Looking for a healthier Fig Newton recipe? This recipe uses 100% whole wheat organic pastry flour and is lightly sweetened with maple sugar. You’ll also find out how to make the fig filling with fresh figs, not just dried figs!
Figs are near the top of our list of easiest fruit to grow organically in the Southeast US. We planted our most mature fig tree (a relatively cold-hardy ‘Brown Turkey’) about a decade ago.
Today, the tree is so tall we can’t pick the ripe figs from the top center of it even with a tall ladder, much to the pleasure of our resident birds.
However, the parts of the tree that are within reach still provide us with huge harvests every night during fig season. Thus, we’ve come up with some awesome fig recipes over the years, including:
- Flourless fig crumble with oats and almond flour
- Fig nibbler (kinda like a fig pie, a fig cake, and Newtons had a baby)
Better, healthier Fig Newtons
However, until this year, we’ve never make Fig Newtons, even though The Tyrant and I both enjoyed them as kids. Why? We’ve never found a recipe with the following features:
- 100% whole wheat flour (we try to avoid refined flours),
- relatively low in sugar, and
- instructions to make the fig filling with fresh figs rather than dried figs.
This year, with giant bowls of figs building up in our fridge and a curious toddler who loves to help in the kitchen, we decided it was time to come up with our own healthier Fig Newton recipe that checked all three of the boxes above. After a lot of trial and error, our family’s healthier Fig Newton recipe is now ready to share!
Key ingredients (and substitutions)
Here are a few key ingredients you’ll need for this recipe that require a bit more discussion, including possible substitutions:
1. Whole wheat PASTRY flour
For this recipe, you’ll need whole wheat pastry flour (we use 365 Whole Foods’s brand organic whole wheat pastry flour). Standard whole wheat flour will NOT work in this recipe because it’s not milled finely enough.
Substitution? You could probably get away with a 50/50 regular whole wheat and all-purpose flour blend, but you might need to do a small test batch first to see how it turns out.
2. Maple sugar
We use maple syrup to add a bit of extra sweet to the fig filling. However, we use maple sugar to sweeten the cookie wrapping. (Nova is the brand of maple sugar we use.)
We love the flavor that maple syrup and maple sugar add, and recommend using them in this recipe if at all possible.
Substitution? Use organic Turbinado sugar or light brown sugar if you don’t have maple sugar.
3. Duck eggs
We keep ducks so we usually bake and cook with duck eggs, as we did in this recipe. Compared to chicken eggs, duck eggs are slightly larger, richer tasting, and have more yolk. (See duck eggs vs chicken eggs comparison.)
Our duck eggs weigh about 2.5 ounces each, which is the equivalent of the largest egg a chicken can possibly produce (aka “Jumbo” according to USDA labeling guidelines). For the Fig Newton dough, we use 2 duck eggs (5 ounces total). Since getting the right dough consistency requires precision, we’d recommend using one of the following:
- 2 duck eggs,
- 2 Jumbo chicken eggs, or
- measuring out 5 ounces of whisked chicken eggs.
4. Ripe figs
We use fresh ‘Brown Turkey’ figs for this recipe. However, you can use any variety of fig.
If you’re using fresh figs, just make sure they’re squishy ripe so your fig filling has the best flavor possible. Most fresh figs we’ve seen at grocery stores are usually not very good because they’re sold under-ripe in order to be shelf-stable.
See instructions below if you only have dried/dehydrated figs!
Process photos: step-by-step to making the best and healthiest Fig Newtons ever!
Before jumping in, be sure to review the step-by-step instructions and process photos below so you get this recipe just right your first time!
Step 1: Make dough.
You’ll start by making your dough in a mixer. Also, this recipe calls for the fresh zest of one orange for the dough + the juice of one orange for the fig filling, so you’ll want to zest your orange before juicing it or making the dough. (See: What’s the easiest way to zest citrus?)
Note that Newton dough is very heavy/dense. Here’s what the consistency should look like once it’s mixed and ready to go in the fridge to chill:
Step 2: Chill dough.
Once your dough is made, roll it into a ball. Then cover and chill the dough in the fridge for at least one hour before you roll it out. You can either cover it in a bowl or wrap it in plastic wrap.
Step 3: Make fig filling.
Option 1: If using FRESH figs:
While your dough is chilling, make your fig filling as follows:
- cut figs in half and place them in saucepan,
- juice the orange (a little over 1/4 cup juice) and put the juice in the pan with the halved figs (zest should have gone into dough earlier!),
- add other fig filling ingredients.
Next, cook figs over medium heat for about 20 minutes (no lid!), stirring regularly. The more water they lose, the more frequently you’ll need to stir them to prevent sticking and scalding in the pan.
After 20 minutes, turn temperature down to low and continue cooking figs for another ~10 minutes while stirring frequently to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
You want to get as much moisture out of your figs as possible. This is what your fig filling should look like when it’s done cooking prior to pureeing:
Once done, remove from heat and let figs cool to room temperature.
Option 2: If using DRIED figs:
Only have access to dried/dehydrated figs? No problem!
The water content of figs varies by variety and weather conditions prior to harvest, but 75% water content is a good general rule. So if you’re using dried figs, this means you’ll need to re-hydrate them a bit before making your Newton filling.
Since our recipe uses 1.5 pounds of fresh figs, you’ll want to use about 0.375 pounds (6 ounces) of dried figs. Put your dried figs in a small pan on your stove with all the same ingredients as if you’re using fresh figs (see recipe card at bottom of article), but also add 1/4 cup of water.
Next, put lid on the pan and simmer your figs over low heat for about 10 minutes, until they begin to plump up. Remove from heat and let them cool down, keeping the lid on. After ~15 minutes, puree them in a blender or food processor.
Now your fig filling is ready to go!
Step 4: Puree fig filling.
Once your fig filling has cooled, puree it in a food processor, Ninja, or blender.
Step 5: Preheat oven.
When you’re ready to make your Fig Newtons, preheat your oven to 325°F (163°C).
Step 6: Prep counter surface, then roll and cut dough.
Lay one large strip of parchment on your counter and lightly dust the surface with flour (we use the same pastry flour to dust). You can also just dust the counter surface with flour, but parchment will make cleanup easier and the dough won’t stick as easily.
As you start rolling, you’ll also need to dust a bit of flour on the dough surface and possibly coat the surface of your rolling pin with some flour too.
Dough thickness – Use a rolling pin to roll out dough into a rectangular shape, about 1/4″ thick.
Width of dough strips – You want the width of each finished dough strip to be about 3.5″ wide – use a ruler and knife! The length of each strip is less important, just make sure they’re not too long to handle easily. (Ours were anywhere from 7-10″ long.)
What about those pieces of dough you cut away from the edges as you go? Combine them and roll them out as-needed until you run out of dough.
Step 7: Spoon in fig filling.
Next, spoon and level the fig filling down the center of each 3.5″ dough strip.
Step 8: Fold dough strips.
Fold one side of each dough strip over the fig filling:
Then fold the other side over so they overlap. Lightly press down on the seam – not too hard!
If there’s excess fig filling coming out of the seam, wipe if off with your finger.
Step 9: Transfer raw Newtons to baking sheet.
Put a sheet of parchment on your baking sheet. Carefully transfer your raw Fig Newtons to the covered baking sheet, seam side down as shown below:
Step 10: Bake for about 20 minutes.
Bake your Newtons on the middle oven rack just long enough to be done, but don’t over-bake them! In our oven, our Newtons were done in about 20 minutes at 325°F (163°C).
You don’t want them browned, you just want them cooked enough to feel dry and firm to the touch as shown below:
Step 11: Steam your still-warm Newtons.
Want a dryer, more crumbly Newton? Simply let them cool to room temperature on a cooling rack before storing them.
Want a softer, moister Newton? (We like these best!) If so, use the steaming method detailed below shortly after you remove them from the oven while they’re still warm.
How to steam your Fig Newtons:
- Put a layer of parchment in the bottom of a large baking dish.
- Put your warm Newtons in the baking dish shortly after they’re out of the oven.
- Cover the dish with plastic wrap.
This method will trap the steam coming off of the warm cookies. Let them sit in this steaming chamber until all the moisture has been absorbed back into the cookies.
We make our Newtons in the evening, leave them in the steam chamber over night, and then start eating them the next day. Note: The flavor and texture of these Fig Newtons are much better after sitting for at least 12 hours than they are immediately out of the oven.
Step 12: Cut and eat!
After the 12 hour rest period is over, it’s time to cut and eat your Fig Newtons! Use a sharp kitchen knife to slice them into the desired size. You’ll probably need to clean your knife blade every few slices.
Storing your Fig Newtons
You can leave your Fig Newtons in the same container you steamed them in. Store them at room temp on your counter for 3-5 days, or refrigerate for longer storage.
If you make really large batches, you could freeze them and remove them for use as-needed throughout the year.
100% whole wheat fig newton with fresh or dried figs
A delicious and healthier spin on Fig Newtons made with organic whole wheat pastry flour, maple sugar, and fresh figs.
For the cookie dough:
- 1 cup (16 tbsp or 2 sticks) unsalted organic grass-fed butter, softened to room temp but not melted
- 1/2 cup maple sugar (Alternate: Turbinado or light brown sugar)
- 2 duck eggs (Alternate: 2 Jumbo chicken eggs - or 5 ounces whisked chicken egg)
- 2 tsp fresh organic orange zest
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 376 grams (3 level cups + 4 level tablespoons) organic whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
For the FRESH fig filling (see article if using dried figs):
- 1.5 lbs fresh organic figs - rinsed, stems removed and sliced in half (A little under 5 cups measured after figs cut in half, but measurement may vary depending on size of figs, so use weight if possible.)
- 1 orange, juiced (a little over 1/4 cup juice)
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon powder
- pinch of salt
You'll make the cookie dough first. Zest orange. Put maple sugar and room temp butter into electric mixer and mix until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, zest, and vanilla, and mix until fully incorporated. In separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Slowly add dry ingredients to mixer until fully incorporated. Use spatula to scrape sides and mix again.
Cover dough and chill in fridge for at least one hour.
While dough is chilling, make fig filling. If using DRIED figs, see instructions in article. If using FRESH figs, do the following: Rinse figs (if necessary), remove stems, then slice in half. Then place all fig filling ingredients in pan over medium heat - NO lid (you want to cook as much liquid off as possible). Cook for about 20 minutes, then reduce heat to low and cook for an additional 10 minutes until almost all the liquid has cooked out. Stir regularly - and stir more frequently during the last 10+ minutes to prevent the figs from sticking to the bottom of the pan as they finish up.
Remove from heat and leave uncovered until figs come to room temperature. Then puree in blender or food processor until smooth.
Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C) and put a sheet of parchment paper over cookie sheet.
Put another large strip of parchment paper on your counter and lightly dust the surface with flour (we use the same pastry flour to dust). Or just dust the counter surface with flour, but parchment will make cleanup easier and the dough won’t stick as easily. Use rolling pin to roll out dough into a rectangular shape, about 1/4″ thick. Use a ruler and knife to create finished dough strips about 3.5″ wide. Length is less important but about 7-10" seems ideal. (See pictures in article.)
Spoon in and level fig filling down the center of each dough strip. Then fold one side of dough over fig filling, then fold second side of dough over. Lightly press down on the dough seam.
Transfer the Fig Newton strips to the baking sheet, placing the seam side DOWN.
Bake on middle oven rack for about 20 minutes. Finished Newtons shouldn't be browned, just cooked until dough is dried and firm to the touch.
For dryer, more crumbly Newton, let cool on cooling rack. For softer, moister Newton (which we recommend) steam them in a covered dish as follows: Put a layer of parchment in the bottom of a large baking dish. Once removed from oven, put your warm Newtons in the baking dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and leave them to rest for about 12 hours. The moisture trapped inside will absorb back into the cookies. After resting 12 hours, they'll have the ideal texture and flavor to start eating.
You can continue to store them in the covered dish for 3-5 days or longer in your fridge, although Fig Newtons are best eaten at room temperature. Can also be frozen in airtight freezer bags for later use.
Related articles you’ll want to sink your teeth into:
- Recipe: Flourless fig crumble with oats and almond flour
- Recipe: Fig nibbler
- Easiest fruit to grow organically in the Southeast US