Can You Cook Rhubarb Without Sugar?

Can You Cook Rhubarb Without SugarSliced stalk of rhubarb on a white marble background. Whole rhubarb sticks with a few pieces of chopped rhubarb, isolated, ingredients for making a pie.

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Traditionally, you would boil or stew rhubarb with a lot of sugar (and by that I mean a lot of sugar) to help sweeten things up and get rid of some of the tartness. But what happens when you can’t have that much sugar with your rhubarb, or you just don’t want that much sugar in your diet? Can you cook rhubarb without sugar? We’re about to find out!

Can You Cook Rhubarb Without Sugar?

Yes, you absolutely can cook rhubarb without sugar.

In fact, there are more ways to do it than you might think. With so many options available to you, there’s bound to be one that suits.

Let’s take a closer look at the different ways to cook rhubarb without sugar…

Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

What Can I Use Instead of Sugar to Sweeten Rhubarb?

If you’re used to throwing in half a packet of sugar every time you pick some of the rhubarb that grows in your back garden, help is at hand. Instead of reaching for all that sugar next time, throw one of these sugar substitutions in:

  • Unrefined coconut sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Agave syrup
  • Maple Syrup
  • Honey
  • Natural liquid sweetener
  • Canderel or Stevia (or other sugar substitutes)

You might need to try a couple of different ones, or even all of them, before you find one that works best for you and your taste buds. You will also need to have a little play around with how much of the substitute sweetener you add to the recipe.

If you are adding syrup, honey, or another fluid to your recipe, you must also account for the extra fluid. In some cases, this can mean a few extra minutes of stewing and boiling time. In other cases, it might be necessary to add some sort of thickening agent to counteract the extra fluid.

How to Boil Rhubarb Without Sugar

If you do fancy substituting sugar for honey/syrup/sugar substitutes, you can always switch the water-and-sugar combo for something else instead.

Why not boil your rhubarb in fruit juice rather than just water with sugar added?

Some fruits are naturally very sweet and that sweetness will be infused into the juice, and then into the rhubarb when you boil it in the juice.

The best fruit juices to boil in and sweeten rhubarb are:

  • Cranberry juice
  • Apple juice
  • Orange juice
  • Apricot juice
  • Peach juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Combination juices (such as apple & cranberry or peach & apricot)

You can use fruit juice in the same way you would use water to cook rhubarb: add it to a saucepan, add your rhubarb, and boil until the rhubarb is softer and has absorbed some of the fruit juice and its sweetness.

If you have enough fruit juice to do so, use as much juice as you would water, in a straight 1:1 swap.

If you don’t have enough fruit juice to do that, add as much fruit juice as you can, then add some extra water as a ‘top up’, to make sure there’s enough fluid to cover the rhubarb/fruit.

Citrus fruits (pineapple and orange juice, for example) are great for flavour, but won’t always bring the sweetness that you need to reduce the tartness of the rhubarb. If you’re going to add citrus fruit juices, try to mix them in with something sweeter and non-citrus based. Otherwise, you might find that the sweetness isn’t quite as much as you expected.

As a final note, make sure you check the packaging of your fruit juice. Some of them can contain quite a lot of sugar, which will undo all of your hard work in avoiding sugar with your rhubarb. Fruit juices that are labelled “100% fruit juice” are the best ones to boil rhubarb in, because they won’t contain added sugars or other additives.

How to Sweeten Rhubarb With Other Fruits

You can use other fruits and their natural sweetness to reduce the bitterness of rhubarb by cooking them together, especially when making pies and similar desserts.

Rather than a simple rhubarb pie, or rhubarb crumble, why not have rhubarb with another, sweeter fruit? Berries are an obvious choice, known for their sweetness, but they’re not the only options you have. You could add in:

  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Oranges

When the pie is cooking in the oven, the sweetness of the berries will infuse into the fluids, which will then infuse into the rhubarb. This will neutralise some of the tart bitterness that the stalky fruit is known for.

How to Sweeten Rhubarb With Other Fruits

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

If you are making a jam or puree-like mixture using your rhubarb, you could use the sweet fruits in a similar way: either by mashing them or blending them together with the rhubarb, or by boiling all of the fruits together in a saucepan.

How to Sweeten Rhubarb With Sugar Beets

You can actually use sugar beets to bring some sweetness to your rhubarb, by boiling them together in the same way that you’d boil the other fruits we’ve discussed.

Can You Cook Rhubarb Without Sugar

Photo created by ededchechine –

How to Sweeten Rhubarb With a Sweet Side

Of course, there’s a handy fall-back when it comes to desserts, especially in the UK, where the weather is cold a lot.

That’s right, I’m talking about custard!

Custard is a nice, sweet, hot treat that works well with a number of dessert dishes, including pies. The sweetness is also great for neutralising or reducing the bitterness in rhubarb pies, crumbles, and other dishes, too.

You can always eat custard cold of course (just like my significant other), and there are quite a few other options in the chilled department – ice cream, whipped cream, double or single cream to name but a few.

Sometimes the sweetness doesn’t need to come from the rhubarb dessert itself, but can be added in the form of an accompaniment.

By Buzzy Kitchen

Lovers of food, owners of opinions, pleased to share!