This classic Anzac biscuits recipe is as close to the early 1933 Australian Country Women’s Association Anzac biscuit recipes that I could get and it makes the best Anzac biscuit ever – even better than the Anzac biscuits of my memory. It seemed fitting to make them for Anzac Day.
The ability to bake and make this classic Anzac biscuits recipe, among other favourite biscuit recipes, was one of the reasons we moved house here in Siem Reap a few years ago. After years of leaving much of the cooking to Terence, apart from my specialties of dumplings and spring rolls, I had a strong desire to cook again, particularly to bake. I just needed an oven to do it in. (Most Cambodian kitchens don’t have ovens, only stovetops, portable gas burners or clay braziers.)
While Terence, dripping with perspiration in singlet and boxers, was miraculously able to make mouthwatering feasts of Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Sichuan food on two gas burners, and bake the most wonderful sourdough bread I’ve ever savoured in a small hundred-dollar oven-grill in a kitchen that got so hot and humid it was like cooking in a sauna, I couldn’t face it.
When I finally discovered my dream apartment right under our noses, just across the river in the French Quarter, I was over the moon. Not only did it have pretty colonial floor tiles, French doors with shutters, a balcony overlooking palm-filled gardens, fragrant with frangipanis, and a swimming pool, it had a charming kitchen with a Western-style stove and oven.
Soon after we moved, I bought bags of ingredients to make my Russian family recipes for Orthodox Easter and do some baking. As Australia’s Anzac Day was approaching back home, it presented me with my first opportunity to make what I’d been itching to bake for ages: the Australian biscuits of my childhood. Terence had made some delicious biscuits using Southeast Asian spices, nuts and tropical fruit, but I wanted to start with an Australian icon: the classic Anzac biscuit recipe.
Before I tell you about this classic Anzac biscuit recipe I have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-supported. Rather than hide our content behind a paywall we rely on support from readers to fund our work here. If you’ve enjoyed our recipes, please consider supporting Grantourismo by using our links to book accommodation, hire a car or campervan or motorhome, purchase travel insurance, or book a tour on Klook or Get Your Guide.
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Now let me tell you about this classic Anzac biscuit recipe.
First published 25 April 2019; updated 21 April 2021.
Classic Anzac Biscuits Recipe Based on the 1933 Country Women’s Association Recipes
Anzac Day is coming up on 25 April. It’s a day special to so many Australians. When you live away from your home country for as long as we have (23 years this year) you use these national holidays to reflect upon home, your loved ones there, and your compatriots. National holidays unite citizens so it’s about remembering that we do belong somewhere, despite having been at large in the world for so long – and despite not being able to return home since the start of the pandemic.
In the lead up to the Anzac Day long weekend in Australia and New Zealand, it seems every Australasian newspaper, magazine and food site has published and republished some form of the classic Anzac biscuits recipe, often with a twist on the traditional, or an Anzac inspired dessert.
As I’m obsessed with culinary history and the origin of recipes, I decided to bake the earliest Anzac biscuits recipe I could find. I also wanted to make the Anzac biscuits of my childhood, the biscuits I made with my nanna on school holidays and at home with dad. My father was responsible for making most of the sweets in our family, while mum handled savoury.
As nanna was born in 1913 or 1915 (our family trees can’t seem to agree on which) I figured that her biscuits, which were very traditional, would have been made to a classic Anzac biscuits recipe so I decided to used one of the earliest Anzac biscuits recipe I could find. It turns out that despite the many tweaks the biscuits have had, that’s what most classic Anzac biscuit recipes are based upon, and that’s the 1933 Country Women’s Association recipe.
There are earlier recipes, and there are many various recipes, as culinary historian Allison Reynolds who wrote a book on the subject called Anzac Biscuits, the Power and Spirit of an Everyday National Icon found when she discovered a similar rolled oats-based biscuit. Dating to 1823, it was typically called “Crispies” among other things. Obviously it wasn’t called an Anzac biscuit, as the acronym A.N.Z.A.C didn’t come into use until after the battle of Gallipoli in 1915. If you’re not Australian and not familiar with the history, you can read about ANZAC history and Anzac Day here.
Reynolds’ research revealed that the biscuit’s name changed during World War I, when they began to get called ‘Red Cross biscuits’ and ‘Soldiers Biscuits’ as they were baked to sell as a form of fundraising for the war effort. Some believe they were also sent to Australian and New Zealand forces overseas, as the lack of eggs in the recipe meant they’d last longer. But that is often disputed, with the suggestion that there’s confusion with the wafer-like Anzac Tile biscuit.
Reynolds discovered the first printed Anzac biscuit recipe in the War Chest Cookery Book, dating to 1917, however, this doesn’t resemble the biscuit we know and love as Anzac biscuits at all. That recipe has eggs and is sandwiched with jam and cream. Reynolds found a more authentic Anzac biscuit recipe in a South Australian housewife’s notebook, dating to 1910-20, although one ingredient was missing: coconut.
The oldest recipe using coconut was published in one of the Country Women’s Association’s 1930s calendar cookbooks, Cakes and Afternoon Tea Delicacies. As my nanna was a country woman at that time – she and my grandfather poppy Ken had a dairy farm in Singleton, which was where my dad and aunty Val grew up – I guessed nan may very well have learnt to make her Anzac biscuits using that recipe.
I found that 1933 Country Women’s Association Anzac Biscuit recipe with coconut here on the Australian War Memorial website, where they called it Anzac Biscuits No. 2 Recipe (the Anzac Biscuits No. 1 Recipe was without coconut) and that’s the classic Anzac biscuit recipe I began to make – because I didn’t want to get fined or go to jail!
However, after combining all the ingredients, I found that it was far too dry – so dry that it was impossible to form into balls. That’s because it only called for 2 tablespoons of butter. Google was my friend again and I found the 1933 Anzac Biscuits No. 1 recipe without coconut on the Country Women’s Association of New South Wales’ Exeter branch website – with ¼ cup butter, which made much more sense:
2 cups rolled oats, ½ cup flour, 1 small cup sugar, ¼ cup butter, 1tablesp. golden syrup, 1teasp.carb.soda, 3tablesp.boiling water. Put rolled oats and flour into basin: melt butter and sugar together and mix well with flour and oats; dissolve syrup in water and stir in soda till it foams well, then add to other ingredients and mix well. Put in 1/2 teaspoon drops on a cold, well greased slide and bake in a very a very slow oven, as they burn very easily. It is necessary t put them fairly far apart on the slide as they spread. -Miss Murray, Manildra Branch
The method was different, however – the Anzac Biscuits No. 2 recipe is far easier – and it was too late to start over, so I simply added the additional butter. And I added a tablespoon of golden syrup for good measure. I am not a CWA member so I wasn’t about to take the liberty of calling this Anzac Biscuits No. 3 recipe, though I am very curious to know if there was one out there…
I remembered that my nanna also loved her Australian Women’s Weekly magazines and that the writing pad in which she hand-wrote her recipes also contained clippings of recipes she’d cut out of that magazine, so I scooted over to their website. The Australian Women’s Weekly’s Anzac biscuit recipe is a similar to Recipe No. 2 with a different method and with coconut and brown sugar.
I’d already opted for brown sugar over white sugar in my classic Anzac biscuits recipe as the older recipes didn’t specify which sugar. I remembered that my family used brown sugar more often than white when baking and that it resulted in more intense flavours and a moister biscuit. The result was absolutely perfect. The biscuits tasted exactly the same as I remembered them – and perhaps a little better!
Tips to Making This Classic Anzac Biscuits Recipe – Chewy or Crunchy?
One of the main questions that get asked about how to make Anzac biscuits is whether they should be chewy or crunchy and every Australian has an opinion and preference. I spotted one recipe that said to add more golden syrup for a chewier biscuit, but that’s not necessary. This classic Anzac biscuits recipe makes both.
If you want your Anzac biscuits crunchy, they’ll need around 12 minutes in the oven (but check them at 11 minutes to make sure they’re not about to burn). If you prefer them chewy, pull them out at 9-10 minutes. Note that they’re going to be soft, so you’ll need to take care when shifting them from the oven pan to a cooling tray.
Classic Anzac Biscuits Recipe Based on the 1933 Country Women’s Association Recipes
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup desiccated coconut
- 1 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tablespoons boiling water
- Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F and line large oven trays with baking paper.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Melt the butter.
- Add the golden syrup.
- Dissolved the bicarbonate of soda in the hot water and combine with melted butter and golden syrup.
- Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and thoroughly combine.
- Form a flat tablespoon of mixture into a small ball, place it on the baking tray, and squash it down a little into a fat hamburger patty shape, and repeat, ensuring the balls are 5cm apart. We like our bisucits to weigh around 35 g.
- Bake for 9-10 minutes for chewy biscuits and 12 minutes for crunchy biscuits.
- Lift them carefully off the baking trays onto a cold plate.
Did you make Anzac biscuits today? Do you have a favourite recipe? Do let us know if you make this classic Anzac biscuits recipe here in the comments below or on social media, as we’d love to know how it turns out.