What are the Best Tips for Cooking Rhubarb?

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  • Written By: Soo Owens
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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The stalks of the rhubarb plant can be used in a number of ways during the cooking process. The red color provides a striking visual contrast in dishes, and the versatility of the stalks lends itself to use in a variety of entrees and desserts. Cooking rhubarb is a fairly straightforward process that depends on such factors as desired texture and consistency, quality of the rhubarb plant, and preparation of the stalks.

A rhubarb consists of large leaves that top medium length red stalks, which can range in color from light tinges of pink to a deeper red. The leafy portion is discarded because it is poisonous. The stalks are thoroughly cleaned and chopped in preparation for cooking rhubarb. In their raw state the stalks are crisp in texture and tart in taste. While the stalks can be consumed raw, most recipes call for cooking the rhubarb. Common methods cooking rhubarb stalks are boiling, stewing, and baking, usually with sugar to balance the tartness.


The cook should consider the source of the rhubarb. Rhubarb that is cultivated in heated greenhouses, also known as hothouses, have different properties than rhubarb that is grown in the field. The red stalks of hothouse rhubarb are brighter in color and have a more tender texture than its field grown counterparts. Its tart taste is also milder, requiring less sugar to balance the flavors. A general rule of thumb for sweeter tasting rhubarb is to pick out stalks that are thinner and bright red.

Use healthy, firm stalks that are free of discoloration and wilted parts. Rhubarb can be wrapped and saved in the refrigerator for up to one week. When needed, the stalks should be placed in cold water for an hour before cooking. Proper preparation will allow the stalks to cook more evenly. Stalks should be washed, trimmed, and examined for damaged areas or stringy filaments, which can be trimmed and peeled off. The stalks should then be chopped into one inch pieces for cooking, although some recipes, such as for pies and other desserts with fillings, may require smaller sizes.

Many rhubarb recipes call for a sweetener, such as sugar, to balance out its natural tart properties. The sugar ratio should be closely observed as the sweetness of rhubarb stalks can vary, and the cooking process will also enhance the taste of any natural sugars in the rhubarb. In order to avoid overpowering the rhubarb's taste, sugar should be added gradually throughout the cooking process. Occasionally taste the mixture until the desired sweetness is reached. Cooking rhubarb with other fruits allows the stalks to absorb natural flavors and sugars from the fruits, requiring the addition of less sweetener. The stalks can be cooked down into a liquid consistency, which is often desirable for jams and other recipes, but if crispness is desired, cook the rhubarb for a shorter period of time.


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Post 2

Rhubarb and apple pie is delicious, and doesn't require too much sugar to get a tangy and sweet flavor. I like to add a cinnamon sugar mixgture to the recipe because it goes great with the tang of the rhubarb.

Post 1

I love to roast rhubarb with a variety of vegetables because the different flavors compliment one another nicely. My favorite combination is rhubarb, squash, regular potatoes, and sweet potatoes roasted with a little bit of butter and seasonings.

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