This is probably a good time to mention that the best fresh figs are not usually the perfect, good-looking firm ones. Oh, no! You want ’em soft, even squishy, even oozing a bit of syrupy juice. Some of the best are the ones that have started to wrinkle a bit after sitting for a couple of days your counter. If you are someone who just “doesn’t get” what the fuss about figs is all about, you haven’t tasted a good and properly ripe fig.
Get thee to a farmers market. Schmooze and make friends with the lone fig guy or gal. You’ll be glad you did.
Figs can go sweet or savory. They love honey, or caramel, or cinnamon and sugar. They appreciate a little salt and/or pepper, and positively shine in the company of cultured dairy like sour cream, crème fraîche, yogurt, labneh, or quark—and all kinds of soft fresh or ripe or hard aged cheeses. They are crazy good with savory meats like prosciutto or bacon, so go ahead and stuff a sandwich or garnish a pizza them. They also play nice with dark chocolate, and they’re nuts about nuts. They just can’t get enough of the balance. And when it comes to cooking, figs are brilliant at the extremes: cooked either hot and fast—just to caramelize their cut sides—or long enough to stew in their own juices.
Figs, if they could talk, would insist that you make a composed plate with almost any assortment of the good things that I just mentioned—maybe it’s a sophisticated dessert or just breakfast. (P.S. Sometimes the only difference between breakfast and dessert is whether you serve it in a bowl or arrange it on a plate!)
Here are 21 ways (ideas, recipes, and everything in between!) to make figs your jam:
1. Fresh Figs with Greek Yogurt and Chestnut Honey
Arrange quartered of halved figs next to or atop a scoop of plain Greek yogurt. Drizzle with chestnut honey (or whatever delicious good honey you have). Need some crunch? Scatter almond, walnut, or pistachios pieces around the plate or serve with cookies—or toast!
2. Sliced Fig Halves, sprinkled with salt, & dolloped with any tangy cheese
That’s it! That’s the whole recipe. Thank us later. (We especially love to do this with black mission figs.)
3. Quartered Fresh Figs, in a Salad
Add fresh figs to any salad—just rinse them in water, and pat with a soft kitchen cloth until dry. The skin of figs is totally edible and can be left on. Bonus points if it’s a warm salad. (And psst: If raw figs aren’t your thing, they can be baked, or cooked under the broiler until caramelized).
4. Honey Caramelized Figs with Goat Cheese (or Labneh!)
Halve 3 or 4 figs per person. Heat a wide skillet over high heat and add enough honey to melt into a thin coating on the pan. Sprinkle the honey with a tiny pinch or two of salt and add the figs cut side-down, close together but in one layer. Cook until the honey bubbles and starts to caramelize, shaking the pan to slide the figs around. When the cut sides of a few of the figs look brown and caramelized, remove the pan from the heat and flip the figs around to coat them with glaze.
Divide the figs among serving plates and return the pan to the stove. Deglaze the pan with enough sherry or Madeira or red wine to make a syrupy but not too thick sauce. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the figs. Add a slice of fresh goat cheese or some labneh to each plate and grind a little pepper over all. Nothing more is needed, but you could serve with grilled sourdough or toasted walnut or hazelnut bread.
5. Fig & Olive Tapenade
Who said dried figs couldn’t come to the party, too? This tapenade calls in Kalamata olives, stuffed green olives, balsamic vinegar, and yes, sweet dried figs for the ultimate crostini topper.
6. Figgy Toast with Feta & Honey
When figs are super ripe but so squishy and shriveled that they are not pretty, mash with a fork on a piece of crunchy plain or buttered toast. You can add a few crumbles of feta, or not—and then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, or honey, or honey and tahini, or date syrup, or a few drops of aged balsamic vinegar (the real good stuff if you have it). Pass a little flaky sea salt and the pepper grinder.
7. Cheese-Stuffed Figs Dipped in Chocolate
Stuff figs with 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ricotta, mascarpone, or plain old cream cheese. Chill until the figs are cold to the touch. Dip each in warm melted dark chocolate, setting them immediately on a parchment-lined tray. Chill immediately in order to set the chocolate evenly, and keep them refrigerated until shortly before serving. Sharing is fully optional.
8. Baked Figs with Vanilla Ice Cream or Crème Fraîche
Cut figs in half and arrange them (either side up) in a baking dish just big enough to hold them in one layer. Drizzle them with two parts honey to one part balsamic vinegar (the inexpensive stuff works fine here) or lemon juice, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cover tightly with foil and bake in a 375°F oven, until the figs are very tender and squishy and the juices are syrupy, 30 to 45 minutes.
Check 10 to 15 minutes before the end of the baking time: If juices are thin and copious, finish baking uncovered. If the juices are too thick and syrupy before the figs are soft, add a little water. When the figs are nearly done, taste the syrup and adjust the flavor with honey, vinegar, a pinch of salt, or squeeze of lemon juice as necessary. Serve warm, hot, or cold with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of crème fraîche. Figs keep in the fridge for at least a week.
9. Vanilla Fig Scones
Dried figs and vanilla bean come together in these hulking, craggy scones—perfect for a lazy Sunday breakfast in bed.
10. Drunken Honeyed Figs with Lemon Mascarpone Whipped Cream
A make-ahead dessert that celebrates the flavors of figs, complemented by citrusy, tangy mascarpone whipped cream.
11. Ricotta-Rosemary Cake With Fresh Figs
If you serve this effortlessly cool (and great-looking) single layer cake—topped with fresh figs, whipped cream, and crunchy rosemary sugar—good luck getting rid of your houseguests.
12. Caramelized Figs With a Balsamic Glaze
Quarter fresh figs and toss with a little brown sugar, then caramelize in a skillet over a medium-high flame. Add a few drizzles of balsamic before removing from heat, and toss. Serve over toast with ricotta, or on a bed of dressed arugula.
13. Fall Fig & Chicken Sandwich
What’s the point of eating any other sandwich besides this one, which is stuffed with balsamic grilled chicken, blue cheese, caramelized onions, and sautéed figs? And did we mention it’s served on chewy ciabatta bread
14. Fresh Fig & Mint Salad
Fresh figs, meet perky mint. This Genius stunner is “dinner party-fancy and attention-grabbing, but requires little of your time,” according to Kristen Miglore. Sign us wayyy up.
15. Baked Figs With Balsamic & Feta
Take those overripe, crumply looking figs and park them right here in this recipe by Phyllis Grant, which calls in a balsamic reduction and the creamiest feta you can find.
16. Ricotta Crostini with Figs, Prosciutto & Honey
Ricotta, toasty bread, figs, proscuitto, and honey walk into a bar. (Except, it’s not a bar, it’s your mouth, and the only punchline is you’ll go in for a second one almost instantaneously.)
17. Fig Upside-Down Cake
What better way to top a chestnut sponge cake than with sweet, fresh figs, gooey with brown sugar? No one would complain about a big dollop of whipped cream, either.
18. Goat Cheese Ice Cream with Honey & Fig Jam
This honeyed French goat cheese ice cream is laced with stripes of fig jam, and we want 18 bowls of it.
19. Sheet Pan Chicken with Figs & Bread Salad
Make dinner tonight this simple sheet pan meal of crisp-skinned roasted chicken, macerated figs, arugula, and bread to sop up all the dressing and drippings.
20. Fig & Blue Cheese Tart with Honey, Balsamic & Rosemary
This classic puff pastry tart’s flexible, like a fall weekend lunch should be: use any kind of figs, skip or swap the cheese, add nuts—whatever you like.
21. Fig & Cardamom Spiced Tiramisu
Tiramisu gets a new twist, thanks to cardamom and dried figs. Top with shavings of a high quality dark chocolate for balance.
Say you’ve got a punnet of gorgeous figs. How do you put them to good use? Tell us in the comments.