Learn how to use naturally sweet fresh and dried figs in all kinds of baked goods, from breads and cakes to tarts and cookies.

By Sarah Zorn
August 18, 2020
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Credit: Meredith

If you thought figs were only for Newtons, you'll want to dig a little deeper to tap this Biblical fruits' potential as a baking ingredient. Whether dried or fresh (their peak season is late summer/early fall), they're deeply, intensely sweet. Which means, they'll allow you to go au natural, and cut back on sugar in your recipes. In fact, cooked figs were used as sweeteners for centuries, before refined sugars became a thing.

Baking With Figs

Take 8 ounces of figs (if they're dried, soak them in warm water first, until reconstituted and soft), then purée with ¼–⅓ cup water until smooth. This will allow you to effectively replace up to half of the fat in a recipe, and most, if not all, of the sugar.

Figs also add a nutritional boost to your baked goods. An excellent source of dietary fiber, and rich in complex carbohydrates and essential minerals, ½ cup of figs actually boasts as much calcium as ½ cup of milk. So hey, it takes some of the guilt away, when it comes to indulging in dessert.

When to Use Fresh or Dried Figs

How do you choose between using fresh or dried figs? Here are some basic guidelines along with favorite recipes to try. If you want to dry fresh figs, keep scrolling to get three ways to dry your own fresh figs.

Baking With Fresh Figs

Use them in ways that actually make use of their moisture, such as in cakes and muffins (it will keep them from getting stale, so they taste fresher, longer). And since they're stunningly gorgeous — teardrop-shaped, seed-flecked and supple, in shades ranging from the deepest purple to the palest green, as well as buttery brown and ivory white — it would be a pity not to showcase figs to their fullest. That's why they make truly showstopping pies and tarts, with the exposed fruit on display.

Fig and Honey Galette: Figs are almost too sweet, to pile into a traditional double crust pie. So not only does a rustic, free form galette create the perfect ratio between fruit and pastry, it's 100% easier than fussing with an actual pie.

Credit: Allrecipes Magazine

Fig Scones: Like raisins and currants, dried figs are a good addition to crumbly and buttery scones. But if you'd like a recipe that ensures a moister end product (to be honest, scones are often drier than we'd like, and get stale within a few hours), try this fresh fruit version, with an added element of wholesomeness from oats and wheat flour, and sweetness equally contributed by sugar, honey and of course, figs!

Credit: sueb

Fig Ricotta Cake: Fresh figs and ricotta cheese are already the best of friends. And they make perfect partners in this dense yet moist tea cake, elegantly accented by almond extract. Figs contribute their juicy flesh and silky syrup to the batter, then are presented in all their lovely glory, sliced and arranged on top.

Credit: lutzflcat

Baking With Dried Figs

Needless to say, dried have a much lower moisture content, so are good in preparations where they need to hold their shape, and not create a soppy batter. Think breads, scones, biscotti, and of course, paste-filled cookies like Newtons!

Fig Newton-ish Cookies: While Newtons are the undisputed king of dried fig recipes, it's still possible to one-up a classic. Wheat flour and walnuts form a crumbly, preservative-free crust for the beloved bar cookie, and there's no artificial corn syrup in the puréed fruit filling, comprised of fruit, honey, vanilla extract, and orange juice.

Credit: Kim

Fig and Raisin Bread: Move over, plain old raisin bread. This crusty, cornmeal-dusted loaf is dotted with roughly chopped dried figs, that plump up during the resting and baking process so they're appealingly chewy and only slightly sugary....helping create a bread that's equally ideal for either sweet or savory uses.

Credit: Diana71

Chocolate Fig Biscotti: These double-baked Italian cookies are ideal for dipping in coffee or dessert wine. Which means you can't add anything to the batter that will present them from drying out and crisping up. That's where dried figs come into play, with a texture that mimics raisins, but a flavor that's infinitely more complex.

Credit: Kim

Fig Hazelnut Cheesecake: This recipe takes figs and all of their classic, perfectly complementary partners (honey, hazelnuts, bourbon, cheese), and combines them in a totally unexpected way. This chic cheesecake is utterly indulgent and has serious eye-appeal, thanks to autumn-colored layers of vanilla cookie crust, fruit and nuts, a sour cream, buttermilk, and cream cheese-based cake, and a spiked honey drizzle on top.

Credit: Sandra Garth

How to Dry Fresh Figs

If your recipe calls for dried figs but you only have fresh, here are three ways to dry figs. To store dried figs, first let them cool. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Use a Dehydrator: Cut washed figs into quarters. Place on a dehydrator rack cut-side down, and dry for 8 hours on 135 degrees F (or the fruit setting).

Dry in the Sun: Wash and thoroughly dry figs. Cut in half and place cut-side down on a wooden or wire rack covered with cheesecloth. Cover the figs with more cheesecloth, tucking it tightly underneath the rack. Place in direct sunlight for 2–3 days, flipping the figs to the other side every 12 hours or so.

Dry in the Oven: Cut washed figs in half. Place on a wire rack in the oven cut-side up, and bake at 140 degrees F for 36 hours, flipping figs to the other side every 12 hours or so.