3-Ingredient Rhubarb Compote

published May 24, 2023
Rhubarb Compote Recipe

All you need is sugar, vanilla, and rhubarb to make this jammy sweet-tart compote.

Serves4 to 6

Makesabout 2 cups

Prep5 minutes

Cook10 minutes

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jar of rhubarb compote on marble surface with a silver spoon scooping some out
Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaffer; Food Styling: Nicole Rufus

The first glimpse of rhubarb at my local farmers market brings me nothing but pure joy. The tart ruby stalks are a nostalgic reminder of the long-awaited springs I pined for in New England, where I spent my childhood. Although I don’t have to wait quite as long for the season to start these days (I now live in North Carolina), bringing rhubarb home will forever be the kickoff to spring in my kitchen. There are endless ways to enjoy it (this crisp, these shortcakes, and this cocktail are just a few great choices), but far and away my favorite is in a simple compote. All you need is sugar, vanilla, and a touch of salt to transform those firm stalks into jammy, sweet-tart perfection. 

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaffer; Food Styling: Nicole Rufus

A 3-Ingredient Formula for Rhubarb Compote

While many rhubarb compote recipes feature a long list of ingredients, this one keeps it easy. It might not seem like it at first glance, but stalks contain quite a bit of liquid, so there’s no need to add juice or water when making this compote. As the rhubarb heats and the sugar dissolves, that liquid will get drawn out, mingle with the sugar, and become a sauce for the tender rhubarb to bathe in. 

Scraping a vanilla bean or adding a splash of vanilla extract to the compote adds depth, but it’s just one way to do so. Instead, you could add a lemon or orange peel, a couple of cracked cardamom pods, or even the smallest pinch of dried lavender. Play around and make this compote your own.

Credit: Photo: Lucy Schaffer; Food Styling: Nicole Rufus

How to Enjoy Rhubarb Compote

  • Serve this compote warm over vanilla or strawberry ice cream for the ultimate spring dessert — you won’t be disappointed.
  • It’s lovely over other creamy treats like panna cotta and lemon posset.
  • Be sure to save some for your morning yogurt, to serve with oatmeal or pancakes, and to spoon on toast or biscuits.

Rhubarb Compote Recipe

All you need is sugar, vanilla, and rhubarb to make this jammy sweet-tart compote.

Prep time 5 minutes

Cook time 10 minutes

Makes about 2 cups

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1 pound

    rhubarb stalks (6 to 7 medium)

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1

    vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt


  1. Trim 1 pound raw rhubarb and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups). Place in a medium saucepan.

  2. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar. If using 1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise, then scrape the back of a paring knife along the cut side of each half to scrape out the seeds; add the seeds and scraped bean pod to the saucepan. If using vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract, add 1 teaspoon. Add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.

  3. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is tender and beginning to fall apart, and a sauce is formed, about 8 minutes.

  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Remove and discard the vanilla bean pod. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week or frozen for up to 3 months.