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Some of my early childhood memories involve BBQs at my paternal Grandparent’s house. There were many “work-days” where some kind of project needed to be done, whether it be yard work, tree trimming or just because it was Saturday. Once the work was done there was always food (because how else did we get everyone to come!) One early memory I have is of a dessert called “Rhubarb Swirl.” To this day it is still hard to describe to anyone outside of the family. But in a nutshell, it involves tart rhubarb juice, Jell-O, and Cool Whip. The rhubarb adds a tartness that offsets the jello making it cool, light and refreshing and a great dessert for summer potlucks.

I asked my Aunt Betty to give a little history about where this dessert came from. My Grandma found it in a magazine 50 years ago. The original recipe calls for leaving chunks of rhubarb in with the juice and to make a graham cracker crust in a springform pan. The version I grew up with only uses the juice and doesn’t use a graham cracker crust. I traditionally serve it in a glass bowl or dish so that you can see all the layers swirled together.


The first step for this recipe is to pick or buy some rhubarb from your local grocery or farmer’s market. We are lucky enough to have friends in our area that grow acres of rhubarb for canneries.

Rhubarb grows as a bush that has stalks with large leaves. The leaves are poisonous so if you are cutting your own make sure those are discarded. After you cut the leaves off you will be left with the crimson stalks as pictured below.

Rhubarb stalks ready to be used for cooking or baking


Make sure to wash all your rhubarb stalks. Then cut them into bite-size chunks and place in a saucepan over medium heat. I usually had about 1/2″ of water to the pan as well, you won’t need much since rhubarb contains a lot of water. Cook the rhubarb down until it is very mushy and you can no longer see any chunks. (A few chunks are fine.) I will warn you that the cooked rhubarb does not look very appetizing.

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Then take a mesh strainer and ladle the cooked rhubarb over a bowl or pitcher so that the juice will flow through and the strainer will catch all the fibrous rhubarb. I use the bottom of the ladle to push down on the mixture to try and get as much juice out of it as possible. You will then be left with the beautiful rose hued juice.

Rhubarb juice ready to be used to make no-bake Rhubarb Swirl dessert


Combine the rhubarb juice, jello and boiling water and place in the fridge to cool but not set.

Rhubarb juice, boiling water and jello ready to be made into No-Bake Rhubarb Swirl

Meanwhile mix together the sugar, flour and milk and heat using a double boiler method. You will want to heat it until it starts to thicken, about 2 minutes.

Pudding mixture of No-Bake Rhubarb Swirl Dessert

Once the pudding mixture has thickened remove from heat. Then in a small bowl mix together the water and Knox gelatin packet and add to the pudding mixture along with the vanilla. Let the pudding mixture cool to thicken more.

Remove the jello/rhubarb mixture from the fridge and beat with a hand mixer or stand up mixer until the entire mixture is frothy.

Jello and rhubarb mixture beaten until frothy

Fold in the entire carton of Cool-Whip to the pudding mixture. You can put this in the fridge for about 5 minutes to thicken a little more if you desire.


Now comes time to assemble the dessert! Starting with the jello mixture start alternating and layering each mixture until it all has been used.

No-Bake Rhubarb swirl layers

IMPORTANT NOTE: If your pudding mixture does not completely thicken this is ok, your layers just won’t be as noticeable but it will still taste great!

I also whipped up some homemade whipped cream to add to the top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight to allow it to set up.

No-Bake Rhubarb Swirl

Last but not least: ENJOY! I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as my family and I do.

No-Bake Rhubarb Swirl Dessert

No-Bake Rhubarb Swirl Dessert

This no-bake dessert has been a family favorite for over 50 years. This was passed down from my Grandmother from a recipe she found in a magazine.

Course Dessert
Total Time 3 hours


  • 3/4 cup rhubarb juice
  • 3 oz package Jell-O any flavor but I prefer Strawbery or Cherry
  • 1 cup boiling water

Pudding Mixture

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp knox gelatin 1 package
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 8 oz Cool Whip 1 container


  1. Mix together the first 3 ingredients and place in refrigerator to cool to a syrupy consistency. Do not let thicken like regular Jell-O.

    In a heat safe bowl mix together the pudding mixture except for the last two ingredients. Place on the stove using double boiler method so mixture does not burn. Heat for about 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat.

    Dissolve gelatin in water and then stir into the pudding mixture. Add vanilla and set aside to cool. When cooled add Cool Whip container.

    Take rhubarb and Jell-O mixture and whip until fluffy/frothy. In a glass serving bowl start layering the jello mixture and the pudding mixture, alternating until done. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Recipe Notes

Variations: Make a graham cracker crust in a spring-form pan and mix layers over top








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2 Comments on No-Bake Rhubarb Swirl Dessert

  1. This sounds amazing. I’m definitely going to try this. A dessert I wait for every summer with great anticipation Is Pear pudding. It’s a recipe I have from my great grandma. I’ll have to share it you sometime.

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