Rhubarb Muffins

Finely chopped rhubarb keeps these muffins tender and light.

Maybe it was just bad luck, but a fair number of rhubarb cake or muffin recipes I’ve tried turned out to be a bit on the soggy side. Rhubarb is pretty juicy stuff, and I don’t like biting into a big, sour blob in cake or muffins, and, I guess, neither does Ruth Thurston in Machias who sent this recipe annotated with her advice on making these muffins.

The original recipe called for chopping the rhubarb “coarsely” but Ruth drew a firm line through that instruction and penned “fine” in its place. She also crossed out the half-cup of chopped walnuts or pecans called for, but you can consider them optional in case you like nuts in your muffins.

The recipe calls for buttermilk and for once I did not substitute milk soured with a bit of vinegar. Instead I recommend using the Maine-made buttermilk from Kate’s, the company that makes butter, or some other buttermilk. Perhaps it is not quite a secret ingredient but it makes a difference to use the genuine article.

Ruth’s changes earned the muffins her annotation of “extra good, tender, light,” which some other rhubarb muffins or cakes are definitely not. Like most muffins, these are best eaten warm, at least the same day you make them, and since they produce about sixteen muffins, you might want some help consuming them: company? grandkids visiting? take them to work to share?

Rhubarb Muffins
Serves: Makes about 16 muffins
  • 2 ½ cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups rhubarb, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans, chopped, optional
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour 2 ½ inch muffin tins or line with muffin papers
  3. Whisk together in a large bowl, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat together brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla.
  5. Stir the wet mixture into the flour mixture until it is barely moistened, even a bit lumpy. Do not overmix.
  6. Fold in the rhubarb and optional nuts until they are evenly distributed in the batter.
  7. Fill the muffin cups. Bake about 20 minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean.
  8. Cool briefly and serve.



Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.