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In terms of favorite ice cream flavors, it’s likely that Fig Leaf Ice Cream isn’t at the top of your list. But once you taste it, you’ll probably add it. It’s tricky to provide an exact description of the flavor, which is coconutty, and references figs, but is its own flavor in and of itself.

Living in a city, I don’t have a fig tree, unfortunately. There are some around town that I’ve had my eye on, but it’s probably best not to go around defoliating trees that aren’t yours. You might just need six leaves to make this ice cream…but what if fifty other people want to make it at the same time? Yes, it’s that good.

I was fortunate because I didn’t need to resort to any illicit activities. (I figured after moving from San Francisco, those days were behind me…) I was visiting friends in the countryside, who have a few fig trees that were almost ripe for the taking. The actual figs weren’t ready to be picked yet, but I snipped a few fig leaves to bring home, and later some dreamy, dewy, dead-ripe figs to serve alongside. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Getting back to the leaves, it’s preferable to pick the fig leaves when they’re young. They seem to have more flavor, likely because they haven’t been sitting out in the sun for days and days. That’s just a hunch. I don’t have 24/7 access to fig leaves to test out that theory, so I’m sticking with it. (People online keep imploring me to plant things, like fresh herbs in pots outside, exclaiming how easy they are to grow, etc., but friends who were staying in my apartment while I was traveling texted me one day to let me know a gentleman had just finished relieving himself in one of my planters outside. So for obvious reasons, I’m not too enthused about growing – and eating – anything grown out there.)

Although it’s not necessary to heat the fig leaves, the warming does bring out their flavors. You’re welcome to put them on a grill, but I used a cast-iron skillet. You can also make the ice cream without warming the leaves.

Once I churned up the ice cream, I began scoping out figs at the local market. The ones I saw weren’t quite ripe or ready, and I was losing hope, until I was shopping at Terroirs d’Avenir and saw they had perfectly ripe figs, cracking a bit around the sides, with the cracks oozing a little bit of the sticky sap that was threatening to burst the fragile skins. I knew I had to have them, and carried them home like precious jewels.

I have to say, as much as I love the Fig Leaf Ice Cream, which I sweetened with honey to accentuate the earthiness of the fig leaves, the combination with the ripe figs took it right up to the top of my list of favorite desserts. If you can get your hands on some fresh fig leaves, I think you’ll agree, and it’ll whizz (or zoom, I should say) to the top of your favorites, too.

Fig Leaf and Honey Ice Cream

If you can, use younger fig leaves, which sounds a little esoteric (I know...) but the leaves seem to lose their flavor the longer they're on the tree. Fig leaves contain an enzyme (ficin) that can cause the milk and cream mixture to curdle slightly after they're infused. If that happens, simply whisk the mixture after removing the fig leaves, and it should come back together. I normally don't use an instant-read thermometer for making custards, but you don't want to overcook this one, so I used a thermometer and stop cooking the custard when it just started to thicken; the temperature was 160ºF. (If you do overcook the custard and it starts to separate, you can blend the warm custard with an immersion blender, or in a standard blender but note that you shouldn't fill a standard blender more than one-third to one-half full when blending a warm or hot liquid as the top of the blender can come off. I advise also covering the lid with a kitchen towel, as an extra precaution.)
Servings 1 quart (1L)
  • 6 medium fresh fig leaves
  • 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons (75g) sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons (60g) honey, (warmed, if it's not pourable)
  • In a cast iron skillet (or on the grill), heat fig leaves, turning a few times while warming until they are slightly dried out and fragrant - about 1 1/2 minutes. (Heat them in batches if your pan isn't wide enough.)
  • Put the leaves in a medium saucepan. Add 1 cup (250ml) cream, and the milk, sugar, and salt. Heat the mixture until the cream is warm and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, cover, and let infuse for one hour at room temperature.
  • Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and squeeze them over the infused milk and cream mixture, to extract as much flavor from them as possible. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.Set up an ice bath by filling a large bowl half full with ice, adding some water, then inserting a medium bowl over the ice. Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into the medium bowl and set a mesh strainer over the top.
  • Warm the infused cream and milk mixture then pour it into the egg yolks in a steady stream while whisking constantly. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture just begins to thicken; an instant-read thermometer will read 160ºF (71ºC).
  • Immediately strain the custard into the cream in the ice bath and stir in the honey. Continue to stir gently until the mixture is cool.
  • Chill the mixture well, preferably overnight, then churn in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.


Serve with fresh or roasted figs, poached pears, cherry compote, or another favorite accompaniment.

Related Links

Vanilla Ice Cream

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Making Ice Cream Without a Machine

Ice Cream Makers: Buying an ice cream machine

Roasted Figs

The Perfect Scoop, Revised and Updated



    • Krystal

    Well, this is the second reference to fig leaves I’ve seen in as many days – it must be a sign that I need to track some down!

    And, oh my, I’ve never seen figs so beautiful here in the states. They look lightyears better than the pouches of sad I recently picked up at Trader Joe’s…

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      We used to get wonderful fresh figs in California but I know they can be challenge to find them elsewhere. Trader Joe’s does have excellent dried Black Mission figs, which I usually buy when I’m in the States.

        • Bonnie

        David, is there any “extra” benefit in allowing the leaves to infuse in the warm cream longer than an hour?

      • Sarah Aguilar

      The fig tree is so aromatic when passing by. We finally figured out it was the dropped, dry fig leaves on the ground (in the fall) that were emitting the aroma. We brought them inside and placed in a bowl as a potpourri. Four years later it is still very fragrant.

        • tuffy

        so cool sarah

      • Lucy V

      There are a ton of figs in parks all over town here in Lyon. Also planted around the peripheries of parking lots down south and we see them whenever we head there. The children take the fruit, so all that’s left are the leaves for me. I will keep an eye out for young tender leaves at the beginning of season. Also taking an interest in friends’ comments about creating potpourri, great ideas. Thanks a bundle. Bises, David!

      • Lee

      You need to look for fresh figs to get the ones pictured. Costco often sells them when they’re in season here in NJ and NY.

    • Fazal Majid

    My parents in the western suburbs of Paris have a very luxuriant and overgrown green fig tree, and would probably be happy to let you take however many you need. Email me if you’d like me to make an introduction (my father is an amateur ice cream maker and I gave him The Perfect Scoop).

    • Sharon

    Your use of honey set me thinking about ditching the fig leaves but trying honey ice cream made with Italian chestnut honey. What do you think?

      • Jeroen

      Honey ice cream.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Sure that would work fine. Chestnut honey is rather strong (which is why I like it) but you may need to adjust the honey (and sugar) amounts.

      • Jen

      It was chestnut honey gelato, in Corniglia in the Cinque Terre, that introduced me to chestnut honey itself. I don’t much like “normal” honey–too sweet, and the taste takes me back to the so-called health foods inflicted on me as a kid–but chestnut honey, and ice cream made from it, is divine. The gelateria in Corniglia not only uses chestnut honey in the gelato, but drizzles it over the top as well, so you get a ripple of it in your scoop. All bittersweet and complex…..SO good!

    • Janet

    Fig leaf ice cream, who knew? I will be making this for sure. We have three large potted fig trees on our terrace here in Canada but they must be brought indoors for the winter. The largest tree produces over 200 figs. Thanks for the idea, David!

      • Rebecca

      Wow 200 a year! I have a Celeste variety and it’s finally starting to give about 4-5 every other day. How old do you think your tree is, and do you let it go dormant and put it in a garage or bring it in the house? I have a white Marseilles that hasn’t given fruit yet, really waiting to try that one.

        • Janet

        Our largest tree is about 15 yrs old, not sure what varietal it is because it was given to us. The figs are green/brown and yes we bring the pots indoors so they won’t freeze over the winter and they go dormant.
        In late fall after harvesting the fruit, the leaves begin to fall and we store the trees in our wine cellar where it is dark and cool. A garage would be ideal as well if the temperature there would prevent the roots from freezing. By early spring they begin sprouting new growth and we haul them back outdoors once the risk of frost is past.
        I believe we get abundant fruit because the trees are in full sun from spring to fall and we give them plenty of water and fertilizer which they need as they are in pots (large tubs).

          • Becca

          Oh awesome thanks! I do the garage method too I think I just have to get a better fertilizer ratio going.

      • Arthur

      How big are you trees and what size pot are they in that you bring them inside.?
      Super curious here

        • Kate

        I too would love to know the pot size and plant height. Thanks

          • Janet

          To those who have asked – our largest fig tree which is 15 yrs old is 8 feet tall and 5 feet wide and is in a heavy-duty plastic composite tub 20″ high and 24″ across that we fitted with rope handles. It is no small feat to bring this big one indoors and down into our wine cellar, but those who keep fig trees know that the branches are bendy and flexible which allows us to compress the side branches when we bringing it through doorways.

          We also have two younger trees that we started from cuttings from the old tree. They are fast growing and one is 6 feet tall by 4 feet wide and the other is 5 feet tall by 2 feet wide and of course are in smaller pots. They also produce plenty of fruit. All of the trees are pruned as needed to keep shape and size.

          As we don’t have a suitable garage or outbuilding to overwinter them where they won’t freeze we store them in our cellar and it has worked for us even though it is a chore to bring them in and out.

          We thought having abundant figs every fall was worth the work but now knowing we can use the leaves as well is an added bonus! I made the ice cream yesterday – such an intriguing flavour – coconut, earthy, honey – would never have guessed it was fig leaf. Love it. Tonight I am baking halibut wrapped in fig leaf and will try the rice next. Thanks to David and others who posted for all the great ideas!

        • Becca

        My largest tree is in a 20”/50.5 cm wide by 18”/45cm deep pot, next year I may try one in a whiskey barrel. The tree is a Celeste variety and is about 45” tall and got about 40 small figs this year so far. Not sure the age of the tree but I have had it myself for 3 years. I’m in zone 6 in Pennsylvania, not a lot of pests seem like they bother it either while my peaches and plums get hit by squirrels and insects pretty bad.

    • heidih

    I am more a savory person. Fig leaves are fun to work with. I had one over my back fence. The green not the more intense dark. They are lovely as wrappers for grilling along lines of banana and lotus leaves.

    • Cabet

    Our local Trader Joe’s (SF Bay Area) currently has tons of black mission figs which we are enjoying immensely. There is a fig tree in the back yard which yields only a couple of figs a year (have no idea why it doesn’t flourish) but has abundant leaves. Will definitely try this recipe. Thank you, David!

      • tuffy

      it might have too much shade…

    • Margaret

    This reminds me of the rosemary sorbet I had at a restaurant in the Tuscany countryside. I’ve never forgotten it and always wanted to make. Do you have a recipe?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t made herb sorbets. Because they are almost all water, you’d likely either need to add something to keep them soft (or a stablizer), or serve them right away, so they’re a bit of a challenge for a home cook.

        • Margaret

        Thank you — GTK about what to add to keep it soft or stabilize. I’ll experiment.

        • Adriana

        Would xanthan gum work as a stabilizer? Us Keto adherents have it in our pantry.

    • NanR

    Now I know what to do with my fig tree that refuses to produce figs! Who would have though. Really enjoy your blog, Thanks, Nancy

    • Janet

    Not sure I would classify the man who relieved himself in your planter a “gentleman”!

    • Faith Echtermeyer

    perfume your home…put a few fig leaves directly on the oven rack in a low oven for 10 minutes
    and if ever the opportunity to take a summer nap under a fig tree presents itself- do it!

      • Kerrie

      That sounds like a great idea.

      • tuffy

      great idea-thanks!


    I’ll have to give this a try since I live in California, have three fig trees in my backyard and my brother is on the California Fig Board!

    • JT

    Thank you for this beautiful recipe! Here on CA’s central coast our local mission figs are nearly ripe. I’ll be making this as soon as they are ready. And by the way, that was no gentleman!

    • Chris

    I guess the heating process must render the psoralen and bergapten irritants in the leaf sap harmless? At my previous house we had five fig trees. A few encounters with the fig tree left us with rashes and blisters. Exposure to sun made it worse. I was generally careful to wear longs sleeves and long pants when doing anything with the fig trees. They grew like crazy, so sometimes we had to prune them during growing season to keep them off the roof. Eating anything with the leaves never would have crossed my mind. We had so many figs, we tried to use as many as possible in fig bread.

      • tuffy

      i had read about the irritants in the sap in fig leaves as well–our sheep won’t eat figs leaves for that reason.
      but i do wonder if the fig variety makes a difference as to flavor and/or amount of irritant?…

    • Aging Ophelia

    Fig Leaf & Honey Ice Cream? Sounds so deliciously “fall of man,” I am bound to try it this year. To whizz to the top of my fruited dessert list, it will have to unseat the Italian Prune Plum Custard from The Splendid Spoon; but if anything can outdo that autumn delight, it’s Figs & Honey! Thanks for another wonderful, unusual treat to try.

    • Sharyn Dimmick

    I cannot wait to try this — I have a two-year old Conadria fig tree in my backyard and have never thought of using the leaves. I don’t usually make ice cream with eggs, though, preferring the style that just uses cream, milk or half and half. Do you think that would work?

      • Sharon B.

      My go-to recipe is an Italian Flor di Latti, made without eggs. Much easier than an egg base.

    • Kerrie

    I’ll be out looking for the first leaves. Love figs and own a tree.

    • autumn

    We’ve had some fabulous figs in the Bay Area the last few weeks, but yours look eye-poppingly delicious. Just saved this recipe for when I can get my hands on some fig leaves, merci!

    • Myk

    Apparently it’s impossible to stop people from relieving themselves near plants. Just dilute with a quart or so of water and let it go. The plants will appreciate the phosphorus.

      • tuffy

      and the nitrogen…diluted though…

    • Lily Meier

    This sounds delicious. We have a big fig tree in fromt of our house, I wonder whether it would work to make fig leave panna cotta?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Most likely, yes. I don’t know if the enzyme in the leaves interferes with the proteins in the gelatin but there may be recipes out there for check out.

    • rose

    Well this is an ice cream flavor I’ve never come across – and as a weird flavor lover, what a great idea. I can’t wait to try a vegan version.

    • Adriana

    Made a keto version of this subbing full fat coconut milk for the milk and Lakanto (monkfruit +erythritol) for the sugar and honey, some xanthan gum and rum for stabilizer, and some lemon zest. Absolutely delicious!

    • Jan

    what can I substitute for the heavy cream?
    I’m thinking of substituting almond milk for the milk.
    Friend is on a special health regime that does not allow milk or cream.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t tried it but some people swap out soy cream or coconut milk (or coconut cream) for heavy cream in ice cream recipes. If you do try one, let me know how it turns out!

    • Jaime K

    Thanks for another inspiring recipe with your superior photos! Can you please tell me what kind of figs you used as the accompaniment? They look like black mission figs in the first photo, but the gorgeous intense ruby red of the insides suggests they may be another variety. Thanks!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      They don’t usually sell figs by variety here, so I don’t know for sure. They weren’t elongated like Black Mission figs but may be figues de Solliès, which are a commonly grown variety in France.

    • Fiona Isaacs

    Hi David

    I too live in France (but not in Paris where I can get Double cream in M&S) can you tell me what are you using instead of Heavy Cream/Double Cream – as you know the French only really do creme fraiche!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I use crème entière or crème fluide, which are available in most supermarkets in France. (I avoid the lowfat versions for ice cream and use the full fat, which hover around 30%.) There’s more information about them on my post about American Baking in Paris, although much of it applies to bakers from other countries, too ; )

    • malika

    Rick Knoll (a biodynamic farmer in the SF Bay Area) told me that he and Kristi will put a fig leaf in the bottom of the pot when they cook rice, to perfume it. I’ve never tried it, but I’m re-inspired to do so after reading this post. And I’ll be serving fig leaf-honey crème anglaise for dessert next week—thanks for the idea!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      That’s a wonderful idea, with the rice. I was going to make a poundcake with my fig leaves as well, by placing them under the batter before adding it to the pan and baking, but didn’t get around to it. Next time I find some fig leaves, will give that a go! (As well as the rice..) Thx : )

        • malika

        At Della Fattoria in Petaluma they put grape leaves in the proofing baskets for their bread, then turn them out and bake them with the leaves on top. I bet that would work with fig leaves too. So many possibilities!

    • MsMousie

    I made it yesterday using 2/3 c. sugar instead of honey (I don’t like the taste of honey with milk) and it was delicious. And as David said, it was sublime when combined with ripe figs.

    • Nora Rawlinson

    What a revelation! I have several potted figs that are much better at producing leaves than fruit. I used them to flavor a batch of yogurt, which I then used to make frozen yogurt. Thanks for the suggestion of squeezing the leaves. The scent lingered on my fingers, a foretaste of the delicious dessert awaiting me.

    • Stephen Willis

    We bake salmon in fig leaves with s&p and olive oil. Works with other fish also.

      • Margaret

      I like to bake (or grill) salmon in hoja santa leaves.

    • Annette

    I live in NYC but have access to a fig tree in our community garden. The minute I read this recipe, I went out and picked the newest leaves on the tree. This is only my second time making homemade ice cream and the first with an egg base — it turned out beautifully and so delicious. Never would have occurred to me to heat the leaves of a fig tree, but now I’m wondering what else I can use. The flavor reminds me of a delicious light tea. Thank you for introducing me to so many wonderful recipes.

    • tuffy

    is there a reason why all of the liquids (milk/cream) can’t be heated with the fig leaves?
    does the heated custard (to 160F) have to be iced afterwards? or can it just go right in the fridge?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Sure, you can do it that way but it helps to cool down the custard faster, so I reserve some of the cream. It’s usually best to cool custard down first, to get it cool, before refrigerating as holding it as a warm temperature could be an invitation for bacteria.

    • Karen S.

    Made it yesterday and it was delicious! Such an unusual flavor. Is it a bit like pandan? I’ve only had that a couple of times, and not particularly good versions, so I can’t really compare. Definitely a coconut-like flavor, enough that the person who disliked coconut was quick to drown his portion in fig sauce, heh.

    Gorgeous ice cream texture too, but that’s not a surprise for a recipe coming from the Great Lebovitz!

    • Amy Chung

    We’ve just come out of the winter down under and how I miss figs! Well, I found some the other day and they were $69.99 a kg! Crazy! When it comes back in seaosn, I’m going to try this recipe:)

    • Adila

    Never heard of fig leaf ice cream, sounds like something I’d like to try:)
    My nephew has a fig tree in his farm house, will request him to bring some. I tried making fig and ricotta ice cream once, with the fresh figs he had brought for us. It was delicious until it froze and developed a bitter aftertaste… was such a bummer!

    • Shari Mauthner

    Off topic, but I am curious. I was reading an article about Cédric Grolet executive pastry chef at Le Meurice and quite the wunderkind in the dessert world. David, have you had the opportunity to try any of his amazing confections?

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t. I think he’s super-talented but I haven’t been to Le Meurice since he became the pastry chef. (The restaurant is quite expensive and I don’t go to those kinds of restaurants very often.)

    • Ellen N.

    I made this yesterday with fig leaves from our backyard and avocado honey. It is absolutely delicious.

    I don’t have an ice cream machine. As my neighbors do; I offered to make the custard and give them half of the ice cream in exchange for them churning it. All of us were so pleased that we’ve decided to make a habit of making ice cream together.

    • Laura Etheridge

    OMG ! It’s absolutely delicious!
    I have a black mission fig tree in my yard, used the young leaves as you say. The flavor imparted by the leaves is so unique, yes kind of like coconut but with something else. Now I want to try making fig leaf tea.
    Thanks David for such a yummy idea!

    • Cindy Williamson

    Made this the other night and people were astounded at the flavor – served it with a variation of your cherries – I had some liquid from bourbon and luxardo cherries that I added to fresh cherries and reduced to syrupy – absolute delicious – have to go back to my neighbor for more fig leaves!

    • jenniferc

    Oh man – that was delicious. I think I was ambitious and I put in a few too many fig leaves (8-9, I can’t remember) and it imparted a slight bitter / green taste, which wasn’t awful – to be honest. The figs were such a nice complement. Might have to borrow a few more fig leaves for another batch! The honey flavor is such a nice hint in this as well…another killer recipe David. Thank you!

    • Liz

    Oh my gosh, I just discovered peach-leaf ice cream, and now there’s this too! How would you compare the flavors of the two, assuming you’ve also had peach-leaf ice cream? I love the light almond flavor of peach-leaf ice cream, and I have some peach trees, so I’m inclined to keep with it when my current batch runs out; but you
    could probably convince me to ask my neighbor for some fig leaves instead. :)

    • Sarah

    This was so good – I did filch leaves from a neighbor’s tree (hey, it was in an alley) and then told a friend who made it too. Thank you! I’ve asked my SO for a fig tree of my own.

    • Cindy

    In the north Berkeley hills, we have two fig trees: brown turkey and black mission. It’s a heartbreak every year: figs develop (late owing to spring fog) and almost ripen before it turns cold again. We get a handful of ripe figs from each tree, but most of them never get time to ripen. However, this recipe has redeemed our love of our fig trees! I make lots of homemade ice cream, but my husband says this is his absolute favorite. Looking forward to experimenting with different honey.

    If anyone lives in the bay area and would like some fig leaves, I’m happy to share!

    • WilliamG

    My first impression was . “yeah, right!” It’s midway through our fig season, have made over 40 pounds of your “Perfect Scoops” ice cream recipe, and decided to cast caution to the wind.

    Used a German Linden honey, plus egg yolks from the back yard chickens. Remarkable! Unlike anything we imagined. Thank you!

    • Kimbo

    I made this recently, and the flavor is great! I never would have thought to use fig leaves. I used 2x the leaves, though, since I found the flavor wasn’t as pronounced with what was listed in the recipe (maybe the leaves on my trees just aren’t as flavorful). We had this with roasted figs and a drizzle of honey, and it was amazing.

    • fig_issues

    About that curdling… I tried to make this twice but sadly each time the milk mixture completely split beyond rescue on adding the fig leaves. I wonder if it was related to the type of fig leaf? I took young ones straight from my (sadly fig-less) fig tree. I would really like to make this ice cream since I’m not getting anything else edible from the tree!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know why that happens. I’ve not had it happen to me, and no one has reported it happening here in the comments. But I have heard that it can happen, and perhaps it does have something to do with the variety of fig? Usually curdled custards come back together is blended together, while warm (making sure not to fill the blender more than half full, to make sure the lid doesn’t blow off). If someone else knows, perhaps they’ll chime in…

    • Annette

    Delightful recipe! I made this with leaves from my brown turkey fig and it is delicious. The cream was the most beautiful shade of green when the leaves finished steeping and I hoped it would stay that way but it faded to the same cream color as in your photos by the time it was finished. The flavor reminds me slightly of cinnamon.

    • Mat

    I have no words to describe the amazing nutty flavour and the super smooth texture of this ice-cream. It is amazing, bravo David!

    • Michele

    A street food in Peru is a yeasted donut made from sweet potatoes and squash – it is served with a syrup flavored with fig leaves and sweetened with piloncillo. I have made fig leaf ice cream sweetened with piloncillo and it adds a wonderful layer of flavor.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Sounds delicious too. Fig leaves add such a nice flavor, don’t they?


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