Quick and Easy Rhubarb BBQ Sauce Without Ketchup

by From Scratch Farmstead
rhubarb barbecue ribs

Rhubarb season coincides perfectly with grilling season. Turning that extra rhubarb from your garden or the farmer’s market into this delicious rhubarb bbq sauce is one of our family’s favorite ways to use this tangy springtime treat.

When we purchased our homestead in the spring, I was delighted to find a thriving patch of rhubarb. I set to work immediately trying different ways to add it to our meals and desserts as well as freezing it to have on hand all year.

What is Rhubarb?

Botanically, rhubarb is technically a vegetable with its stalks and leaves. However, in 1947 a New York court officially declared rhubarb to legally be considered a fruit. That being said, it is generally used culinarily as a fruit cooked up in pies, jams, cakes, crisps, and cobblers.

Rhubarb is generally easy to grow in sunny areas and is a perennial meaning that it will continue to grow year after year. It is very tart and is usually paired with fruit and sugar in cooking to lessen its distinct sour flavor. This tartness of the rhubarb pairs perfectly in this sweet bbq sauce giving it an addicting sweet yet tangy flavor.

cutting fresh rhubarb for freezing

How to Store Rhubarb and For How Long?

Rhubarb should be stored in the fridge for short term use. Typically, rhubarb lasts a few days in the fridge but after that it becomes dried out and almost spongy in texture. Its important to use it pretty quickly after harvesting or purchasing. Otherwise, a great option is to freeze for long term use.

How to Freeze Rhubarb and Why You Would Want To

The beauty of rhubarb is that it freezes very well and most recipes work beautifully with either fresh or frozen rhubarb. Freezing it keeps its flavor, nutrients, and allows you to have the goodness that rhubarb offers all year round.

To Freeze rhubarb simply chop in small chunks (roughly 1/2”). Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. I like to line my baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper to avoid the rhubarb becoming frozen and stuck to the baking sheet.

how to freeze rhubarb

Then place the baking sheet in the freezer for 3-4 hours until the small pieces are all individually frozen. Place rhubarb in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for long term storage. 

If you skip this step and place the chopped rhubarb directly in a bag in the freezer, you will end up with a frozen clump of rhubarb. While this will still work fine, a clump of frozen rhubarb is much more difficult to work with when the time comes to pull it out of the freezer.

How to use Frozen Rhubarb

Frozen rhubarb can be substituted for fresh rhubarb in most recipes. Our favorite ways to use frozen rhubarb are in this bbq sauce, baked oatmeal, or to make a simple stovetop rhubarb sauce or jam (see below). 

frozen rhubarb on cookie sheet

You may need to experiment with adding frozen rhubarb to baked goods, like cake. This is because the added moisture from freezing can interfere with the more precise nature needed in baking to achieve the perfect texture.

Simple Stovetop Rhubarb Sauce or Jam

You can make this simple stovetop sauce or jam by using fresh or frozen rhubarb either by itself or adding any other fresh or frozen fruit. We like to add frozen berries of any variety. Then all you need is something to thicken your sauce. Arrowroot or tapioca starch are our favorite thickeners. If you want a thicker sauce for a jam or pie filling add more thickener. Less thickener will make it runnier and the perfect topping for an ice cream sundae. 

strawberry rhubarb sauce on ice cream

Once the rhubarb is softened and your sauce has reached the desired consistency, remove from heat and add a sweetener to get your desired taste. Honey, maple syrup, or granulated sugar all work. We typically add a couple of tablespoons of honey to our rhubarb sauce.

Quick and Easy Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

Alright, back to the main event – rhubarb bbq sauce! While rhubarb makes the perfect compliment to so many delicious fruit-based summer desserts, sometimes it is nice to have a savory option as well! This sweet and tangy rhubarb bbq has been a mainstay at all of our summer cookouts with stellar reviews.

When I first began experimenting with making a rhubarb bbq sauce, most of the recipes I found included ketchup. After we canned over 80 quarts of tomato sauce last year, I knew I wanted to create a bbq sauce that was tomato sauce based without ketchup. With some taste testing and experimentation, we landed on this bbq sauce that everyone loves.

homemade rhubarb bbq sauce

How To Store Rhubarb BBQ Sauce and How long will it last?

This rhubarb bbq sauce should be stored in the fridge. It will last in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. You could also can this sauce for long term use.

How Spicy Is it?

This is a sweeter bbq sauce with a mild taste. However, if you prefer a bbq sauce with more of a kick, feel free to play with the spices. Adding some cayenne or upping the paprika would turn up the heat.

What do you use Rhubarb BBQ Sauce on?

Anything! It pairs perfectly with any meat that we have tried – chicken, pork, beef, and fish. We’ve also used it as a sauce for pizza. Or for something a little more out of the box, I love to add a scoop with my morning eggs and vegetables.

rhubarb bbq ribs

On with the recipe…

Rhubarb BBQ Sauce Recipe

Yields 1 Quart

Ingredients:

2 Cups Tomato Sauce*
1 Onion, diced
4 Stalks Rhubarb, chopped
¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
3 tbsp Maple Syrup
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 Tbsp Molasses
1 tsp Mustard
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Paprika
Salt and Pepper to Taste

rhubarb barbecue sauce ingredients

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan.
2. Cook over medium heat until onions and rhubarb are softened and sauce thickens (approximately 10 minutes), stirring regularly.
3. Remove from heat and blend.**

Notes:

*I find that 2 cups of tomato sauce makes a nice thick bbq sauce but if you prefer your sauce really thick, you can add 1 can of tomato paste to your sauce.
**An immersion blender is what I like to use but a regular blender or food processor would work as well.

For more ways to use that fresh or frozen rhubarb, check out this Baked Oatmeal. A breakfast staple in our house.

rhubarb barbecue ribs

Quick and Easy Rhubarb BBQ Sauce Without Ketchup

Yield: 1 Quart
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Rhubarb season coincides perfectly with grilling season. Turning that extra rhubarb from your garden or the farmer’s market into this delicious rhubarb bbq sauce is one of our family’s favorite ways to use this tangy springtime treat.

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Tomato Sauce*
  • 
1 Onion, diced

  • 4 Stalks Rhubarb, chopped
  • 
¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 
3 tbsp Maple Syrup

  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

  • 3 Tbsp Molasses

  • 1 tsp Mustard

  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 
1 tsp Paprika

  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Instructions

    1. Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan.

    2. Cook over medium heat until onions and rhubarb are softened and sauce thickens (approximately 10 minutes), stirring regularly.
    3. Remove from heat and blend.**

Notes

*I find that 2 cups of tomato sauce makes a nice thick bbq sauce but if you prefer your sauce really thick, you can add 1 can of tomato paste to your sauce.


**An immersion blender is what I like to use but a regular blender or food processor would work as well.

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