three poached pears with spices

We all love dessert. In fact, we’re genetically motivated to seek out foods that are sweet. K. Dun Gifford, the founder of Oldways, wrote in The Oldways Table, “We have a hardwired ‘affection for confection,’ and we use hundreds of words and phrases of sweetness in our daily language.” Think of terms of affection like “sweetheart,” “my sweet love,” and “sugar pie,” and our use of the term “sweet!” to express excitement, enthusiasm, or the opinion that something is just plain awesome.

Most desserts in the Mediterranean (and in most traditional diets) revolve around the natural sweetness of fruit, and giving your dessert a Mediterranean twist is a great way to make your desserts both delicious and healthy. Despite our natural affinity for sweet foods, the CDC reports that 76% of Americans do not eat enough fruit. Reaching for a pear or a handful of grapes is the simplest way to indulge your sweet tooth, but there are so many ways to incorporate fruit into your favorite treats.

three figs stuffed with ricotta and topped with walnuts and honey

Fruits are incredibly versatile, and they play well with other foods and flavors! They pair beautifully with so many of the other elements of a Mediterranean Diet: nuts, whole grains, herbs and spices, and even olive oil are fast friends with nectarines, strawberries, dates, and pomegranates. Add a little dark chocolate or a nice piece of raw milk cheese, and you’ve got a seriously decadent treat.

Here are a few of our favorite, simple, fruit-based Mediterranean desserts:

Fruit-based desserts aren’t the only treats you’ll find in the Mediterranean, and if you love to bake, there are plenty of light, flavorful cakes and cookies you might enjoy. Take our recipe for Pain D’Epices, for example – this French spice bread made with whole rye flour and honey is fragrant, flavor-packed, and irresistible.

Two slices of grilled pineapple with strawberries, mint and a scoop of ice cream

In fact, cakes of this sort, often made with rye or whole grain semolina are popular all over the Mediterranean. Yotam Ottolenghi, chef and author of the book, Jerusalem, writes, “Some cakes have coconut in them; some have yogurt; some bakers prefer flavoring them with citrus syrups, others with flower blossoms; some use sugar and others honey. In any case, the moist yet light texture and the aromatic flavors are what it’s all about.”

Whether you’re trying a new flour like rye or buckwheat, a new spice like fennel or cardamom, or new fruit such as quince or rhubarb, the flavors of the Mediterranean have a lot to offer your palate and your fondness for sweets. For more recipe inspiration, visit our website or check out a few of our favorite books.

Caroline Sluyter, Whole Grain Stamp Program Manager

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