Rhubarb: How to cook, store, freeze the perfect pie plant

Credit: E. Jason Wambsgans

Credit: E. Jason Wambsgans

As we are smack dab in the middle of rhubarb season, it’s time to get creative and enjoy this wonderful tart fruit.

We combed our archives for rhubarb recipes and know-how.

You can find stalks of field-grown or hothouse-grown rhubarb in stores and at farmers markets now.

Rhubarb is one of the first fruits of spring, though botanically speaking, it’s a vegetable). Hothouse rhubarb is light pink with yellow-green leaves; field-grown rhubarb is cherry red with green leaves.

One of the best things about rhubarb is it stores and freezes well.

Rhubarb is dubbed the “pie plant” because it’s a popular ingredient for pie. But you will also find it in cobblers, crisps, jams, muffins and sauces.

Known for its very tart taste, rhubarb needs to be paired with a sweetener like sugar or honey, depending on the recipe. In many recipes, rhubarb is paired with strawberries, which are known for their sweet taste.

Rhubarb also has a nutritional side. It’s nutritional benefit includes that it’s high in calcium, vitamin C and fiber. Until you add the sugar, it’s also low in calories.


— Look for rhubarb stalks that are crisp and not wilted.

— Store fresh (unwashed) rhubarb in the refrigerator for about five days. Wash before using.

— Rhubarb takes well to freezing and does not need to be cooked beforehand.

— Prepare rhubarb for storing by washing the stalks well, remove and discard any leaves — they contain toxic oxalic acid. Cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces and store in a freezer bag for up to one year.

— If you plan to stew rhubarb for a sauce or compote and it’s frozen, there’s no need to thaw it. Place it in a pot and heat it slowly over low to medium heat. To use it in a pie or other baked good, thaw and pat it dry using paper towels.


— Basic rhubarb crisp: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 1 1/2- to 2-quart baking dish or make individual crisps using ramekins. In a bowl, combine 6 cups of 1/2-inch pieces of rhubarb, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup orange juice, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and, if desired, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Stir well and pour into the baking dish. In another bowl, combine 1 cup flour, 3/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup sliced almonds. Cut in 1 stick of unsalted butter until the mixture resembles granola. Sprinkle over the rhubarb mixture. Bake 30 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender. Remove from the oven and cool before serving.

— Rhubarb sauce: In a saucepan, combine 3 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until rhubarb is translucent and tender. The rhubarb should break down and the mixture should be of a sauce consistency. Taste and add more sugar if the mixture is still too tart. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. Serve over pancakes or waffles, ice cream or frozen yogurt.

— Rhubarb compote: Place 1 cup fresh strawberries (hulled and sliced), 1 cup diced rhubarb, diced, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice.



Serves: 9 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 1 hour plus cooling time

Vegetable oil cooking spray

3 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3 cups strawberries, quartered

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons trans fat-free margarine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a round 9- or 10-inch oven-safe pie plate with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons flour and lemon juice. Toss until rhubarb and strawberries are coated; set aside. In a separate bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup flour, oats, and brown sugar; toss to combine. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut in margarine until the mixture becomes crumbly.

Pour fruit mixture into prepared pie plate and top with the oatmeal crumb topping. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the fruit mixture bubbles and crumb topping is lightly golden brown. Serve warm or cold.

Created by Darlene Zimmerman, MS, RD, and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

158 calories (11 percent from fat), 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 35 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 24 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol, 52 mg calcium, 2 g fiber. Food exchanges: 2 fruit, 1/4 fat.


Serves: 8 (generously) / Preparation time: 30 minutes (plus dough-chilling time)

Total time: 2 hours

If making your own crust, chill the butter and shortening in the freezer to get it very cold. You can substitute store-bought ready-to-roll pie crust.


21/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) very cold unsalted butter, diced

1/2 cup very cold vegetable shortening, diced

1/4 cup ice water

1/4 cup chilled vodka


1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 3/4-inch-long pieces (about 5 to 6 cups)

2 cups sliced strawberries

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, plus 1 tablespoon orange juice

Coarse salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 large egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash

Sugar for sprinkling, optional

To make the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, place the flour, sugar and salt; pulse to combine. Add the butter and shortening pieces. Process just until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons vodka, and pulse to combine. Continue adding vodka and water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together and is slightly tacky but sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

To make the filling: Mix together rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, orange zest and juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

To finish the pie: On a floured surface, roll out one dough disk so it’s 1/8-inch thick and will fit in a 9-inch pie plate. Place the dough in the pan, pour in the filling; dot top with butter. Refrigerate while making top crust.

Roll remaining disk to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut into at least 10 inch-wide strips using a fluted pastry cutter.

Lay 5 strips across pie. Fold back every other strip, and lay a horizontal strip across the center of the pie. Unfold folded strips, then fold back remaining strips. Lay another horizontal strip across pie. Repeat folding and unfolding strips to weave a lattice pattern. Repeat on remaining side.

Trim bottom and top crusts to a 1-inch overhang using kitchen shears and press together to seal edges. Fold edges under, and crimp as desired. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Remove the pie from the refrigerator. Brush crust with egg wash, and sprinkle generously with sugar. Place a foil-lined baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch juices, and bake pie on middle rack for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking until filling is vigorously bubbling in center and bottom crust is golden, about 1 hour. (Tent loosely with foil after 1 hour if crust is browning too quickly.) Transfer pie to a wire rack, and let cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, June 2011 issue. Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

639 calories (48 percent from fat), 34 g fat (15 g saturated fat), 77 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 12 mg sodium, 66 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber.

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