home cooked dinners by the season

Pan Seared Chicken with Rhubarb Thyme Sauce

Pan Seared Chicken with Rhubarb Thyme Sauce


Poor rhubarb. Not only does it suffer an identity crisis but also it can’t always stand on its own. It’s thought of more often as a fruit even though it’s technically a vegetable, and a sour one at that – needing to be paired with something sweet to make it bearable to eat.

As a kid, I ate rhubarb to get sugar into my mouth. With an overspilling cup of sugar, my brother and I would beeline to our yard, snap off the long red stalks and plunge them into the cup. With every bite, the sugar promised to rescue us from the sour burst of the crunchy stalk. If the sugar ran out before the rhubarb, one of us ran back into the kitchen to replenish it knowing it was impossible to eat one without the other. Its pH level of 3 puts it in the same category as lemons and limes and that’s a lot of pucker power. No wonder sweetness is its ally.

So I figured it was time to do something savory with rhubarb. It just makes sense to incorporate it into a main dish rather than always thinking of it as dessert. My goal was a recipe that would take 30 minutes or less. Not a difficult task as rhubarb is 95 percent water lending itself perfectly to softening and naturally falling apart to make a suitable thickness for a sauce. The rhubarb relies on a little sauteed onion and garlic for base flavor, brown sugar to counteract its tartness and fresh thyme for a warm kind of woodsy herb flavor. The pounded or thinly sliced chicken breasts browned in a combination of olive oil and butter begin the flavor process for the sauce. They’re removed then nestled back into the sauce to finish cooking and pick up flavor.

Let me emphasize the importance of pounding the chicken or even slicing it in half lengthwise so it cooks quickly. I’ve even found some chicken breasts in the grocery store that are already sliced into “cutlets” if you can find them. This thickness makes it so much easier to cook the chicken evenly and quickly and helps insure a more moist breast.

Pan Seared Chicken with Rhubarb Thyme Sauce
Serves: 4
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 5-6 ounces each (see note)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ cup all purpose flour, optional (see note)
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped sweet onion (yellow onion can be used)
  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb (2 medium stalks, about ½ pound)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic (1 medium clove)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  1. Place each chicken breast between two pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap and pound to ½-inch thickness or cut in half widthwise; sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper; dredge in flour and shake off excess.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter with olive oil. When butter starts to sizzle, add chicken and cook for 3 to 4 minutes (do not move chicken – allow it to brown). Turn chicken and cook until browned on other side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and keep warm (if you do not have a large enough skillet, cook chicken in two batches, dividing butter and olive oil in half for each batch).
  3. Add onion to the same pan (adding additional 1 tablespoon of olive oil if needed) and cook and stir until softened, about 2 minutes, then add garlic and cook and stir an additional 1 minute. Stir in rhubarb and brown sugar, then add chicken broth and thyme; bring to a simmer, then return chicken to the pan (chicken on top of rhubarb), cover partially, and cook on low just until rhubarb is softened and chicken is cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Transfer chicken to serving plates or a platter. Lightly mash part of the sauce with the back of a spoon, leaving some of the rhubarb in the sauce in pieces, then add lemon zest and season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over chicken (chicken can also be thinly sliced and sauce spooned on top of it).
  5. Makes 2 cups sauce.
Two large chicken breasts (weighing in the range of 10 ounces each) can be cut in half, lengthwise, and then pounded to get 5-6 ounce size breasts.

Dredging the chicken in flour can be eliminated for those avoiding flour.



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13 thoughts on “Pan Seared Chicken with Rhubarb Thyme Sauce”

  • I can’t wait to make this. I have been getting rhubarb in mt CSA and have used some of it and given some away. I am not much of a baker and most rhubarb recipes are for desserts as you note. I was just thinkling I wish I could find a savory rhubarb recipe and there it appeared on your blog in my in box. Thank you Linda!

  • I was delighted to see a savory rhubarb recipe. I love the flavor but don’t much like sweets which is almost the only place you see rhubarb used. I made this the other day and loved it as did my husband.

    • I am glad you liked this combination. It’s so easy and a natural with the chicken and thyme. I love hearing from you – thank you for your comments!

  • Can’t wait to try this savory recipe with an amazing misunderstood veggie – rhubarb is power packed with antioxidants, vitamin K, fiber etc 🙂

      • Shana:

        Thank you for taking the time to comment. It is comments like yours that make my day. My whole intent is to make cooking easier so people will be inspired to cook at home.

        Have a great day!


  • Could I use something other than chicken and it still taste good? I have lamb, beef, venison, pork.. basically everything but chicken in the freezer!!

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