Fig Newtons, Made at Home

January  7, 2014

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Megan Scott of The Joy Kitchen is returning to childhood and remaking Fig Newtons the way they always should have been. 

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This recipe grew out of a need to satisfy cravings for my favorite childhood cookie. I knew that if I went to the store and simply bought a package of Fig Newtons, I would probably be disappointed, as taste memories always seem to be more vibrant than the food that inspired them. 

But I had a hunch that homemade Fig Newtons might just live up to my nostalgia-fueled expectations -- and boy, did they ever. Soft and slightly chewy with the pleasant pop of tiny fig seeds in the filling, these figgy lovelies manage not only to outshine the cookie that inspired them, but they're also good enough to make new memories.

The idea to "steam" the cookies in a plastic bag comes from the lovely BraveTart of Serious Eats renown. May we all aspire to be as ingenious.

Fig Keplers

Makes about 30 two-inch cookies

For the cookie dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Zest of one orange

For the fig filling

1 pound dried figs, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup water

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a mixing bowl and set aside. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl  until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest and beat until combined. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well blended. Scoop the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a disc, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Combine the figs and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, cover, and allow the water to boil until the figs have absorbed it. Transfer the figs to a food processor and pulse until the mixture is completely smooth. 

Preheat the oven to 325? F. Place a large piece of parchment on your work surface and flour it liberally. Divide the chilled dough into 4 pieces, place one piece on the parchment, and return the other 3 to the refrigerator.

Shape the piece of dough into a rectangle, then roll the dough, stopping frequently to make sure it isn't sticking to the parchment, into a long rectangle (about 4 inches wide by 12 inches long). Be vigilant about lifting and reflouring the dough as you roll to prevent sticking. 

Scoop the fig filling into a pastry bag or a plastic zip-top bag with one corner cut off. Pipe the filling in a 1-inch strip down the center of the dough rectangle. Fold one side of the dough over the filling, then the other. Press down on the seam to close it.

Using the parchment, flip the cookie roll over, seam-side down. Transfer it gingerly to a baking sheet and refrigerate while you repeat this step with the other 3 pieces of dough. Bake the logs of dough for about 16 minutes or until the dough is no longer tacky and has begun to brown around the edges.

While the cookie rolls are still warm, cut them into 1 1/2- to 2-inch cookies. Immediately place the cookies in a single layer inside a plastic zip-top bag and close the bag. This seems counterintuitive, but in order to keep the cookies soft, like the real thing, they need to steam. 

Cool the cookies completely. Remove them from the bags and place in an airtight container. They can be kept, at room temperature, for up to 2 weeks.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Megan Scott 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lieana Pettis Holman
    Lieana Pettis Holman
  • Laura Cashio
    Laura Cashio
  • Meira Yolanda Lettieri
    Meira Yolanda Lettieri
  • Linda
  • CC
A southern girl with a globetrotting palate, I work alongside my husband John Becker to update and maintain the Joy of Cooking cookbook, website, and app. I love to bake, ferment, and preserve, and I spend an inordinate amount of time perusing farmers markets and daydreaming about chickens and goats.


Lieana P. June 27, 2017
Since fresh figs have so much moisture couldn't you just reduce or eliminate the water while puréeing them?
Laura C. July 10, 2016
Mine spread out into each other. The filling stayed in a log, but the dough itself kind of "melted" in the oven before rising. Anyone know what could have caused this? The oven was preheated and the temp correct. I followed the recipe to a T
Linda July 10, 2016
Could you have mismeasured your butter? Maybe used 1 1/2 sticks of butter instead of the unusual amount of 1 1/4 sticks?
Meira Y. July 20, 2015
You sound like me! I've always loved The Joy of Cooking cookbook. It's how my Grandma learned to cook "American." I am gluten free but I think almond flour will work just fine althouhg they may not be as chewy. FNs wre always my favoritee cookie. Love figs!
Linda April 15, 2015
I tried the steaming after baking step, but didn't care for the spongy quality it gave the cookie dough. Tried without the steaming step - tender and delicious.
CC April 8, 2015
I've used this recipe several times now, and I love how the fig newtons turn out each time. Everyone always compliments them when I make them. I don't live in the US anymore, so fig newtons are hard to come by. I was happy when I saw this recipe and tried it. This is a thousand times better than the store-bought version in the US. I modified it just a little to suit my family's taste (a little less sugar, added some whole-wheat flour, added crushed walnuts, etc.). I always make a lot at once and then freeze the final product for use at a later date. Thanks for the great recipe!
MRowe March 30, 2015
Not that hard to make, but for me, not worth it. You would be better off with Fig Newmans or some other natural brand.
Joon S. January 18, 2015
Ah, had some Orange marmalade in the fridge, added a touch more flour to make up for the extra moisture...turned out great!
Joon S. January 18, 2015
Has anyone omitted the Orange zest? I don't have one on hand :0(
bookjunky January 1, 2015
This sounds great except for the step involving putting them into a plastic bag. I am sure that you could use a glass container of some type and avoid steeping your fresh cookies in plastic byproducts.
Kris August 6, 2014
Awesome recipe thank you. Wild anyone know if fresh figs off the tree can be used and it what quantity? Maybe weigh the dried figs and half cup water, and then match that weight with fresh figs? Or are the dried figs a must? Reason I ask is I have a huge fig tree that produces hundreds at a harvest and these would be a great neighborly gift.
Kris August 6, 2014
Excuse the typos please. I-pad.
Linda July 10, 2016
Fresh figs are juicy and succulent. If you baked the fresh figs you might end up with figgy syrup in your pan and soggy cookies. If you have such and abundant harvest, you might consider home drying them for enjoyment through the year. Much better than any figs you can buy.
Kathryn M. March 22, 2014
Could I use wheat flour?
Cyrus January 27, 2014
I just made these and they're wonderful! They manage to capture the original taste and texture while significantly improving on both--thanks for the great recipe!
jeaniene January 13, 2014
It would be great if you could do your recipes in a video. This way we can see exactly how you do things. Just a the recipe.
Emily January 9, 2014
These look like the ones from the Metropolitan Bakery Cookbook -- so good!
ATG117 January 7, 2014
Fig newtons were my absolute favorite. Can't wait to find an excuse to make these.
Amanda January 7, 2014
These are on my list to make. I love fig newtons!
Sarah T. January 7, 2014
looks so beautiful! i love a project, this seem to fit the bill… just learned the baggie trick from my aunt's brown irish soda bread, so excited to see another recipe with it the same week!