7 Delicious Ways to Use Rhubarb

Pile of rhubarb stalks

Timothy Vollmer / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Rhubarb is incredibly versatile. It's most commonly used in baking, but the following recipes show that it's great for savory dishes, as well as drinks and preserves.

It was late fall when my family moved into a new house last year, so I wasn’t aware of the magnificent rhubarb patch tucked into a corner between the shed and cedar hedge. In early springtime, my children excavated the sandy corner with their Tonka trucks, but one day I spotted tiny curled rhubarb leaves poking out of the mangled dirt and evicted my children from that particular dirt patch. (They moved to the herb garden instead, where they began decimating the peppermint.) Then we watched the amazingly resilient rhubarb recover and thrive.

Now I harvest handfuls of the deep red stalks every few days. I love it for baking, preserving, and cooking, while my kids sport the giant leaves as sun hats until they go limp. (Just don’t eat the leaves! They contain oxalic acid, a toxin that should not be ingested in large amounts.)

While the rhubarb season may be ending in the United States, it’s in full swing here in Ontario where I live. Use this unusual perennial and try some of these delicious recipes.

1. Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

Jar of rhubarb jam with a handwritten label
Squirrel Nation / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

For once, rhubarb is not paired with strawberries in a jam recipe! The combination is common but frustrating when strawberries are not yet in season and there’s a ton of rhubarb waiting to be used. So I was delighted to discover this recipe that fills out the rhubarb with a double punch of ginger – both candied and fresh. (I substituted 2 teaspoons ground ginger for the fresh while boiling the fruit down, since I forgot to add it earlier. The result was still delicious.) I have now made two batches and declare it my newest favorite jam recipe.

Find recipe here.

2. Rhubarb Buckle with Ginger Crumb

Close-up of rhubarb buckle crust
Chris Hamby / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The combination of rhubarb and ginger is delicious. This is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made – moist and soft with rhubarb mixed right into the batter, with a crispy, sugary crumble topping that was hard to resist straight from the bowl.

Find recipe here.

3. Rhubarb Lentil Soup

Lentil and rhubarb soup
Salvatore D'Alia / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Who says rhubarb has to be sweet? It closely resembles celery, after all, which nobody would ever think of using in a dessert! This traditional Middle Eastern lentil soup recipe uses a hefty quantity of fresh rhubarb to add a bright, sour taste.

Find recipe here.

4. Rhubarb Compote

Rhubarb compote and berries on top of ice cream

NatalieMaynor / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Compote is a fancy name for stewed rhubarb, which is a very useful recipe to know how to make. Compote can be eaten plain, mixed into yogurt and granola for a tasty breakfast, served over ice cream or vanilla pudding. I like to add a touch of almond extract.

Combine 4 1⁄2 cups chopped rhubarb, 1 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar, and 2 tbsp lemon juice in a pan. Stir until sugar dissolves. Simmer until rhubarb softens, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and chill.

5. Rhubarb and Raspberry Crostata

Slice of rhubarb and raspberry crostata
 Greta Ceresini / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Wow your dinner guests with this impressive yet straightforward dessert. It’s much easier than making a pie but just as good. The whole-wheat crust is fragile yet easy to repair. It goes perfectly with the tart rhubarb-raspberry combination, but feel free to substitute based on what fruits are in season.

Find recipe here.

6. Rhubarb Iced Tea

Glass of rhubarb iced tea topped with a lemon
 yeoul Shin / Unsplash

This is my mother’s recipe. It’s a refreshing, delicious drink for hot days, served over ice, perhaps with a bit of ginger ale to add fizz.

Combine 6 cups chopped rhubarb and 1 cup granulated sugar in a saucepan. Add 2 cups of water. Stew over medium heat until soft, 7-10 minutes. Strain if you prefer it clear (although Mom recommends leaving some pieces of rhubarb).

Meanwhile, make green tea. Steep 4 tea bags in 2 liters (half-gallon) of water. Remove tea bags once flavor is intense. Add rhubarb mixture. Add sugar to taste and stir to dissolve. Chill and serve cold.

7. Cinnamon-Rhubarb Muffins

Half a dozen rhubarb muffins on a plate
Whitney / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

I come from a family of rhubarb lovers, as you may have guessed by now. My sister makes these Cinnamon-Rhubarb Muffins and sells them freshly baked at her restaurant. She bakes them a wood-fired pizza oven early in the morning when the oven is still cool. They get snatched up almost as quickly as they’re made.

Find recipe here.