with the rhubarb and adds a creamy texture, while the vanilla enriches the beer.
I love a good Boulevardier this time of year, but the cocktail is even better with fresh, seasonal produce incorporated (and a punny name). The base of bourbon and sweet vermouth is the same, but we replace the Campari with a fruity and tart rhubarb syrup and Gran Classico.
This recipe puts a fruit-forward spin on a traditional Sidecar with pear brandy, orange liqueur, and a rhubarb shrub. The resulting cocktail is sweet, but not overly so—the shrub is acidic enough to even out the sugar.