This strawberry rhubarb crisp is a delicious combination of sweet juicy strawberries, a touch of tartness from the rhubarb, and a crisp oat crumble topping. It's easy to make, comforting and the perfect treat for spring (and summer!).
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Rhubarb is something I grew up with, quite literally, but I have found it to be less common in the US than in the UK, where I grew up.
If you are new to it, or even if you are not, this is a wonderful way to use some as strawberries and rhubarb pair so well (as in my strawberry rhubarb jam as well). Plus this is such an easy dessert to prepare, too.
What is rhubarb?
If you are not familiar with rhubarb, it's a vegetable that is often treated more like a fruit. It's a perennial plant that grows well in cooler climates. You just eat the stem of the plant, and in fact the leaves are inedible. The stem color ranges from vibrant pink to a red-y brown to green and while they are long and thin, they can vary in size.
Generally, the shorter, thin very pink stems are more likely forced rhubarb or at least younger shoots. They tend to be sweeter, and I remember as a child, I'd eat some of the young stems raw, simply dipped in a little sugar for a tasty crunchy snack.
More typically, though, what you will find in the store is more mixed in color and a bit larger. To prepare it, you can cook rhubarb either on the stovetop or oven, usually with some sugar and often some warm spices or citrus then enjoy it as it is, with custard or incorporated into dishes like rhubarb fool. Alternatively, it's used as an ingredient in dishes like crumbles, tarts and this tasty crisp.
What's the difference between a crumble and a crisp?
Crisps and crumbles are very similar as both are toppings for comforting, baked desserts. As a rule, a crumble is simply flour, butter and sugar while a crisp has oats added as well. Crumbles more commonly use white sugar, while crisps often use brown sugar.
Both can have the odd other ingredient as well, such as in my plum crumble I add some almond flour and cinnamon. For both crisps and crumbles, you mix together the ingredients into a crumb-like texture and sprinkle it over the top of the fruit base. When it bakes, the butter melts into the other ingredients and the top gently crisps up.
In case you are wondering, they both differ from cobbler where the topping mixture is a combined, gently liquid solid before you add it on top, often a biscuit-like mixture.
Top tip: use a little corn starch
As the fruit cooks, both will release lots of juices which can become very runny. The corn starch (corn flour in UK) helps it become more of a sauce around the fruit. You simply toss it with the fruit and the juices help it dissolve.
Personally, I don't like to use that much as I prefer it not to be gloopy or thick, but even a little helps. If you don't want to use corn starch, you could use other thickeners, such as arrowroot or potato starch.
Additional tips for success
This bright, fruity dessert is really easy to make. But while there isn't much to it, here are a few things to keep in mind to help your crisp come out well:
- Cut the fruit into similar-sized pieces - this helps them cook evenly.
- Don't skip the lemon. Just as with jams, the acidity of the lemon helps balance out the sweetness of the fruit and sugar and adds that little bright, freshness.
- Spread the fruit evenly, or if anything slightly mounded in the middle, as it can compact down as it cooks and softens. Then spread the topping evenly over the top so you get an even mix of fruit and topping in each bite.
- Make sure you place a baking sheet/tray under the baking dish(es). The juices can escape, so it's worth preparing ahead!
Making ahead and how to store leftovers
You can make this dessert ahead and store it in the fridge for up to a day or two before baking. If it's only an hour or two ahead, you can make it completely before putting in the fridge. You can transfer straight from the fridge to the preheated oven.
If over say 2-3 hours, I would suggest keeping the topping separate so it doesn't absorb juices from the fruit too much. If the topping gets too moist, it won't crisp up.
You can also store leftovers in the fridge for up to three days and reheat when needed. Just cover the dish for storing, and reheat, uncovered, in a low oven (around 350F/175C) until warmed through.
While I think this dessert works wonderfully as it is, there are a few ways you could vary it, either to suit a particular diet or just for something a little different:
- You can easily swap the flour for a gluten free blend, or possibly better, use part almond flour, part oat flour to make this gluten free.
- If you want an extra-crunchy topping, try adding some chopped nuts. I'd suggest almonds would work particularly well here, but cashews or pecans could also work.
- Instead of lemon, you could use Meyer lemon or orange for the citrus element.
The other thing worth mentioning is you can make this both in individual dishes, as I have here, or as a larger dessert to divide up. Both have their pros and cons.
To me, there's something really nice about having your own individual dessert. But on the other hand, I think the individual dishes are more likely to have juices bubble up. A larger dish gives more flexibility in how many you serve (and portion size). Do as you prefer!
What to serve with strawberry rhubarb crisp
A scoop of vanilla ice cream pairs perfectly with this dessert. The contrast of cool creaminess and warm fruit works so well. You could also serve it with some cream or crème fraîche, for a similar effect.
Deliciously fruity with bites of tart rhubarb coming through, this strawberry rhubarb crisp is as tasty as it is bright and colorful. Fantastic flavors and textures, and easy to make, it's one you definitely want to make an excuse to enjoy soon.
Try these other comforting desserts:
- Blueberry clafoutis
- Crema Catalana
- Kaiserschmarrn (Austrian torn pancakes)
- Plus get many more ideas in the dessert recipes archives.
And if you like rhubarb, make sure you try my easy rhubarb fool as well.
Strawberry rhubarb crisp
For fruit base
- 1 ½ cup rhubarb
- 1 ½ cup strawberries
- ½ lemon zest ie from ½ lemon
- 4 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon corn starch corn flour
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup old fashioned oats rolled oats
- ½ cup all purpose flour plain flour
- ¼ cup brown sugar (¼ cup is 4tbsp)
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter (generally rubs in easiest if cold)
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C. Lightly grease either 4 individual pie pans/dishes or a medium baking dish (approx 11-12in x 7-8in (28-30cm x 18-20cm) and at least 1 in (2.5cm) deep). If the pie dishes are non stick, as mine are, then you can skip greasing them.
- Trim the ends then cut the rhubarb into short lengths around ½ inch/ 1.5cm long. Remove the stems from the strawberries and cut in half/quarters (or smaller, if large) so that all of the fruit pieces are of similar size.
- Place all of the fruit in a bowl, add the lemon zest and juice, corn starch and sugar. Toss to combine well, then divide evenly between individual dishes, or pour into the larger dish.
- For the topping, mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour mixture so that you get coarse crumbs. Divide the mixture between the dishes, covering the fruit relatively evenly. Place the dish or dishes on a baking sheet/tray to catch any drips.
- Bake for approx 35 minutes until the fruit bubbles up around the side and the topping is gently browned. Allow to cool slightly before serving. I'd recommend topping with ice cream (cream/creme fraiche also good).
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
This post was first shared in May 2017 and has been updated with additional information and updated photos.
Try some other dessert ideas:
- Hot Fudge Ice Cream Cake by Pies and Plots
- White Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes by That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Blackberry Cobbler with Brown Sugar Pecan Biscuits by Soulfully Made
- Mom’s Southwest Georgia Pound Cake by Family Around The Table