• Rhubarb and chocolate crumble (Benito Martin)Source: Benito Martin
The vegetable we treat as a fruit earns its keep over and over and over.
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1 Jul 2021 - 10:33 AM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2021 - 10:07 AM

Anyone who has ever grown rhubarb is (a) lucky, (b) a genius and (c) likely to be searching up this very list. When rhubarb starts growing, it doesn't quite know when to stop.

The seasonal cook: Rhubarb
Chef and columnist O Tama Carey uncovers the unusual case of rhubarb’s dual identity. This ruby-hued plant with alluring sharpness straddles the border between vegetable and fruit, making it a delicious addition to both sweet and savoury dishes.

"I think rhubarb can become a glut issue as a healthy plant is incredibly productive and if you happen to plant more than one plant, you'll be inundated with edible stalks - more than you can handle," says Hannah Maloney from Good Life Permaculture. "That's where sharing comes in handy!"

Whether you've got a glut from the garden, or you 'accidentally on purpose' over-bought at the shops, these rhubarb recipes are for you. Sometimes it's all vegetable, sometimes it's more fruit, but all times it's insanely delicious and nutritious when treated just right.

Savoury side

It's sadly rare to find a recipe that embraces rhubarb's tart side. So often it features in sweet dishes that add a ton of sugar to hide its natural sourness. This salad recipe manages to balance rhubarb with the strong flavours of olives and goat's cheese, all tempered by a creamy lentil base.

Tart tart

A galette like this strawberry and rhubarb version is the perfect way to showcase fresh fruit and vegetables. They are super-easy to make and the more rustic the end result, the better it tastes...

Pear and rhubarb cobbler

Dating back to the early British settlers of North America, cobblers are based on seasonal fruits and topped with a wet, scone-like mixture. The result is a simple pie of sorts with the topping resembling cobblestones – thought to be the reason for this homely dessert's name.

Rhubarb, pistachio and orange blossom frangipane tart with rhubarb syrup

Combining French and Middle Eastern influences, this traditional frangipane tart is scented with orange blossom water and filled with rhubarb and pistachios. It's a stunning and simple recipe, and one which you should add to your dessert repertoire.

Savour on

Another delightfully savoury rhubarb dish is this traditional Dutch pork recipe. Rhubarb, apple cider and chilli offset the richness of the pork and the long, slow cooking time benefits the rhubarb as much as it does the meat.

Bar full

Make a fruity take on a standard muesli bar. The tangy rhubarb adds moistness and flavour to make an oat bar so good it practically eats itself.

Crumbling in

Rhubarb crumble has to be the pinnacle of rhubarbdom. This particular recipe adds chocolate to send the richness completely OTT. Other recipes are slightly more subdued:

Strawberry and rhubarb crumble

Hot tip: Cooking crumble is a great way to make friends and also lure your neighbours into thinking you are a baking genius, just saying.

Rhubarb crumble (rabarberpaj)
Pear and rhubarb crumble with almond and oat topping

Try this delicious pear and rhubarb crumble with almond and oat topping.

Good mornings

Here's how you start the day right: add rhubarb and honey labneh to your quinoa porridge.

Good evenings

Rhubarb is equally good stirred through rice pudding. With the rich red of rhub and the green of pistachios against creamy rice, this dish could only be Italian...

Baked rice pudding with rhubarb

Rice pudding is the ultimate in comfort food. Coconut milk gives this version a contemporary twist and when topped with vanilla-baked rhubarb, it is a winter pudding you will want to make time and time again.

Fregola pudding with poached strawberries and rhubarb (budino di fregola con fragole e rabarbaro)

Fregola is another distinctively Sardinian ingredient. It is a type of semolina-based pasta, similar to couscous, that is used in soups and stuffings. Here, Giovanni uses it to take rice pudding to a whole new level.

Everything good

Make this rhubarb sorbet for the colour alone. It's an absolute dazzler.

Sheep’s milk yoghurt sorbet with poached rhubarb

This is a sorbet we make quite often at my restaurant, Berta. It’s refreshing, tangy and not too sweet. I find myself always adding a little salt and often herbs to sweet dishes, as I prefer that slight edge of savouriness. You will need an ice-cream machine for this recipe. If you don't have one, don't make the sorbet and serve the poached rhubarb with the fresh sheep’s milk yoghurt for breakfast – this would be more appropriate than eating sorbet for breakfast.

Pickled pink

Another recipe that allows rhubarb's savoury side to shine, this time with added sardines. While it may seem like an unlikely pairing, pickling the rhubarb means it's actually the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

Saucy side

Cheesy croquettes are happy to be dunked in an extra-sweet rhubarb sauce. This dish makes the perfect party appetiser or finisher. The choice is yours.

Jammin'

If we're not saucing, we're jamming. Rhubarb is ideal for making jam as its sour-tartness is a great match for all the necessary sugar.

Jammin' loud

Rhubarb and vanilla jam berliners

Injecting a rhubarb and vanilla jam into a pillowy Berliner is exactly how to treat yourself. Let that rhubarb ooze.

Airy good

Any sweet dessert goes well with rhubarb, but a sugary vanilla meringue takes it next level. This dish pairs raspberries and rhubarb and adds a little cardamom to cleverly offset the tartness of both.

Rhubarb and strawberry fool

Stage 1 – Leeds/Harrogate: Rhubarb fool is a great classic English family dessert that's easy to prepare and so delicious. The Yorkshire “rhubarb triangle” region grows about 80 per cent of all the rhubarb produced in England. It's a brilliant match for the juicy strawberries in this simple recipe.

Italian meringue rhubarb soufflé with black pepper custard

This is a slightly different version of a soufflé - not like the scary ones that you pray will rise in the oven at the last minute – but just as impressive and with far less chance of failure. The tricky bit to this recipe is making the meringue, but that just becomes a question of timing. And annoyingly you’ll have a few egg whites left over, but that is a very common kitchen problem that is hard to avoid.

Cordial manner

Rhubarb starts appearing in the garden in late winter and just keeps on going right through summer. Making a refreshing cordial a must-have in your new compendium of rhubarb recipes.

Pastry moves

Naturally, there was going to be some kind of Danish pastry on this list. Rhubarb loves custard, after all. And don't get us started on its love of decorating pastries and the like with glorious colour. Step aside, apples!

Pie times

Yep, move away apples, rhubarb is in town. Well, don't move too far away because as neighbours they are very strong indeed. A classic apple pie is lifted by this marvellous match.

Rhubarb, orange and pistachio pie

My partner, Simon, fancies himself a bit of a rhubarb connoisseur. His family home in New Zealand has the most incredible kitchen garden which is constantly overflowing with whatever is in season. In the spring, there is rhubarb. There’s always pressure when it comes to him trying one of my rhubarb desserts but he ate his whole piece of this pie in silence and then went back for more. So it must be good, then.

Sour notes

We'll end on a sour note... the best kind when it comes to rhubarb. Slow-cook your pork with it and the acidity will produce meltingly-tender meat. Rhubarb's tartness also brings out pork's flavour. Making this dish yet another winner for rhubarb.

Rhuby nights
Rhubarb, rosemary and ginger Monte Carlos

Paired with rhubarb to cut through the sweetness, and rosemary to dabble in the land of savoury complexity, these biscuit sandwiches are a sure ticket to grown-up joy.

Betsy’s drop scones with rhubarb and raspberry ripple cream

Drop scones are not as unfamiliar as you think. They're also called pikelets and their petit size means eating a high stack is far more achievable than with its pancake cousins.

Strawberry rhubarb clafoutis with coconut whipped cream

This simple and elegant dessert is a great way to showcase seasonal fruit. You can make one large clafoutis and slice to fit your number of diners, or make little individual clafoutis. 

Jasmine tea sago with rhubarb

Sago pudding is a very traditional dessert and you need to ensure the sago pearls are cooked properly so that they're lovely, bouncy and translucent. Here they're infused in jasmine tea and combined with stewed rhubarb. The Chefs' Line

Rhubarb and custard

This dessert is a celebration of a quintessentially British fruit. What excites the tastebuds as much as different flavours is contrasting textures, so in this dessert we have tart rhubarb jelly studded with tender fruit; sweet, smooth, velvety custard; and a garnish of crisp dried rhubarb.

Rhubarb recipes
Just try resisting this vivid winter wonder in rhubarb and raspberry gratin, a classic crumble or rhubarb and vanilla doughnuts.
Rhubarb and apple crisp with cinnamon ice-cream

Rhubarb is a versatile vegetable that brings a spot of colour to the dark, cold months, adding a tang to puddings and this classic American dessert. Unlike cobblers with thick crusts, crisps are closer to English-style crumbles with a thinner crumb topping that can be made with flour, nuts, bread, cereal or biscuit crumbs.

Rhubarb filo tarts


Rhubarb bread and butter pudding