Rhubarb

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Common Allergen: No
Jump to Recipe ↓
stalks of rhubarb before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat rhubarb?

Rhubarb may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. The leaves are potentially toxic, but the plant’s edible stalks are a great way to engage a baby’s senses with their assertive astringency, acidity, and texture.1

Warning

Rhubarb leaves are potentially toxic, but the plant’s stalks are edible. Also, excessive and consistent consumption of rhubarb may reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients like calcium and iron and distress the liver, gut, and kidney, particularly in those with existing kidney conditions.2 3 4 5 6 This may be due to rhubarb’s high concentration of oxalates, a naturally occurring plant compound that usually does not pose a problem when consumed in moderation.

Does it matter if the rhubarb is green or red?

No. Both green and red rhubarb stalks are edible. The color depends on growing conditions and the genetics of the variety, of which there are many. Prized garden varieties often have rosy pink or deep crimson stalks, while other plants produce speckled pink or pale green stalks that look like celery. Rhubarb leaves are potentially toxic, but the edible parts of the plant (the stalks and roots) have been used as food and medicine for thousands of years. The hardy perennial originated in Asia and grows worldwide in the wild and in gardens in temperate regions, where rhubarb is often celebrated as one of the first harvests of spring.

Use any color stalk in your cooking because all rhubarb stalks have a similar flavor: tart and tangy. Rhubarb’s acidity works in savory and sweet foods alike. Just be sure to check for freshness: the stalks should be firm and glossy, with no mushy areas or dark spots.

Riley, 8 months, tastes rhubarb for the first time.
Cooper, 12 months, tastes rhubarb for the first time.
Callie, 18 months, tastes rhubarb on pancakes.

Is rhubarb healthy for babies?

Yes, in moderation. Rhubarb stalks contain essential nutrients like vitamin K for healthy blood and potassium for strong muscles and a robust nervous system and are full of fibers to stimulate a child’s digestive system and help strengthen the microbiome by keeping unwanted bacteria in check.7 Bonus: rhubarb stalks are comparable to kale and other greens when it comes to polyphenols, which are plant compounds that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents to keep the body healthy.8

Despite its nutritional benefits, moderation is key. Excessive and consistent consumption of rhubarb may distress the liver, gut, and kidney, particularly in those with existing kidney conditions.9 10 11 This may be due to rhubarb’s high concentration of oxalates, a naturally occurring plant compound that usually does not pose a problem when consumed in moderation. When consumed in excess, oxalates can reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients like calcium and iron. Cooking helps reduce oxalates in rhubarb.12 13 If you have concerns, talk to a pediatric health care provider before serving rhubarb to a child.

★Tip: Rhubarb often shows up in sugary dishes and desserts–tempting ways to serve this tart plant to children, but it would be wise to press the pause button. Foods with added sugar are best served after the 2nd birthday so the child has ample time to develop a palate for unsweetened foods.14 Instead, serve rhubarb in a savory dish or pair rhubarb with a naturally sweet food, like carrot, strawberry, or stone fruit like apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, or plums.

Is rhubarb a choking hazard for babies?

No. Cooked rhubarb is not a common choking hazard, though raw rhubarb certainly could be. To minimize the risk, cook rhubarb until soft. As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment and stay within arm’s reach of baby during meals.

For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Is rhubarb a common allergen?

No. Rhubarb is not a common allergen, and information on allergies to rhubarb is limited. There have been isolated case reports of individuals developing contact rashes after handling rhubarb or coming into direct contact with foods or medicines made from rhubarb, a condition known as phytodermatitis.15 16

It is also possible to be allergic to windborne pollens produced by plants in the rhubarb family, but this is unlikely to cause issues after the ingestion of cooked rhubarb.17

As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small amount at first. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount served over future meals.

How do you introduce rhubarb to babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Cook chopped rhubarb stalks until soft and serve over scoopable foods like warm cereal, yogurt, ricotta, or even homemade whipped cream. Once you’ve safely introduced rhubarb, try the stalks in savory stews, serve alongside meats, or offer cooked rhubarb with any dish that could benefit from a tangy pop.

12 to 24 months old: Continue serving chopped, cooked rhubarb stalks with scoopable foods and experiment with spices like cardamom, cinnamon, or ginger to balance the tart flavor. At this age many toddlers can manage raw rhubarb, however, consider slicing it thin to reduce choking risk. Alternatively, cook rhubarb with chopped strawberries to make compote or with onions, garlic, and spices to make chutney.

For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.

Recipe: Stewed Rhubarb with Peaches and Strawberries

Yield: 1 cup (200 grams)
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (50 grams) fresh or frozen rhubarb
  • ½ cup (75 grams) fresh or frozen strawberries
  • ½ cup (75 grams) fresh or frozen peaches or nectarines
  • ¼ cup (63 milliliters) orange juice
  • 1 pinch ground ginger or spice of choice (optional)
  • 1 pinch ground almond or nut of choice (optional)

This recipe contains an optional ingredient that is a common allergen: almond (tree nut). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been introduced safely.

Directions

  1. Wash and dry the rhubarb, strawberries, and peaches.
  2. Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, peaches, and orange juice in a small pot set on medium-high heat.
  3. As soon as the pot comes to a boil, lower the heat to create a bare simmer.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit softens and starts to break down, about 15 minutes.
  5. If you like, stir in the spice for added flavor.
  6. Turn off the heat. Cool to room temperature.
  7. Scoop some of the mixture into the child’s bowl to serve on its own. Alternatively, stir some of the mixture into soft, scoopable foods like oatmeal or yogurt, or serve alongside a protein-rich food like meat or fish. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determine how much is eaten.
  8. If you like, sprinkle the ground almond on top of the rhubarb mixture before serving.
  9. Serve: Let the child self-feed by scooping with hands. If you’d like to encourage the use of a utensil, simply pre-load a spoon and rest it next to the bowl for the child to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass it in the air for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Stewed rhubarb with peaches and strawberries keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 5 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

Flavor Pairings

Rhubarb is tart and tangy – a bold flavor that balances natural sweetness in fruits and vegetables like apricot, beet, butternut squash, carrot, mango, peach, nectarine, onion, orange, pear, plum, pumpkin, strawberry, and sweet potato. The acidity in rhubarb also works to cut the richness of proteins like beef, bison, lamb, pork, salmon, sardine, or trout. Try pairing rhubarb with the earthy flavor of nuts like almond, hazelnut, macadamia nut, pistachio, or walnut and grains like amaranth seed, freekeh, Khorasan wheat, quinoa, or rice. Seasonings like anise, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, or vanilla complement rhubarb’s tanginess.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD

K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Rhubarb Leaves Poisoning. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  2. Xiang, H., Zuo, J., Guo, F., & Dong, D. (2020). What we already know about rhubarb: a comprehensive review. Chinese Xiang, H., Zuo, J., Guo, F., Dong, D. (2020). What we already know about rhubarb: a comprehensive review. Chinese medicine, 15, 88. DOI:10.1186/s13020-020-00370-6. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  3. Lorenz, E. C., Michet, C.J., Milliner, D.S., Lieske, J.C. (2013). Update on oxalate crystal disease. Current rheumatology reports, 15(7), 340. DOI:10.1007/s11926-013-0340-4. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  4. Noonan, S.C., Savage, G.P. (1999). Oxalate content of foods and its effect on humans. Asia Pacific Clinical Journal, 8(1), 64-74. PMID: 24393738. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  5. Chai, W., Liebman, M. (2005). Effect of different cooking methods on vegetable oxalate content. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 53(8), 3027–3030. DOI:10.1021/jf048128d. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  6. Barceloux D. G. (2009). Rhubarb and oxalosis (Rheum species). Disease-a-month : DM, 55(6), 403–411. DOI:10.1016/j.disamonth.2009.03.011. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  7. Xiang, H., Zuo, J., Guo, F., Dong, D. (2020). What we already know about rhubarb: a comprehensive review. Chinese medicine, 15, 88. DOI:10.1186/s13020-020-00370-6. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  8. Takeoka, G., Dao, L., Harden, L. Pantoja, A., Kuhl, J. (2012). Antioxidant activity, phenolic and anthocyanin contents of various rhubarb (Rheum spp.) varieties. Institute of Food Science and Technology. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2621.2012.03174.x. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  9. Barceloux D. G. (2009). Rhubarb and oxalosis (Rheum species). Disease-a-month : DM, 55(6), 403–411. DOI:10.1016/j.disamonth.2009.03.011. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  10. Noonan, S.C., Savage, G.P. (1999). Oxalate content of foods and its effect on humans. Asia Pacific Clinical Journal, 8(1), 64-74. PMID: 24393738. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  11. Xiang, H., Zuo, J., Guo, F., Dong, D. (2020). What we already know about rhubarb: a comprehensive review. Chinese medicine, 15, 88. DOI:10.1186/s13020-020-00370-6. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  12. Noonan, S.C., Savage, G.P. (1999). Oxalate content of foods and its effect on humans. Asia Pacific Clinical Journal, 8(1), 64-74. PMID: 24393738. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  13. Chai, W., Liebman, M. (2005). Effect of different cooking methods on vegetable oxalate content. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 53(8), 3027–3030. DOI:10.1021/jf048128d. Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  14. Fidler Mis, N., Braegger, C., Bronsky, J., Campoy, C., Domellöf, et al. (2017). Sugar in Infants, Children and Adolescents: A Position Paper of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Committee on Nutrition. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 65(6), 681–696. DOI:10.1097/MPG.0000000000001733. Retrieved August 25, 2020.
  15. Diffey BL, Lawlor EF, Hindson TC. (1984). Photoallergic contact dermatitis to rhubarb wine. Photodermatology, 1(1), 43-4. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  16. An I, Ozturk M. (2019). Phytodermatitis in East and southeast of Turkey: A prospective study. Cutan Ocul Toxicol, 38(2):176-181. DOI: 10.1080/15569527.2018.1561711. Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  17. Weber RW. (2015). Allergen of the Month–Monk’s Rhubarb. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol, 115(4), A13. DOI: 10.1016/j.anai.2015.08.010. Retrieved June 4, 2021.