9 Best Substitute For Rhubarb

Rhubarb Substitute

Rhubarb, with its uniquely tart taste, is a favored ingredient in many traditional and contemporary dishes. However, there are times when you might not have this delectable vegetable on hand or perhaps dietary restrictions keep you from indulging in it. Thankfully, the culinary world is teeming with alternative ingredients that can be used to replicate rhubarb’s distinctive flavor and texture in various recipes. This guide delves into the best substitutes for rhubarb, giving you a comprehensive look at alternatives that can step into the shoes of rhubarb in your kitchen.

What is Rhubarb?

Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable famous for its tart stalks that are often prepared and consumed like fruit. Though the leaves of this plant are toxic due to high oxalic acid content, its vibrant red and green stalks are culinary delights. Used in pies, jams, sauces, and cocktails, rhubarb’s tartness often lends itself to be paired with sweet ingredients to create a beautiful balance of flavors.

The Substitute Spectrum: Rhubarb Alternatives at a Glance

  • Green Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Cranberries
  • Red Grapes
  • Raspberry Jam
  • Sour Cherries
  • Lemon Juice and Sugar
  • Citric Acid
  • Hibiscus

Best Substitutes For Rhubarb

A short description about the following substitutes: Each of these alternatives brings unique qualities to your dishes. Some maintain the tartness of rhubarb while others play up the sweetness or bring a blend of both. Remember, the best substitute will depend on the recipe you’re preparing and the flavor profile you’re aiming for.

Green Apples

Green apples stand as a solid replacement for rhubarb due to their tartness. This common fruit not only replicates the tangy punch of rhubarb but also has a similar texture when cooked.

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Green apples can be used in a 1:1 ratio for rhubarb in most recipes. If you’re baking a pie, for instance, you can replace rhubarb with the same quantity of green apples. To bring out more tartness, consider adding a bit of lemon juice.

What’s more, apples are widely available and budget-friendly, making them a practical choice. They’re also rich in dietary fiber and vitamin C, adding to the nutritional profile of your dish.


While strawberries are significantly sweeter than rhubarb, they’re often paired together in recipes because of how well their flavors meld. That said, strawberries can work well as a substitute in recipes where a sweeter version of the dish would be welcome.

Take note, though, that strawberries contain more water than rhubarb. As a result, you might need to adjust the cooking time or add a thickening agent like cornstarch to maintain your recipe’s desired consistency.

Despite the sweetness, strawberries bring a beautiful color to dishes, much like rhubarb. Plus, they’re high in vitamin C and antioxidants, which contribute to overall health.


Cranberries, with their tart flavor, mimic the tang of rhubarb quite convincingly. They work particularly well in sauces, jams, and baked goods.

When using cranberries, you might need to adjust the sweetness of your recipe since these berries can be quite sour. However, this makes them perfect for dishes that call for balancing sweet and tart elements.

From a nutritional standpoint, cranberries are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and manganese. They also have powerful antioxidants, known for promoting cardiovascular health and boosting the immune system.

Red Grapes

Red grapes have a tangy-sweet flavor that works well as a rhubarb substitute, especially in dishes where rhubarb’s tartness needs to be toned down. When cooked, red grapes develop a jam-like consistency, similar to stewed rhubarb.

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It’s worth noting that the grape skins can add texture to your dishes. If a smoother texture is desired, consider using seedless grapes or straining the cooked grapes before use.

Grapes come packed with beneficial nutrients including vitamins C and K, and they are well-known for their antioxidant properties.

Raspberry Jam

For recipes that require a sweet-tart flavor but not necessarily the texture of rhubarb, raspberry jam is a good choice. This jam is easy to use in desserts or as a glaze for meats. Since it’s a concentrated form of fruit, it imparts strong flavors.

You might need to experiment a little to get the quantity right because raspberry jam is sweeter and more intense than fresh rhubarb. However, in terms of nutritional benefits, raspberry jam provides vitamin C and fiber.

Sour Cherries

Sour cherries are an excellent substitute for rhubarb due to their similar tartness. They’re particularly good in pies, tarts, and sauces.

The tartness of sour cherries closely mirrors that of rhubarb, but they are a bit sweeter. Therefore, you might need to cut down on the additional sweeteners in your recipe.

In terms of health benefits, sour cherries offer a good dose of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.

Lemon Juice and Sugar

A combination of lemon juice and sugar is a simple way to replicate rhubarb’s sweet-tart flavor, especially in recipes where the actual presence of rhubarb isn’t necessary.

While this won’t duplicate the texture of rhubarb, it’s great for adding a similar taste to sauces, marinades, and drinks. The quantity of lemon juice and sugar can be adjusted based on how tart or sweet you want the end result to be.

On the nutritional side, lemon juice provides vitamin C and some fiber, while sugar contributes to the caloric content.

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Citric Acid

Citric acid, often found in powdered form, can bring the tartness of rhubarb to your dish. It’s potent, so a little goes a long way. Use it sparingly to avoid making your dish too sour.

This substitute is most effective in recipes where rhubarb’s taste is more important than its texture, such as in beverages or sauces. From a nutritional standpoint, citric acid doesn’t offer much, but it doesn’t add any calories either.


Lastly, hibiscus, either dried or in syrup form, can substitute for rhubarb in certain recipes. Its tart and floral taste works well in desserts, beverages, and sauces.

Hibiscus brings a unique flavor profile that’s different from rhubarb, but it can be an exciting alternative. This plant is rich in vitamin C and known for its potential to lower blood pressure.

Substitutes for Rhubarb: Nutritional Profile

Presenting a comparative nutritional profile of the rhubarb substitutes (per ¼ cup):

Green ApplesGluten-free150.1g4g0.8g0.1g
Red GrapesGluten-free260.1g7g0.4g
Raspberry JamGluten-free500g13g0.7g0.1g
Sour CherriesGluten-free170g4.2g0.8g0.3g
Lemon Juice & SugarDepends on sugar type550g14g0g0g
Citric AcidGluten-free00g0g0g0g

Please note, the nutritional values can slightly vary based on the variety and ripeness of the fruits, and the specific brand of the other items.

Wrap Up

The art of cooking allows for creativity and adaptation. While rhubarb has its distinctive taste and texture, numerous other ingredients can fill its role successfully. From the tartness of green apples and cranberries to the sweetness of strawberries and raspberry jam, there’s a substitute for almost every recipe that calls for rhubarb. Even more, these alternatives don’t fall short in providing valuable nutrients. So the next time you find your kitchen bereft of rhubarb, feel free to turn to this guide and pick the best substitute for your culinary creation.

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