Growing up we didn’t eat a lot of desserts or sweet snacks in our house. When we did they were often fruit-based and they were always a special treat. One of my favorites was when my mom had Fig Newtons. Coming home from school, these were a welcome treat! When I discovered dried figs as an adult, memories of those afterschool treats came rushing back! I recently found some dried figs in my pantry and what better way to use them than make these delicious spiced fig bars.
Not exactly a Fig Newton, but with a lot of the same flavors. These are the perfect treat for a cold, snowy winter afternoon.
Chewy, slightly sweet, and deliciously fruity, dried figs are amazing in sweet and savory recipes. My all-time favorite way to enjoy them though is in a sweet treat like a cookie. They just bring me back to my childhood and comforting times, which is why I came up with this Spiced Fig Bars recipe.
A few months ago I received a book and some other information from the California Fig Advisory Board and you can read more about them and find other delicious recipes on their website. I knew figs were grown in the US but honestly thought most of the figs we can get in our grocery stores were grown in the Mediterranean. That is far from the case and I learned a ton in this book so thought I’d share a little here.
Types of Figs
Did you know there are 6 varieties of figs grown in the United States? Fresh, they are available from May – November but dried, you can find them all year long.
- Mission – This is the type I see in our stores most often and the kind that I buy dried. They are deep purple color – almost black on the outside and are light pink on the inside. I think they are rich, sweet, and savory. I love to eat them fresh or chopped and added to a salad.
- Kadota – These figs have a light green color on the outside but are a rich, dark pink hue on the inside. They are supposed to have a much milder, almost bright flavor. I’ve only ever found these dried in our local stores.
- Brown Turkey – These are a lighter purple color on the outside, with the tip (stem end) a light green. I did find these last fall at our local Whole Foods. I would describe them as a little milder flavor than the Mission Fig, but still rich and flavorful.
- Sierra – These are also light green in color similar to the Kadota fig, but have a very pale interior. They are often dried as well and dry to a light brown color.
- Tena – These figs are grown to be dried. They are a light brown color and dry to a light brown color and have a rich smooth flavor.
- Tiger – A rich green color on the outside, with stripes from the stem to the end. They are described as having a bright, citrusy flavor. I’m anxious to find these next summer because they sound delicious! They have a shorter season and are only available July – November.
Figs are already partially dried when picked. To finish the drying process they are laid out in the sun and dried in only 4 – 5 days. Even dried, they are chewy but not “wet”. They can be stored for 6-8 months in your pantry in an air-tight container. I always try to keep some in my pantry, but they don’t last long!
The most common type of dried figs are either Mission or “Golden”. The Golden variety could be a Tena, Kodata or Sierra fig. Dried Mission figs are dark and have a rich, intense sweet and savory flavor. Golden figs have a lighter flavor. I honestly prefer the deeper, rich flavor of a Mission Fig and will add them to salads for some sweetness. That is why I chose to use them in this cookie bar recipe.
While I like to focus mostly on recipes for delicious food, figs really are a powerhouse of nutrients and that is definitely worth talking about. They are a great source of fiber, have calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron (more than many other fruits), and have more antioxidants per serving than even a glass of red wine. (Don’t get me wrong…I won’t substitute them for my wine in the evening, but they pair nicely with it and I get the added benefit of more antioxidants!) Okay, enough about that – dried figs are delicious, easy to add to many dishes, and the fact that you get a nutritious boost, well that is just an added benefit in my book.
How to Make Spiced Fig Bars
These fig bars are super easy to make. Like most cookie recipes, I started with softened butter and added the sugar and beat them together until it was light and fluffy. This makes it nice and airy and gives the leavening agents (in this case a little baking powder) a better ability to rise in the oven. Then I added the eggs and mixed them in well.
I mixed all the dry ingredients together in another bowl and tossed the figs and walnuts into them and made sure they were coated. Why? Well, by coating them it keeps the figs and nuts from sinking to the bottom of the cookie, allowing them to distribute more evenly through the dough.
Then, I quickly grated the apple, squeezed it so that it was pretty dry and quickly mixed it into the butter and egg mixture. (This is a rare case when I didn’t get this ready to go before I started. I didn’t want the apple to turn brown on me so waited to grate it until I was ready to mix it in)
Once that was done and the apple was evenly distributed, then I mixed in the dry ingredients until it was combined and patted it into my prepared pan. They took about 30 minutes in a preheated oven to cook. Once they were done, I let them cool for a good 10 15 minutes before cutting them. Yup… it was hard to wait because the house smelled so good but worth the wait for sure!
I love these spiced fig bars because they are a bit healthier than other cookie recipes (not that I was going for “healthy”) but at 230 calories, each bar also has 2-1/2 grams of fiber, 3-1/2 grams of Monounsaturated fat, and are relatively low in sodium. So, a bit better than a normal cookie, plus they are filling! One of these is a satisfying and delicious afternoon treat that will keep you going until dinner.
Spiced Oatmeal Fig Bars
- 13 x 9 baking pan
- 1 cup butter softened
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar packed
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups regular oatmeal
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 7 oz. dried figs chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts toasted
- 1 honeycrisp apple grated and squeezed dry (~1/2 cup)
- Wash your hands and make sure all the equipment is clean and dry.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 13 x 9 baking pan and line with parchment paper.
- Cream butter and sugar for ~ 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs to butter and sugar mixture, one at a time and beat until thoroughly combined.
- In a separate bowl, mix oatmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and spices together. Toss chopped figs and walnuts in and mix thoroughly to coat them well. (this will help prevent them from sinking to the bottom and distribute them throughout the finished bar.)
- Add grated apples to the butter, sugar and egg mixture and mix well.
- Gradually add the oatmeal and flour mixture and mix well to combine.
- Spread dough evenly in prepared baking pan.
- Bake in the middle of the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until browned and a toothpick pierced in the center comes out clean.