Classic rhubarb pie meets its match with this creamy old fashioned rhubarb and custard pie recipe. Instead of using a basic rhubarb jam or pie filling, this recipe blends freshly cut fruit with a simple homemade custard. The result is a perfectly sweet, creamy complement to the tartness of the rhubarb.
A light and fresh pie you can make any time of the year by using frozen rhubarb when fresh isn’t available. If you enjoy the flavor that rhubarb adds to strawberry rhubarb crumble or rhubarb coffee cake, then you’ll love this old fashioned pie with rhubarb in every bite.
We love a good pie in the South, and even though we can’t grow rhubarb, we still love the flavor it can add to desserts. My grandmother made me a fan of rhubarb. She spent a lot of time in Idaho where it grew wild. She added it to everything.
The rhubarb in this pie is cooked with a sweet custard, resulting in a unique fruit custard pie similar to a peach custard pie.
Instead of placing a crust or streusel on this pie, sugar is added at the end to form a caramelized topping, kind of like a crème brûlée. It adds just enough sugar to offset the tartness without making it too sweet. Top with a dollop of whip cream to compliment the flavors.
This pie is eaten cold or at room temperature, so if you’re going to add a topping, it should be whipped cream. Save the vanilla ice cream for a cherry streusel pie.
With only a few steps to follow, this will be one you come back to every year when you start to see rhubarb in the grocery.
You’ll bake your pie crust filled with sweetened rhubarb, then add the homemade custard and bake again. Finally, sprinkle with sugar and give it a final few minutes in the oven to develop that beautiful, old-fashioned golden brown custard top.
When is rhubarb season?
Rhubarb season in the US is typically from April until June, but of course, you can find hothouse rhubarb any time of the year in some areas or in the freezer section. However, for that fresh, homegrown rhubarb taste, spring until early summer is really the best time.
Depending on what part of the country you live in, if you can find freshly grown rhubarb, it will have the most flavor. But being in an area where it doesn’t grow, when I can find it fresh in the grocery, I grab it.
Can I use frozen rhubarb in my pie?
Yes! While some rhubarb recipes require fresh rhubarb, this recipe will actually work out quite well if you use frozen rhubarb. Make sure you let it thaw and give it a good pat down with paper towels before using it to remove the excess moisture. The water will create a watery pie and soggy crust, so dry it as much as you can.
Why you’ll love rhubarb & custard pie
- Rhubarb has a unique flavor that is both tart and sweet, and when blended with the rich custard, it creates an irresistible balanced dessert.
- The recipe creates a beautiful, old-fashioned looking dessert that’s reminiscent of a classic custard pie your grandmother would have made.
- It’s not just for dessert! This pie is sweet, but not too sweet. I wouldn’t blame you if you grabbed a piece as a morning or afternoon snack.
Rhubarb custard pie ingredients
- Rhubarb – You can use fresh rhubarb or frozen. See the section near the end of the article for the best way to clean rhubarb.
- Lemon juice – Grab a fresh lemon and squeeze out the juice. Fresh juice helps to preserve the rhubarb’s bright color while cooking and bring out its natural flavor.
- Pie crust – You can make a homemade pie crust or buy a store-bought unbaked crust. You’ll only need a bottom crust layer for this pie.
- Heavy cream – This is an essential ingredient as it gives the custard its creaminess and thick consistency.
- Nutmeg – You can use simple ground nutmeg from your spice cabinet. This gives the custard its classic taste and color. If possible grate the nutmeg rather than used, it has so much more flavor than packaged nutmeg powder.
- Pantry Staples – sugar, flour, salt, eggs, butter
Pro Tip: If you are going to eat the pie right away, you do not have to pre-bake the pie crust with pie weights. Pre-baking it helps keep the crust from becoming soggy.
How to make the best old fashioned rhubarb custard pie
Step 1: Prepare your rhubarb.
Slice the tart rhubarb and place it in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, flour, lemon juice, and salt to the bowl and mix well. Place in a colander for 5 minutes to let the juices drain.
Step 2: Bake the rhubarb.
Place the rhubarb in the pie crust (pre-bake the crust for best results). Bake the pie for 20 minutes.
Step 3: Prepare the custard.
While the rhubarb bakes, whisk together the eggs, cream, melted butter, and nutmeg. After 20 minutes, remove the pie pan from the oven and pour the custard over the top of the rhubarb.
Pro Tip: place a baking sheet under the pan before placing it in the oven. It will allow you to remove the pie without breaking the crust and will also catch any drips.
Step 4: Bake the custard.
Place the pie back in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove it again and sprinkle sugar on top. Bake for another 10 minutes.
Remove the pie when it’s slightly browned and not jiggly in the center.
Step 5: Serve.
Let the pie cool completely on a wire rack before you try to cut it and serve. Add a scoop of whipped cream if you prefer.
Tips for making perfect old fashioned rhubarb pie with custard
- The best rhubarb pie comes from using the fresh rhubarb! Look for rhubarb stalks that are firm, and crisp, the color doesn’t matter. They shouldn’t look wilted, be squishy, or have damage.
- Don’t skip pre-cooking the rhubarb. It needs time to soften up or it will be stalky and crispy in your pie. Make sure it’s fork-tender before you remove it from the oven.
- Use a buttery crust. A flavorful crust that is buttery and flaky will really complement the creamy custard filling.
- Make this pie the day before you want to serve it if you can. It gives the pie time to settle and for the flavors to intensify and meld together before you serve it.
How to store a custard pie
This rhubarb custard dessert can be easily stored in the fridge and eaten over the next 1-2 days, but the custard can make the crust soggy pretty quickly. So, try to eat it up quickly! If you have leftovers, refrigerate it and it will still be delicious for 3-4 days although the crust will be soggy.
Because the recipe uses eggs and cream, it needs to be kept in the fridge. Cover with plastic wrap.
Can I freeze rhubarb custard pie?
Yes, you can freeze this pie. But you need to wrap it very well before storing it. Make sure you let the pie cool completely before you try to freeze it. I recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap, then foil. Then place it inside a large Ziploc if possible. The custard needs to be protected from direct cold. It will keep well for up to 3 months.
Thaw it in the fridge overnight before serving and it will be good as new!
How do I properly clean and prep rhubarb?
Cleaning rhubarb is critical because the leaves from the rhubarb plant can actually be toxic. Here are the steps to follow to make sure you clean your rhubarb safely:
- Rinse the rhubarb stalks: Rinse the rhubarb stalks under cool running water to remove any dirt. Dry them gently with paper towels.
- Trim the ends: Trim the ends off all the stalks. Also, cut off any brown or discolored parts.
- Remove the leaves: This is important because consuming the leaves can make you sick. Remove all leaves attached to the stalks and throw them away.
- Cut the stalks: Chop the rhubarb stalks according to the recipe directions. For pie, cut them into smaller 1-inch chunks, focusing on trying to keep the pieces fairly uniform in size.
Once you’ve cleaned the rhubarb, use it right away. If you have extra, keep it stored in the fridge and try to use it up within a week.
Rhubarb pie FAQs
What’s the difference between custard pie and cream pie?
Cream pies come in a large assortment of flavors, like banana cream pie, whereas custard is generally a vanilla flavor. However, another substantial difference is that custard pies are baked and cream pies are generally no-bake recipes. Instead, cream pie filling is usually cooked on the stove and sets as it cools.
What does rhubarb taste like?
Rhubarb is deceptively tart. You might even describe it as sour! Rhubarb recipes almost always contain sugar to counteract the sour flavor, but another thing to note is that rhubarb does sweeten up some as it cooks.
How do I make sure my custard pie doesn’t get wet and soggy?
With a rhubarb pie, let the rhubarb drain before adding to the pie. Next, it’s really important to allow a custard pie to set. I recommend making this pie the day before you want to serve it. The custard will set exceptionally well after a night in a cold fridge. Before serving, take it out of the fridge for about 30 minutes to let it come back to room temperature. When you slice it, you should have clean pieces of pie that aren’t watery or sloppy on the plate.
More rhubarb recipes to love
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Old Fashioned Rhubarb Custard Pie
- 9 inch pie crust partially baked
- 4 cups rhubarb chopped
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Partially bake the pie crust at 400º with pie weights for 10 minutes. This can be done in advance.
- Preheat the oven to 400º.
- Slice the rhubarb into ¼ inch slices and place in a bowl. Add sugar, flour, lemon juice, and salt let sit for 5 minutes. Set in a colander for 5 minutes to remove any juices, then place in the partially baked pie crust.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- While it’s baking, whisk the eggs with the cream, melted butter and nutmeg.
- Remove pie from the oven and pour custard over the top, bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove again and sprinkle sugar on top, bake an additional 10 minutes. It will be slightly brown and should not be jiggly in the center.
- Let it cool completely before serving.
- Great with whipped cream.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can use a homemade pie crust or one purchased from the store.
- If the rhubarb is fresh, you may not have any extra juice to drain, but if using frozen you will probably have extra juice that will make the pie watery, so make sure you drain it before adding.
- This is best served chilled or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream.
Scott Long says
What about the top crust of rhubarb pie, at what point do you put it on. Because your taking pie out of oven several times.
Barbara Curry says
You add the sugar for the last 10 minutes of baking, it is a lot of in and out of the oven, but if you add the sugar with the custard, it doesn’t form the crispy topping. I went back and tried to make it more clear in the recipe card.