Australia's Oldest Anzac Biscuit Recipe (2024)

Is Australia’s oldest Anzac biscuit recipe tucked away in your kitchen, or maybe your grandmother’s?

Culinary historian Allison Reynolds has been on a thoroughly enjoyable chase to find out more about this much-loved Aussie classic. She’s baked rather a lot of Anzac biscuits in that time, too.

So when did this simple oat biscuit become an enduring reminder of national pride? The answer, so far at least, appears to lie in a small black notebook, filled with handwritten recipes and entries about transactions at a farm in South Australia. The old notebook is now in the keeping of Carol Moore, from Victoria.

“Carol brought her treasured family heirloom to my South Australian Cookbook Roadshow in 2011,” Allison explains. “Carol’s grandmother, Caroline Sarah Warner, started writing recipes in the book when she married in 1912.”

The roadshow is a series of community events held around South Australia in which Allison invites people to bring along old cookbooks and family recipe books, and helps them date their treasures.


The use of the word ‘Anzac’ in the commercial production and sale of Anzac biscuits is actually protected. You cannot sell or advertise a biscuit as ‘Anzac’ if it substantially deviates from the generally accepted recipe and shape, and cannot be referred to as slice or cookies.

Australia's Oldest Anzac Biscuit Recipe (1)


In 2012, Allison’s interest in the origin of the Anzac was piqued by hearing that a New Zealand academic had claimed that New Zealand had the earliest Anzac biscuit — a 1921 recipe for an ‘Anzac Crispy’. “Of course, I showed this to my research colleagues and I said, ‘How do they know, who’s done this research in Australia?'”

Alison was surprised to discover that although much had been written about Anzac biscuits, not much research had been done in Australia on the earliest versions. She makes it clear that she didn’t set out to prove which country had the earlier claim. In fact, she suspects it happened simultaneously. “It’s a powerful national food in both Australia and New Zealand,” she says. “Everyone knows about the pavlova debate. That divides us, but I think the Anzac unites us.

“They’re an ordinary, everyday biscuit, but they are extraordinary, too. They are ordinary in the sense that they are eaten all year round; they can be baked by anyone, even children; they are inexpensive and the ingredients are things you would have in your cupboard.”

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“But they’re extraordinary in that they have become associated with the spirit of the Diggers. Wherever there’s an ANZAC commemoration, anywhere in the world, Anzac biscuits will be served — what other food does that?”

Her research, and that by historians in New Zealand, has shown that similar recipes existed for years under names such as Munchies, Nutties, Soldiers’ biscuits and Red Cross biscuits. They’re all characterised by the use of rolled oats and golden syrup — and no eggs. The combination produced a biscuit that could survive a journey of up to several months to the troops in Europe.

“Just when they started calling it an Anzac biscuit we don’t know, but we do know they started using the word Anzac very early on. There’s a newspaper recipe from 1916 that refers to Anzac ginger biscuits, although that wasn’t what we call an Anzac.”

Caroline Warner’s little black notebook, however, does have a recipe for what we think of today as a typical Anzac biscuit. And other entries suggest it was recorded sometime prior to 1920 — which makes it the earliest Alison has found so far.

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With the help of another researcher and a friend who is a keen cookery book collector, Alison has spent the past two years gathering evidence from published cookery books, soldiers’ letters, newspapers and handwritten recipe books, not just to find the earliest version, but also to answer another question: when did coconut become a regular ingredient in Anzacs?

“Carol’s grandmother’s recipe for Anzac biscuits had no coconut, that always intrigued me,” she says. Her research has uncovered a South Australian recipe that doesn’t have a precise date but is definitely from before 1925. Back then, Alison explains, “it was called ‘cocoanut’. It had an ‘a’ in the middle before 1927.”

Contact Allison

Alison’s research is far from over. If you have an Anzac biscuit recipe from 1920 or earlier, or a recipe from before 1925 that uses ‘cocoanut’, she’d love to hear from you — email her at [emailprotected]

You can find out more about Alison’s passion for culinary history at her Facebook page here. And below, she shares her version of the oldest Anzac recipe.

The oldest Anzac biscuit recipe

Makes 26 – 30 biscuits


  • 2 cups rolled oats

  • 1 cup plain flour

  • ½ cup granulated sugar

  • 125g butter

  • 2 tablespoons (generous) of golden syrup

  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

  • 2 tablespoons boiling water


Pre-set oven to 170C / 150C Fan Forced / Gas 3. Line two baking sheets with baking paper or lightly oil.

Mix together oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat, add golden syrup, stir till dissolved. Bring gently to boiling point then remove pan from heat. Mix boiling water and bicarbonate of soda and stir until dissolved. Add this to the hot melted mixture and stir till it froths up the pan. Carefully add the frothy mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. If a little dry add 1⁄2 tablespoon extra water to help bind it together.

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Take a flat dessertspoon of mixture, roll into a ball. Place balls on baking tray 5 cm apart (the biscuits will spread). Press biscuits down using a fork, the back of a spoon, or the bottom of a cup measure. Bake. After 15 minutes take trays (1 tray at a time) out of the oven and press biscuits flat again. Return trays to the oven and continue baking for a further 3–4 minutes or until golden (they will still be soft).

Leave the biscuits on the trays for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. When the biscuits are cold store them in an air-tight tin.

Allison’s tips

  • To make measuring easy, warm golden syrup tin in a bowl of hot water, and dip tablespoon in hot water.

  • It is important to use a levelled cup measure for the oats and flour, or the biscuits will be dry.

  • Flattening the biscuits towards the end of the baking process is not essential, but improves the appearance.

This is based on the recipe that was discovered in Carole Moore’s family recipe book, compiled before 1920. Allison has changed the golden syrup quantity to reflect the fact that the tablespoon measure we use now is smaller than the spoons used then.

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Australia's Oldest Anzac Biscuit Recipe (2024)


What was the original Anzac biscuit? ›

The standard Army biscuit at this time was a rock-hard tooth breaker also called a ship's biscuit. Although it's a myth that Anzac biscuits were sent and eaten by troops in Gallipoli, some evidence suggests a rolled oats based biscuit was sent to troops on the Western Front, although this is not widespread.

What is a substitute for golden syrup in Anzac biscuits? ›

Best substitute for golden syrup is a combination of light molasses or treacle, plus honey. I use 1 part molasses or treacle, and 3 parts honey – the flavour is nearly identical, and the colour is very similar (a bit darker).

Why is there bicarb soda in Anzac biscuits? ›

Baking soda or bicarb soda is the main raising agent in Anzac biscuits - it is added to the wet ingredients before being mixed into the dry ingredients.

Why can't Anzac biscuits be called cookies? ›

Under the Crimes Act 1914, any commercial bakers who tweak the original Anzac biscuit recipe—whether that's calling it a cookie or adding “un-Australian” ingredients like almonds, sultanas or chocolate—can be punished by law. Substitutions to accommodate gluten and lactose intolerances can, however, be made.

Who made Anzac biscuits first? ›

The origin of Anzac biscuits is contested between Australia and New Zealand, similar to the dispute over pavlova. The actual recipe for the biscuit has been found long before the formation of the ANZAC Corps, and many of the first recipes for Anzac biscuits differ from the modern version.

What are the traditional ingredients of an ANZAC biscuit? ›

Anzac biscuits, No 2
  • 1 cup each of rolled oats, sugar and coconut.
  • 1 tablespoon syrup.
  • 3/4 cup flour.
  • 2 tablespoons butter.
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water)
Sep 22, 2020

What is the American version of golden syrup? ›

In the U.S., golden syrup is usually sold under the name of light treacle, but it's not readily available in many grocery stores. In cooking recipes, molasses and light treacle are often used interchangeably because their textures and flavor profiles are similar.

What is golden syrup called in America? ›

Also known as light treacle, golden syrup makes its way into recipes with treacle in the title, like this Blood Orange Treacle Pudding. It's not to be confused with treacle, however, which is closer to molasses or dark corn syrup in its consistency, though it doesn't quite have the same flavor.

What makes Anzac biscuits crunchy or chewy? ›

According to Food Editor Miranda Payne, the traditional Anzac biscuit was the harder, crunchy version. Over time, the original recipe was modified with variations being cooked for less time (making them chewier) or adding more sugar (so they're super crispy).

Why were eggs not used in Anzac biscuits? ›

A point of interest is the lack of eggs to bind the ANZAC biscuit mixture together. Because of the war, many of the poultry farmers had joined the services, thus eggs were scarce. The binding agent for the biscuits was golden syrup or treacle.

Why do Anzac biscuits go flat? ›

Shopping tip: Make sure you buy whole rolled oats - if you use instant oats, the mixture will spread too much and your biscuits will be flat. Make them your way: Soft and chewy: Omit the brown sugar and increase the caster sugar to 155g (3/4 cup).

What are navy biscuits? ›

'Hard tack' was, however, the most well-known term for the ship's biscuit. The ingredients were stone ground flour, water and salt, which were mixed into a stiff dough, baked in a hot oven for 30 minutes and then left to harden and dry.

What are cookies called in England and Australia? ›

In many English-speaking countries outside North America, including the United Kingdom, the most common word for a crisp cookie is "biscuit". The term "cookie" is normally used to describe chewier ones.

What food did Anzac biscuits replace? ›

Known as 'hardtack biscuits' the original biscuits were a nutritional substitute for bread and, as the name suggests, they were very, very hard.

Were Anzac cookies originally called soldier biscuits? ›

The biscuit was first known as the Soldier's Biscuit. The current name, ANZAC Biscuit, has as much to do with Australia's desire to recognise the ANZAC tradition and the ANZAC biscuit as part of the staple diet at Gallipoli.

Should Anzac biscuits be hard or soft? ›

Australians are divided over how Anzac biscuits should be served, with an overwhelming majority preferring them soft but a vocal minority in support of a crunchy consistency.

Are hobnobs the same as Anzac biscuits? ›

For those of you who have never had a hobnob biscuit, it's kind of like a cross between an Anzac and a digestive biscuit. This particular recipe comes from Kate Doran's Homemade Memories – Childhood treats with a twist, and uses wholemeal flour, oats and as well as being fairly restrained with the sugar.

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