James Beard Award-winning Cookbook Author

Best Rhubarb Pie

We have two huge rhubarb plants in our garden, and in mid-late May when the bright red stalks are at their tenderest, I make this pie. Rhubarb pie fillings are often soft and runny. The rhubarb contains so much water, you either have to add too much thickener or coax the rhubarb to release its liquid before thickening it. What’s the answer?To solve this problem, I mix the rhubarb with the sugar. Over time, the sugar draws out the excess juices. This takes place overnight, while you’re sleeping, and by the next morning, the rhubarb’s ready to be put into the pie. After baking and cooling, you can slice into this pie and the filling will stay put.

Be sure to make this pie when rhubarb is tender and bursting with flavor. The pastry is half butter and half lard. Cider vinegar helps prevent excessive gluten formation. You will not taste it at all.

A serving of fresh rhubarb pie. See how flaky the pastry is? And the filling is moist and slightly tart and stays put.

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Best Rhubarb Pie

5 from 1 vote
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

Pastry

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) cold lard or chilled vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup  (4 ounces;1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
  • 6 tablespoons  ice water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Rhubarb Filling

  • 2 pounds trimmed rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (8 cups)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 large orange zest, finely grated (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons  vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Instructions
 

To make the pastry

  • Put the flour into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the salt and lard and pulse 4 times for about 1 second each to cut the fat into smaller pieces. Add the butter and pulse 4 more times.
  • In a glass measuring cup with pouring spout, combine the water and cider vinegar. Start pulsing the food processor very rapidly (a fraction of a second each), while you add the liquid in a steady stream through the feed tube. After 25 to 30 pulses, the dough should almost gather into a ball. Do not process until it actually does.
  • Lightly flour your work surface (a canvas pastry cloth is ideal),and scrape the dough onto it. Gently press the pieces of dough together to form one mass. Divide it in two, with one piece slightly larger than the other. Flatten each piece to a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap securely in plastic, and refrigerate overnight.
  • To make the pastry by hand, place the flour in a large bowl and stir in the salt. Add the cold lard and butter pieces, and use a pastry blender to cut in the fats until the texture resembles very coarse meal. Combine the water and cider vinegar. Slowly add it to the fats and flour while tossing the dry ingredients with a fork. Stop when the dough just gathers into a ball. Shape into two disks and wrap as directed above. Refrigerate overnight.

To make the filling

  • Combine the rhubarb, 2 cups sugar, and cloves in a large bowl. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Refrigerate if your kitchen is warm.
  • The next morning, stir to dissolve any remaining sugar granules. Set a wire strainer over a bowl and transfer the rhubarb and juices to it. Let drain for about 1 hour. (reserve juice)
  • Measure 1 1/4 cups of rhubarb juice. Add water, if necessary, to make volume. Put the juice into a heavy medium saucepan and add the orange zest, orange juice, and cornstarch. Stir with a whisk to put the cornstarch in suspension. Cook over medium heat, stirring gently and constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula until the liquid boils and thickens. As the liquid heats up and approaches boiling, the cornstarch thickens in isolated patches forming translucent clumps. This is perfectly okay. Just keep stirring gently and eventually the entire mass will thicken a lot and look translucent. Continue to cook and stir gently 2 minutes more. Do not stir rapidly; it may cause the sauce to thin out. Remove the pan from heat, stir in the vanilla, and cool until tepid.
  • Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and set a heavy baking sheet on it. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Roll the larger piece of pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 13-inch circle. Fit the dough loosely into a 9-inch pie plate, preferably heatproof glass. Do not stretch the dough. Nudge it into the pan from the edge so that it fits onto the sides and bottom of the pan snugly. With kitchen shears, trim the overhanging dough to within 1/2-inch of the pie plate edge. Refrigerate. Roll the second piece of pastry on the lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle; let it stand while you complete the filling.
  • In a large bowl, fold together the drained rhubarb and tepid cornstarch-thickened rhubarb and orange juice. Spoon the filling into the prepared crust, and spread it evenly with a rubber or metal spatula. Scatter the pieces of cold butter over the filling. Brush the edge of the bottom crust lightly with water and cover the pie with the top crust, pressing the edges to seal. Trim away the excess top crust pastry with scissors, leaving 1/2 inch of overhang. Press the top and bottom edges of the crust together to seal. Fold this double edge of pastry underneath itself going all around the pie to make a standing rim and flute. Brush the top of the pastry lightly with cold water and sprinkle it evenly with the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Make a few slits in the top crust with the tip of a paring knife.
  • Place the pie on the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes at 450 degrees. Then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees, and continue baking another 45 to 50 minutes, until the crust is well browned and you can see thickened juices bubbling through the slits. Cool the pie on a wire rack for several hours before serving. If you cut the pie too soon, the filling may run. I like to cool the pie for 2 to 3 hours, then refrigerate it for 2 to 3 hours. This pie is delicious slightly cold. Vanilla ice cream goes very well with this pie. Refrigerate leftovers.
  • Makes one 9-inch pie, about 8 servings.


28 thoughts on “Best Rhubarb Pie”

  • Have been making rhubarb pies my whole life and they have been hit or miss with their consistency, sometimes too much liquid, sometimes fine. This recipe has been a game changer! Thank you for posting it.

  • I’ve been making rhubarb pie for over 40 years, but decided to thy your recipe. Love the it!

  • Hi, what alterations would you make if any to the rhubarb preparation process if using frozen rhubarb. Once thawed, of course, a lot of water/juice comes out of frozen rhubarb. Thank you.

  • I’m anxious to try this, and will need to use frozen rhubarb. My question is: After thawing out the frozen rhubarb, what is the collected, sweetened liquid used for? Isn’t that the same as putting the liquid back into the pie? Thank you, Susan

    • Combine the frozen rhubarb with the sugar in a bowl. When thawed, drain well in a strainer set over a bowl. Use the sugared juices in the pie, cooked with the cornstarch. Happy baking!

    • Add a pint of sliced ripe strawberries to the rhubarb mixed with the thickened juices and turn into the pie shell. Bake as directed. Happy baking!

  • Thanks so much for posting this. Pie #1 is in the oven and I’m very optimistic that it’s gonna be the best pie ever!

  • I started this recipe last night and felt like the crust was going to be a flop. I’m not sure if I used the food processor incorrectly, or what, but before I got the last 1-2 tablespoons of liquid in, the whole thing was starting to look like thick pudding. I stopped and emptied it out on plastic wrap with an extra half cup or so of flour and popped it in the fridge (expecting to revert to using a store-bought roll-out crust today with the filling. When I got to the project today, my rhubarb had already rendered over 2 cups of liquid. I couldn’t bring myself to throwing out the extra, so instead, I increased the corn starch to 7T. I let the pastry dough warm up a little before (20 min) I started to knead it a bit, then I divided and rolled it out. I was pretty happy with the consistency (much happier than any other time I’ve made pie crust from scratch). I also added 3/4 quart of strawberries with a little dusting of corn starch. As I assembled the pie, it was going better than normal — the added volume from the extra flour gave me enough crust that I could cover the bottom edge and roll over for sealing and crimping.

    5 minutes into the baking, I could already tell that the crust was going to taste SO MUCH better than store-bought, or even my regular scratch made — the inclusion of lard and the cider vinegar was obvious in the aroma. I also like the “25 minutes at 450, 45 at 375” technique — the crust was baked perfectly without any burned edges! I’m anxious to let it cool fully for a proper tasting, but the overflow filling that I’ve tasted is delicious!

    I’m still curious about the “thick pudding” experience — do you think I processed too long (i.e. didn’t pour the liquid in fast enough)? I’m very tempted to just increase the flour measure to 2.5 cups for saving this one.

    What do you think?

    • Did you pulse in the liquid a little at a time. Don’t let the machine run continuously as you add the liquid. To be safe, after you’ve pulsed in the butter and lard as directed,stop the machine. Add 2 tablespoons liquid through the feed tube, then pulse very rapidly 5 times or so. Add a couple more tablespoons liquid and pulse again a few times. Repeat one more time. If it looks like the flour and fat are almost ready to gather into a dough, add droplets of water while you pulse very rapidly and stop before the dough actually gathers into a ball. Remove lumps of dough from the work bowl and pressed them all together. Now you can continue with the recipe. Happy baking!

    • When making pie dough in the food processor, pulse in the fats very briefly, just until cut into largish pieces. Stop the machine and pour in through the feed tube 2 tablespoons ice cold liquid. Pulse very rapidly about 8 times. Repeat twice more with 2 more TB each time. DO NOT LEAVE THE PROCESSOR ON while making pie dough. Pulsing is the key. After you’ve pulsed in 6 TB liquid, Try to judge how much more you’ll need to form the dough into large clumps, not one big clump. Add liquid by droplets and pulse rapidly until it looks like the dough is just about ready to come together. Stop. Remove clumps, press all together, and continue with the recipe. Happy baking!

  • Thank you for this recipe. I appreciate your very clear instructions. I tried this yesterday, following your directions. The only problem for me was that my rhubarb must have been more tart? I thought two cups of sugar seemed like plenty, but it tasted as though it could have used more. I liked the maceration process and feel that it really did solve the problem of rhubarb puddles on the plates. I may try closer to a 50/50 rhubarb to strawberry ratio next time, as the only issue for me was my own home grown rhubarb.

  • I’m making this now. I have about a full cup of rhubarb juice leftover after using 1 &1/4 Cup for the filling. I’m wondering if I should fold in more sugar with the rhubarb; surely almost half of the two cups is now dissolved in my extra cup of rhubarb juice. We like our pies sweet! Any thoughts?

    • I apologize for the delay in my response. Your rhubarb is vary juicy. I’d use the 1 1/4 cups to make the filling. Then taste and see if you need more sugar. You can always just stir more in before baking.

  • 5 stars
    Best method ever! The pie was perfect: flavour, consistency, end result. Absolutely my go to recipe at rhubarb season. You are a baking wizard!

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