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Rhubarb 101 and Basic Rhubarb Sauce

What the heck is rhubarb? And how/why/with what does one eat it? You’ve got questions, and we’ve got answers, after having spent a childhood practically immersed in rhubarb (OK, not literally). We also just received a beautiful gift of rhubarb from our friends at Melissa’s Produce, so we can’t wait to talk about rhubarb and cook a whole bunch of rhubarb stuff.


First things first: Rhubarb is a perennial plant that grows celery-like stalks that range from green to deep red (the leaves are toxic, which is why stores and markets only sell the trimmed stalks). It’s not a fruit, although it’s most often prepared like one. If you eat it raw, it tastes like a tart celery – which is not a bad thing! And we’ll have some more recipes that use raw celery.  But most people make a basic rhubarb preparation it by stewing it with sugar so it has more of a sweet-sour taste like a tangy green apple. Once you cook it down, you can serve it as is (as a rhubarb sauce or compote, similar to applesauce), or make it into just about anything – cakes, breads, tarts, jams, sauces – even savory dishes.


For some reason, rhubarb was popular in German communities, and many Germans brought rhubarb recipes with them to America. Our (German) mom grew up eating rhubarb, and cooked rhubarb at home whenever it was fresh and available (generally in the spring).

Basic Rhubarb Sauce

A simple and tangy fruit sauce, similar to applesauce, that
you can eat on ice cream, yogurt, toast, or just plain by itself.

Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Breakfast or Snack, Condiment, Dessert, Side Dish, Snack, Snack or Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword rhubarb
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4


  • 4 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 3/4 cup water scant
  • 1/2 cup sugar


  1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium saucepan, and bring
    to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or
    until the rhubarb chunks have broken down and the sauce has a smooth, silky
    consistency. If the sauce looks too watery, continue simmering until the sauce
    thickens to your taste.

If you’ve ever made applesauce, you kind of know the drill. Just watch it closely as it simmers and make sure the water doesn’t all evaporate (you can add a bit more water if it looks like it’s too dry or it’s going to burn).

So now what do you do with it? Where to start? Here are a few suggestions including rhubarb sauce with granola, shortcake, ice cream, and yogurt:

So many things you can do with rhubarb sauce, including rhubarb with ice cream, yogurt, granola, or shortcake.

One favorite dessert idea is shortcake (as in strawberry shortcake) but with rhubarb sauce. In fact, if you have rhubarb sauce in the fridge, you basically have all kinds of dessert possibilities at your fingertips.

Here are some other rhubarb recipes we’ve posted:

Easy Homemade Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

No-Bake Rhubarb Cheesecake

Rhubarb Cake (Three Ways)

Rhubarb Kuchen

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crisp

Summer’s Best Rhubarb Custard Pie

Stay tuned for more to come…

Like it? Pin it!

Rhubarb 101: What is it? How do you use it? Here’s a basic rhubarb sauce recipe, plus lots of other options.



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