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Monday, June 30, 2014

Rhubarb Cardamom Coriander Syrup

by Kara Elder

The other day at the grocery store, I spotted a lone box of rhubarb, sort of slouching in a corner by the apples and looking a little forlorn. Naturally I bought up half of the box, restraining myself from taking the whole thing (must save some for the other rhubarb searchers out there – you do exist, don’t you?).

As I was checking out in line, a manager of the store called out to me, “Miss, what are you going to do with all that rhubarb?” He then said he hadn’t had rhubarb pie since he was a child, and asked if I would please bake a pie and bring him a slice.

Well, this rhubarb syrup infused with spices isn’t a pie, but it is quite welcome on a warm spring day. Mr. Grocery Store Manager, if you’re reading, this one’s for you.

Rhubarb’s sudden appearance in spring never fails to excite. This tart, colorful stalk is actually a vegetable, even though most recipes typically pump it full of sugar and use it like a fruit. Rhubarb is full of antioxidants and vitamins K and C, but if you ever come across rhubarb leaves, beware: they are poisonous.

When deciding a spice or two to pair with rhubarb, I immediately thought of green cardamom, a slightly sweet, pungent, and aromatic spice native to India. A relative of ginger, cardamom similarly aids in digestion and is thought to fight nausea, bloating, and many other intestinal issues. It also helps clean the body and eliminate waste, is anti-inflammatory, and has loads of antioxidants. In short, cardamom is one powerful spice. My other spice of choice was coriander, a fragrant seed that tastes faintly of lemon. Coriander also happens to be full of antioxidants and minerals like iron, copper, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

Armed with my rhubarb, cardamom, and coriander, I set about to make a delicious syrup to be used for homemade sodas (and, let’s be honest, cocktails). I followed a recipe I found on The Kitchn, adding in 10 lightly smashed cardamom pods and a teaspoon of barely crushed coriander seeds. After a brief simmer with some water and sugar, my syrup was ready to be strained and chilled. A note about the sugar: I followed the original recipe’s suggestion of 1 cup water to 1 cup sugar, and thought the syrup could be less sweet. So, if you like things a little tart, try making this syrup with just ¾ cup sugar. For those avoiding sugar altogether, I’d imagine this would work equally as well with agave syrup or stevia – just be sure to do some research about how much stevia to use!

An added bonus with this recipe is the byproduct of your syrup: after straining and pressing all the liquid from the cooked rhubarb, you’re left with a thick, delicately spiced rhubarb compote – perfect on biscuits, stirred into yogurt, or eaten with a spoon.

Rhubarb Cardamom Coriander Syrup

4 cups chopped rhubarb (about 3 or 4 stalks)
10 green cardamom pods, lightly cracked
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
3/4 to 1 cup sugar or sugar substitute (see above text)

In a large saucepan, combine the rhubarb, cardamom, coriander, sugar, and 1 cup of water. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, or until rhubarb is completely soft and broken down.

Remove from heat and pick out the cardamom pods. Strain the mixture into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve, gently pressing on the rhubarb to extract every last bit of juice.

Funnel the syrup into a jar and store in the refrigerator for about a week. To make a soda, start with 1 or 2 tablespoons of syrup per glass of soda water, adding more syrup to taste. For the adults among us, add vodka or gin to taste. I also aspire to add this to lemonade, pour it on vanilla ice cream, drizzle it over waffles...you get the picture.

And don’t you dare throw away the leftover rhubarb pulp! You’ve just made rhubarb compote spiced with cardamom and coriander, and it’s wonderful. I made these biscuits, but replaced ¼ cup of the all-purpose flour with buckwheat flour. The slight nuttiness from the buckwheat does wonders for a rhubarb compote. You heard it here first.


Kara Elder grew up playing in the kitchen cupboards and reading cookbooks for fun while watching her mom cook tasty Mexican meals. After graduating with a degree in Russian, she found herself increasingly interested in reading food blogs and planning menus. Kara, her mom, and her sister started a food blog of their own, The Troika Table. Kara is a Bazaar Spices Team Member and also works for Joan Nathan, a DC-based cookbook author and food writer. 


  1. Excited to try this! And yes, there are other rhubarb searches out there, but I'm not sure how many and maybe not close to you! LOL!

  2. Did you know? Rhubarb and buckwheat are botanically related, so your pairing of the rhubarb compote with the buckwheat biscuit is a perfect combination! :-)