Tart Rhubarb Compote with Ginger

Pity the ugly foods—the brown sauces and beef stews, the muddy curries and sautéed greens—that are phenomenally flavorful but sadly unpretty on the plate.

These dishes are the bane of food photographers everywhere: challenging to style and shoot, stubbornly refusing to take orders and sex it up for the camera.

Even an ingredient that might be vibrant when raw, like the stems of rainbow chard or a bouquet of spinach, can turn dingy and dull when cooked to tenderness.

rhubarb compote with cheese board
Photo: Casey Barber

Luckily, we don’t have that problem with rhubarb. Its fuchsia color is a cheerful neon sign blinking a very welcome reminder that spring is here once again!

As a kid, I refused to eat rhubarb on some vague principle. I was offended by the word “rhubarb” and said I would absolutely not try it.

But when cooked down, it looked just like strawberry jam. And thus I was parentally hoodwinked into falling in love with the vegetable.

(Yes, it’s a veg! Rhubarb is so deceptive!)

tart rhubarb compote
Photo: Casey Barber

Though rhubarb is a gorgeous creature in its own right, I don’t make it just because it’s pretty. I have no such hangups about what food looks like on my plate when I’m by myself.

I’m not the kind of gal who styles my meal when I’m not cooking for the camera, and I might even be mushing things up in the pot to make them reheat more quickly.

But when I am cooking for others, I have a reputation to uphold. And rhubarb comes through with flying colors when it’s time to party. And eat appetizers.

On a cheese board or as a sandwich spread, tart rhubarb compote is a perfect partner.

It brings a vibrant pop of color and tangy counterpoint to a lush wheel of goat cheese, a pile of candied walnuts, a thick wedge of Roquefort, or a tower of crispy crostini.

A cracker topped with a slice of Manchego, a shaving of prosciutto, and a blob of tart rhubarb compote is a Technicolor blend of tastes.

rhubarb compote with cheese board
Photo: Casey Barber

Need more color? Try rhubarb compote in place of the traditional mayo in a banh mi that’s been spread lavishly with paté.

When I eat rhubarb with something so densely fatty and rich as cheese or charcuterie, I want it to be tart.

Not sour—a bowl of unsweetened rhubarb is something you’d serve to your worst enemy—but tart, managed by a few spoonfuls of sugar that really do more than make the medicine go down.

They brighten the mood immensely and bring out the best flavors in each stalk.

rhubarb compote with cheese board

Pretty much every rhubarb recipe in the universe includes orange juice or zest in its ingredient lineup, but I think the citrus takes something away from the true flavor of the rhubarb.

I’ve tried combinations six ways to Sunday, and the one I love most is what follows: barely any adornment, just a bracing hit of ginger and sweet balsamic vinegar to balance the fresh and tangy.

Make sure to use white balsamic vinegar here—seek it out if you must—or your compote will be more muddy than mauve-ulous.

tart rhubarb compote

Tart Rhubarb Compote

Yield: 1 1/2 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Tart rhubarb compote is not sweet like jam, but is a bright accompaniment to a cheese or charcuterie plate or as a sandwich spread.


  • 1 pound rhubarb, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss the rhubarb, sugar, ginger, and vinegar together in a large bowl until the sugar starts to dissolve.
  3. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Stir to break the rhubarb up into saucy chunks, then cook for 5-10 minutes more if needed to condense the juices.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature, then transfer to a jar.


The compote will keep for up to 1 month when refrigerated in an airtight container.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 47Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 6mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 8gProtein: 1g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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  1. Easy to make and it looks as thiough it makes a great addtion to a lot of dishes.

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