Are Fig Newtons Cookies? Here’s the Real Answer

If you grew up in the ‘80s or ‘90s, chances are you occasionally had a Fig Newton or two in your school lunchbox. I know I sure did. But what exactly are Fig Newtons? Are Fig Newtons cookies? Let’s bite into this and find out the answers.

What is a Fig Newton?

Fig Newtons are a soft, doughy, chewy treat filled with a sticky and sweet fig paste. Back in the 1800s, a pastry called a fig roll was a popular snack. It was commonly believed that fruit, particularly figs, and biscuits were a great digestion aid and could improve overall health. In the 1890s, Kennedy Biscuit Works in Boston invented a cookie extrusion press that could squeeze out two mixes at once, such as fig jam inside of dough. Soon they were making an industrialized fig roll. Kennedy Biscuit Company named their products after local Boston area communities, and they named the Fig Newton after a nearby town called Newton. 

What is in Fig Newtons?

Basically, Fig Newtons are made of dough and fig paste. Of course, being a mass produced, shelf-stable product, they include a whole host of ingredients. The label lists flour, figs, sugar, corn syrup, vegetable oil, salt, corn fiber, oat fiber, baking soda, calcium lactate, malic acid, soy lecithin, sodium Benzoate, and sulfur dioxide. There is no dairy in there or any animal based products, so, yes, Fig Newtons are vegan. However, Fig Newtons are not gluten-free. The dough is made of flour and starch, which contain gluten.

Fig Newtons are found in the cookie aisle, but from the day they were invented, they were called cakes. Fig Newton packaging called them cake from the 1890s all the way until the 1980s, when Nabisco began referring to them as a doughy cookie. Around the same time, advertising popped up declaring that a cookie is just a cookie, but a Fig Newton is fruit and cake. The marketing worked and in the 1990s Fig Newtons were Nabisco’s third highest selling cookie brand, right behind Oreo and Chips Ahoy. In 2012, the former cake-now-doughy-cookie underwent another change. Fig Newtons were no longer Fig Newtons. That’s right, we’ve been calling them the wrong name! Fig Newtons dropped the Fig and rebranded as Newtons. I guess having a fig-based cookie that had fig in the name was just too much of a barrier for modern kids.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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