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A couple of years ago, I was invited to do a demonstration at the Greenmarket in New York City. I jumped on the chance since I love any and all farmers’ markets, but as the date closed in, I got a message informing me that they didn’t have a kitchen. But they did have a single-burner hot plate. Could I make a dessert on that with something from the market? Challenge accepted!

Being early spring, aside from counting on a stove, I was also counting on their being berries, as we were having in France. But they also informed me that there may only be a couple of baskets of those—if I was lucky enough to nab one. Knowing how people at markets in the U.S. tend to hover unnaturally towards free samples, which is quite possibly they don’t offer samples at markets in Paris. However, there was rhubarb. Could I make something with that?

Fortunately I remembered a recipe from my friend Susan Loomis for Red Wine-Poached Rhubarb, which is easily made in a saucepan on the stovetop—or hot plate, which I adapted for circumstances in New York. I’m not going to spend my time right now explaining how if you don’t like rhubarb, you should try this recipe. Because to me, there’s nothing more irksome than someone trying to convince me to try something that I know that I don’t like. But if you’re part of the “in crowd” of cool, sophisticated, highly-intelligent people who know and appreciate rhubarb, this recipe is a winner : )

Aside from it’s ease of preparation, this recipe has just a few ingredients and can be prepared with just five or six stalks of rhubarb, along with some leftover red wine. (Rosé would probably work, although for some reason, I never seem to have any of that leftover.) It also has the added advantage of being a dessert that benefits from being prepared in advance and letting rhubarb steep in the wine reduction for a few leisurely hours. That gives time for the juices to thicken nicely, or you can let it sit overnight.

The next day, you can enjoy some for breakfast with yogurt, or later in the day as the French might, with yogurt or fromage blanc for dessert. It’s also nice spooned over vanilla ice cream, slightly warm or at room temperature. It’s grand alongside cheesecake, too.

Red Wine-Poached Rhubarb

Adapted from a recipe by Susan Herrmann Loomis. Breaking with those who know more than I do, I use a downscale red wine when poaching fruit. The bottle I chose cost whopping 2.30€, and was on promotion, so I got an additional 20% off. But feel free to use any fruity red that suits your fancy.
  • 2 cups (500ml) red wine
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2-4 allspice berries
  • 1 pound (450g) rhubarb, trimmed and rinsed
  • In a wide, non-reactive saucepan, heat the wine, sugar, honey, and spices.
  • Cut the rhubarb into 3- to 4-inch (8-10cm) lengths.
  • Once the wine is almost boiling, poach the rhubarb in two batches, standing vigilant with a slotted spoon. When just tender, remove the rhubarb and put it in a bowl or ceramic dish and poach the remaining rhubarb. Depending on the rhubarb, each batch may take as little as one minute, or up several minutes more, to soften.
  • Once all the rhubarb has been poached, reduce the poaching liquid over moderate heat until you have about 3/4 cup (185ml). Pour over the rhubarb pieces and let stand for a few minutes before serving.


Serve warm with a scoop of cool ice cream or frozen yogurt.
Storage: The compote can be made up to a day in advance. Keep in the bowl, covered at room temperature, until ready to serve. Rewarm before serving or serve at room temperature.
Variation: Once cool, add a basket of raspberries or blackberries, or sliced strawberries. Or cook the rhubarb with fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half.

Rhubarb-Related Links and Recipes:

Crème Bulgare, Jam, and Candied Rhubarb

Polenta Cake with Rhubarb Ribbons

Rhubarb-Raspberry Yogurt Ice Pops

Rhubarb Berry Pie

Rhubarb Meringue Tart

Roasted Rhubarb



    • Jeremy

    I’m really looking forward to trying this recipe.
    I have rhubarb growing in my back yard, but it’s not quite edible yet.
    Great job as usual David.

    • Katie K

    By some miracle, the New York Times is giving free access to the rhubarb soup recipe I’ve been making for years. Here it is for your enjoyment: NYTimes Recipe

    • Gwen K.

    Okay, I think I actually just swooned when I opened your site and saw the words “Red Wine-Poached Rhubarb.” Now I’ll go read your post. :)

    • Barbra

    This looks delicious! I love desserts that don’t require an oven. Seems like this would be a nice poaching liquid for peaches and nectarines, too, when they come into season.

    • lisa

    oh my word, that is some beautiful rhubarb! i can’t wait to make this – yum.

    • Bron

    Super! I adore rhubarb, shame mine doesn’t grow very well, it bolts and goes to seed before any decent stalks appear, sigh.
    I thought you may like to have a look at these, Helen’s Frozen Rhubarb Charlottes, for her presentation alone
    Anyway sending you many happy internet connectivity vibes! Good luck.. Cheers!

    • Hopie

    I love making strawberry rhubarb pie, but there’s always some rhubarb left over in the bunch. This would be a PERFECT recipe to make with it. It looks so delicious! Where do you find allspice berries in Paris? I haven’t run across those…

    • Magpie Ima

    This looks delightful. I’ve never met a rhubarb dish I didn’t like, unless it’s been over sweetened which rather defeats the whole purpose of rhubarb, now doesn’t it?

    • Tai-Tai

    Oh I love rhubarb! Have not seen it here Guangzhou though. Hubby hates it so I would end up eating it all maybe with a little help from our son, but lately he turns his nose up at the same things his Dad doesn’t eat. I do make a similar dessert with pears. That spiced wine syrup is so good I could just drink it on it’s own.

    • aquanetta

    Hi Dave,
    I love the recipe, can’t wait to try it!

    How did you make the twisty rhubarb ribbon? Is it candied or dried rhubarb? It looks lovely.

    • elra

    But David, I am part of the “in crowd” of cool, sophisticated people who know and appreciate really good foods, it just that I’ve never tried rhubarb before. The thing is, I am so fond of you and your blog and your books, I must give this rhubarb a try. Then I will let you know weather I like it or not. Then, you can decide weather I am still part of the “in crowd”

    My guess? I probably going to love it, because when David said its good, must be really good!

    • nyc/caribbean ragazza

    Is Rhubarb is season now? I saw a few stalks at a little fruit stand last week. Unfortunately my pots and pans have not arrived from the so there was nothing I could do. I LOVE Rhubarb, esp. strawberry/rhubarb pie. I think it’s hard to find Rhubarb in Rome though. Tears.

    • Jeremy

    I love rhubarb, with strawberries or made into a chutney and served with duck!
    Your always making me lick my screen David!

    • Jennifer

    Bless you. I was just trying to decide what to do with the rest of the rhubarb I bought at the Farmers’ Market last week. (I used it to make a dessert that has a pastry crust and an egg-based filling that’s loaded with rhubarb. Not so sadly, no one in my family will eat it, so *sigh* I’ll be finishing it off myself.)

    This looks like a fantastic way to use up the rhubarb! Thanks!

    • Eileen

    How can anyone not love rhubarb? I will need to try this since this spring I have more rhubarb than even I know what to do with. I just ran across a compote recipe made with rhubarb and beets. Doesn’t that sound interesting?

    • Julie

    …and I was just about to post the rhubarb I roasted yesterday, tossed first with sugar and eau de vie de framboise sauvage and vanilla, with a few frozen rasberries tossed in for extra pinkening of the juices while the dish is cooling.

    But then I read what you wrote on Twitter about putting rhubarb recipes on a blog — ha! Scratch that.

    • trairatsyndrome

    after reading this, i ran out to many different possible places to buy rhubarb intent on trying out the recipe. however, i was disappointed to find that there were none whatsoever.

    so, i think i either missed the season or it hasn’t come yet (in which case i would feel very lucky). any thoughts?

    • Agnes

    Wonderful dessert! After having made my beloved rhubarb cake with crunchy walnut-meringue cover (which usually is the first thing I make with rhubarb every spring), and several batches of plain rhubarb compote with vanilla infused cane sugar, I, for variations sake, decided to give your recipe a try. It was lovely :-) At first I missed the “plain” rhubarby taste, but especially the left-overs today, served at room temperature with some mascarpone, were absolutely delicious. A very pleasant addition to my rhubarb repertoire.

    • Diane

    I don’t like rhubarb (not one of the cool kids, I guess). But I do this same recipe often with plums. In July in Berkeley there are so many plums that people are drowning in them, and I make big batches of this and freeze them for future desserts (with ice cream) or breakfasts (over yogurt).

    • David

    Diane: Well, I like plums, too.

    So I guess that makes you one of us cool people!

    ; )

    • nexxx

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    • Michelle

    Delurking to say that I just made this, and wow. The spices really make the rhubarb come alive, and I could drink the poaching liquid by the gallon! This recipe will definitely be added to my file of easy tried-and-trues, and I envision this poaching liquid showing up in other applications–like a wine glass, for one. Thanks for this keeper!


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