Rhubarb Ice Cream

Rhubarb ice creamCSA time is here! In our first box of the season I ordered some rhubarb not quite knowing what I’d do with it. Cheryl pointed out I hadn’t made any ice cream in a while and since it was turning into summer (ever so slowly here in Chicago) it might be nice if I made some. So for the very first CSA-box recipe of the summer post I give you: rhubarb ice cream!

Note that I did not say strawberry-rhubarb ice cream. You may have noticed when you see a rhubarb dish on menus (typically a dessert) it’s always strawberry-rhubarb something and you end up with more strawberry flavor than rhubarb. I have also found because rhubarb is so tart almost every recipe using it calls for adding a copious amount of sugar, further masking the rhubarb. With all of that sweetness, how can you tell if there’s any rhubarb in there? Lemons are tart but don’t get over-sweetened, the tartness is kept. Ok, so if strawberries and sugar are out, what can you pair this with?

You guessed it, I looked in The Flavor Bible. I know you probably get tired of me ranting about this awesome book but it’s moments like this I am so happy to have it. There’s actually a pretty good sized list of things which pair with rhubarb in the book. Cream/Ice Cream is one of the first ‘ALL CAPS/BOLD’ ingredients listed.

[Side Roam: The Flavor Bible is like an encyclopedia of…well…flavor affinity in relation to other ingredients. The font of the ingredient tells you how strong the pairing is, for example regular type = yes, you can use it; bold type = very recommended; CAPS BOLD = highly recommended; and *CAPS BOLD = Holy Grail; and yes *STRAWBERRIES gets this last designation.]

I was happy to see I was on the right path with the ice cream idea. Looking further down the list I decided to add GINGER and some Grand Marnier as I thought both would round out a nice flavor profile.

Not that the Flavor Bible needs me to back it up but ice cream really is a perfect medium for rhubarb. There is enough sugar in the custard base to take the edge off of the rhubarb while at the same time the rhubarb balances out the sugar in the custard. You end up with a not too tart but not too sweet ice cream. With a little bit of ginger as well. The Grand Marnier didn’t show itself so strongly. Guess it was in regular typeface for a reason!

The rhubarb I used wasn’t all super red so my puree was more pinkish in color and the yolky yellow of the custard kind of overpowered it. The ice cream does have a pinkish hue to it, just light enough though to not show up well in the photo. Despite the color (or lack thereof) the tart rhubarb is there and since it was a very rough puree (more of a mash with a fork) there are some nice little rhubarb bits in the ice cream. I think maybe some caramel sauce would be a wonderful addition.

Rhubarb Ice Cream (crème anglaise ratio from Ruhlman’s Ratio)

  • 1 ½ C cream
  • 1 ½ C milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 9 egg yolks
  • ¾ C sugar
  • 4 C chopped rhubarb
  • ¼ C water
  • ¼ C Grand Marnier
  • 4 tsp ground ginger

Combine the milk, cream and vanilla bean in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, remove from heat, cover and allow vanilla bean to steep for 15 minutes.

While steeping, thoroughly whisk the sugar into the egg yolks.

Prepare an ice bath. Fill up a large bowl with ice and water. Make sure it’s large enough to hold a smaller bowl (or pot). Place a small/medium mesh strainer in the second bowl.

Remove the vanilla bean. With a paring knife, split the bean, scrape out the seeds and mix back into the milk/cream.

Slowly pour the milk/cream mixture to the egg yolks and whisk in.

Pour back into sauce pan and over medium heat stir until the sauce thickens enough that it coats the back of a spoon and you can draw a line through it with your finger.

When it has thickened, pour the sauce through the strainer into the bowl in the ice bath and stir to cool.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow to chill in refrigerator until cold. I recommend letting it chill overnight.

Next, in a large pan add the rhubarb and water. Over medium heat, cook the rhubarb until soft and slurry. If you want some pieces in your ice cream mash and stir the rhubarb with a fork. If not, pour into your food processor or blender and puree. Allow to cool.

Take the chilled custard out of the refrigerator. Fold in the rhubarb slurry/puree. Assemble your ice cream maker, pour in the custard, and following your device’s instructions make the ice cream. Our Cuisinart takes about a half hour of spinning to get ice cream. Spoon into a container and put in freezer to desired hardness.



  1. I love the idea of rhubarb ice cream. I also got some rhubarb in my CSA box and need to figure out what to do with it. I love making ice cream and you use pretty much the same ice cream base as I do. Will have to try this Wondered about caramelizing the rhubarb in butter and a little brown sugar and adding to the ice cream.
    My dear friend is moving to Chicago this Sunday, she just bought a condo on Larrabee I think. I will tell her to follow your blog so you two can meet.

    1. Nice, good time to move here. I think BROWN SUGAR was also listed as a good companion!

  2. chef mimi says:

    nice…. but, where’s the MEAT???????

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