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Some foods live double lives: the peanut would probably rather hide its secret identity as a legume and pork butt doesn’t need you to know that it actually comes from the shoulder end. But rhubarb is sick and tired of being pigeonholed as a fruit: it’s a vegetable, darn it, and any botanist will back up that claim. Just because we tend to eat it tucked into desserts and buried under heaps of sugar, that doesn’t mean it’s any less proud a member of the stalks, leaves, and greens club.
There are also plenty of ways to explore rhubarb’s charms beyond the baked goods and pastry category. Yes, some of these recipes do take advantage of its affinity of sweeteners, but some also embrace its sour-powered glory. Get in on the savory action with one of these nine recipes—you’ll never think to use the f-word around rhubarb again.
1. Rhubarb-Braised Chicken Thighs
Mostly sour, but with a touch of honey sweetness, this chicken soaks in all of rhubarb’s tart juices. Get our Rhubarb-Braised Chicken Thighs recipe.
2. Braised Pork Shoulder with Rhubarb and Peas
The slow-cooked pork in this recipe is loaded with heady spices and seasonings. All that richness needs something acidic to cut through, and rhubarb provides that counterpoint beautifully. Get the recipe here.
3. Roast Chicken with Rhubarb Butter and Asparagus
This recipe does rhubarb two ways: first, it uses it as a seasoning for this crispy-skinned chicken. Then, it tucks the simmered stalks into a compound butter, which makes for a decadent topping over asparagus. Get the recipe here.
4. Basil Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb Rosé Sauce
Rhubarb and rosé are a pleasant pairing in this recipe, and not just because they both think pink. The wine’s fruity notes, along with a dash of perfume-y cinnamon and cardamom, make for a fully-fragranced sauce that adds intrigue to mild pork tenderloin. Get the recipe here.
5. Canal House's Pork Belly with Gingery Rhubarb Compote
Pork belly is a gloriously rich and fatty cut of meat, for sure. But it’s the compote in this recipe manages to steal the show, with it’s mind-bending combo of rhubarb with golden raisins, crystallized ginger, capers, and hot pepper. Get the recipe here.
6. Rhubarb Beetroot Salad with Arugula and Basil
Rhubarb packs a crunch (when it’s not cooked down), so naturally, it would make for an intriguing textural addition to any salad. Here, sliced pieces of it are very gently sautéed so that they retain their crispness. Get the recipe here.
7. Persian Rhubarb and Beef with Rice
Persian cuisine makes frequent use of pomegranate, but the red fruit is a seasonal item best enjoyed in the fall. In the spring and summer, rhubarb is an able substitute, adding its own tart charms to this hearty dishes like pilaf with beef. Get the recipe here.
8. Rhubarb-B-Q Chicken Legs
Most barbecue sauces get their tangy oomph from tomato. This one bucks tradition, however, and swaps it out with rhubarb, for a taste that is a bit lighter yet more vegetal and garden-y than the original. Get the recipe here.
9. Cornmeal Crusted Fish Tacos with Rhubarb Salsa
Fans of tart and chunky salsas take note: rhubarb is here to up the game. Parboiled for only a brief moment, this taco topper embraces the vegetable’s unadulterated flavor, providing a brisk and pucker-inducing accompaniment to cornmeal-crusted fish. Get the recipe here.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.