Figs are culinary delights that have been treasured by people for thousands of years. Although their flavor and texture are quite unique, there are a few other fruits like figs out there too. Check out our list below for 5 potential substitutes for both fresh and dry figs.
1. Paw Paws
If you’re looking for a substitute for fresh figs, ones of the closest options is probably a paw paw. These beautiful fruits are native to North America and have sweet, creamy inner flesh. In fact, this fruit is also known as the “pudding fruit”, because it tastes like banana-vanilla custard.
Fresh figs have a similar sweet creaminess to them. As a result, if you’re creating a fancy dessert that calls for raw figs, you can use paw paws instead. Look for them at specialty grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
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2. Bosc Pears
Since paw paws are notoriously difficult to find, another option is to use Bosc pears as substitutes. When ripe, they’re sweet and juicy with a flavor that’s often compared to fresh figs. They also have a bit of graininess, which mimics figs’ seed-filled flesh rather well.
Other pears can remain stringy and crunchy when ripe, but a good Bosc pear will melt in your mouth. Try using them in spiced tarts in lieu of figs, or transformed into preserves for vegan “cheese” and nut platters.
These “custard apples” can also be used as substitutes for fresh figs. While their flavor is quite different from that of a fig, their sweet, creamy flesh works remarkably well in fresh desserts. You may not be able to stuff them and roast them, but you can definitely incorporate their innards into puddings and pies.
Look for them at South American, Asian, and Caribbean fruit markets. If you have trouble finding them, ask your grocer to see if you can get some imported for you.
Can you get your hands on some fresh date fruits? If you can, they’re about as close to fresh figs as you can get. They look like plums, but are creamy and sweet instead of stringy and tart. They can be hard to find outside of the Middle East and North Africa, however. As a result, you may have difficulty finding them in North America. Try a local Lebanese or Moroccan grocery store in summertime to see if they carry them.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a substitute for dried figs, then dried dates are pretty much perfect. These maintain their soft chewiness when dehydrated, and are sweeter than honey. Furthermore, you can use them in all kinds of sweet and savory dishes.
Add them to Middle Eastern stews and pilafs, or use them in energy bars, cookies, muffins, or other desserts. You can even stuff them with almond or cashew “cheese” for delicious appetizers.
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When it comes to substitutes for dried figs, prunes are almost as good as dates. They’re quite tart rather than sugar-sweet, but you can always add some agave syrup if you need to sweeten them up a bit more. Prunes are easy to find in the baking goods section, and always abundant.
Believe it or not, prunes can make excellent fig replacements in desserts—especially puddings, trifles, and sweet bars. Try them as part of a delicious vegan Christmas pudding, though you don’t have to wait until the holidays to enjoy it!
Aren’t you happy that there are so many delicious fruits like figs that you can enjoy? Whether you’re eating them fresh or dried, raw or baked into desserts, these tasty alternatives are wonderful to work with.