How to Dry Rhubarb - An Illustrated Guide

How I Came to Dry Rhubarb

Food is one of my favorite topics. And I'm especially fond of anything I can grow myself. There is nothing prettier than new, rosy rhubarb thrusting leaf buds through damp spring soil.

When I was a child, my grandmother had huge patches of rhubarb on her farm - growing along the garden fence (on the outside, where it could run rampant), next to the grain bins, and randomly anywhere it liked and that she didn't mind.

My cousins and I ransacked these patches, running about with long stalks which we sucked or nibbled, grimacing, until they were either limp or eaten. We girls used the leaves, with the longest stalks attached, as parasols, playing "fine lady". (We grew up reading Victorian literature.) The only marring of this joy was the adults' repeated warnings, "Don't each the leaves! Those leaves are poison!"

Is it any wonder I look for every way possible to extend the delight of the rhubarb patch through various food preservation methods?

I'll bet some of you have similar sweet memories. The Comments section is open below.

An Easy Way to Store Dried Rhubarb

Any jar with a good lid is appropriate to store dried foods in.
Any jar with a good lid is appropriate to store dried foods in.

What Can Dried Rhubarb Be Used For?

Dried rhubarb is valuable. It takes up less space than frozen or canned rhubarb, and, while it can take a bit of forethought to use, is often just as flavorful as its fresh counterparts.

Dried rhubarb can be used:

  • Plain, as a snack
  • In granola or other fruit mixes
  • Reconstituted, in any recipe you like (sauces, pies, crisps, meat dishes, etc.)

Equipment Needed

What you need in order to dry rhubarb is:

  • A food dehydrator (I usually use a commercial unit, rather than a homemade or sun-dry type). Alternatively, you can use a just-warm oven.
  • Drying screens or trays
  • A steamer (optional)
  • Fresh or frozen rhubarb

To see how to prepare fresh rhubarb for use, see How to Harvest and Prepare Rhubarb for Cooking, Baking, and Freezing.

Step One - Chop and Steam Rhubarb

I am demonstrating with a bag of frozen rhubarb...I needed the freezer space for other things. If you are starting with fresh, wash and coursely chop the stalks.
I am demonstrating with a bag of frozen rhubarb...I needed the freezer space for other things. If you are starting with fresh, wash and coursely chop the stalks.
Steam in small batches for three minutes, if you have chosen to do this step. (See Note below.)
Steam in small batches for three minutes, if you have chosen to do this step. (See Note below.)

About Steaming Rhubarb

Steaming is usually not a necessary step when drying rhubarb. Some people believes that it helps a food hold its value better. However, I have tried drying rhubarb with and without steaming it first, and found we like the texture and color of the unsteamed rhubarb better.

The steamed rhubarb tends to be flakier, flatter, sometimes stringier-seeming or course in the center of pieces, and sometimes turns a bit browner. (The color change is the opposite of what steamed and dried foods are supposed to do, but we have found this to be true with more than one product.)

The unsteamed rhubarb is much like the fresh, except for being small and brittle - which it should be.

It's your choice whether to steam or not to steam.

Spread on Trays or Screens to Dry Thoroughly

Spread the rhubarb out evenly on dehydrator screens or trays.
Spread the rhubarb out evenly on dehydrator screens or trays.
Dry at 150* F. for 2-3 hours, then 130* until brittle, thin, and no longer tacky. This may take the better part of 2 days.
Dry at 150* F. for 2-3 hours, then 130* until brittle, thin, and no longer tacky. This may take the better part of 2 days.
Here is a section of thoroughly dry rhubarb bits which have been steamed. The dark discoloration is due to the concentration of the tissues.
Here is a section of thoroughly dry rhubarb bits which have been steamed. The dark discoloration is due to the concentration of the tissues.

How to Use Dried Rhubarb For Baking or Cooking

Put dried rhubarb in warm water and let it sit overnight. You may hurry the process somewhat by simmering the pieces.
Put dried rhubarb in warm water and let it sit overnight. You may hurry the process somewhat by simmering the pieces.

How to Use Dried Rhubarb in Other Recipes

To use dried rhubarb in granola or similar mixes, snip the pieces using kitchen scissors, or break them with your hands, until they are the desired size. Then mix! They can be used successfully anywhere you might use dried cranberries or another tart dried fruit.

Dried rhubarb makes a good snack as-is, if you are partial to tart foods. A small handful does it.

A Fascinating Rhubarb Cookbook

Ways to Eat Rhubarb

What Is Your Favorite Way to Eat Rhubarb?

See results without voting

A Rhubarb Chutney or Relish, Indian Style

More Pics Coming

I intend to add photos showing what unsteamed rhubarb looks like when dried...just as soon as I find the ones I took last summer. :-D

© 2016 ButterflyWings

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Please Share Your Love of Rhubarb By Commenting Below 6 comments

TraceyWalsh profile image

TraceyWalsh 8 months ago from WINDSOR LOCKS, CT

I'm glad I came across your article. I moved from New England to Florida ten years ago and still miss the availability of Rhubarb. Your idea for preservation will make it possible for us to enjoy rhubarb all year long, even 1500 miles away :) What is the shelf life of the dried product?


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 8 months ago Author

Tracey, I live in an area with extremely low humidity...which means the shelf life of dried foods is almost indefinite, supposing you can keep pests out of them. However, in your location, I'm supposing it would be less than a year - possibly less than six months. I'm sorry I don't have the experience to say. However, if you like rhubarb that well, you can extend the life of your dried foods by freezing them, also - which still takes up less room than simply freezing them fresh - and in any case, you'll probably use them up fast enough not to have to worry much about their keeping qualities. The next best thing would be a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, placed in a cool, dark, dry place. And moths and other pests don't seem to care for dried rhubarb. I've had other dried foods ruined by insects, but never rhubarb. I'm going to experiment with placing a few pieces in other dried foods, to discourage pests.

May your rhubarb experiences be delicious!


Lamme profile image

Lamme 8 months ago

I'm another transplant to FL and love rhubarb. I've been drying fruits and veggies for years, but never even thought about trying to dry rhubarb. I'm so glad I found your article!!! I bet a vacuum sealer would be helpful in keeping this dried fruit fresh. Can't wait to give this a try.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 8 months ago from Stillwater, OK

I never tried drying rhubarb, I just made compote a LOT, usually every day or two. My mother used to make rhubarb and date jam as well as rhubarb pie.


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 8 months ago Author

Lamme, a vacuum sealer would be a great help, I should think! Good thinking! (I don't have one yet, though it's on my list of Wants.)


ButterflyWings profile image

ButterflyWings 8 months ago Author

Aviannovice, I've never used dates in rhubarb jam, but I bet that's lovely! I also enjoy compotes, salsa (really), jams, cakes, pies, sauces with onions and spices for meats, etc. - good, old-fashioned stuff with a tweak.

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