Ready for some incredible rhubarb recipes? No idea what it is or how to cook with rhubarb? Here’s why to get to know this terrific plant, which can be used in soooooo many delicious rhubarb recipes all season long.
If you’re not familiar with this veggie that’s used like a fruit, you will be by the end of this post, the third most viewed on HealthyGreenSavvy!
Here’s why I grow FIVE rhubarb plants in our tiny urban lot and why you may want to get to know this cool seasonal vegetable. Plus more than 40 of the best real food rhubarb recipes from around the blogosphere!
What is Rhubarb, Anyway?
Rhubarb is a giant perennial vegetable (a relative of buckwheat) that thrives in a range of climates. It has big beautiful leaves that, by the way, are poisonous, containing toxic amounts of oxalic acid. What we eat are the (not poisonous) stalks, which are notoriously sour.
Though technically a vegetable, rhubarb’s sourness means it’s mostly used with copious amounts of sweetener that work against its healthy nutritional profile. But working a veggie into a healthied-up quickbread recipe is still a good move.
1 cup of fresh, unsweetened rhubarb (about 2 medium stalks) has only 25 calories and is a good source of potassium, which many of us are deficient in. It also has an array of vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols to support your health.
Just go easy on the sugar, k?
Why and How to Use Rhubarb
Rhubarb was not really on my radar until I attended a workshop on dehydrating, where Mary T. Bell, author of several books on the subject, passed around samples of something she called “rhubarb lace,” a fruit leather made from rhubarb.
It was A-M-AAAAAA-ZING. Before that I had no idea you could even make your own fruit leather, nevermind one from a peculiar seasonal vegetable.
Rhubarb leather is the reason I grow rhubarb. After that workshop, I sought out rhubarb divisions and started growing it everywhere I could.
Rhubarb leather is absolutely delicious and takes the place of candy as a special sweet treat for my kiddos and me. And it’s technically a vegetable! I’ve simplified Bell’s recipe a little over the years and reduced the amount of added sugar (as well as strawberry-flavored jello, which you totally don’t need, and absolutely don’t want in your healthy treats!)
Check out the recipe for homemade fruit leather made from rhubarb.
In my opinion, rhubarb leather is reason enough to grow lots of rhubarb, but there are other lots more if you’re not convinced! If I could send you a taste of our rhubarb leather through the interwebs, though, I know you would be a convert as well.
Since I now have such an abundance of rhubarb, I’ve had the pleasure of trying it in numerous other delicious rhubarb recipes.
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Because they’re ripe around the same time, rhubarb and strawberries are often paired, so you can also make strawberry-rhubarb sauces, breads, or crisps. I prefer to devour my strawberries plain, so they don’t make it into our baked goods, and the rhubarb’s great on its own.
Note that if you want to enjoy rhubarb all summer long, you need to pick your plants somewhat reguarly or the stalks will be tough.
If you’re making rhubarb recipes, cooking and blending the sauce will make tougher stalks usable, but they’ll have more stringiness than when made from more tender stalks. I’d test out rhubarb late in the season if the plant hasn’t been picked regularly before serving your favorite rhubarb recipes to guests!
Another way to extend the season for enjoying these yummy rhubarb recipes is freezing cut rhubarb chunks, which can be used in baked goods or cooked for rhubarb sauce or leather any time of year. Here’s the lowdown on the simplest food preservation methods to help preserve your rhubarb harvest. Note that if you’re using frozen rhubarb in one of these rhubarb recipes, you measure it before thawing as it will lose a lot of liquid once it thaws.
You can also can cooked rhubarb. Here are instructions for canning stewed rhubarb from Homespun Seasonal Living.
Delicious Rhubarb Recipes to Try
Rhubarb is a great replacement for or addition to berries in healthy quick-breads or muffins (recipes pretty much interchangeable), and makes delicious rhubarb crisps and crumbles perfect for early summer potlucks (see rhubarb crisp recipe below).
If you have a sour tooth, rhubarb is very tasty diced fresh with just a light sprinkling of sugar.
The sauce used in the leather recipe can also be eaten like apple sauce or as an ice cream topping. It’s really delicious and surprisingly addictive. Try it over pancakes or swirled into some homemade yogurt.
Some folks even make homemade barbecue sauces and drinks, both alcolohic and otherwise, with rhubarb. Check out the rhubarb recipes below for some incredible ideas for using this wonderful seasonal veggie.
Grow or Buy Your Rhubarb?
Growing rhubarb is *really* easy and will save you money and keep you in rhubarb for all these rhubarb recipes. Plus rhubarb is a gorgeous addition to your garden.
You can buy rhubarb at farmers’ markets and grocery stores, but it’s so easy to grow, I can’t imagine paying for it. It’s a readily divided perennial, so you might find a friend with one they’ll share with you so you don’t even need to buy the plant. Read more on how to get plants free in this post.
I started with a just a couple little divisions from another gardener, and now I have five (soon to be seven) giant bushy plants filled with big stalks ready for all our favorite rhubarb recipes, and for sharing with other gardeners!
If you don’t want to grow it yourself, one of your neighbors likely has enough rhubarb to spare for a crisp. Not everyone goes as nuts over rhubarb as I do. Yet.
Here is a great guide to growing and harvesting rhubarb from An Oregon Cottage. If you keep picking it all summer, it shouldn’t get tough. Test out what you’ve got if you’re over a month into summer weather and your plant hasn’t been picked consistently.
Note that if you’re dealing with a shadier garden, rhubarb is one of the 40+ vegetables that grow in shade!
Ready to dive into some luscious rhubarb treats? Here are some awesome rhubarb recipes to get you started!
Easy Rhubarb Crisp Recipe
This rhubarb crisp is a very easy dessert that travels well to all the potlucks we tend to have in early summer. Use organic ingredients when possible.
6 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (12-15 medium stalks)
scant 1/4 cup coconut sugar or sweetener of choice
1 tablespoon orange or lemon juice (optional)
3/4 cup brown or coconut sugar, loosely packed
4 tbl butter
1/2 cup flour (I like to use ivory wheat, a whole-grain flour that’s not as dense as regular whole wheat; if you’re gluten free you can try other flours as well)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup rolled oats (I use thick rolled oats)
1/2 cup walnuts (can be omitted for nut allergies)
- Toss rhubarb with 1/4 cup coconut sugar and (juice if using) and spread in a greased 9-inch square baking dish. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Put butter, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse 20-30 seconds, till it forms little balls. Add oats and nuts if using and pulse a few times to combine.
- Crumble the topping over rhubarb and bake until golden, about 45 minutes.
More Delicious Rhubarb Recipes
Honey Rhubarb Water Kefir Soda (Raising Generation Nourished)
Fermented Strawberry Rhubarb Soda (Learning and Yearning)
Rhubarb and Honey Soda (And Here We Are)
Rhubarb Mead (Practical Self-Reliance)
Rhubarb Cherry Wine (Common Sense Home)
Homemade Rhubarb Wine (Practical Self-Reliance)
2 Ingredient Instant Pot Rhubarb Juice (All the Nourishing Things)
Rhubarbade (Common Sense Home)
Savory Rhubarb Recipes
Carrot Rhubarb Soup (Tasting Page)
Rhubarb Vinaigrette (Dinner with Julie)
Spiced Rhubarb Chutney (This is So Good)
Rhubarb Apricot Chutney (Perfect Pantry)
Rhubarb Salsa (Traditional Cooking School)
Fermented Rhubarb (Fermentools)
Rhubarb Muffins and Breads
Rhubarb Orange Quickbread (Strength and Sunshine)
Gluten Free Dairy Free Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (Just Take a Bite)
Rhubarb Honey Cobbler (Eat Beautiful)
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, Honey Sweetened & Gluten-Free (Common Sense Home)
Grain-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler (Recipes to Nourish)
Rhubarb Banana Bread (Kim’s Cravings)
Raspberry Rhubarb Bread (Eating Well)
Vanilla Rhubarb Yogurt Blue Cornbread (Strength and Sunshine)
Rhubarb Sauces and Breakfasts
Rhubarb Compote (Tasting Page)
Rhubarb Sauce (Nourished Kitchen)
Strawberry Rhubarb Butter (Grow Cook Forage Ferment)
Rhubarb Apple Sauce (Just Take a Bite)
Homemade Rhubarb Sauce (Learning and Yearning)
Rhubarb Chia Jam (Cookie and Kate)
Honey Rhubarb Granola (Raising Generation Nourished)
Rhubarb Quinoa Breakfast Porridge (Just Take a Bite)
Paleo Instant Pot Strawberry Rhubarb Custard (All the Nourishing Things)
Strawberry Rhubarb Creamsicles (Raising Generation Nourished)
Cherry Rhubarb Jello (Just Take a Bite)
Rhubarb Sorbet (Paleo Hacks)
No Churn Honey Rhubarb Ice Cream (Raising Generation Nourished)
Rhubarb Pecan Ice Cream (Just Take a Bite)
Rhubarb Gelato (Food 52)
Traditional Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Maple Cream (Butter for All)
Rhubarb Upside Down Cake (Adamant Kitchen)
Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt Cake (Sassy Kitchen)
Need more ideas? Here are a gazillion from some pinners who also love rhubarb!
I ran a search including the word “healthy” but I don’t think everything there qualifies. Try substituting whole grain flours where you can, use butter or coconut oil instead of margarine or canola, and be as sparing as you can with the sweeteners. You can also try subbing in some apple sauce so you can cut down on sugar.
What are your favorite uses for rhubarb?
Pin to save these fantastic rhubarb recipes for next time you have rhubarb on hand!
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Photo credits: Jeremy Keith, stu_spivack, Whitney, Katherine, Meal Makeover Moms via Flickr