Carob & Fig Muffins

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I have a very important announcement to make: Carob is not Chocolate.

When I started eating more healthfully, I was introduced to carob as being a caffeine-free, high-fiber, nutrient-rich alternative to chocolate. In truth, it is all of those things, but um, sorry…it’s nothing like chocolate. So for years, I scorned carob as the unsexy imposter that seemed to lurk in vegan baked goods pretending to be something it so clearly was not.

Years later, I decided to wipe the slate clean and give carob another shot. After baking with it, making warming winter beverages, and adding it to smoothies, I had a breakthrough: carob is carob. And in its own special way, it is delicious. Malty, earthy, sweet and caramel-y, carob can be many things, just not chocolate. And how it ever got peer-pressured into being something other than what it is, is beyond me. Once I started appreciating carob just for being its amazing and tasty self, well everything changed.

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While I was in Ibiza last week leading a (fabulous) detoxification retreat, one thing that struck me about the island was the pervasive sweet smell in the air. It was incredible! After a little reconnaissance work, I learned that it was in fact the carob trees, their ripe pods drying in the scorching, late summer sun. It’s funny those light bulb moments when you make a connect: I had never really thought about what carob looks like in its natural state, as I have only ever seen it in a jar on the health food store shelf, so I was quite delighted to get up close and personal. It was literally hanging from almost every tree in sight. So exciting!

Carob, in the pulverized form most of us are familiar with, actually comes from a seedpod that grows on a shrubby tree native to the Mediterranean. Belonging to the legume family, ripe carob pods are dark brown, glossy and give off a warm, sweet caramel-like scent. The part that we eat is in fact the pod itself and not the seeds, and I enjoyed munching on the chewy outer skins as a detox-appropriate treat between meals. The seeds, also known as locust beans, are used to make locust bean gum, a thickener in many processed foods.

carob6The health benefits of carob are numerous. Firstly, the pod is high in insoluble fiber, which acts like a broom in the digestive tract, sweeping the colon clean and speeding the passage of waste through the gut. It is rich in antioxidants, which help defend your body against free radical damage. Carob is also high in calcium and iron so it’s a great food for mamas-to-be, but just about everybody can use more of those minerals, so eat up!

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As I mentioned, you can find carob in its ground form, but it’s also available as carob syrup which is a lovely liquid sweetener, and carob chips – similar to chocolate chips, but again, with a very different flavour and property. Chocolate of course has ability to melt, which carob does not. If you can get over the idea that carob is a chocolate replacement, you’ll enjoy it much more, I promise.

When purchasing carob products, make sure to read the label to guarantee that what you are buying is pure. Carob chips are notoriously crammed with schwaggy oils, emulsifiers and processed sugar. And vegans beware! There may be dairy products lurking in your carob chips too. Always read the label. Always.

So, onto the recipe. Along with the many carob trees bursting with fruit all around me, there were figs. Tons and tons of figs. What a blessing it was to wake up in the morning, walk outside, sit under the fig tree and have breakfast. All I had to do was reach up! Bliss. It seemed only natural then that I would combine the things that nature had already put together for me – just love when she does that.

No surprise then that carob and figs go together just splendidly. These little muffins are a very delicious, whole food breakfast or snack, and excellent at tea time as well. Unlike the muffins you’d find at a coffee shop, which, let’s admit, are really just cupcakes without the icing, mine are rich and dense with a whole grain nuttiness that really satifies. The carob adds a caramel-like flavour, which is played up nicely by the sweet jamminess of the figs. If you feel like getting creative, why not try adding some nuts or seeds? Spice things up with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. Or even carob chips! I left the recipe rather basic so that you can play around as much as you like. I also wanted to make sure not to overwhelm the carob flavour so you could really get a sense of how yummy it is!

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*Note: as I know some of you will ask, my muffin cups are from a Danish company called House Doctor. Here is a link: http://en.housedoctor.dk/-/kitchen/disposable-tableware/Gl0110
These were unusually large muffin cups – probably double the regular size and with this recipe, only made 7 muffins.

Check out the Ibiza retreat photos on Facebook here:

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93 comments

  1. Pingback: Vibrant Wellness Journal | Holistic health, clean living, healthy recipes!
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  3. Sara

    I can’t wait to try these muffins, my grandma just picked me the last of her figs for the year.
    Try adding ziplist to your recipes. I love it for storing all the fun recipes I find online.

  4. Marie-Helene

    I just made these. Delicious!! I used soaked dried figs and subbed a part of the coconut sugar for honey. They have such a wholesome, delicate flavor. :)
    Thank you for such a wonderful recipe. I have been a fan of carob since I was a child (my mom would use it in some sweets) but I have had trouble finding good recipes using it. Because as you brilliantly said, it is not a substitute for chocolate and has its own personnality, hence, has to have its own recipes. And this one is a keeper.

  5. Natashia

    As soon as I saw this recipe, I could not wait to make it! I have made them twice now and these muffins are just perfection. The second time I made them, I replaced the milk with water because I wanted them to be vegan, and they worked just as well :) Thanks for another awesome culinary delight!

  6. jgkvafes

    Hello,
    I want to ask Mariam what cities of Egypt has visited.
    Very interesting recipe. I will try.
    I’m from Greece and we have many caob trees on Southern Greece especialy on Crete. Here carobs usually are consumed by people who are interested in healthy food and you can find them in health food stores.
    Recently I visited Turkey Istanbul and was looking for carobs but I only found a few shops. I want to investigate whether human consumption bean growing in recent years.
    Does any one have an idea?

  7. Joan

    I have made these muffins three times. Have a dozen in the freezer, as fig season is almost over here where I live in the USA. I used dark roasted carob powder (yum) and added some non-dairy mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. These are one of the best muffins I have ever made. Any recommendations on a fig substitute?

    Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe.

  8. Mariam

    These look beautiful! The flavours of carob and fig reminds me of my recent holiday to Egypt where figs were soo sweet, juicy and incredibly abundant and the carob pods sold in all street markets and my dad and sister munching on them throughout the trip (although I missed out due to braces restrictions! ) I found a box of carob powder on sale at the shops today so picked it up to try your recipe, so excited! You look absolutely glowing!

  9. Shikha

    Wow, these look delicious! I don’t have some of these specific ingredients in terms of coconut sugar, so I hope regular sugar will work. Maybe I can add some coconut shavings instead?

  10. Jewlz

    I have been drooling over this website since the moment a friend sent me the link (a few weeks ago with the life changing loaf of bread) and have been hooked and waiting for an opportunity to try some of your recipes. I love the New Year’s breakfast (it’s my birthday soon so it feels like a New Year to me!), and these muffins are delicious! I can’t believe I forgot how much I loved carob as a kid! Thank you for reminding me!

  11. Sylvie

    WHOA. Just made these muffins, they are just sooooo good, healthy and tasty. Plus, I absolutely adore figs. You’re right, carob is carob. Definitely gonna bake them again, thank you!

  12. Viktoria

    Thank you for this amazing recipe! I wonder how adaptable it is for substitutions now that it’s September and fresh figs are no longer available here in Vancouver, BC. Dates? Pear? Dried figs? How about banana? If you have any feedback, I would love to hear it.

  13. Sara

    just made these muffins, they are Yum ;-) i didn’t have quite as much milk as needed so added some half&half to the measuring cup; and pressed mini carob chips into tops just before baking; they are moist, dense, not too sweet. My recipe made 11 muffins /cooked just over 20 min… i <3 carob! thanks so much!

  14. Jagna

    Saturday morning, coffee and freshly baked carob and fig muffins. What a perfect day except it’s rather gloomy outside… I substituted apple sauce for a ripe bannana and coconut sugar (what would be the effect of using that sugar?) for half xylitol ( birch sugar) and unrefined cane sugar, as i dont think i will be ever able to buy it in Poland. Worked very well. Carob, chia seeds and figs complement each other very well! what a brilliant idea you had! thank you so much! I am totally adicted to your blog, cooking something using your recipes every day, slowly turning into a vegetarian:)

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  16. buckwheattobutter

    I have always turned my nose up at carob as a chocolate stand-in. Sunshine drops. Hah! But your revelation that it can and should be enjoyed as its own food with its own flavors and properties is resonant in its simplicity. These are the next thing I bake, no question.
    p.s. you look radiant.

  17. Rachelle

    YUM – the perfect recipe for a gift of home grown figs from our neighbour in Lisbon! I made them with almond meal since I ran out of oats and they were delicious. There is only one problem: I can’t stop eating them ;)

  18. Edith-Nicole

    These are amazing. A perfect chewy crumb. Mildly sweet and malty, oaty, just enough gooeyness around the figs. SO DELICIOUS. I measured 200 g of a mix of oat products I had to sort of use up depleting jars – blended oats, oat groats, and quick oats worked just fine. Like another reviewer, I had to add a couple more tablespoons of water to the chia mixture, as it had pretty much turned solid by the time I was ready to add it to the liquids. Thank you so much for all your work for us! (My allergic child and I appreciate it greatly; my non-allergic child and husband do as well, especially when things turn out this great and normal tasting.)

  19. inês F.

    Oh my, this brings me back to my childhood when I was used to grab a carob pod from the tree ( i´m from south of portugal the carob tree, fig and almond land, they are everywhere) and chew it like a gum, you should give it a try, its nice ( I ususally gave them to my dogs too and they also love it, yap even dogs love carob). As a carob person I think this muffins are more than approved ( I´m sure my dogs, the ultimate experts will also approve ;) )

  20. Shelley Alexander

    Hi Sarah, I agree with you that carob is not chocolate but I adore its sweet caramel flavor and it blends beautifully in recipes that include chocolate too. Your muffins look amazing and I will have to make them soon!

  21. Liesl @ Fitnessinthekitchen

    I’ve been hesitant to try carob…because of the “it’s like chocolate thing” that you have just so eloquently written about here. Now there is a sense of intrigue. Plus these muffins look so yummy, healthy, and I love adaptable recipes, that are open to all kinds of interpretation. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Jana

    …you inspired me so much with the fresh carob, that I have been eating my carob-nutella this whole rainy weekend: very simple recipe of raw almond butter+carob powder, so great! and I am sooo jealous (+happy for u;-) that you got to munch on fresh pods!!!
    LUV+fluffy clouds from tulipland:-)))
    PS: I see my (gmail-)comments appearing ….uhuuuuu!

  23. Shreya

    Hi Sarah, thank you for such a wonderful post about carob and would really like to try out this recipie :) I live in India and right now the figs are not in season. So I wanted to know if dried figs can be substituted for the fresh ones or can i use some other fruit?

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  25. Emma (This Kind Choice)

    That is such a good point about enjoying carob for its own merits rather than seeing it as chocolates second rate cousin. I often find this to be the case with vegan food as well – it’s far more fun to appreciate it for itself, rather than attempting to imitate other foods and find it lacking in comparison.
    Those cupcake papers are so cute, as are your pants! Wonderful photos.

  26. Anabelle Harari

    These look just wonderful! I recently learned while living in Jerusalem, that Carob in Hebrew is “Charuv” which comes from the same root as the word for sword: “Cherev” – its funny because the carob pods look like little swords! Thought you might enjoy that random trivia :)

    Cheers!
    Anabelle from Local Belle

  27. Sally Webb

    I live in Mallorca the island next to Ibiza and have carob and fig trees all around me. Ive always wondered what to do with the carob beans (I chew on them occasionally) so Im very keen to give the muffins a go.
    Thanks Sarah for all your wonderful recipes and healthy living inspiration. AND..if you go to Ibiza for another detox retreat Im keen to island hop across for it :)
    By the way you look great with the bump!

  28. Andrew D

    I can confirm that these muffins are delicious.

    I can also confirm that this recipe can be done without fresh figs, which can be hard to come buy in some places/times of the year. I used dried mission figs, soaked them for a few hours, and then used the soaking-water in the chia-egg mix (to make sure you don’t lose the sweetness in the water).

  29. Kymelle

    I made these for my husband’s birthday yesterday and they were lovely! Even my 1, 3 and 6 year old boys enjoyed them. Will be great for school lunch box treats.

  30. Laura-Ashley

    I made these muffins for breakfast this morning. They are DELICIOUS! So moist and filling, and I feel warm all over after eating them. Unfortunately, I didn’t have figs here in Rwanda, so I used a package of organic dates (1 cup chopped as they are more dense). The batter mix was also a bit dry, so I added another 3 tablespoons of water, and voila! The taste was fantastic. This recipe yielded 12 muffins for me – but I will NOT be sharing them ;)

  31. Alex

    Look at your beautiful belly!!! You look radiant Sarah. Thankyou so much for your food inspiration. You have made a big change in my life and therefore those around me. Thankyou. Will be making these as soon as figs are back in season over in Australia :) x

  32. Julia

    I just made these and they turned out SO good! The consistency is wonderful, moist and crunchy at the same time. Reminds me of fruit cake… so thank you for this and all the other wonderful recipes you are sharing with us! You really are a great inspiration for me :)

  33. hannah

    I totally adore carob, especially just chewing the pods. I’d love to do a carob-fig smoothie too now you’ve planted the idea. I’d LOVE to know some of your favourite smoothies – would you do a post on that sometime?

  34. Bianca

    Beautiful writing. Beautiful photos. Beautiful recipe. Your blog brings me so much joy! Can’t wait to explore Carob and make these gorgeous muffins. Thank you! xx

  35. Rachael@AnAvocadoADay

    Ha! I love this post! I think comparing foods to the original is sometimes what turns people off from healthy foods. Bean and veggie burgers are not beef burgers. Almond milk is not dairy milk. And whole grain flour is not refined flour. Just love them for what they are. Don’t think of them as a replacement.

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  37. Valentina

    Beautiful post! Can you write something more about the detoxification retreat? I’d like to know more about it! How did it work? And maybe, can you talk about detoxification in general? Thank you so much. Love, Valentina

  38. Barb

    Beautiful post! Just made this in a 9-inch springform pan with almonds, chocolate (no carob in the larder) fresh and dried figs from my trees. Turned out beautifully. Super moist and figgy.

  39. Jesse @OutToLunchC

    I LOVE carob! I’m also sensitive to chocolate so for me carob is a great replacement. I can’t wait to make this recipe.

    I have been looking for carob chip that are made with good quality ingredients and I haven’t been able to find them. Do you know where I could buy good quality carob chips?

  40. Jana T

    I simply love carob! So gorgeous the pics with you collecting the carob pods, lucky U:-)
    would try the muffins very soon:-)

  41. Jael

    Carobs are lovely,especially when they are still soft inside,and they are very versatile.A few weeks ago I picked a few kilos of carobs,and dedicated them a whole afternoon,which produced carob syrup,carob powder and carob drink:) Lovely muffins :)

  42. Ann-Louise

    I am now convinced to give carob another try. I have a bag in the back of my cupboard that I just haven’t be able to create anything tasty out of until now… I must also say that you’ve got the cutest little bum in the whole universe! I also noticed that we have the same shoes. ;)

  43. Belinda @themoonblushbaker

    Carob actually does a better job in savoury dishes that use chocolate or cocoa powder. I prefer to use it stews and braises as it delivers that hint of malt which enhances the other spices. While I am still new to carob baking, these look like good way to start!

  44. Laura @ The Green Forks!

    I am having the same battle with carob at the moment too. I can’t quite get over it’s flavor. But I really think you’re right- I’ve just got to stop thinking of it as chocolate and start thinking of it as its own flavor.

  45. Danijela

    You look so beautiful with your baby belly! :)
    Great post. I grew up with carob and figs tree in my garden. To me, the taste of carob is a pure childhood feeling. Being away from home (Croatia) and moving more north (Switzerland) I was surpised how vey few people know and use carob. My Mum made a cake with carob and apples, or carob-spread Carobella, hot carob milk, or we just munched the whole bean. :)

  46. Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    I adore the look of this recipe, thank you! Love figs. I’ve never worked with carob before, thanks for the inspiration & instruction. & you look so gorgeous pregnant! Ibiza sounds like a dream…bursting fig trees? yes, please.
    Heidi xo

  47. Deirdre

    Those figs are beautiful! Thank you for sharing such stunning food photography. I’m intrigued by the carob. I can’t have chocolate or sugar…but perhaps I’ll give carob a try (I had a similar first impression, but had since forgotten about it..) The nutritional benefits sound so good!

  48. mauigirlcooks

    These muffins are gorgeous & sound delicious! Not sure if figs are grown on Maui, but I’m sure going to check. I used to eat carob, but haven’t for a while; I’ll give it another shot, in these muffins.

  49. Samantha

    Right you are, carob is definitely not chocolate. I’d say that it is just as much (if not more) delicious though!

    Any suggestions for a fig substitute? They aren’t exactly the easiest things to find here in dear ol’ Alberta.

  50. katecrackpot

    Yum yum yum! Looks delicious, just as always!
    I guess I would taste every little thing you make, even if I don’t like it usually. It just looks so damn delicate!
    I need to try the nutmilk you made in your lovely video!

  51. jaime @ asweetroad

    These look beautiful! I remember being one of the few people I knew who actually liked carob, thought I think it depends on how it’s used. I remember eating carob “chocolate chip” cookies that were amazing, and I can only imagine that the combination with fig will create a rich breakfast treat!

  52. Harriet

    I too have written off carob, but I’m certainly going to give it another try after your beautiful article! These muffins look divine and I can almost taste the nutty figgy magic. I’ve been following your little Ibiza updates and I’m so jealous! It looks magical.

  53. Emma

    Totally agree with you. Carob is carob, it’s not chocolate, but it’s delicious in its own right. I love the almost fruity flavour it has and buy unsweetened carob bars to munch on for a sweet treat. I didn’t realise that it doesn’t melt?
    Look forward to trying these muffins out. I love the idea of cardamom in there too…

  54. Ondina Maria

    The smell of carob trees is sooooooooo delicious. Here in Portugal, the south (Algarve) is full of carob trees and so it’s something that I’m used to. I love carob in smoothies, cakes, breads, etc. And together with figs it makes a delicious combination showing off what the mediterranean flavors are about :)

  55. Natasha

    I’ve only eaten carob once before and also thought it’s good, but definitely not chocolate. Our local health food shop has carob pods, so I knew what they look like but I didn’t know locust bean gum had anything to do with carob. We have a fig tree at our new house. It was winter when we moved in, so I’m looking forward to seeing if there will be any figs in summer. I’ll definitely try this recipe then.

  56. Ketmala Phoumalavong

    Awee, look at your adorable baby bum! You look beautiful Sarah!!! I always learn something new with your abundance of knowledge, not only I got to see where the carob comes from but also got a new gluten free muffins to try soon. Are you using a roasted carob powder or else? I could only find that one at our local health food store. Thanks!
    I love the photos of your retreat, looks like you had a lovely time!!!

  57. Meg

    Thank you wonderful Sarah! I felt exactly the same about carob, but if I don’t compare it to choccy it is a different beast! Beautiful post, and you are looking fabulous too, congratulations! xx

  58. Tess

    Love carob, and figs in seAson and cheap at the moment in UK, you look beautiful, having a go at these, always get excited at your new recipes, and your red cabbage salad ( last post) is going along to tai chi and picnic in the garden at the end of Sept, will post you a photo xx

  59. Renee @ Nourish The Roots

    Oh my goodness, we are totally on the same wavelength today because I just created a vegan muffin recipe in my kitchen that uses whole oats as the flour and chia seeds as the “egg” that I’ll be posting on my blog soon! Crazy! Your recipe looks stunning and I love how you were inspired by what was growing around you to create something delicious. You’re absolutely glowing and the retreat seems like it was dreamy and wonderful. What a blessing. xo Renee

  60. Jo

    Ooh I am totally in love with fresh figs right now! I have a small tree in my garden (every year it gifts me a few extra juicy fruits!) and it’s the first thing me and my baby girl do each morning.. Go and visit our special tree and have a little feast under it! I love the sound of these muffins and you look amazing. Not long now until you have your little bubba with you!! So much love! x

  61. Genevieve

    What a coincidence! I saw carob in the health food store the other day and was wondering what I could do with it. Thank you for the inspiration! I’m also totally in love with your moon/star pants. Sending lots of green foodie love to you and the baby bump! Gen

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