How to Freeze Rhubarb This Spring

By Kate McCarty, Food Systems Professional, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Freezing rhubarb is a simple and easy way to use it later in cooking and preserving projects. Stocking my freezer with rhubarb is one of my favorite springtime preserving projects. Frozen rhubarb is so versatile. For instance, I just made Rhubarb Orange Chutney, using up last year’s frozen rhubarb in order to make room in my freezer for this year’s.

If you are growing your own rhubarb, harvest stalks by pulling from the base of the stalk with a twisting motion or cutting close to the base of the stalk. Remove the leaves and discard, since they are poisonous (they are okay to compost though). If you’re buying it, look for bright shiny stalks that aren’t woody inside or wilted. Red or green—color doesn’t matter, both will still deliver that same great tart flavor.

How to Freeze Rhubarb

To prepare your rhubarb for freezing, trim off any unwanted bits on the ends, and then wash your stalks. Cut into the size you’ll use in a recipe, anywhere from 1/4-inch to 1-inch pieces. If you plan to use the rhubarb later in a canning recipe, the size of the pieces doesn’t really matter, since rhubarb breaks down so well when it’s heated. 

Once you’ve cut up all the rhubarb, pack it into freezer-grade plastic or glass containers (for more information on freezer-grade containers reference our publication on Freezing Fruit). The tray method is a nice option too: spread pieces out on a tray, freeze them, and then bag them up so they’re all individually frozen and will stick together less.

The best tip I have is to measure your rhubarb as you bag it, so you know what quantity you have for recipes later on. Add this information to the label of the bag, along with the name and date. Fill containers to no more than two-thirds full, and press out as much air as possible to create a high-quality frozen product.

Freeze rhubarb at 0 degrees F for best quality and remember not to overload your freezer. 

Using Frozen Rhubarb

Once frozen, rhubarb can be used in any baking or preserving recipe that calls for fresh rhubarb. Some of our favorites include this Rhubarb Spoon Cake, Rhubarb Orange Chutney, and of course classic Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. Try and use your frozen rhubarb within 8 months of freezing for best quality. Remember, the safety of this product comes from the temperature control provided by the freezer, so if your rhubarb is older than that it’s still safe to eat but might not taste as good. Happy rhubarb season!