Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote With Fennel

This classic springtime combination, spiked with the anise flavor of fennel seed, is incredibly versatile: Just add more or less sugar to suit your taste.

Photograph: Vicky Wasik

Why This Recipe Works

  • Cooking the rhubarb first allows it to fully soften and break down, creating a thick sauce.
  • Fennel seed adds an intriguing sweet-savory note that works well in all applications.

The classic springtime combination of strawberries and rhubarb is perfect for people like me who don't have a huge sweet tooth. It's also perfect for people who do. Rhubarb—technically a vegetable, but used more often in fruit contexts, like pie fillings—is purely tart, with almost no trace of sweetness. Strawberries help push it more decisively into ripe-fruit territory, but you still need extra sugar to balance rhubarb's intense sourness. And that's what's so great about it: Add as much or as little sugar as you like to suit your taste.

One of my favorite ways to prepare strawberries and rhubarb is stewed into a compote. It's fast, versatile, and totally customizable. I make mine just sweet enough that I can serve it as a dessert, but not so sweet that it'd seem junky to eat it as breakfast, too. In both cases, that often means spooned on top of a bowl of yogurt, but it'd be just as happy alongside fresh ricotta or mascarpone, panna cotta, cake, waffles, pancakes, crepes, scones, toast, or, if you're feeling extra British, crumpets.

Whole strawberries and stalks of rhubarb on a marble counter.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

For an interesting flavor twist, I add a small amount of ground fennel seed, which is just as successful at carefully walking the sweet-savory razor's edge—it's not a warm spice like cinnamon or nutmeg, but it still has anise notes that work with all sorts of desserts. Pull back on the sugar just a little more and you could totally eat this with a pork chop.

To start, I dice the rhubarb into chunks, then put it on the heat in a saucepan with a small amount of water, which generates enough steam to get the cooking started. In a preparation like this, I like my rhubarb fully softened and broken down, so I let it cook for a few minutes this way, covered, before adding the strawberries.

Then I add the strawberries, which I cook until they're very soft and plump, adding a burst of brilliant color. I add the fennel and sugar as well, usually spooning in the sugar to taste until I feel like I've hit my desired sweetness—whether that's sweet enough for pork or sweet enough for an ice cream sundae.

June 2016

Recipe Details

Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote With Fennel

Active 20 mins
Total 20 mins
Serves 16 servings
Makes 1 quart

This classic springtime combination, spiked with the anise flavor of fennel seed, is incredibly versatile: Just add more or less sugar to suit your taste.


  • 3/4 pound (350g) rhubarb, diced

  • 10 ounces (300g) strawberries, hulled and quartered

  • Up to 1/2 cup (100g) sugar (see note)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed (from about 3/4 teaspoon whole seeds)

  • Pinch kosher salt


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine rhubarb with 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower heat to maintain a fast simmer, cover, and cook until rhubarb is fully softened and beginning to break down, about 4 minutes.

    Strawberries being added to a pan containing rhubarb simmering in liquid.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  2. Uncover and add strawberries, sugar to taste (see note), fennel, and salt. Continue to cook uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until strawberries are very soft and plump, about 10 minutes; if compote becomes too thick during cooking, add a small amount of water to thin slightly. Serve hot or cold. Compote will keep for up to 5 days refrigerated in a sealed container.

    A bowl of strawberry-rhubarb compote and yogurt.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik


Feel free to adjust the amount of sugar to taste.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
35 Calories
0g Fat
9g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 16
Amount per serving
Calories 35
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 6mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 13mg 64%
Calcium 23mg 2%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 93mg 2%
*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.)