Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

My Mennonite Grandma Mary would have loved rhubarb chutney. But alas, I doubt she ever tasted true chutney, even though her cellar walls were lined yearly with row upon row of pickled and candied veggies and fruits. She preserved everything she could get her hands on. Her large yard boasted mature peach, pear, plum, sweet cherry, pie cherry, and crab apple trees, which we of course climbed and pilfered.

Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

In the summer, her kitchen smelled persistently of vinegar. To some pickling brews, she added sugar and spices, creating candied crab apples or sweet and sour bing cherries in the process. No dinner table was considered properly set without several bowls of her glistening treasure arranged significantly in the center.

It would have been an easy leap for her from sweet and sour pickled fruit to sweet and sour chutney: no canning, smaller quantity, chopped instead of whole fruit, wider spicing options, and auxiliary ingredients, such as raisins.

Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

I have no doubt at all that she would have loved this particular chutney, especially since her garden along the white-washed picket fence was thick with rhubarb and the only ways she knew to use it were in lattice topped pie (with superb lard crust), homey tea bread, and  spicy rhubarb sauce. I wonder now, many years too late, why I didn’t think to share it with her.

Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

When I first started making Indian chutneys (inspired by Madhur Jaffrey), I wondered about the similarities between German and Indian culinary traditions. After all, it is a short distance from rhubarb sauce to rhubarb chutney. I realized immediately that this particular tradition was not foreign to me at all. Thanks to Grandma Mary, I grew up with similar marvelous condiments.

Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

The acidity of pickled veggies and sweet and sour fruit is the best palate cleanser and appetite booster I know. There is no better appetizer in the world than a freshly made fruit chutney served with a beautiful cheese (or savory cheesecake) and a basket of artisan crackers or crisps.

Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

This russet-red chutney is sweet, tart, spicy, and addictively delicious. I especially love it with Seeded Bread Crisps topped with a creamy brie or fresh chevre, or as an accompaniment to a savory cheesecake.

1 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks, broken with a mallet
2 teaspoons cardamom pods, broken with a mallet
2 teaspoons coarsely crushed black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 teaspoon anise seeds
zest of 1 large orange

3 cups (14 ounces), trimmed, sliced rhubarb
½ cup plump raisins

½ teaspoon vanilla

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar and sugar, and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Add the cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves, anise seeds, and orange zest. Cover the pan tightly and macerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Strain the liquid through a triple-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan. Discard the spent spices.
  4. Reheat the liquid and add the rhubarb and raisins. Bring to a slow simmer.
  5. Simmer slowly, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens and the liquid reduces by half, about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla.
  7. Let cool, put into a storage container, cover, and refrigerate until cold.

Makes about 2 cups.

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Copyright 2011 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.


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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.


  1. Thank you for your blog about rubarb chutney. I just bought some cherry rubarb chutney from costco. It is very good and was finding some different uses for it. I really liked what you said with cream cheese and Brie cheese and if course the seeded bread. Enjoyed your grandmothers memories too. Those were some special times. ??

  2. Hi Susan
    I only just discovered your blog when googling rhubarb chutney recipes (my friend gave me a box of them yesterday) – and am already a fan! I looked at loads of recipes but yours is irresistible – will make it this afternoon! (And I’m looking forward to going through ALL your recipes as well…) But please have a look at this delicious tomato-ginger-lemongrass-chili chutney that I’ve been making for years – SO easy and delicious (it’s at the end of the post): http://thebrusselscooker.blogspot.be/2012/12/gifts-good-enough-to-eat.html
    The Brussels Cook(er)´s last blog post ..Pumped-up pasta with salami & fennel kicksMy Profile

  3. Hi ,I know this post is a few years old but can you tell me how well this chutney keeps,and does it need to be refrigerated ?.

    • Hi Nan. Yes, the recipe specifies that the chutney must be refrigerated. Because of the high percentage of vinegar and sugar, it keeps very well–at least a couple of weeks. Hope this helps. :-)

      • So this amount of vinegar and sugar, isn’t the same as a usual chutney which can be kept for severeal years in a cool room in sealed jars ?

        • Nan, well I wouldn’t recommend keeping anything for several years. It actually lasts a very long time in the fridge, but I hesitate to state any time over a couple of weeks. It’s always gone by then anyway. :-)

  4. Donna, MauiJim just added a new print button. Hope this one works.

  5. I love anything rhubarb and I am quite sure that I, and your grandmother, would have loved this chutney!

  6. Mmmmm I love anything with rhubarb – I’ve never tried it with cheese though, what an interesting combination!

  7. This looks really great! I just can’t find the print button to print it out!

  8. what a great interesting use of rhubarb; it is such a healthy food…your blog is so full of different and exciting new tweaks…thanx for sharing…


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