Ten Ways to Use and Preserve Spring Rhubarb

April 23, 2014(updated on October 3, 2018)


I have a confession to make. As much as I’m enjoying this book tour (and truly, every step of it has been a total delight), I am ready to go home, see my husband, and cook in my little kitchen again.

To tide me over until Tuesday, when I’ll be home for a longer stretch than 12 hours, I’ve been digging back through the archives, to remind myself of what I like to cook this time of year. The thing that’s popping out at me most? Rhubarb! Here are nine ways that I’ve preserved and loved rhubarb in the past.

Cooking rhubarb

My first ever rhubarb preserve is still one of my favorites. It’s just rhubarb, vanilla and a little bit of earl grey tea for extra flavor.

rhubarb chutney

Another oldie but goodie is this recipe for rhubarb chutney. It was my first-ever chutney and is still one that I come back to about every other year.

rhubarb syrup

For summertime cocktails and vinaigrettes, cook yourself up a little bottle of rhubarb syrup. Next time I make it, I’m going to plunk a little bit of ginger in for extra zing.

rhubarb butter, from above

If you want less sugar, I find that a fruit butter is always the ticket. I’ve got both Rhubarb Butter with Orange and Strawberry Rhubarb Butter to choose from.


For something slightly more herbaceous, there’s always Rosemary Rhubarb Jam.

roasted rhubarb pieces

If you can bear to turn on your oven, how about some Roasted Rhubarb Compote (this link will take you to the Mrs. Wages site, but I promise, the recipe is still all mine).

macerating fruit

And finally, the small batches! Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. With roseflower water.

cake square

And if you’re not up for preserving at all, but want something tasty, may I suggest this rhubarb cake? It uses up the last of a jar of preserves you’ve got laying around, along with runny yogurt and whole wheat pastry flour. It’s one of my favorites for spring brunches.

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27 thoughts on "Ten Ways to Use and Preserve Spring Rhubarb"

  • The rhubarb orange butter is simply superb and the rhubarb syrup is a lot of fun. I made them last spring from your cookbook. Everyone raves about the butter and the kids like the syrup with sparkling water. I can’t wait to try the rosemary and rhubarb preserves or the compote! Still waiting for the snow to disappear here though before the rhubarb peeks out. 🙂

  • Yes! I only discovered rhubarb in the last few years and it’s definitely one of the best things in early spring. Your rhubarb syrup is one of my favorites, and last spring I found a recipe for rhubarb ginger jam with little pieces of candied ginger that, somehow, stays bright pink when I cook it in a wide, low pan instead of turning the kind of muted mauve-y color that most rhubarb jam does.

    Bummed I can’t make it out to your Chicago showing or I’d bring you a jar!

    1. (I take that last part back! Just found out you’ll be in Evanston which I have no excuse to miss.)

  • I just finished a batch of rhubarb syrup with ginger — I had some leftover ginger from your pickled sugar snap peas and thought “what the heck?”. It’s delicious, as were the pickles. My husband is making fun of me because he didn’t even get to try them 🙂

  • I still have piles of rhubarb in my freezer from mom’s garden last year. I have never seen one patch produce so much rhubarb in my life! I’m only hoping we get HALF of what we did last year, and I’ll be checking the patch on Sunday!

    I *am* sad I’m missing your Chicago appearance. I was just there for Passover, and I’m not due back until late June at the earliest.

    I made your rhubarb jam with the Earl grey last year (we used Lady grey, because we didn’t have any earl grey). DELICIOUS. It’s now my favorite jam! (and SO GOOD as a glaze on pork loin!)

  • Superb recap. Thanks for that. I expect to harvest the first few stalks of the season this weekend. I made a version of your syrup last year (rhubarb mojitos!), and I may have to give the ginger a try. Thanks for the inspiration. Hope the book tour is going well.

  • Rhubarb and blueberry pie/crisp/jam is one of my favorite flavor combinations. Oh, yes, and then there is rhubarb/blueberry-ade.

  • We make rhubarb water ice, our 8 year old son’s favorite. And on Fridays we pour Bluecoat gin over it in highballs.

    1 bunch of rhubarb, washed and cut into 1 inch segments (approx 3 cups)
    2 cups sugar
    6 cups water

    Put water and sugar into a pot and bring to a boil stirring frequently.
    Add cut rhubarb pieces.
    Boil for about 5 minutes until the rhubarb is soft.
    Pour mixture over a strainer into a large bowl. Use a spoon to get all of the water out of the strainer and into the bowl. Discard rhubarb mush.
    Allow the water to come to room temperature. At this point you may transfer it to popsicles or another freezing container.
    Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put into freezer over night or for at least 4 hours.
    Remove it from the freezer and use a fork to break up the ice into small pieces. Repeat every several hours until it is completely frozen.

  • Love your rhubarb earl grey jam. Have you ever experimented with honey as the sweetener and using Pomona pectin with the vanilla earl grey jam? Would love to hear any tips you might have! Love reading your blog and your first cookbook became a very fast favorite!

    1. I’ve not made the vanilla earl grey jam using honey and Pomona’s Pectin, though I have made other varieties of jams in that manner.

  • My rhubarb is UP! That should have about 25 exclamation points after it. It’s been a long winter.

    Thanks for the inspiration as always.

  • This is great, thank you! I’ve been buying rhubarb at the market every week since it’s been available, despite the fact that I don’t really know what to do with it. What can I say, it entices me yet I remain ignorant. Then I stress out for days that I’m not going to get around to cooking with it before it rots. I managed to make a couple batches of jam so far, but I’d prefer to do other things since I’m really not a huge jam eater. Rhubarb syrup and cake it is 🙂

  • I made the strawberry/rhubarb/rose water jam last night and it is wonderful! We will be using it as a filling with a layered Victoria Sponge this weekend.

  • I adore rhubarb in all forms. My Mom has made an amazing rhubarb relish (similar to your chutney) ever since I can remember. That stuff lasts forever! I love throwing a splash of dry white wine into rhubarb compote – gives it a little extra zing. Have never tried adding earl grey tea to preserves though, so that’s on my list once the rhubarb starts appearing up here.

  • I have a question, not a reply. I froze a lot of rhubarb, but when I took it out of the freezer, it was a nice color but had a really bad taste, kind of tinny, bitter taste, was it spoiled? When I froze it, I cut it into pieces and used my food saver, had it in freezer for 7 months, Is there a reason it spoiled and tasted terrible? Did I do it wrong? Thanks in antisapation of an answer as my rhubarb is growing fast, lol

    1. I have no idea why your rhubarb would have developed off-flavors while in the freezer. So sorry!

    2. Perhaps it was overly mature when it went into the freezer? The stalks lose their sweet tenderness as the season progresses, and can get downright nasty tasting if the plant has been allowed to go to flower. Also, is your freezer a frostless model? Those stay frostless by “cycling” the temperature up and down – in other words, partially thawing and then refreezing. That results in significant quality reduction over fairly short periods of time. A freezer that holds steady at zero degrees is good.

  • I made the rhubarb syrup after getting a Soda Stream. Fantastic! We stored it in a vintage pop bottle & it was so pretty while it lasted. I’ve also made the Rosemary Rhubarb jam–amazing with meats, in the slow cooker or after cooking by another method. Another fave is rhubarb BBQ sauce (in the Ball blue book as Victoria Sauce).

  • My favorite jam used to be strawberry freezer jam until I made rhubarb strawberry jam using strawberry jello in my rhubarb jam. It’s wonderful.

  • I have been really into rhubarb this year. Can anyone explain the difference between a fruit butter compared to a preserve/jam? Second, has anyone had any luck in preserving the color of rhubarb in their preserves? My has turned mauve and it’s only been less than 2 months. Thanks!

    1. A fruit butter is a smooth puree that’s had the bulk of the water cooked out. It relies on reduction for consistency. A jam is typically made from fruit, sugar, and pectin and is quite thick. A preserve is a more open-ended product that can be a bit looser and doesn’t always require additional pectin.

      As far as retaining color, sugar is the key. The higher amount of sugar in the product, the better the color will stick.

  • Hello,

    My life changed when I found you!

    Back again – looking for rhubarb recipes. The link to ‘Mrs. Wages’ for your compote recipe is broken. Where may I find your recipe?

    1. Here is that recipe.

      Roasted Rhubarb Compote – Makes 2 pints

      2 pounds rhubarb
      1/2 cup granulated sugar
      2 vanilla beans
      1 lemon

      Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash rhubarb and chop into two-inch lengths. Arrange rhubarb pieces in the bottom of an oven-safe baking dish.

      Put sugar in a small mixing bowl. Scrape vanilla bean seeds from the pods and add it to the sugar. Using a fine rasp, grate the lemon zest into the sugar. Toss sugar, vanilla seeds and lemon zest together and sprinkle over the rhubarb pieces. Cut the lemon in two and squeeze the juice from one half over the rhubarb.

      Place baking dish into the preheated over and roast for 20-25 minutes, until the rhubarb pieces are quite tender but have not lost their shape. When they’re done, their color will have faded into a dusky pink.

      Rhubarb can be spooned into a jar and refrigerated for 5-7 days, or can be canned for shelf stability. To process, funnel compote into prepared jars, wipe rims, and apply lids and rings. Processing a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.