Is rhubarb season ever long enough? We think not. That’s why, during its short spring season, we should all find as many opportunities as possible to work it into dishes and these Rhubarb Pudding Bars should always be high up on that list. Backed by a sweet and creamy pudding layer, they’re the perfect display of rhubarb’s signature tart taste.
As many great things do, these bars start with a simple, buttery graham cracker crumb crust. The second layer is where the rhubarb comes in. It’s boiled for a few minutes in some water so it softens and then mixed with some sugar and strawberry jello to sweeten things up. The strawberry jello (and a bit of cornstarch too) goes a long way in making these bars sliceable and provides that strawberry flavor partner that goes oh-so-well with rhubarb.
After the hot rhubarb layer is poured over the graham cracker crust, a layer of mini marshmallows gets sprinkled over the top and the whole thing goes into the oven to chill. Before the jello has a chance to set, the marshmallows absorb some of the moisture and puff up into their own fluffy layer.
The top layer – the one that brings in the creamy, custardy bite – is a quick mixture of instant vanilla pudding, milk, and whipped topping. It’s creamy yet airy, just sweet enough and provides the perfect contrast to the tartness of the rhubarb and the crunch of the graham cracker crust. These bars are a departure from your standard strawberry-rhubarb cobbler or rhubarb pie, but they’re just as deserving of some attention during rhubarb season. (Besides, who says you have to choose just one?)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 (3.0 oz.) package strawberry jello
4 cups rhubarb, finely chopped
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1 (8 oz.) package frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 (3.4 oz) packages instant vanilla pudding
2 2/3 cups milk
Preheat oven to 350°F and set aside a 9×13-inch baking dish.
In a large bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter. Set aside 2 tablespoons of mixture, and press the rest into the baking dish.
Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
For the filling, combine rhubarb and water in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until softened, 3-4 minutes. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, and jello until thickened and clear.
Pour over cooked crust and top evenly with mini-marshmallows. Chill in refrigerator until set, about 2 hours.
In a large bowl, mix together vanilla pudding mix and milk, then fold in frozen whipped topping.
Spread pudding mixture over marshmallow layer and place in refrigerator until set.
Sprinkle with reserved graham cracker crumbs, then slice, serve, and enjoy!