Hungry? I spotted the most beautiful rhubarb at the farmer’s market the other day, and the moment I laid eyes on it, I knew I had to make my strawberry rhubarb crisp bars. A brown sugar shortbread base topped with a generous helping of sweet strawberries and bright rhubarb tossed with a splash of whiskey, all tucked under a blanket of crisp topping. Friends, things may be uncertain right now, but these bars are a sure thing!
If these bars look familiar to you, you’re not imagining things! I originally posted this recipe about 10 million years ago, and while it’s always been a reader favorite, the photos were definitely in need of updating. Once I started making the bars, zhushing the bars, tasting the bars, and eating the bars – quite possibly for dinner, I basically fell in love with them all over again and realized they needed to be shared!
So they’re back and I’m so excited to share them with you. They’ve got a new look, a sassy whiskey glaze, and they’re pretty much the reboot we all need right now!
If you’ve never baked with rhubarb before, this a great recipe to start with because it’s not in your face rhubarb. And if you think you don’t like rhubarb, or you’re on the fence about it, I ask you to trust me on this one. If you’re dead set against rhubarb, you can totally use all strawberries. A few readers have done that and absolutely loved them!
It’s no secret I love bar desserts. First, there were the apple crisp bars, then came the apple crisp cheesecake bars, and now these hot pink gems. I may be developing a pattern, but I’m loving this pattern, and I’m really loving the addition of rye whiskey in this strawberry rhubarb situation.
Brown sugar shortbread sets the stage for the production. It’s infused with orange zest, which adds a brightness to the bake and a splash of rye whiskey, which plays so well with the brown sugar and adds a depth of flavor you definitely don’t want to miss. I used rye whiskey here because I think it has a bit more of a fruity, almost spicy undertone, which ups the cozy factor right from the start. Feel free to use your favorite whiskey, or bourbon.
Once baked, the shortbread is topped with the strawberry rhubarb mixture. The rhubarb isn’t overpowering here because it’s mixed with a whole pound of strawberries, but it definitely still holds its own, offering that pop to balance out the sweet. The other pop going on is another splash of rye whiskey and some more zest. These small additions are what add up to big returns in the flavor department. The most important tip I can offer when making these bars is to assemble the fruit filling when you’re ready to use it. Once you toss the fruit with the sugar and bonus flavors, they will start to mingle and release juice, which we don’t want here! So toss, top, crisp it and bake – okay!
Finally, you top the whole thing with a generous helping of crisp topping. The brown sugar and rolled oats create the perfect little blanket for the fruit. You will notice in the instructions that I suggest making your crisp topping as the second step. This is because you want it to be COLD when it goes in the oven. While the shortbread bakes, toss the crisp topping together and pop it in the fridge so you’re good to go!
As the bars bake, the strawberries and rhubarb roast, allowing all of that flavor to come to the surface and shine. The crisp topping turns light golden, and some of the juices from the fruit bubble up, letting you know this is all going in a very good direction. While the bars are divine as is, you know I had to put some icing on the cake. Once cooled, I whipped up a simple glaze consisting of powdered sugar, rye whiskey and orange zest. Using whiskey in the glaze cuts the sweetness brilliantly and ties all the flavors together.
You’ve probably gathered by this point that I’m all about these bars! I’m planning on making them again this weekend, and I hope you’ll join me over on Instagram as I share the step-by-step process. Have a great weekend, stay safe, take care of yourselves, and bake some bars! xo
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars have a brown sugar whiskey shortbread base topped with a lush strawberry rhubarb filling, all tucked under a blanket of cozy crisp topping!
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tbsp. rye whiskey (see notes for substitutions)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 ounces unsalted butter, cold & cubed
- 16 ounces strawberries, quartered
- 12 ounces rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- Zest of 1/2 an orange
- 1 tbsp. rye whiskey
- 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 3-4 tsp. rye whiskey
- Zest of 1/2 an orange
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with nonstick spray, line with parchment paper leaving a one inch overhang, and spray with nonstick again. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, orange zest and salt until light and fluffy.
- Add rye whiskey and continue to mix until combined.
- Add flour and mix on medium low speed until just combined, scraping down the bowl to ensure everything is well mixed.
- Press dough into prepared pan and bake for 22-25 minutes, rotating halfway through. Transfer to a cooling rack.
- While the shortbread is in the oven, pulse flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in food processor just to combine.
- Add in cubed butter & pulse until the butter resembles coarse cornmeal.
- Transfer topping to a medium size bowl and mix in oats. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Toss cut rhubarb & strawberries with orange zest, whiskey and sugar.
- Add flour and toss to coat fruit. Top shortbread with fruit mixture right away.
- Sprinkle chilled crisp topping evenly over the top and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and allow bars to cool completely in pan.
- In a small bowl, whisk powdered sugar and whiskey together, starting with 3 teaspoons and adding another if glaze is too thick. Add orange zest and stir until smooth.
- Drizzle over completely cooled bars with a spoon or a piping bag. I like to cut the bars before I glaze them, but you can also glaze them while still in the pan before you cut them. Totally up to you!
Prepare the strawberry rhubarb layer when you are ready to use it. You don't want it hanging out because the juices will start to release & this is one time we don't want that to happen.
Make sure the crisp topping is cold when it goes in the oven. Bars need to be completely cool before cutting. If you try to lift them out of the pan while still warm, you risk breaking the shortbread. Still delicious, just not as pretty!
You can make crisp topping ahead of time and keep it in the freezer so you're ready to roll.
I love rye whiskey in this recipe, but feel free to use your favorite whiskey, or bourbon.
If you don't have whiskey on hand, you can make these bars without. Simply add 1 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste to the shortbread, add 1 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste to the fruit filling, and replace the whiskey in the glaze with orange juice. Fresh is best, but use what you have on hand!
For serving: I like to let the bars set in the pan on a cooling rack for a good 2 hours. Then I usually chill them for about an hour because chilled bars are much easier to cut. I then transfer them to a cutting board, cut, and drizzle them with glaze.
If you don't have that much time, or don't want to wait, or want to eat one warm with ice cream (just putting it out there!) you can definitely cut into them once they cool down a bit (about 40 minutes - an hour) but please be aware that the shortbread is more delicate while it is still warm, so proceed with caution!
Keep bars in an airtight container in the fridge. They are best within the first 2 days. By day 3, the crisp topping will start to lose its "crisp" due to the moisture from the fruit, but they will still be and taste really good!