Cooking Rhubarb: Tips and Tricks for Delicious Results

Are you looking for a delicious and unique ingredient to add to your cooking repertoire? Look no further than rhubarb! This tart and tangy vegetable is a favorite among many, and can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a beginner in the kitchen, we’ve got the tips and tricks you need to make the most of this versatile ingredient. From choosing the right rhubarb to pairing it with the perfect flavors, you’ll be cooking up a storm in no time.

Cooking Rhubarb: Tips and Tricks for Delicious Results | Eat Urban Garden
Cooking Rhubarb: Tips and Tricks for Delicious Results

What is Rhubarb?

Rhubarb is a plant often used in cooking that is botanically categorized as a vegetable. It has a tart flavor and is known for its bright pinkish-red stalk that’s commonly used in desserts like pies and crisps. Rhubarb is a seasonal vegetable that is available typically from the end of winter to early summertime. It is grown in many regions of the world, including the United States, Europe and Asia.

Origins and Characteristics

Rhubarb originated in China over 5,000 years ago before it made its way to the West. It was initially used for medicinal purposes due to its high concentration of vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium and potassium. By the 18th century, rhubarb was being cultivated for culinary purposes.

Rhubarb is a perennial plant that grows from a large underground stem called a rhizome. It’s a relatively easy crop to grow as it requires little maintenance other than regular watering, fertilization and sunlight. The stalks of rhubarb can grow as high as 2 feet and are ripe for harvest when they reach a diameter of approximately one inch.

Versatility in Culinary Applications

Rhubarb is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of different ways in the kitchen. Its tart flavor pairs well with sweet fruits like strawberries and raspberries, making it an excellent addition to homemade jams and jellies. Rhubarb also works well in pies, crisps and other baked goods, where it can be combined with sugar and spices to create a delicious dessert.

Beyond desserts, rhubarb can also be used in savory dishes like chutneys and sauces. It’s particularly delicious when paired with protein-rich foods like pork and chicken. Rhubarb can also be used to make a refreshing summer beverage by steeping it in sugar water to create a flavorful syrup that can be mixed with sparkling water or your favorite liquor.

What Makes Rhubarb a Healthy Choice?

Rhubarb is a spring vegetable that is often used in desserts and jams. However, this tart plant is not only delicious but also incredibly healthy. In this section, we will explore the nutritional benefits of rhubarb.

Nutritional Benefits

Rhubarb is packed with nutrients and antioxidants that can benefit your health in many ways. One cup of chopped rhubarb contains:

  • 26 calories
  • 1 gram of protein
  • 0.2 grams of fat
  • 6 grams of carbohydrates
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 1 gram of sugar
  • 35% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C
  • 11% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin K
  • 10% of the daily recommended intake of calcium

Rhubarb is also a good source of potassium, magnesium, and manganese, which are important for many bodily functions.

Potential Health Benefits

In addition to its nutritional profile, rhubarb has several health benefits. For example, studies have shown that the antioxidants found in rhubarb may help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Tip: To get the most nutrients out of rhubarb, be sure to eat it raw or slightly cooked.

What Are the Best Ways to Cook Rhubarb?

Rhubarb is a tart vegetable that is commonly used in desserts and jams. It’s a versatile ingredient that can be cooked in a variety of ways to create delicious dishes, from sweet to savory. Here are some of the best ways to cook rhubarb:

Baking Rhubarb

Baking is an easy and popular way to cook rhubarb. Simply chop the rhubarb into small pieces, mix with sugar, and bake in a preheated oven for around 20-30 minutes. Baking rhubarb brings out its natural sweetness and creates a soft and tender texture that’s perfect for pies, crumbles, and cakes.

Poaching Rhubarb

Poaching is another popular method for cooking rhubarb. It involves simmering the rhubarb in a liquid, such as water, sugar syrup, or red wine, until it’s soft and tender. This method is great for creating a compote that can be used as a topping for yogurt, ice cream, or pancakes. You can also add spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, or ginger to add extra flavor.

  • To make a sugar syrup for poaching rhubarb, heat equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Then add the rhubarb and simmer for 5-10 minutes until tender.

Grilling Rhubarb

Grilling is an unconventional but delicious way to cook rhubarb. It brings out the natural smoky flavor and creates a crispy outer texture while keeping the inside soft. Simply brush the rhubarb with oil and grill for 3-5 minutes on each side. You can serve grilled rhubarb with savory dishes like roasted meats or use it to make a sweet grilled dessert with honey and cream.

Tip: Only grill thick rhubarb stems to prevent them from falling apart.

What Are the Best Complements for Rhubarb?

While rhubarb can shine on its own, pairing it with other ingredients can elevate its flavor and create a more well-rounded dish. Here are some of the most popular complements for rhubarb:

Sweet and Savory

Rhubarb has a unique tartness that pairs well with sweet ingredients like sugar and honey. However, it can also work in savory dishes with ingredients like ginger, garlic, and shallots. Rhubarb chutney is a great example of a sweet and savory dish that incorporates the vegetable.


Combining rhubarb with other fruits can add depth and complexity to a dish. Strawberries are a classic pairing for rhubarb, but it can also work well with raspberries, blackberries, and even apples. Rhubarb can also be added to fruit pies and tarts for a tangy twist.


The creaminess of dairy can balance out the tartness of rhubarb. Adding whipped cream, ice cream, or yogurt to a rhubarb dish can make it more delicious and satisfying. Rhubarb fool is a popular dessert that combines stewed rhubarb with whipped cream.

Baked Goods

Rhubarb can be incorporated into a variety of baked goods, including cakes, muffins, and scones. Combining rhubarb with cinnamon, nutmeg, and other warm spices can create a comforting and delicious treat.

Experimenting with different ingredients and flavor combinations can help you discover the perfect complement for your rhubarb dish. Keep in mind that rhubarb is versatile and can work in both sweet and savory preparations.

How Can You Store Rhubarb?

If you want to enjoy the delicious taste of rhubarb all year round, it is essential that you store it correctly. Here are some tips for properly storing rhubarb to keep it fresh and flavorful:

1. Choose Fresh Rhubarb

The first step in storing rhubarb is to choose fresh stalks with a deep color and no blemishes. The color of the stalks should be bright, and they should feel firm to the touch.

2. Store in the Refrigerator

Rhubarb can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Wrap the stalks in a damp paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. The paper towel will keep the stalks moist and prevent them from becoming dried out.

3. Freeze for Later

If you can’t use your rhubarb immediately, consider freezing it for later use. Wash and chop the stalks into small pieces and place them in an airtight container. They can be stored in the freezer for up to a year.

4. Prepare the Rhubarb

Before storing rhubarb, it’s important to remove the leaves, which can be toxic. Rinse the stalks with cool water, and trim off the ends. If you are cutting the stalks into smaller pieces, be sure to cut them evenly so that they will cook evenly.

5. Cook with Rhubarb

There are many ways to incorporate rhubarb into your cooking, and it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make a rhubarb compote to serve with yogurt or ice cream.
  • Bake rhubarb into a delicious crumble or pie.
  • Use rhubarb to make a tangy barbecue sauce for meats.
  • Add rhubarb to salads for a sweet and tart flavor.
  • Make a rhubarb jam to spread on toast or crackers.

How Can You Grow Your Own Rhubarb?

Rhubarb is a delicious and versatile plant that can be grown easily in your own backyard as long as you follow a few simple steps.

Choose the Right Soil and Location

To get started, you will need to find the right soil and location for your rhubarb plants. Rhubarb prefers well-drained, fertile soil that is rich in organic matter, with a pH of 6.0-6.8. Avoid planting rhubarb in soil that is too sandy or too heavy, as this can lead to poor growth and decreased yields.

Choose a location that is well-protected from strong winds and receives full or partial sun. Rhubarb plants do not like hot weather, so it is best to choose a location that is shaded during the hottest part of the day.

Planting Techniques

The best time to plant rhubarb is in early spring, as soon as the soil can be worked and the danger of frost has passed. You can plant rhubarb from seeds, but it is more common to plant young plants or “crowns” that are 1-3 years old.

Plant the crowns in a hole that is 1-2 inches deeper than the root, and space them 3-4 feet apart in rows that are 4-5 feet apart. Cover the crowns with soil, and water well.

Maintaining Healthy Plants

Once your rhubarb plants are established, it is important to take proper care of them to ensure healthy growth and high yields. Here are some tips for maintaining healthy plants:

  • Water the plants regularly during dry periods to keep the soil moist.
  • Apply a layer of compost or rotted manure around the plants in early spring to provide nutrients.
  • Remove any flowers that appear on the plants, as they will take away from the growth of the leaves and stems.
  • Harvest the stalks when they are firm and fully grown, but do not cut any stalks during the first year to allow the plants to become well-established.

Happy Cooking and Thanks for Reading!

We hope these tips and tricks have given you the confidence to try your hand at cooking rhubarb. Remember, whether it’s in a pie, sauce, or savory dish, rhubarb adds a unique tartness that can complement many flavors. Experiment and find what works best for you!

Cooking Rhubarb: Tips and Tricks for Delicious Results

Discover the best tips and tricks for cooking rhubarb, whether you’re making a pie, sauce, or savory dish. Learn how to pick the right stalks, prepare them for cooking, and enhance their unique flavor. These tips will help you create delicious and memorable rhubarb dishes!

  • 6-8 large rhubarb stalks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 unbaked pie crust
  1. Line a 9-inch pie dish with the unbaked pie crust.
  2. Trim the ends of the rhubarb stalks and slice them into 1-inch pieces. In a large bowl, mix the rhubarb, sugar, flour, and cinnamon until the rhubarb is evenly coated.
  3. Pour the rhubarb mixture into the prepared pie crust. Cut the butter into small pieces and scatter them on top of the filling. Sprinkle the vanilla extract over the top.
  4. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Let the pie cool before serving.
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