When to Cook Your Figs and When Not To

There are times when you should and shouldn’t cook your figs.

Published June 14, 2022.

When I was first learning to cook, I would spend nights hovering over my mom’s shoulder, watching her dice onions, peel potatoes, and mince shallots. In my eagerness to learn, I would often pepper her with questions that—looking back—may have been a little irritating. 

One of her favorite responses? “Well, Eden, how long is a piece of string?”

Sign up for the Cook's Country Dinner Tonight newsletter

10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

To this day, I cannot stand that phrase.

But, in fairness to Mom, I do understand the sentiment. Especially when it applies to questions that don’t have an easy, objective, or fixed answer. Like, “Should I cook these figs, or should I simply eat them raw?”

Well, reader, how long is a piece of string?

Arugula Salad with Figs, Prosciutto, Walnuts, and Parmesan

A surprise ingredient guarantees salads that are lively but not harsh.
Get the Recipe

In the June/July issue of Cook’s Country magazine, we present two delicious options: Chicken Thighs with Fresh Figs, which calls for cooking your figs, and Fresh Fig Salad, which calls for just tossing in raw figs.

While you will usually start to see fresh figs springing up in early May, the sweetest and easiest fruit to eat raw, straight out of the box, comes around in the late summer. That’s why the earlier crops of figs are often best enjoyed cooked into a sweet, bright sauce alongside a nice serving of crispy chicken.

Similarly, if you find that you’ve let your figs become a little overripe, cooking them can and will hide any manner of sins, producing jammy, tender morsels that pack a sweet punch.

It’s really all down to when you buy your fruit and how much you appreciate a truly sumptuous, juicy fig.

There are three common varieties of fig you’ll see gracing the supermarket shelves, and these can all have a small impact on the overall flavor of your dish. 

  • Black mission figs are most common, with their deep purple exteriors. These have a very mellow, honeyed flavor and work beautifully in most dishes that call for figs. 
  • Brown Turkey figs, another popular variety, are also a multipurpose fruit thanks to their mild flavor. 
  • Finally, striped tigers have a striking contrast, with pale yellow-green skin that hides a blushing fuchsia interior. Striped tigers have a brighter flavor than their counterparts that can be described as a raspberry-citrus taste.

Whatever fig you use to create a mouthwatering meal, and however you choose to enjoy it, now is the time to appreciate these luxuriously sweet and easy-to-enjoy fruits with a nice cold drink and a spot of sunshine.

This is a members' feature.