Baby Fig Spoon Sweet (Sikalaki Gliko)

Mama makes her traditional recipes from memory, but when memory needs a little boost, she hauls out her battered old copy of Megali Mageiriki. The classic Greek cookbook, it’s very 1950’s, complete with faded photos of fancy but unappetizing-looking food. Remember those old Betty Crocker cookbooks? It’s like that. Nevertheless, it has great recipes, probably because traditional Greek cooking predates the fifties by a few centuries or so.

With Zoe’s help, I’ve translated a recipe for candied baby figs from Megali Mageiriki . It uses unripe figs, and the great thing about unripe figs is that the birds won’t have eaten them before you can pick them. Once the figs on the tree are ripe, they’re pretty much lost to me, but (ha-ha!) now I can outwit the birds. Sort of.

The recipe didn’t specify what size the unripe figs should be, so I picked a variety of sizes, as you can see below.

Showing sizes of baby figs for sikalaki gliko, greek fig spoon sweet.

The large one on the left is a full-grown fig that just hasn’t ripened yet. Frankly, the figs of this size turned out nasty and I threw them away. All the others turned out great. My favorites are the medium sized ones shown in the center. I like them because they’ve started to make seeds, and the seeds add a pleasantly contrasting crunch to an otherwise soft consistency.


2 pounds unripe figs
3 pounds sugar
3 cups water
lemon juice (a couple of tablespoons)
cloves and/or vanilla (just guess!)

Rinse the figs and poke a hole in each fig with a thick nail. This step will be a bit messy from the sticky latex oozing out of the figs.

Poke hole in the figs for greek fig spoon sweet sikalaki gliko.

I do actually know the difference between a nail and a screwdriver. I found that a small phillips screwdriver works just as well and is easier to handle.

Okay, once you’re done poking the figs, put them in water and let them soak for a few hours.

Soaking figs for greek fig spoon sweet sikalaki gliko.

Next, boil the figs in plain water for 15 minutes.

Boiling figs for greek fig spoon sweet sikalaki gliko.

When the 15 minutes are done, put the figs into cold water, then when they’re cool, drain them.

Cooling figs for greek fig spoon sweet sikalaki gliko.

Dump the old water out of your cookpot, and and replace it with fresh water. Repeat the sequence of boiling the figs for 15 minutes, putting them in cold water until they’re cool, and then draining them.

Boil the 3 pounds of sugar with the 3 cups of water for about 5 minutes, then add the figs.

Boil figs in syrup for greek fig spoon sweet, sikalaki gliko.

Boil the figs in the syrup for 15 minutes, then turn the heat off.
Leave the figs in the syrup for 12 hours.
Remove the figs from the syrup and boil the syrup until it is thick.

Boiling syrup to thicken it for the greek recipe sikalaki gliko, fig spoon sweet.

Put the figs back in, along with the lemon juice, cloves, and vanilla.
Boil a few more minutes until the syrup is again well-thickened.
Put into clean jars and store.

Jar of greek fig spoon sweet, sikalaki gliko.

Warning! The pot and colander you use will end up with sticky little smears of latex all over them. I had to scrub it off with scouring powder. I tend to think the latex would even defeat nonstick cookware and would be very difficult to remove without abrasives, so I suggest sticking with cookware that you can give a good scrubbing to.


  1. Comment by Laurie Constantino

    Those look mighty tasty – I’m thinking the syrup would be perfect over ice cream. Or you could make your own ice cream and use the syrup for part of the sweetening and add chopped candied figs. Mmm – I’m making myself really want some of these!

    Laurie Constantino’s last blog post..Transitions

  2. Comment by Lulu

    Et tu, Laurie? When did you decide to join the dark forces that are compelling me to buy an ice cream maker?

  3. Comment by Sam Sotiropoulos

    Lulu, you have outdone yourself with this spoon sweet! I love it! :-)

    Sam Sotiropoulos’s last blog post..Greek Cheese Primer Audio Interview

  4. Comment by Lulu

    Thanks, Sam! I really didn’t know what I was doing, because this isn’t something Mama makes, at least not in my experience. But it was very easy.

  5. Comment by maria verivaki

    my mum used to make these every year in new zealand – the only reason i don’t make them is that i would eat them all myself

    maria verivaki’s last blog post..Green beans and chicken in wine sauce (Kotopoulo Krassato me Fasolakia)

  6. Comment by Lulu

    Maria, I know what you mean. I end up giving away most of the sweets I make. I like making them, but I’m just not a big sweet eater.

  7. Comment by Lulu

    Laurie, Zoe tells me she used to eat pagoto siko in Thessaloniki all the time.

  8. Comment by Cheryl

    Wow Lulu, just what I’ve been waiting for. I’ll go have a look at my figs to see if they’re unripe enough to make spoon sweets. I’d love to surprise MIL with a jar of my own! I’ll let you know how this adventure unfolds…
    Great post once again!!!

    Cheryl’s last blog post..Some pictures for Saturday

  9. Comment by Ivy

    Lulu, figs are my favourite spoon sweet. I haven’t made them for years because I can’t get any unripe figs. When I used to make them I used to roast some blanched almonds and make a slot and put one in each. Also I used quicklime (???????) as it makes it crunchier. However, last week I made watermelon spoon sweet and as I did not have any lime I didn’t put any in. The taste was great but not crunchy. Finally, when you finish the spoon sweet, always add a few spoonfuls of lemon juice. This prevents the syrup to crystallize. Have this in mind for any future spoon sweets and don’t forget to make some fig jam when they are ripe. Delicious.

  10. Comment by Ivy

    The Greek words with question marks is (asvesti). I forgot to tell you that asvesti is the same used in constructions. For about 50 medium figs you will need 1 cup of asvesti dissolved in water. You will have to soak them for an hour and then wash them thoroughly.

    Ivy’s last blog post..Farfalle with aubergine, peppers and purslane pesto

  11. Comment by Lulu

    Go for it, Cheryl! I think you should probably have a variety of sizes on the tree right now. It seems like it’s not till a bit later when they start really ripening that the new ones stop coming. Of course, I suppose different varieties have different ripening patterns.

  12. Comment by Lulu

    Ivy, wow, thanks for all that information! They say “No good deed goes unpunished,” hence I have some questions for you. :-)

    1. About how much water should I dissolve the 1 cup of avesti in? A sinkful?
    2. Do I soak the figs in the avesti water before or after I poke a hole in them? Or don’t I need to poke the holes at all?
    3. Do you mean I should add some lemon juice to the top of each jar?

  13. Comment by Ivy

    Lulu, to start with I peel a thin layer of skin off first of all (be sure to wear rubber gloves, because the latex will irritate your hands, of course you know that). Just dissolve asvesti with 1 litre of water and put figs in) add more water just to cover them and leave them for a hour.
    Rince well, put them in a pot, cover with water and boil until soft. (You know that they are done, when piercing them with the skrew driver or a knitting needle, they will fall from the needle).
    Drain them, add fresh water to cover them, add the juice of 3-4 lemons, and let them soak for an hour. Drain water.
    Here is where you poke a hole in them (and you add the almond if you like).
    Place them in a pot, add sugar and let them rest for half an hour.
    Then bring to a boil and simmer for fifteen minutes only.
    The next day bring to a boil again and when the syrup is thick enough they are done. Remove from the heat, add the juice of half a lemon and vanilla and stir. (If you prefer cloves, add them with the almonds). Let them cool down before storing in jars.

    I wish I could find a fig tree somewhere around here, I’d get up in the night and raid it!!

    Ivy’s last blog post..Farfalle with aubergine, peppers and purslane pesto

  14. Comment by Lulu

    Thanks for coming back to answer my questions, Ivy. I did not know all that. I’m excited to try your method! Thanks again, Ivy!

  15. Comment by Lore

    I’d eat these by the spoonful!

    Lore’s last blog post..Fettuccine With Blackcurrants And Slightly Soured Cabbage

  16. Comment by Lulu

    Hi Lore, help yourself! :-)

  17. Comment by Gloria

    Dear Lulu, Love figs all the time!!! and your blog is beautiful, dear Lulu did you know Im in love of Greek food????? xxxx (Thanks to passing by at mine)

    Gloria’s last blog post..Artichokes Pie (Pastel de alcachofas o alcauciles)

  18. Comment by manju

    I love using less-than-ripe fruit for sweets, soups, pickles, etc. This is really intriguing. I’ve never seen unripe figs in a market, guess I’ll have to befriend a fig-tree owner!! Wanna be my friend?? LOL.

    manju’s last blog post..Date & Tamarind Cake

  19. Comment by Paula

    Hmmm … my neighbor has a fig tree that leans waaay over my fence … hmmm … it’s absolutely heavy with unripened figs. What to do, what to do??? :-)

    Paula’s last blog post..I’d like to thank the academy ….

  20. Comment by Lulu

    @17 Gloria, hi! Thanks for visiting! It’s nice to have fellow Greek-food lovers here!

    @18 Hey, manju, you know you’re my friend! So if you ever see a flock of pigeons coming from California clutching unripe figs, you’ll know who they’re from. :-)

    @19 Paula, it’s not stealing, it’s gleaning. 😉

  21. Comment by FoodJunkie

    Bravo Lulu, you are ready to become a traditional Greek grandmother! You know I usually do not eat “spoon” sweets, but fig, tomato and aubergine are actually very interesting. Try it over yogurt or yogurt icecream, as it needs something slightly acidic to cut through the sweetness.

    FoodJunkie’s last blog post..stuffed bread with feta cheese, onion, dill and olives

  22. Comment by Lulu

    Gee, thanks, FoodJunkie! I’ll just change my name to Granny Barbarian. 😉

  23. Comment by Bellini Valli

    I love how at the restaurants in Greece they give you spoon sweets, fresh fruit or even flowers at the end of a meal for an added dining experience:D

    Bellini Valli’s last blog post..Celebrate, Celebrate……..

  24. Comment by Lulu

    Val, yes, that’s really nice!

  25. Comment by RennyBA

    Wooow, what an interesting and very delicious post – quite different for a Norwegian of course – thanks for sharing!

    Btw: Thanks for your visit and nice comments. Always great to see visitors with Norwegian anchors of course and I’m glad I could bring back some raspberry memories too :-)

    RennyBA’s last blog post..Torsö island at Mariestad, The Pearl of lake Vänern

  26. Comment by Lulu

    Hi Renny, glad you stopped by!

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  28. Comment by Jackie

    Thanks for this recipe. Here in cold old England our figs rarely ripen. I’m glad to find something I can still make with them! my figs are soaking as I type…

  29. Comment by Lulu

    Jackie, that’s so great! I’m thrilled you could make such good use of this!

  30. Comment by Jackie

    Hmmm. Have I done something wrong? I am at the ‘soaking for 12 hours’ stage and they smell really odd – a bit like gherkins? An unpleasant, gluey smell. Is this normal? Do I continue or do I give up?!

  31. Comment by Lulu

    Jackie, I do remember them being pretty fragrant. Not unpleasant but not exactly fruity either. So I’m not sure what to tell you.

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  33. Comment by ashlyn

    Re: fig latex
    a little cooking oil is very good at getting latex off or dissolving organic glues. Works for some glues used for jar labels as well.

  34. Comment by John Papahatzis

    love you Recipes.we good if you Will bE GOOD if you got it in Kilograms
    Yiasou ke Efharisto.Yiannis

  35. Comment by Lulu

    I agree, John, I’ll put that on my to-do list.

  36. Comment by Lyn

    I am big on baking and rarely make preserves but this recipe looks great. Out new house has three fig trees next door. The owner is never there and told us to take as many as we want as long as we can beat the birds to them. So I am now giving your recipe a try. I’m just onto my second boiling now so am eagerly waiting to try it tomorrow.

  37. Comment by John Papahatzis

    do you have the Kumquat preserve recipe?

  38. Comment by Maureen

    I make this as my husband loves it -but after a while the figs seem to go mouldy with white moss-why is this please.

  39. Comment by Linda Ziedrich

    Lulu, I’m glad to have discovered your fantastic blog, through a reader of my own ( Regarding the figs, do you know what variety you’ve used? Also, do you know if this method is typically used for a second crop that never properly ripens?

  40. Comment by Tessa

    I made these a few days ago and they are yummy. I am making another batch today experimenting with the adding ginger and will post about it soon on my blog. I am pleased to have found a use for the unripe figs from our tree.

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