Rhubarb brings out the springy feeling of any baked good. It is a great addition to cakes, crumbles, and pies, but what do you do when you run out of rhubarb!?
Spring is just not complete without the bounty of rhubarb patches. It can bring an interesting flavor and texture to many traditional baked goods, but not everyone is head-over-heels for this fibrous plant. Luckily, there are plenty of options when it comes to substitutes for rhubarb. Whether you crave a rhubarb pie in the off-season or just don’t care for this ingredient, these fruity choices are here for you!
Uses for Rhubarb
Rhubarb is a vibrantly-colored vegetable that grows in the spring. It has inedible leaves, but its bright-pink stems are edible. It is used in baked goods to add sourness and toothsome texture to baked goods.
The most common places you will see the use of rhubarb include:
- Pie- This pastry is the quintessential preparation of rhubarb.
- Cake- A delicious way to enjoy the tartness of these stalks.
- Crumble- A fun twist on the cake and a great way to enjoy rhubarb.
- Jam- Perfect for preserving the bounty of your spring rhubarb harvest and spreading on bread.
What Rhubarb Adds to Baked Goods
Rhubarb adds a great amount of tart and sour flavor to anything it is added to. It can be the beautiful bright flavor in so many sweet treats. It has very high potassium levels and brings a nice amount of vegetable protein to dishes.
How Rhubarb Substitutes can Mimic Real Rhubarb
These rhubarb alternatives all have health and flavor benefits they can bring to dishes when used in place of rhubarb. The substitutes on this list can do a lot to try to replicate rhubarb. The biggest areas of comparison between these ingredients and real rhubarb are taste, texture, and nutritional value.
How to Choose a Rhubarb Substitute
The first thing to consider when choosing a substitute for rhubarb is what dish it will be used in. Rhubarb brings different things to different dishes, so the general flavor profile of the planned dish should be considered.
The 5 Best Rhubarb Substitutes
|Pie, cake, crumble, jam
|Pie, cake, crumble
|Cake, crumble, jam
|Strawberries and Lemons
|Pie, cake, crumble, jam
|Pie, cake, crumble, jam
Tart cranberries are a great choice to mimic both the flavor and color of Rhubarb. Their bright red skin helps sell the illusion of rhubarb, while their pucker-inducing bite brings to mind the sour flavor found in stalks of rhubarb.
The best part of using cranberries in place of rhubarb is the cranberry’s texture. These bright bites have a crisp, solid texture that softens as they cook, very similar to the texture of rhubarb.
Cranberries have the right color and texture to mimic rhubarb in almost all baked recipes, but despite their high water content, they are packed with vitamins C, E, and K.
2. Tart Apples
Apples are a wonderfully varied fruit, with lots of different types available to offer different flavors. There are lots of popular options for sour apples, but a few favorites are Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Cortland, and Braeburn. All varieties of apples are high in dietary fiber and vitamins, so they are a healthy alternative to rhubarb.
One thing to watch for when substituting rhubarb with apples is the texture. Some apples are naturally softer than others and will become mushy when cooked. To maintain the rhubarb-like texture it’s best to choose a hard-fleshed apple like Granny Smith or Cortland.
Be wary of using apples to mimic rhubarb in jams and jellies, because while apples break down to nice mush, they do not have that impactful red hue that rhubarb jam would.
Pink and inviting raspberries are a great choice for those concerned with nailing that springy shade that rhubarb brings to baking. They are bright in color and flavor, making them a great choice for a rhubarb substitute.
Raspberries can be a mixed bag in terms of flavor. Some batches of berries are very sweet while others are quite sour. They also have the drawback of being seeded, which can be removed from jam, but not pies, cakes, and crumbles. Their texture is also softer and will become soft when cooked, so they differ from rhubarb in that regard as well.
Raspberries can provide some of the missing nutrients rhubarb would bring. Raspberries are very high in vitamin C, manganese, and potassium.
4. Strawberries and Lemons
Strawberries are another ingredient that is perfect for matching the rhubarb’s bright hue. The appearance of strawberries is perfect for fooling rhubarb devotees, but their flavor by itself is much sweeter than rhubarb. That is where lemons come in! Lemons help add some zing to the flavor of strawberry making it much more rhubarb-like.
Working together brings out the best in these two ingredients. Their sweet and sour flavor is perfect for pies, jams, and cakes. The texture of these fruits is fairly sturdy, so they can hold up when baked in pies, cakes, and crumbles. The difficulty in using this pair in cakes and crumbles is making sure both flavors are in perfect balance. To use this combination in jam, the lemon should be juiced into the jam, rather than incorporated in pieces.
Like other red berries, strawberries are high in manganese and have nice levels of potassium. Both fruits have very high levels of vitamin C, making this combo substitute a real immunity booster!
5. Sour Cherries
This tart variety of cherry is officially named Montmorency cherry, but most people know them simply as sour or tart cherries. These vibrant cherries are related to sweet cherries, but this type has a much more mouth-puckering taste.
This rhubarb alternative can be found in jars and the freezer section at all times of the year, so the season is not a factor with this substitute. They have the perfect texture to use in place of rhubarb in pies, cakes, and crumbles. Sour cherries also work well in jams!
These zinging fruits bring a few health benefits in place of rhubarb, as well. They can help replace the potassium that rhubarb would bring, and they have lots of vitamins A and C.
The Best Overall Rhubarb Substitute
The winner for best overall rhubarb substitute is a dead tie between two contenders, cranberries and sour cherries. Both tart fruits bring distinct rhubarb-like qualities to baked goods. These ingredients stand up well to the heat but break down into vibrantly colored jams as well. Cranberries and sour cherries are both easy to find throughout the year and have excellent health benefits.
Try one of these excellent rhubarb substitutes in your recipes today!
5 Best Rhubarb Substitutes
- Tart Apples
- Strawberries and Lemons
- Sour Cherries
- From the list of substitutes above, pick your favorite to use in its place.
- Use your imagination and be creative with these substitute recipes!