Rhubarb is spring's biggest challenge and its best reward. On the heels of winter, its stalks emerge bitter and brittle, but no mind—with a bit of coaxing, it turns sweet and inviting, like spring. This beautiful vegetable (yes, vegetable) has a stunning ombré effect, which ranges from a deep strawberry pink to a pale yellow-green when you near the top of the stalks. It’s only available for a short time during spring, so stock up and make use of it in strawberry-rhubarb cupcakes, pies, shortcakes, and scones. Like most other fruits and vegetables, you can also slice the stalks into one-inch pieces and freeze them in a single layer. That way, you can still enjoy the best of spring’s tart superstar in even more dessert, drink, and even savory recipes.
Soon enough, we realize that its tough exterior is just a ruse. Feisty rhubarb loves a stiff cocktail just as much as a tart dessert and a savory main course. It's up for anything—because really, it's just as happy as you are that it's spring. To prove it, here are nearly two dozen rhubarb recipes to let loose with.
This isn’t an architectural cake—it’s tender and moist and almost, but not quite, like a cobbler, so you may even want to eat it in a bowl. But the most signature element of this dessert is the cinnamon-toasty flavor that comes from bread crumbs.
The rhubarb is delightfully roasted, holding is shape and is complimented with a simple syrup that is created with juicy strawberries, balsamic vinegar, sweet vermouth, pure maple syrup and a pinch of salt. Simplicity at it its finest.
An intensely refreshing, classic 19th century cocktail, updated with rhubarb and rosewater.
The secrets to releasing pork belly's magic don't require any special machinery or a food handler's certificate—they're techniques you already know, or can learn on the fly. One of them is this sweet and salty rhubarb compote.
This is an any-time-of-day cake. It's perfect for breakfast, brunch, snack, dessert, and anything in between. It's great with tart rhubarb, but the batter is versatile enough to work with most any fruit. If you make it with a sweeter fruit, consider reducing the amount of sugar in the batter.
This dessert is simple to put together, but tastes surprisingly complex. It's cool and tart, floral and herbal, creamy and sweet, all in one. If you're not a fan of rose, feel free to use plain whipped cream or leave the cream off altogher—the sorbet is delicious as is.
Fiery candied ginger is minced up in this crumb topping, and ground ginger is in the cake, too. It's just enough to give it a warm, flirty je ne sais quoi that doesn't try to shout over the rhubarb.
A silky and tangy blanket of rhubarb curd atop a pad of thick and crumbly spiced shortbread. The curd takes some elbow grease, but make the shortbread in a food processor if you have one handy. Once you have the two basic elements, all you do is fuse them with an icing spreader and finish with a few minutes in the oven.
This springy dessert is a twist on classic strawberry shortcakes, featuring a dose of zingy citrus, sweet vanilla, and tart rhubarb. The rye flour in these shortcakes gives them a bit of milky sweetness.
Rhubarb's tang is the perfect foil for this super rich scone (made with heavy cream instead of milk, hence the naughty). You almost don't need jam, but strawberry would be nice, as would some clotted cream on the side.
Homemade lemonade is always a treat, and this lovely pink version with the surprising flavor of rhubarb and brightness of fresh mint is sure to impress. A shot of rum or gin couldn't hurt!
Rhubarb and Earl Grey are a natural pairing, and one best left relatively unadorned. Toss tart chunks of rhubarb with pieces of apple, a little sugar, a pinch of cardamom, some Meyer lemon juice and some orange zest before adding the tea and gently softening everything in a 350°F oven. The fruit mellows and grows tender without falling apart, and it emerges from the oven swimming in a subtle, tea-infused broth, which thickens into a light syrup as it cools.
Additional ideas from The Editors:
Expert baker and host of “Bake It Up a Notch” Erin McDowell discovered a brilliant way to infuse rich tres leches cake with fruity flavor. This spring adaptation features the classic combination of strawberries and rhubarb, which get puréed together, giving this cake a beautiful rosy hue.
This recipe reads like a list of spring’s MVP (Most Valuable Produce). Thick, juicy pork chops get smothered in a sweet and savory honey-butter and served alongside a spiced rhubarb sauce and herb-laden peas. As contributor Grant Melon writes, this dish is "spring on a plate."
Stretch rhubarb season well into summer by making this quick, fruity cordial. It makes a delicious spritz with some sparkling water or wine, but the possibilities for creative cocktails with this cordial are endless.
Semifreddo, which is Italian for "half frozen," is a great way to make ice cream at home without a machine. This rhubarb semifreddo is extra tangy, thanks to the addition of mascarpone cheese. Sandwich scoops between spicy, buttery ginger cookies or enjoy the frozen treat all on its own.
"This coffee cake is fit for spring, thanks to a rhubarb jam that counterbalances the sweetness of the sponge and the lemony, gingery crumble," says contributor Grant Melton. I'll take a large latte and a fat slice of this sweet and tart crumble-topped cake for breakfast, thanks so much.
If you’re tired of strawberries stealing the show, this is the pie for you. Anne Dimock's Genius Recipe plays on the power of simplicity, its filling composed of just rhubarb, sugar, flour, and a dash of cinnamon, to "bring out the rhubarb's fire."
Want a dessert-showstopper? This recipe takes the cake, and tastes as good as it looks. Once flipped, a delicately flavored cake ends up blanketed in a buttery crumb topping and gooey, jammy rhubarb. Count me in.
Food52’s resident baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell riffed on the original strawberry-rhubarb pie and introduced these vanilla cupcakes, which are filled with the beloved pie filling.
Here’s an example of a savory dinner recipe that makes just as good use of rhubarb as a buttery pie crust does. Homemade honey rhubarb butter is rubbed under the entire skin of a chicken, which infuses the bird with its spring-forward flavor.
“Here, chopped pistachios pop against a lime– and cardamom-scented cream, and all gets shellacked by a heady rose syrup,” writes recipe developers Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer. The flaky baklava is served with rhubarb too, which brings in a juicy, slightly chewy bite and weighs tartness against the more in-your-face sweet cream.
We love any anytime cake and are so grateful to recipe developer Sarah Jampel for giving us an excuse to snack on this rhubarb dessert for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (that is what she intended, right?). Rye flour pairs exceptionally well with rhubarb, the tart fruit accentuating rye’s malty sweetness. This cake is lightly sweet, zesty, and perfect any time of day, just as its name suggests.
What's your favorite Springy rhubarb recipe? Sound off in the comments!
This article was updated by our editors in February 2022 with even more rhubarb recipes.