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Re-Imagining Rhubarb: This Year, Try a New Savory Recipe

Apr 29, 2024 ● By Veronica Hinke
Rhubarb Pannekoeken

Photo by Veronic Hinke

It’s a sure sign of spring when those shimmering crimson stalks of rhubarb take hold in the ground. One of the best days of the year for rhubarb afficionados may be when they notice rhubarb’s hearty green leaves poking through the dirt in the backyard or when they find those red stalks at an early-season farmers market. Bursting with flavor and nutrients, rhubarb is one of those treasures that makes the long winter’s wait for spring produce worthwhile.

Celebrate the fleeting rhubarb season with a new recipe each year. This year, stretch outside of the classic rhubarb dessert routine and try making a savory side dish or a compote for a main dish. It’s a cinch to roast rhubarb, and it doesn’t take long to turn jammy rhubarb into a homespun accent for supper. Add roasted rhubarb to pannenkoeken (some people call them popovers) or add a spoonful of it to lentil or vegetable stews or pastas. Rhubarb is versatile enough to add a touch of spring to any plate.    

While the leaves of the plant are not edible, the stalks are addictive delights when they are cooked. Rhubarb is known for its distinct flavor and deep nutritional value. It is loaded with phytonutrients, anthocyanin and lycopene. This tart, tangy perennial also provides calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamins A and C and is a good source of folate, riboflavin, niacin, manganese, potassium and phosphorus.

This bushy vegetable (yes, it is botanically a vegetable, not a fruit) is also rich in history. Rhubarb was one of the ingredients on the spring-focused menus—for passengers and crew—when the Titanic sailed in 1912. Botanist John Bartram is thought to have brought the first seeds of rhubarb to America in the 1730s. Bartram’s Garden is now a public park in Philadelphia.

Rhubarb is perhaps more popular than ever. From cocktails to compotes, there are so many new recipes. Here are recipes for savory pannenkoeken with roasted rhubarb and, of course, a classic spring dessert: rhubarb pie.   

Photo by Veronic Hinke

Roasted Rhubarb

Yield: 6 Servings

3 cups ½-inch rhubarb pieces

¼ cup firmly packed light-brown sugar

1 Tbsp all-purpose flour (can substitute gluten-free flour)

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, combine the rhubarb, brown sugar and flour and stir until the rhubarb is thoroughly coated. Roast in the oven until the rhubarb mixture is soft and spreadable, 15-20 minutes.

Rhubarb Pannenkoeken

Yield: 6 Servings

3 cups roasted rhubarb

4 large eggs, lightly beaten (can combine egg substitutes)

⅔ cup whole milk
    (can substitute non-dairy milk such as almond milk)

⅔ cup all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp granulated sugar (can use less for more savory flavor)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

4 Tbsp unsalted butter (can substitute vegan butter)


Preheat the oven to 425° F.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the eggs, milk, flour, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt on high speed. Beat until thoroughly combined, 10-15 seconds.

In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, melt 3 Tbsp of the butter. Let the butter bubble and turn dark brown. Pour the butter into the batter and mix well. Put the remaining 1 Tbsp of butter in the skillet, then place the skillet in the oven until the butter melts.

Remove the skillet from the oven, swirl the butter to coat the bottom and sides of the skillet, and then pour the batter into the skillet. Gently fold in two-thirds of the roasted rhubarb. Place the remaining one-third of rhubarb in the center of the pannenkoeken.

Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375° F. Continue to bake until the pannenkoeken is puffed and golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 10-12 minutes longer.

Remove the pannenkoeken from the oven and let it cool and settle. This will allow the flavors to meld. Cut into 4-inch-wide slices and serve.

Recipe adapted from Titanic: The Official Cookbook, by Veronica Hinke (Weldon Owen, 2023).

Photo by Veronic Hinke

Rhubarb Custard Pie

Yield: 1 Pie

Editor’s note: You may wish to substitute eggs, flour, milk and sugar custard ingredients with your favorite vegan custard recipe, adjusting baking temperature and time as needed.

1 stick frozen pie crust
    (can use gluten-free pie crust)

4 cups rhubarb, cut in ½-inch pieces

1½ cups sugar, plus extra for lightly coating
    rhubarb and sprinkling on top of pie
    before baking

2 eggs

1 Tbsp milk

½ cup all-purpose flour, plus a little for
    rolling out the pie crust
    (can use gluten-free substitute)

1 Tbsp butter, plus enough to add pats to
    pie filling in pie plate and coat pie plate
    (can use non-dairy substitute)


Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Split the stick of pie crust in half. Sprinkle flour on counter and roll out pie crusts into two circles (top crust and bottom crust). Place the bottom crust in the pie plate. Poke a few holes in the bottom crust with a fork for ventilation while baking.

Use a spoon to toss the rhubarb in a little sugar.

Put the rhubarb in the pie plate. Make the custard using a hand-held electric mixer. Mix the eggs, milk, flour and sugar together. Pour the egg mixture (the custard) over the rhubarb. Scatter 6 to 8 tiny pats of butter around on the top of the rhubarb. Place the remaining pie crust on top. Using your fingers, scrunch together top and bottom pie crusts. Sprinkle pie with a light touch of sugar or a mix of cinnamon and sugar. Bake until the crust is golden brown on top and around the edges, about 40-45 minutes.

Recipe adapted from The Last Night on The Titanic: Unsinkable Drinking, Dining, and Style, by Veronica Hinke (Post Hill Press, 2023).

Veronica Hinke specializes in historical cooking and entertaining. She is the author of The Last Night on the Titanic: Unsinkable Drinking, Dining, and Style; Titanic: The Official Cookbook; Harry Potter: Afternoon Tea Magic: Official Snacks, Sips, and Sweets Inspired by the Wizarding World; and The Great Gatsby Cooking and Entertaining Guide. Learn more at