Grown-up Fig Cookies Recipe

A grown-up twist on the figgy classic. This filling for this fig cookie recipe is dried figs that are marinated overnight in port and pomegranate juice and then pureed. They also happen to be gluten-free.

Grown-up Fig Cookies

If I told you Fig Newtons were a favorite cookie of mine as a child, I'd be lying. In my mind they were only slightly better than nothing. Nothing on the other hand was better than the sugar-free hard candies that lived in a bowl on our kitchen countertop for a year or so before someone finally threw them out. When Fig Newtons were in-stock (pantry, top shelf) I would occasionally get a duo of them in my lunch box. This wasn't anything I looked forward to really, I could barely give them away let alone barter them for something I actually coveted. What kid is willing to swap a Fig Newton for a Ho Ho? Anyways, that was many, many years ago and thankfully my tastes have evolved quite a bit since then. I was excited to see a grown-up twist on the figgy classic in my friend Shauna's new cookbook. The filling is what really caught my attention - it is made from dried figs marinated overnight in port and pomegranate juice and then pureed...

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I'll tell you a bit about Shauna. Many of you are familiar with her through Gluten-free Girl - her deliciously enthusiastic website. She writes about life and cooking from a gluten-free perspective and in the process has educated many of us about what it is like to need to live gluten-free (an issue for an increasing number of people). Let me say upfront, I'm not going to try to talk all of you into running all over town looking for numerous gluten-free flours to make these cookies. I can imagine this or this (minus the chocolate chips) would work beautifully as alternate doughs to go with the port-fig filling.

I always point people to Shauna's site as a fantastic resource, and like I said when I did a blurb for the back of her book - her writing is always heartfelt, inspiring, and informational - a tough balance to strike. Even though I'm not allergic to gluten (which is in all sorts of places you would never think of btw), there is much overlap in our cooking. We both like to explore a wide and sometimes esoteric range of whole grains. We both gravitate toward whole foods. And we both typically use what looks best at our local farmer's markets as the inspiration for what we are cooking on any given day. The most common questions I got when I was out doing signings for my own book were about gluten-free cooking - a real eye opener.

Needless to say, I have a lot to learn about being gluten-free in the kitchen, particularly when it comes to baking. And I'm curious about it, because it is a way to get to know little used flours and learn about their unique properties. So off I went to stock up on tapioca flour, sorghum flour, brown rice, flour, and the like to see if her grown-up fig cookies were good enough to pass on their own merit. I wasn't planning on labeling them gluten-free or anything like that - they would need to stand up on there own as delicious first, and the fact that they happened to be gluten-free would be a footnote. Similar to the way I think about cooking vegetarian.

The verdict? Sooo good - moist and flavorful. The spicy undertones in the dough played against the liquored up figs wonderfully. I'll tell Wayne to weigh in on the comments, but I know he liked them because he ate most of them. We fought over the crunchier edge pieces.

Congratulations on the book Shauna! For any readers here who get down about having to eat gluten-free (or have friends or family members struggling with Celiac disease), Shauna's book (and her website) are refreshing looks from the bright side.

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Grown-up Fig Cookies

These cookies are gluten-free, and use gluten-free flours and ingredients. If you don't want to seek out these types of flours you can use a more traditional cookie dough like the one here or here (minus the chocolate chips) to use in conjunction with the delicious port-fig spread. The spread on its own would make a lovely sweet tapenade to go with a dessert cheese platter.

Fig Spread (start 24 hours in advance of the cookies)

1/2 pound dried figs
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup port
1/4 cup meyer (or regular) lemon juice

To prepare the fig spread chop the figs into quarters, removing any knobby stems that might remain. Put the pieces in a medium bowl or Mason jar and cover with the liquids. Soak the figs for 24 hours, or at least overnight. Abefore you make the cookies, drain the figs of the liquid, except for a few tablespoons. Put the figs and remaining liquid in a food processor and blend to make a thick paste, somewhat like a tapenade consistency.

Fig Cookie Dough

1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum
scant 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons molasses

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a medium-size bowl. Set aside.

Put the softened butter into a mixer. Add the brown sugar and cane sugar to the butter and cream together. Cream until well blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times if needed.

Add the egg, vanilla, and molasses. Mix until blended. Add the dry ingredients (I did this in three parts), and mix until blended. Split the dough into two pieces, wrap each in plastic and then refrigerate the dough for at least one hour. This is key with gluten-free doughs.

After you've chilled the dough, roll out half the dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a Silpat or piece of parchment paper. Slather the fig spread over the surface of the dough, stopping just shy of the edges. Roll out the second half of dough to roughly the same size as the first. Lay it over the fig spread. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal in the fig spread.

Slide the baking sheet into the oven for 15 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the dough isn't browning too much. Remove when the edges are just starting to get nice and golden. Let cool for 10 minutes. When the cookies have cooled, cut the edges off to make straight lines. Slice the giant cookie into small squares.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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Fantastic recipe. As I write this, I can smell thhe aroma from my oven. A couple of notes from my experience though - Pomegranate juice might be hard to come by, or expensive in some places (I paid $13 for a 1 Litre bottle here in Australia - organic and fresh pressed and everything). Maybe a good or cheaper substitute would be cranberry juice with a little pear juice mixed in. It seems to mimic the taste pretty well. Also for those who had trouble rolling the dough out, like me - use a glass bottle or something, as my wooden rolling pin absorbed some of the moisture and made it tear. I tried a glass bottle (or anything non-porous - no problems. Thanks for all the goodness Heidi.


RE: Grown-up Fig Cookies What about those of us who choose to live or must live alcohol-free lifestyles? What do you recommend as a substitute for the port?


grazie mille Heidi!


Is there a substitute method for fresh figs? We have a huge fig tree in our yard and we can't eat the fresh figs fast enough. We've been looking for a recipe that uses fresh figs. Thanks!


Yum! This recipe popped up above my gmail account- how cool is that? So my family makes 3-4 recipes out of Super Natural every week, esp the Sushi bowl and the grain-ola... yum!

Five Flowers/ Emily

Just discovered your site and I'm loving it especialy the quick recipes! Easy Paella recipe


I love the idea of grown up cookies - made with alcohol! The port wine sounds fabulous - what a great recipe. Thanks!


thank for your memoris~ and i will visit Shauna's site after then


My cousin can't eat gluten either and Shannon's website has been AWESOME. i think it's great that you're promoting her :) Teddy PS i love figs but NOT fig newtons. this look much better than those things haha


Heidi, you blow me away. This is such a beautiful post, and I feel so honored. And seeing the fig cookies I created through your lens? This is a dream come true. And I completely agree with your philosophy of food, whether gluten-free or vegetarian: it has to be great food, no matter what. As far as the questions go. Xanthan gum is a binder. You just need a small amount, but it does mimic some of the qualities of gluten. (Not all, of course. It doesn't really help with breads.) Guar gum works as well. Sometimes, ground-up flax seeds would work. I have to say, however, that a few times when I made these cookies, I forgot the xanthan, and they were still pretty darn great. So try it. Fresh figs work nearly as well here. Use less liquid, and let them sit for about an hour before you puree them. After that, make cookies! Thank you again, Heidi.


I love fig newtons!! yummy! I was thrilled when I saw your cookbook in our new barnes and noble bookstore. Not that I don't already own them both (and love them) but it was awesome to see them in our little town!


I love fig newtons!! yummy! I was thrilled when I saw your cookbook in our new barnes and noble bookstore. Not that I don't already own them both (and love them) but it was awesome to see them in our little town!


Heidi, Great site - looks like a great recipe, too! However, I only have fresh figs, and am afraid that steeping for 24 hours might break them down too much. Should I just blend them with a few tbls of the port/juice mix?


For the no-alcohol crew - feel free to leave it out, you could just supplement w/ more pom. juice or come up w/ something more creative. Angie, I'll need Shauna to weign in on the xanthan gum subst. question in regards to GF baking - I suspect it impacts the consistency of the dough and works as a binder as well. I'm sure she could tell you the impact when left out, I suspect it helps maintain some of the strength structure that is lost when you remove all glutenized ingredients. Not sure if there is another substitute, but if you aren't GF, you could just use a more traditional dough - I linked to a couple up top.


The line in your post I find the most intriguing and encouraging? "The most common questions I got when I was out doing signings for my own book were about gluten-free cooking - a real eye opener." Awareness is growing. Yay.


Heidi!! This is simply WONDERFUL!!! I love fig .. I'll made this next sunday on my afternoon tea! Thanks... and great pics as usual! Bye from Italy.. ;-)))


Those look amazing! I am a big fan of figs, so much so in fact that I often end up just eating them the way the are with honey. But, this looks really tempting, so I might have to save some to make the cookies!


isa chandra moskowitz has a great recipe for "fauxstess" hostess cupcakes in her cookbook vegan with a vengeance, on the topic of faking hohos and other hostess products. you can find the recipe posted in various places if you google it.


I have been following Shauna's blog for some time and besides shedding light on celiac disease, Shauna's blog is great for restoring my faith in life and love which is sometimes in short supply in today's world. Not a fan of fig newtons, but marinated with port... I will have to try this version.

Deborah Dowd

you are very creative!

bintang david

I love Figs!! and they are so healthy, esp with all that fiber packed in them! I loved the name of your cookie:) nice and easy recipe!


Hi Heidi, I've been lurking on your site for awhile, but I just have to say thanks for posting this recipe! I absolutely love anything FIG and I am always up for trying a new flour. I bought your cookbook a few months ago and I've been tearing through the recipes - LOVE IT! Shauna's will be next on my list.


This sounds great, but like Yakumo, who posted on Monday, I don't cook with alcohol. Can anyone suggest a suitable Port substitute?


THANK YOU HEIDI! I love fig and I can't WAIT to try these cookies!! Thank you so much for making them gluten-free! I'll be posting them on my blog soon! Oh yum! I just can't wait!!


Ah, but can you eat these ones in bed?


Dear Heidi, is there any subsitute to xanthan gum? Nearly impossible to find it here in Madrid... cheers!


These look amazing. I'm pointing this post to a friend who is fighting rheumatoid arthritis-- most recently by food cycling. Her first elimination is gluten. I always kind of liked fig newtons, myself. We used to keep them in the freezer.


Yum! I loved fig newtons, then fig Newman's as a child and teen. They're still an occasional weakness, which is bead since I am gluten intolerant. I'm making these cookies straight away. Oh, happy day! I can have my cookie and eat it too! I'm also getting Shauna's cookbook. B&N here I come!


as soon as i saw the ingredients in the filling i knew this would be a wow. they look like the perfect cookie to serve with a cup of tea - or an espresso! i even love the look of them. serious and yes, very grown up. i'd take this over a ho-ho hanyday hof the week!!! (but i'm not 11)...


i feel like i can taste it just by looking at the photo. by the way, i made your zucchini bread this week and i don't want to eat anything else until it's all gone!


To my surprise, dried figs are more common in India than in USA...even though fig newtons are so popular here! I've been looking for good dried figs to make a date-fig dessert for a while...but can't find it at my local grocery store!


we recently discovered a fig tree down the side of our house. it is spring here and everything is just starting to bloom, i can't wait for the figs to be ready. will this recipe work with fresh figs?


Another weird fig-newton-loving kid here. These look terrific. Am thinking about other uses for the filling...mmmmm.


I willk be doing these - GUARANTEED - as soon as I can get all the ingredients...

Sacha Martin

Those cookies look delicious and I'm glad that I finally found a recipe to use dried figs. Just one question, I don't really like alcohol at all, what could I use instead to give a little flavour to the figs?


This recipe is awsome, if it wasn't for the three kinds of exotic flour needed :(


A recipe for "Ho-Ho's" or "Ding Dongs", yes please.


I am in the middle of Shauna's book now; enjoying it immensely. It was the 3 or 4 page teaser amazon gives you, that hooked me. I love her writing style. When I encountered the first recipe, "Chicken Thighs Braised in Pomegranate Molasses" (with garlic, lemon, cashews and pistachios) - I knew I had to make this. I spent the better part of Saturday searching for the pomegranate molasses. Five stores. No luck. I almost ordered some from Zingerman's last night. But when they wanted $10. to ship a small $9. bottle, I resolved to search harder in my neighborhood (Reno, NV). Two phone calls this morning, and I have a source - so, soon...


Just wondering about size of the roll out of the dough. Saw that you refer to rollling to 1/4" but wondered if you're using a standard 12x15 sheet pan to bake them in?


These sound wonderful! Fig Newtons are one of my favorite treats. Does that make me abnormal? Ah, well, so be it!


That's funny - it took me a while to work out what you were all reminiscing about! I think fig newtons are what we call fig rolls in the UK :-) These sound sumptuous - I love the idea of the port marinade!


I was so happy to see a gluten-free recipe in your blog! I've loved other "incidentally gluten-free" recipes you've posted, but seeing non-GF bloggers post specifically gluten-free recipes for baked goods is really a thrill - Especially someone as good a photographer as yourself. These cookies look fantastic, I can't wait to try them out.

Gluten-Free Bay

Thanks Kristine, that's what happens when I try to type too quickly. Fixed it.


As usual Heidi your wonderful picture makes me hungry even though I just finished my diner 15 minutes ago :-)!


Looks wonderful ( I always liked fig newtons too) but shouldn't the recipe read "Mix all the DRY ingredients together in a medium bowl..."?


You all know how much I love doing the remixes. I'm always up for a challenge - I bet I could make a much improved Ho Ho. Or what are the cup cakes called? I loved those. But the Thin Mints are still my favorite (I put them in my book).... A bunch of you wanted me to try my hand at a Samoa - style cookie which I haven't yet done.... I think CHOW has a bunch of candy remixes up right now because of Halloween.... -h


You can make a fig newton taste better. But can you make a Ho Ho healthier?!! ;) I'd love to see that!


Oh, thank you so much for this recipe. I have to provide snack for my son's cooperative nursery school and he has a little friend that has many allergies, including gluten. Learning about Shauna's blog and book is a life saver for me, since I love baking for the kids! And congrats in the great photograph!


I was the weird kid that really liked Fig Newtons. I had a 'special' way of eating them by nibbling all the cake of until I was left with the gooey center (and sticky fingers to boot)! But no... no kid can trade them for a Ho Ho... These really look fantastic. I'll have to pack a few in my lunch next week-- see if the coworkers want to trade.


I have always loved fig newtons (I know that most kids hated them, not me) and I'm definitely going to give these a try. Yay Shauna!


Hurray! We were just discussing what to do with all of our lucious Black mission figs and walnuts. As we pulled the walnuts and roasted figs from the Bread Oven, my 11-year old reminded us of Fig Newmans (she knows them by Paul Newman). I was going to spend sometime searching for a good recipe, and, I rec'd this email while working. Cannot wait to try! Anyone else out there have other fig and/or good recipes for bread oven. Looking for things to bake on bake days for the rest of the week-i.e. lasagna, tamale pie, chicken, etc.


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