Try These Fresh Rhubarb Recipes As Spring Gets Into Full Swing

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Rhubarb-buttermilk cake, from Chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Rhubarb-buttermilk cake, from Chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst joins host Robin Young to celebrate spring with a rhubarb cake, a strawberry-rhubarb crumble and a caramelized maple-rhubarb soda.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Crumble

Rhubarb and strawberries are good friends: the sweet, the sour, the pink, the red. Here they are combined in a simple mixture, topped with a granola, brown sugar, spices and butter topping and baked just before serving. The crumble is great for breakfast, dessert or a treat any time of day.

Serves 4 to 6.

The Fruit

  • 2 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups ripe strawberries, cut into thick slices
  • Pinch ground ginger
  • Pinch salt

The Crumble Topping

  • 1 cup granola
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into cubes
  • Dash cinnamon
  • Dash ground ginger
Rhubarb-strawberry crumble, from chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Rhubarb-strawberry crumble, from chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)


  1. In a medium saucepan, stir together the rhubarb, sugar, maple syrup and 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stir and cook about 5 minutes or until the rhubarb is softened. Remove from the heat and add the strawberries, ginger and salt.
  2. Make the topping: In a bowl, mix the granola, flour and sugar. Add the butter cubes and, using your hands or a pastry blender, cut the butter up into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the cinnamon and ginger and combine.
  3. Place the fruit in a medium ovenproof skillet, baking dish or gratin dish, or divide it up between 6 small ramekins. Divide the topping on top of the skillet, or divide between the ramekins, and gently press the crust into place. You can make the crumble several hours ahead of time; cover and refrigerate. You can tightly wrap in plastic and freeze the crumble for up to 3 months.
  4. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the crumble on a cookie sheet and bake on the middle shelf (if you froze the crumble you can bake it straight from the freezer) for about 15 minutes; reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake another 10 to 15 minutes if fresh and 35 to 45 minutes if frozen. The fruit should be bubbling and the topping should turn a golden brown.

Caramelized Maple-Rhubarb Soda

If you could take the essence of spring and turn it into a cool, refreshing drink, it would taste just like this.

Make a simple caramel — let sugar cook and turn to liquid — stir in some maple syrup and water and simmer. Add chopped fresh rhubarb and cook a few minutes and strain. Add the caramelized rhubarb syrup to soda water with a few slices of strawberries. If you want to get fancy you could add a tablespoon of cider vinegar to make a shrub. Or, for spring parties, add tequila or white or dark rum to the soda water and syrup.

Makes 1 1/4 cups.


  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 large stalks rhubarb, cut into small pieces (about 2 cups)
  • Seltzer or soda water to taste
  • Ice cubes
  • Few thinly sliced strawberries (optional)
Chef Kathy Gunst’s caramelized maple-rhubarb soda. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Chef Kathy Gunst’s caramelized maple-rhubarb soda. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)


  1. Place sugar in a small saucepan over moderately low heat and cook 5 minutes without touching. The sugar should turn to liquid and then turn a caramel color; do not let it burn.
  2. Slowly add the maple syrup; the caramel might seize up. Fear not: With a whisk or a soft spatula, work the maple syrup into the sugar until it melts back into a liquidy caramel. Add 1 cup water, whisking and stirring so the caramel doesn't clump.
  3. Once the caramel is fully incorporated into the water, bring to a boil over high heat. Add the rhubarb, reduce heat to moderate, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool; strain into a glass jar and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  4. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons to a tall glass with lots of ice cubes and seltzer to top. Add strawberry slices, if desired.

Rhubarb-Buttermilk Cake

The recipe for this simple, utterly delicious cake comes from my dear friend Rebecca Schultze. It can be made from start to finish in about 1 1/2 hours.

Serve with 2 cups strawberries sliced and macerated with 1/2 cup sugar; let sit at least 30 minutes or overnight. Makes 8 servings.


  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting
  • Macerated strawberries to serve (see headnote)


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch Pyrex baking pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl mix the rhubarb, vanilla, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the ginger and cinnamon and let sit.
  3. In a stand mixer or a hand-held mixer, cream the butter and the remaining cup of sugar. Add the egg and beat well. In a small bowl sift the flour, baking soda and salt. Add half the flour mixture to the creamed butter/sugar and mix. Add half the buttermilk and mix. Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Stir in the rhubarb mixture and gently incorporate.
  4. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared baking pan. Bake on the middle shelf for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for about 10 to 15 minutes in the pan and then cut into pieces and serve warm or at room temperature dusted with confectioners' sugar and surrounded by strawberries.

This segment aired on May 7, 2019.

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Kathy Gunst Resident Chef, Here & Now
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and the author of 15 cookbooks.



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