Are you a fresh fig person or a dried fig person? After you learn how to cook with figs and you actually incorporate this fruit into your dishes, it won’t make that much of a difference. The thing is you should use them often because they have a unique taste and they’ll enrich any food they touch.
I hadn’t known that you can buy fresh figs until I became a teenager. My parents always bought dried figs – and that also happened extremely rarely. I suppose they like them more that way, as opposed to fresh. But their preferences have influenced mine too since it took me a while to get used to the ‘new’ fig taste. Because fresh figs taste quite different than dried ones, which are much sweeter. My story with them started when my godmother moved to a new house and I found out she had a fig tree in her yard. At first, fresh figs tasted too delicate for my taste buds. I didn’t like them much. But then I started to pair them with honey and nuts and, in time, I’ve tried different dishes – both sweet and savory – that included figs.
My favorite way to cook with figs is to bake them a little, with some cheese inside, and then drizzle honey on top just before eating them, but here I’m going to give you a few more cooking and serving tips for this delicate fruit.
Fresh figs are in abundance during the early fall, so it’s a good idea to learn how to cook with figs, to take advantage of their mellow, sweet flavor.
How to cook with figs
1. Grill them
Even if you still use your outdoor oven, or you have an indoor one or a grill pan, cook some figs on it. Grilled figs are a great side dish, dessert topping, or stand-alone snack. Try them with goat cheese and toasted walnuts!
2. Broil them
If you don’t have a grill, you can cook figs by using your broiler. Set your oven to ‘broil’ – on low. Cut the figs in half and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. You can use parchment paper, too. Put the sheet under the broiler, and bake until browned on the edges, between 2 to 5 minutes depending on your oven.
Broiled figs can be served with meat dishes, added to salads, or just drizzled with honey and served with yogurt. We also like them with red wine and cheese.
3. Make spread or jam out of them
If you happen to have a big quantity of figs, one of the best ways to preserve their flavor is to make jam or a spread. You can cook with figs using our guide for homemade jam, and then use it in cupcakes, on cookies, or simply on toast.
4. Dry them (or not?)
You can make your own dried figs (by cutting the stems off of the figs, placing them on a rimmed baking sheet, and baking at your oven’s lowest temperature, turning them every few hours), but it takes a long time – somewhere between 8 and 12 hours. So sometimes it can be a better idea to use store-bought figs in your dishes. Try them in cookies, nut and seed bars, in pies, homemade fig newtons, muffins. You can use dried figs in meat casseroles too.
5. Marinated figs
By lightly cooking figs in a syrup spiced with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, black peppercorns, grated nutmeg and sweetened with sugar, you’ll transform them into a deep flavored and longer-lasting treat. Sure you can use any other combos for the marinade! Then, serve the figs and their syrup on their own or in different combos: over a mild-flavored ice cream, with unsweetened yogurt, onto your breakfast oatmeal, or on pancakes or waffles. If you like sweet and sour combos, you can also serve marinated figs with pork, duck, or lamb.
Perfect combos with figs
On bruschetta, toast or sandwiches
Fresh figs are great in any combo for a good breakfast. Among them, fig sandwiches or bruschetta. Butter the bread slices and cook them crispy in a skillet for a deliciously crunchy base. Play with the flavors by mixing the salty prosciutto and mozzarella with sour balsamic glaze and sweet fig slices.
There are plenty of salads with figs, fresh, marinated, or dried. But today we recommend you a sweet salad. Enhance the arugula base with some fresh figs and crunchy pecans. Add a salty touch with crumbled goat cheese. Top everything off with a layer of tangy sweetness by adding a honey vinaigrette.
Baked on their own
If you want to create unexpected flavor pairings, try this exotic yet simple dessert. Combine salty goat cheese with sweet raw figs and slightly tangy walnuts. Bake them to really blend those flavors. Sweetness wins in the end when you serve them drizzled with honey.
Planning a small party? How about you try something new? The main ingredient in this dish is the figs, which will be wrapped in bacon so that the sweet taste can be balanced by the salty one. And after all, sweet and salty is one of the best combinations out there!
As a sweet and savory snack
This is truly a next level sweet and salty combination. Match the sweet figs, glazed, and cooked with honey, with the salty, fried bacon that also gets honey-glazed. Bring the blue cheese into the dish to tie everything together. Add some chili flakes and rosemary for extra spicy goodness.