Simple Rhubarb Sauce has just enough tart rhubarb flavor, and gets most of its natural sweetness from maple syrup. This not-too-sweet not-too-sour sauce is an excellent way to use a lot of rhubarb if you have a patch of it growing in your backyard. I love to have it on hand, and it keeps well in the refrigerator.
I don’t grow rhubarb myself, but I have a generous neighbor. (Thanks, Gretchen!) If you like rhubarb, find someone who has a patch of it until you can plant one of your own. I’ll be planting ours next year.
This spring, I was lucky enough to be gifted a generous bundle of fresh rhubarb. I’ll be honest, it stayed in my refrigerator for longer than I care to admit. But as it turns out, rhubarb keeps well. It was still as juicy and crisp as ever when I sliced it up to make this Simple Rhubarb Sauce.
Rhubarb pie, cobbler, and any other baked desserts with rhubarb are fantastic, and I love making them. But sometimes you just want a simple little rhubarb sauce you can put on anything. One of my favorite ways to use this sauce is to top hot oatmeal. Spoon a little sauce on top, and it heats up and tastes a lot like cobbler. This sauce would be amazing on vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt, with a few toasted pecans.
I’m not sure why I want to put pecans with rhubarb, but it’s a combination I’ve gravitated toward for years.
What is rhubarb?
I grew up with a large patch of rhubarb in my yard. But it’s probably one of those fruits (it is legally a fruit, more on that later) that you might not take home on a regular basis from the store. Here are some interesting rhubarb facts:
- Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, but is legally considered a fruit.
- Rhubarb has a short growing season – April to June.
- The color of a rhubarb stalk is not an indication of how ripe or sweet it is. Stalks range in color from green to bright, vibrant red.
- Only the stems are edible. Stay away from the leaves: they’re poisonous.
- Rhubarb is super-tart. Try a piece raw. I dare you. Yikes! That’s why it’s usually cooked and paired with something sweet, or in a dessert with a lot of sugar.
When I made Simple Rhubarb Sauce, I was looking for a way to sweeten the rhubarb without adding a lot of refined sugar. I could have added gobs of refined sugar to this sauce, and it would have been fantastic. But I went this just enough maple syrup, and a bit of brown sugar. I like both of these sweeteners, especially maple syrup, because they add flavor along with sweetness. I add a little vanilla extract at the end to underscore that sweetness and add depth.
There are two essential ingredients in this sauce beyond rhubarb and sweetener. The first one is salt. Salt balances acid, and rhubarb has plenty of acid. By adding what seems like more salt than you should to something that’s dessert-like, you’re canceling a lot of the tartness of the rhubarb, and bringing it into balance. I start with a teaspoon of salt, and that’s what the recipe calls for. But if your sauce still tastes unpleasantly tart at the end, add a little more salt, a pinch at a time, and see when it feels balanced to you. The exact level of seasoning required is a personal preference, and this is actually a good recipe for testing your palate in this regard.
The second essential ingredient happened by chance. I finished this sauce and it tasted great – but the color was… undesirable. Sort of a muddy pink, and not appealing. I wanted to give it a brilliant red color, so I grabbed a small, raw beet that I had previously washed and peeled, and grated it with a microplane grater into the sauce. All it took was about a tablespoon of very finely grated beet to give the sauce a much more appealing bright pink color. You can’t taste the beet at all, trust me. The tartness of the rhubarb runs right over it.
I like this sauce so much, I’m calling it our newest Brilliant Basic! Brilliant Basics is a series of recipes that are easy to prepare, keep well in the refrigerator or pantry, and that you can keep on hand to easily enhance and elevate basic dishes.
I’m using Simple Rhubarb Sauce on my overnight oats this morning. I might spread it on toast this weekend. How are you going to use it? Take a photo and tag @birdseedkitchen on Instagram, and show me what you sauced!
Simple Rhubarb Sauce
Simple Rhubarb Sauce has tart rhubarb flavor and natural sweetness from maple syrup. You won't believe the secret ingredient behind that vibrant pink color!
- 4 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar packed
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt may need more, to taste
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp finely-grated raw red beet
In a small saucepan, melt butter. Add maple syrup, brown sugar, salt, rhubarb, and grated beet.
Cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, until rhubarb softens, stirring occasionally.
Turn off heat. Add vanilla extract.
Taste the sauce. If it is too tart, add a pinch more salt and taste it again. Keep adding a little salt until it's balanced and not overly sour.
Serve warm or cold on ice cream, pancakes, yogurt, or anything else!
- Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- No need to peel the beet before grating, but wash it thoroughly.
- Make sure to use a Microplane grater, or another very fine grater. A grater with larger holes will introduce beet chunks into your sauce.
Nutrition information is estimated and provided for informational purposes only. Statements within this site have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration.