6 ways to use your rhubarb

Rhubarb has sprung up in full force in yards and alleys across Calgary over the weekend. And since it will continue to provide armloads of stalks over the coming months, here are a half dozen ways to use up your stash.

Food and nutrition columnist Julie Van Rosendaal shares her best recipes for the versatile fruit

Rhubarb is a thick, celery-like plant with red stalks that can grow to be more than two feet long. The red and green stalks are the edible portion. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Rhubarb has sprung up in full force in yards and alleys across Calgary over the weekend. If you have some, you can’t get more local  or inexpensive. It's also low in calories, high in fibre and a good source of antioxidants.

And since it will continue to provide armloads of stalks over the coming months, here are a half dozen ways to use up your stash — and good reasons to freeze the rest to cook up over the winter.

1) Make rhubarb creamsicles 

Who doesn’t love something different and delicious frozen on a stick?

  • 2-3 big stalks of rhubarb, chopped
  • ½-¾ cup sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup cream

In a small pot, simmer the rhubarb with half the sugar and ¼ cup of water until the mixture cooks down and thickens. Put it into the fridge to chill.

Whisk together the yogurt, cream and remaining sugar. If you like, spike it with vanilla. Pour both mixtures into your popsicle moulds, alternating them to make them a bit swirly, then freeze until solid.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

2) Make strawberry-rhubarb jam 

The combination is just as delicious on toast as it is in a pie.

  • 5-6 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 3 cups quartered strawberries
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

Combine everything in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium low and cook, stirring often, until the rhubarb breaks down and the mixture thickens and turns jam-like. It should take about 45 minutes. 

To determine whether it’s ready, drop a spoonful on a cold saucer (put it in the freezer for a few minutes) — it should look like jam. If you like runny jam, leave it runny — if you like it thicker, cook it a little longer.

Makes about eight cups.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

3) Add it to a pie

Rhubarb doesn’t only pair well with strawberries — it’s a perfect match for raspberries, blackberries, apples, even mangos, which are in season right now. Ataulfo mangos are a smaller yellow variety, with smooth, creamy flesh that’s not as sinewy, making it easier to cut and scoop out for a pie.

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 2 Ataulfo mangos (the smaller yellow ones) peeled and diced
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 pkg. puff pastry, thawed, or pastry for a single-crust pie
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, cut into bits
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • coarse sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425°F with the rack in the middle. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, parchment.

In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cornstarch to get rid of any lumps. In a medium bowl, toss the rhubarb, mango, sugar-cornstarch mixture and a pinch of salt.

On a lightly-floured surface, roll the pastry out into a square or circle about ¼-inch thick. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and mound the filling onto the pastry, spreading it out to within an inch of the edge. Fold the edges up around the edges, just enough to contain the filling. It can overlap and look rustic — there’s no need for neatness.

Brush the edges of the pastry with egg and, if you like, sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and golden. Cool for a few minutes before sliding out onto a cutting board to cut and serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Serves 6.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

4) If a pie is too scary, stick to a crumble

All you need to do is chop fruit, toss it with sugar and flour or cornstarch to thicken, and top with a rubble of butter, sugar, flour and oats, then bake until bubbly — it makes just as delicious a vehicle for ice cream.


  • ¾ cups rhubarb, chopped
  • ¾ cups really good strawberries
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch

Crumble topping:

  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup oats
  • ½ cup butter, at room temperature
  • Pinch cinnamon (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Put the strawberries and rhubarb in a pie plate or other baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together the sugars and cornstarch. Add to the fruit and toss gently to combine.

To make the crumble, stir together the flour, brown sugar and butter in a small bowl (or in the bowl of a food processor) and mix with a fork or your fingers (or pulse) until well combined and crumbly. Sprinkle over the fruit, squeezing it as you go to create larger lumps of crumble.

Bake for an hour, until golden and bubbly around the edges. Eat warm, with vanilla ice cream. Serves six to eight.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

5) Make a fruit-filled slab scone

Simmer rhubarb and sliced peaches or berries with sugar until it cooks down and thickens, then cool. Roll out your favourite biscuit or scone dough to a large square, and spread the fruit across the middle third.

Fold it up like a letter, brush with a little milk, sprinkle with sugar and bake at 400°F for half an hour, or until golden. Cut into wedges to serve.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

6) Make rhubarbade

It’s as tart as a lemon and makes a fantastic sweet-tart pink drink. When you have lots of rhubarb to use up, chop it all and add to a big pot of water.

Bring to a simmer and cook until the rhubarb breaks down and loses its colour and the water turns pink. Strain through a sieve and sweeten to taste. If it’s strong, it can be used as a concentrate or added to sparkling water or cocktails.

(Julie Van Rosendaal)


Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.