Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce + Grilled Veggie Sandwiches

I've just recently become a huge fan of barbecue sauce.  Sure, growing up we ate barbecue sauce from time to time but it was never a big thing and I could really take it or leave it.  But for some reason I'm currently hooked on putting barbecue sauce on everything.  Most everything.  Not breakfast.  Although I wouldn't put it past me.


Ever since making blueberry + pineapple barbecue sauce I've been trying to think of what flavor to play with next.  I thought of rhubarb but was hesitant.  Would it take too much sugar to mellow out?  Would it pair well with savory flavors?  Since it's most common to see rhubarb in pies o jam it seemed a little odd to try and make barbecue sauce with it.  


While it does require more than a handful of ingredients nothing is too out of the ordinary.  The item you might have the hardest time finding is the rhubarb!

Luckily, you can find rhubarb growing randomly all over our town.  A little urban foraging never hurt anyone, right?

The stalks you see above actually came from my cousin.  He has two gigantic rhubarb plants randmoly growing in his backyard.  I've never noticed rhubarb growing so freely in any other location, but then again, maybe I was never really looking for it.  I'm pretty sure they should be selling it for free around here and not having it shipped in from the other side of the country charging $7.00/lb.


I wanted to highlight this sauce in a simple way so I decided on a grilled veggie sandwich.  No tempeh, tofu, or portobellos here.  Just a pile of delicious summer veggies, grilled up in minutes, sandwiched between toast, and smothered in barbecue sauce.

To me, THIS is summer.


And the sauce??  Oh my.  The dipping got a little ridiculous.

It has a nice smokey-tang that you can not only taste but smell, and it's finished with a kick of heat from the jalapeno.  


Slather this on anything you like!  From corn on the cob to grilled veggie sandwiches, tempeh, tofu, or your protein of choice, on quinoa or millet, or as a dipping sauce for fresh veggies...or french fries.

Rhubarb barbecue sauce, who would've thought?


Print this!

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce 

gluten-free, vegan // yields ~2 cups sauce

adapted from: pineapple barbecue sauce

  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb, 1/4-inch slices ~5 large stalks
  • 1 cup canned tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons diced + seeded jalapeno
  • 2 - 3 1/2 tablespoons muscovado sugar, sucanat or light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons stone ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • oil for cooking
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat.
  2. Once hot, add the onion + jalapeno and cook until softened, stirring occasionally.  About 6-8 minutes.
  3. Add in the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  4. Add in the rhubarb, tomato sauce, tomato paste, vinegar, 2 tablespoons muscovado sugar, molasses, garlic, smoked paprika, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  5. Stir to combine and reduce heat to medium-low/low and simmer uncovered for 12-15 minutes until the rhubarb is tender and easily mashed.  Mixture should be thick.
  6. Remove from heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes, then place in your blender or food processor and [carefully! hot liquid!] blend until fully smooth.  
  7. Return to the pot over low heat, taste and adjust seasonings [more sugar/salt/pepper -- I used 3T sugar total] if needed.  
  8. Serve immediately or allow to cool then store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week.  Or, allow to fully cool, place in a sealable bag and freeze.  Thaw in the fridge 24hrs before using.

For the grilled veggie sandwich:  I used zucchini, eggplant, and orange bell pepper with a fresh slice of tomato on the bottom.

  1. Preheat grill to about medium/med-high heat.
  2. Slice veggies and toss with oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Pour out into an even layer on a grill pan or grate and grill for 4-5 minutes, toss, and grill another 3-5 minutes until grilled to your liking.
  4. Remove from the heat and serve.

notes/subs: The seeded jalapeno is optional if you want a medium spice level.  It is crucial to use smoked paprika and not plain paprika.  Costco sells a large container for about $4.


A little on the messy side, but I'd say it's worth it.


strawberry rhubarb buttermilk upside-down cake

Oh, hi!


Weird.  Looks like we actually have a recipe today.  Unlike what I made yesterday and a recipe I made last week that never made it to this space. 


When you make a recipe and have to taste test it 15 times to figure out if it’s just “okay” or “really good” that probably means it’s just “okay.”

When you make a recipe and “taste test” 15 bites because you just can’t stop, what you have is definitely “really good.”

You with me?


After 2 recent flops I was on pins + needles waiting for this cake to bake.  I thought it was going to be a disaster from the start.  Way to be optimistic, huh?

The idea sounded doable but I wasn’t really sure how much fruit to put in the pan, how liquefied it would end up, and then if the cake would actually bake on top of it.


I cooked the fruit + sugar mixture and it was way juicier than I was thinking it should be, but I kept on with the plan.

I poured the batter overtop and thought, that doesn’t look like enough.  Ahh!  But in the oven it went.

I turned the oven light on about 10 times to check the progress.  When I saw the filling bubble around the sides I thought this cake was done for.  I figured the batter + filling fully mixed together and there would just be a slight crusty layer of cake.


And then the cake was done.  The toothpick told me so!

And then came the next question.  Do I flip this sucker out of the pan for a true upside-down cake, or do I just slice + serve straight from the pan.

I decided to take my chances even though I knew there was no 2nd trial in the future if this didn’t work.  I was out of strawberries and didn’t have our car to run out for more.

The plate covered the pan, then a quick flip, and…nothing.  No cake!


But after about 10 seconds I heard a nice “thud!”


It came out!  In one piece!  But how did it taste??  Cakes are tricky because you kind of need to wait for the photo shoot to be complete before giving it a taste test.

Or, you can chow down on one side of the cake and hide it from the photos as seen below.  This is the side you can’t see 2 photos up!

And this is when I realized after the 15th “taste test” that this cake was “really good!” 

As in, I could not stop eating it.


Photo.  Bite.  Photo.  Bite.


Totally edible.


With a tangy fruit topping, a lightly sweetened cake, and a hint of vanilla, this is my dream summer dessert.  A little bit of all the things I love!

Note: This cake is not a light + fluffy cake.  It’s quite thick but moist and holds up well to the gooey fruit topping.


Print this!

Strawberry Rhubarb Buttermilk Upside-down Cake

gluten-free // yields 1, 10-inch cake

Rhubarb Mixture:

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb, 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 1/2 cups quartered strawberries, hulled
  • 1/4 cup muscovado sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons arrowroot starch
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped + reserved for cake


  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons gluten-free oat flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons blanched almond flour
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons muscovado sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/3 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted + slightly cooled
  • beans from 1 vanilla bean pod, ~1/4 teaspoon

*Have all cake ingredients out + ready to go, so you can whip up the cake while the rhubarb mixture cools.

  1. Heat butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. 
  2. Once melted, swirl butter around the sides of the pan.
  3. Add the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, honey, starch, and empty vanilla bean pod.
  4. Stir together and let simmer/low-boil for 8-10 minutes until the fruit is very tender.  Stir a few times while cooking. The mixture will be very wet.  [refer to photo 2]
  5. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350* F.
  7. In a large bowl, stir to combine the oat flour, almond flour, sugar, sweet rice flour, baking powder, + salt.
  8. In another bowl whisk the eggs and then vigorously whisk in the buttermilk, applesauce, melted butter, and vanilla beans. 
  9. Pour the wet into the dry and whisk together until just combined. 
  10. Pour evenly overtop of the rhubarb mixture and lightly spread to the edges if needed.
  11. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set, cracked, and a toothpick comes out clean.  [refer to photo 3]Be careful not to poke all the way through to the gooey rhubarb mixture.
  12. Let cool for 15-20 minutes and slide a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. 
  13. Place a large plate upside-down over the pan then, holding the plate and pan together flip them so the plate is sitting on its bottom.  Give a light shake of the pan until you hear it fall onto the plate.  Mine took about 5-10 seconds to drop but it came out fully clean from the pan.
  14. Let cool for at least 15 minutes for the topping to set/thicken + the cake to firm, then serve warm or fully cooled with whipped cream or a side of vanilla ice cream.

notes/substitutions:  Coconut oil can be subbed for butter and non-dairy buttermilk can be used instead of real buttermilk to make this dairy free.  Non-dairy buttermilk: Stir 1 teaspoon vinegar with 1/3 cup unsweetened soy/almond/rice milk and let sit for 5-10 minutes.  Brown sugar, sucanat, or coconut sugar can be substituted for muscovado.  If you don’t have vanilla beans, add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract to the rhubarb mixture and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the wet cake ingredients.  If you can’t tolerate oat flour, sub a high quality gluten-free all purpose blend for oat flour at a 1:1 ratio.

Recommendations for other pans: You could cook the fruit mixture in a skillet then transfer to a 10-inch, greased spring form pan and proceed with the recipe from there.  I can’t say for sure if a regular round cake pan will work.  You may want to line it with parchment to be safe.  If making in an 8-inch pan you’ll need to reduce the amount of fruit/sugar you use slightly and the cake bake time will increase.


Cake.  Win.