If you want to make the most of the too-short rhubarb season, this Gluten-Free Rhubarb Crisp recipe has your name written all over it. Made with just 10 simple ingredients, this tasty gluten-free fruit crisp is the ideal warm-weather dessert, and it just so happens to be vegan, too!
Serve it warm with a scoop of dairy-free ice cream for an added creamy richness that'll have you going back for seconds!
This recipe was originally published on May 17, 2021. It was updated with new photos and information on May 7, 2023.
Table of contents
What is Rhubarb, & Where Can I Find It?
Rhubarb is a vegetable that looks like a neon pink and green version of celery. It's often used in sweet dishes like pies, crisps, and jams.
It has a tangy, borderline sour taste that makes it ideal for pairing with sweet berries and sugar. It's also a great ingredient for compotes that you might serve alongside savory dishes like pork chops or duck.
Now, as for where to find it, that can be a little tricky. Rhubarb is only in season for a pretty short time, usually from April or May to June or July, depending on where you live. During that time, you might be able to find it at your local grocery store, farmers market, or even in your own garden if you're lucky enough to grow it yourself!
You'll want to look for stalks that are firm and crisp, with a bright color. And remember, only the stalks are edible — the leaves are poisonous, so make sure to trim them off and discard them.
Also, if you love rhubarb as much as my family and I do, make sure to buy extra. It freezes beautifully, so grab an extra bunch or two, then wash, chop, and store it in a freezer bag to extend the season through summer.
What is Rhubarb Crisp?
Old-fashioned rhubarb crisp is a casserole-style dessert made with a layer of sweetened, jammy rhubarb on the bottom and a crumbly topping made from a mixture of oats, flour, sugar, and butter. The crisp is baked until the rhubarb is tender and bubbly and the topping is golden and crunchy.
This classic American dessert is perfect for showcasing the tangy, sweet flavor of rhubarb. It's often served warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream. YUM!
My easy rhubarb crisp recipe is a great dessert option for spring and summer when rhubarb is in season. It's the perfect light and refreshing treat to enjoy after a meal. Plus, it's super simple to make and can be whipped up for a crowd-pleasing last-minute dessert.
Why You’ll Love This Gluten-Free Rhubarb Crisp Recipe
Aside from being bright, juicy, and pretty in pink, this easy recipe for rhubarb crisp is also:
- Quick & easy - You only need to spend 15 minutes of active prep time in the kitchen, then the oven does all the rest!
- Allergen-friendly - It’s naturally dairy-free, vegan, nut-free, seed-free, and gluten-free as written, so pretty much everyone can partake!
- Customizable - Feel free to add your own flair with your choice of berries, extra crumble topping ingredients, or even turn it into a pie.
- Made with only 10 ingredients - All you’ll need is rhubarb and lemon — everything else is a pantry staple!
Ingredients & Substitutions
As promised, you don’t need a ton of ingredients to make a stellar springtime dessert. Here’s everything you’ll need:
- Rhubarb - Feel free to use fresh or frozen. Just make sure you only use the stalks and that they’re cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Granulated sugar - Organic cane sugar can also be used.
- Cornstarch - For thickening the rhubarb filling to a jammy, syrupy consistency. If corn is a no-no for you, feel free to use equal amounts of either potato starch, tapioca starch, or arrowroot powder.
- Ground cinnamon - For a touch of warmth. You can also experiment with other warming spices like ginger or cardamom.
- Lemon - For the best flavor, you’ll want to use both the zest and juice of a fresh lemon. If you don’t have fresh lemons on hand, you can skip the zest and bottled lemon juice.
- Dairy-free butter - For a rich, flavorful topping. If dairy isn’t an issue for you, regular butter also works marvelously!
- Gluten-free all-purpose flour - Opt for a blend that has xanthan gum for the best results.
- Gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats - While oats themselves are naturally free from gluten, the equipment they are processed on may not be. If you’re gluten-sensitive, be safe by opting for a certified gluten-free bag. Avoid using quick or instant oatmeal as possible, as it doesn’t have quite the same toothsome bite of old-fashioned oats.
- Brown sugar - For caramelly sweetness. Feel free to use either light or dark brown sugar, or swap in a less refined alternative like grated jaggery or piloncillo.
- Fine salt - Seasoning is always in style, even for dessert. Adding salt helps to brighten the other flavors and somehow makes the crisp taste sweeter.
Fresh vs. Frozen Rhubarb
Fresh rhubarb is often brighter in color and has a crisper texture than frozen rhubarb. It's available only for a short season, so make sure to grab it while you can!
Frozen rhubarb is convenient because it's available year-round and it's already chopped up — hooray for convenience! However, it can be slightly softer and more watery than fresh rhubarb, which can affect the texture of some baked goods (like quickbreads or muffins). To compensate for this, you may need to adjust the amount of liquid or thickener in your recipe to prevent it from becoming too watery.
That said, you're welcome to use either fresh or frozen rhubarb in this gluten-free crisp recipe with no adjustments needed — the base layer is intended to be deliciously syrupy.
How To Make Rhubarb Crisp Gluten-Free
This quick & easy gluten-free, dairy-free rhubarb crisp comes together in just a few simple steps.
Step 1: Prep. Preheat the oven and put a 2 qt baking dish on a baking sheet, and set aside.
Step 2: Make Rhubarb Filling. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Add the chopped rhubarb and toss until evenly coated. Add the lemon juice and toss it again. Pour it into the baking dish and set it aside.
Step 3: Make Gluten-Free Crisp Topping. In a separate bowl, combine the gluten-free flour, oats, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add the butter and use your hands to pinch the butter and incorporate it into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
Step 4: Assemble & Bake. Evenly sprinkle it over the rhubarb mixture and bake it for 45 minutes. Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
As much as I love this fruit-forward dessert just the way it is written, feel free to experiment to find YOUR best rhubarb crisp recipe. Here are a few variations worth considering:
- Add berries. Turn it into a gluten-free strawberry rhubarb crisp, raspberry rhubarb crisp, or cherry rhubarb crisp by swapping out up to half the rhubarb for your choice of fresh or frozen berries.
- Please them with pie. Make a super satisfying gluten-free strawberry rhubarb pie by using a gluten-free pie crust in an extra-deep pie dish, then fill with the fruit filling and top with the crumble before baking.
- Experiment with different toppings. While the plain gluten-free crisp topping is made with flour, oats, and butter, you can experiment with other gluten-free toppings, such as nuts, seeds, or coconut flakes for added flavor and texture.
Each bite of this vegan rhubarb crisp with oatmeal topping is like a burst of sunshine on your taste buds — it's bright, sweet-tart, buttery, and bursting with delicious flavors. Since it’s a spring and summer favorite, I tend to serve it for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, and any early-season cookouts. Don’t judge— once you try it, you’ll want it all the time, too!
When it comes to serving suggestions, there are so many fun ways to enjoy it. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Serve it with a scoop of dairy-free vanilla ice cream or whipped coconut cream for a classic dessert pairing.
- Add some extra texture and crunch by sprinkling some chopped toasted nuts or coconut flakes on top.
- Drizzle some warm caramel or chocolate sauce over the crisp for an extra decadent treat.
- Top it with some fresh berries or fruit for a colorful, summery twist.
- Serve it for breakfast or brunch alongside some yogurt for a sweet and satisfying start to your day. I won’t tell if you don’t!
Recipe Success Tips
- Remove & discard the rhubarb leaves — they’re poisonous!
- Buy more rhubarb than you need and freeze it for later. Seriously, the season is SO SHORT and rhubarb is SO GOOD.
- Look for certified gluten-free oats and gluten-free flour blends that are specifically designed for baking.
- Gluten-free baked goods may take a bit longer to bake than their gluten-containing counterparts. Keep an eye on your crisp and bake it until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.
Yes, you can often find rhubarb at the grocery store during the short growing season when it is available. It's usually sold in bunches of bright red or green stalks with other fruits and vegetables. You may also be able to find it in the freezer section!
Rhubarb has a sweet-tart flavor that pairs well with a variety of other flavors. Here are some ideas to get your creative wheels turning:
1. Strawberries: Rhubarb and strawberries are a classic pairing in spring desserts. The whole "if it grows together, it goes together" adage is pretty much written for this stellar combo.
2. Citrus fruits: The bright, zesty flavors of lemon, lime, and orange are a beautiful complement to the tanginess of rhubarb, which is why we add lemon here.
3. Ginger: The warmth and spiciness of ginger add delicious depth to the tartness of the rhubarb.
4. Vanilla: The subtle sweetness and floral notes of vanilla can complement the tartness of rhubarb in a variety of dishes, from pies to yogurt parfaits. I always serve this crisp with a big ol' scoop of vanilla ice cream for just this reason.
5. Oats: Oats are often used in rhubarb crumbles and crisps to add a hearty, nutty flavor and texture to the topping.
Gluten-free flours are typically made from a combination of different flours, starches, and binders, such as rice flour, tapioca starch, and xanthan gum. These ingredients don't have the same ability to bind and trap air that gluten-containing wheat flour does, which can affect the texture of the final product.
While the label might claim to be a cup-for-cup flour blend (meaning you can swap it in for regular AP flour), it honestly will depend on the recipe at hand. I suggest researching specifically gluten-free recipes for whatever baked good you're attempting to make rather than trying to adopt a non-GF recipe to become gluten-free, at least as you get your bearings.
In addition, gluten-free flours can be more absorbent than wheat flour, which can cause them to absorb more moisture and make the texture denser or grittier. Oftentimes my recipes call for a resting period, which is essential for letting the flour rehydrate. Don't skip this step!
More Fruity Dessert Recipes
I hope you’re feeling inspired to grab a bunch of rhubarb next time you’re at the farmer’s market so you can try out my family’s favorite rhubarb crisp recipe. I’m certain you’ll fall in love with its tangy-sweet deliciousness!
Make sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest so you can get more gluten-free, vegan baking inspiration. You’re also welcome to sign up for my email newsletter so you can get all of my newest content delivered straight to your inbox!
Rhubarb Crisp (Gluten-free & Dairy-free)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Put a 2 qt baking dish on a baking sheet, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and lemon zest. Add the chopped rhubarb and toss until evenly coated. Add the lemon juice and toss it again. Pour it into the baking dish and set it aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the gluten free flour, oats, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add the butter and use your hands to pinch the butter and incorporate it into the flour mixture until it resembles course crumbs.
- Evenly sprinkle it over the rhubarb mixture and bake it for 45 minutes. Let it cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.