Last week, at a demonstration tasting for GE Aviation’s Wellness Fair, we gave out samples of one of my favorite springtime recipes – Rhubarb Orange Sauce – for its versatility, ease in making and sheer deliciousness.

Rhubarb, also called “pie fruit”, is a long living perennial and a welcome sign of spring in Vermont when the green and red stalks, topped by green, furled leaves, push their way through the soil. With a bit of rain and some warm-ish temperatures, a rhubarb patch will seemingly grow before your eyes.

I like to use oranges (or orange-like fruits) in early spring, because I usually have a few kicking around in the fridge after a long winter. It’s a great way to use up the last of these golden fruits and still enjoy rhubarb before the strawberry season which renders the equally delicious strawberry rhubarb sauce than many of us know and love.

A lip puckering tartness is tempered with sugar in most recipes. In ours, because I like the versatility of a slightly more tart sauce, I use less sugar than most recipes you will see online, and then finish the cooked sauce with a bit of dark maple syrup to lend a bit more subtle flavor.

Use stalks that are not too thick and fibrous, and if you can find the popular red stalks that will impart a lovely rosy color to your sauce, by all means, do so.


Without further ado, the recipe follows:

Simple Rhubarb Orange Sauce

2 cups rhubarb stalk, thickly sliced

1 orange or two clementines, chopped whole – peels and flesh – seeds discarded. Save any juice.

1/4 to 1/3 cup granulated white sugar

1/4 cup water

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons dark maple syrup to finish

In a quart pan, combine the chopped rhubarb and oranges, reserved orange juice, water, salt and 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring to a lively simmer over medium high heat, then reduce to medium low and simmer quietly on the stove until the rhubarb “melts” and turns soft. Stir occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and taste the sauce while still warm. Add a bit more sugar if needed, then stir in about 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. Cool and store in a jar or bowl with lid, in the refrigerator.

Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups.

Notes & Options: 

  • Substitute white sugar with 1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar.
  • Substitute maple syrup for honey.
  • Omit the oranges and instead use 1/2 cup of blueberries or 1/2 cup of strawberries, plus the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon.
  • Add a vanilla bean while simmering or a 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract after cooking.

Savory Uses:

  • Spoon on meats like pork, chicken, turkey or sausages.
  • Serve with aged cheese, soft and semi soft, with fresh bread.
  • Use as a base for barbecue sauce.

Sweet Uses:

  • Spread onto toast, English muffins or on a bagel with cream cheese.
  • A generous dollop on yogurt, oatmeal or ice cream is most welcome.
  • Stir into whipped cream and spoon on to a snacking cake like pound cake or angel food
  • Layer with pudding and leftover cake pieces for a springtime trifle.