What Is Fig Paste?

Megan Shoop
Megan Shoop
Whole and cut fig.
Whole and cut fig.

Fig paste is a sweet, thick paste typically made from softened, mashed figs and sugar. Similar to fruit preserves, fig paste can be spread on toast, stirred into tea as a sweetener, or served as part of an appetizer. Cooks may also add it to sauces and pastry recipes to give them flavor and texture. One can sometimes purchase jarred fig paste in grocery stores. Those with fig trees or extra figs can also make this sweet treat at home.

Figs growing on the tree.
Figs growing on the tree.

In addition to being used as a delicious jam, fig paste typically combines well with cheeses and other fruits. A simple appetizer platter might include pita chips or seeded crackers, a bowl of fig paste, and brie, feta, mozzarella and even ricotta cheese. Spreading a cracker or chip with the cheese and topping it with fig paste and a thin apple or pear slice usually makes a tasty pre-dinner snack that may help stir the appetite.

Dried figs.
Dried figs.

Those that find jarred fig paste too sweet, or simply want to try something new, can make a tasty treat at home with dried figs, sugar, and water. Cooks must first snip the stems from the tips of the figs with a pair of cooking scissors or a knife. Simmering the figs in water over medium-low heat should soften and rehydrate them slightly. About an hour of simmering should soften most batches of figs just enough. When they’re easily pricked with a fork, they’re ready for processing.

FIg paste may be combined with cheeses and fruits, such as pears.
FIg paste may be combined with cheeses and fruits, such as pears.

Chopping the figs into 1/2 inch (about 1 cm) pieces usually makes them easy for a food processor to pulverize. Process the chopped fruits on low for about 30 seconds before adding sugar. Figs are already sweet, so cooks should generally taste the chopped figs before sweetening. If the figs already satisfy one’s sweet tooth, sugar may not be needed. Those adding some should typically start with about 1/4 cup (59 ml) and add about a tablespoon (15 ml) at a time until the paste is sweet enough.

Finished paste should be mostly smooth and thick, much like cottage cheese. Airtight containers usually keep it fresh for up to a week in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen, though it may become a little thin when thawed.

Ricotta cheese is often served with fig paste.
Ricotta cheese is often served with fig paste.

Home cooks can experiment with additional flavors to find their favorite version of fig paste. Apples and pears, almonds, walnuts, cinnamon, and fresh mint are all traditional flavorings. Pears and apples must typically be peeled, cored, and chopped. Simmering these fruits along with the figs usually makes them soft enough to blend right into the paste in the food processor. Nuts must be chopped and are typically stirred into the paste after processing.

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    • Whole and cut fig.
      Whole and cut fig.
    • Figs growing on the tree.
      Figs growing on the tree.
    • Dried figs.
      By: SK
      Dried figs.
    • FIg paste may be combined with cheeses and fruits, such as pears.
      By: Olivier Tuffé
      FIg paste may be combined with cheeses and fruits, such as pears.
    • Ricotta cheese is often served with fig paste.
      By: Roberto Fasoli
      Ricotta cheese is often served with fig paste.