Tweak the Recipe of This Australian Biscuit, and You Can Get a Hefty Fine or Even Jail Time

On April 25, a national holiday called Anzac Day, Aussies enjoy an Anzac biscuit in honor of military veterans

Anzac biscuits
Jennifer A Smith/Getty Images

Australia is a country with a history of convicts, bushrangers and outlaws. Breaking the law seems to be in our blood, and we have a reputation for being quite notoriously adventurous. We swim with sharks, and we battle crocs in the wilderness. We are dare devils. Yet, one thing that many Aussies will absolutely not do—in fear of landing themselves in jail—is tweak the recipe of the humble Anzac biscuit.

An Anzac biscuit (not to be mistaken for a cookie) can be eaten soft and chewy or crisp and crunchy. Either way the Anzac bikkie (Aussie slang for biscuit) is best enjoyed with a hot mug of coffee or tea to dunk the sweet treat in. While Australia has a lot of favorite biscuits, no home will be without an Anzac biscuit on its table come April 25, a day known to us as Anzac Day. Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day commemorates the anniversary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand soldiers at Gallipoli, Turkey, in 1915— the countries’ first major action against what was then the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany, in World War I. The campaign lasted eight months, resulting in more than 25,000 Australian casualties, including 8,700 deaths.

Simple ingredients are used to make Anzac biscuits, and every Aussie family has its own recipe. In a large bowl, a mixture of oats, desiccated coconut, flour, golden syrup, sugar, butter and a leavener like baking soda are roughly mixed together to form a cohesive dough, which is rolled out into golf-sized balls, pressed down slightly and baked until the biscuits are golden-brown in color. The smell in the kitchen is exactly as you imagine—sugary sweet with a roasted oats aroma lingering in the air—enticing the whole household to devour the entire batch of biscuits while warm from the oven.

Although Anzac biscuits can be found year-round in the aisles of supermarkets, the symbolic bakes are most commonly found in bakeries and cafés during the month of April, in the lead-up to Anzac Day.

While some grandmothers add in extra butter, nuts and even eggs for a crispier and richer mouthfeel, commercial bakeries are unable to steer away from the good ol’ Aussie Anzac biscuit recipe unless given permission by the governing body: Australia’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). Many businesses that have tried to push boundaries by riffing off the traditional Anzac biscuit recipe have been caught and punished for such offenses as adding chocolate chips or sultanas—a jail-worthy crime, according to the DVA.

Anzac biscuits on the production line
Anzac biscuits come off the production line at an Unibic facility in Reservoir, Victoria, Australia. Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Punishment is not taken lightly and shows exactly how important the Anzac biscuit is to us Aussies. The DVA has the right to hand out fines (up to 66,000 Australian dollars, around $40,000) or jail time up to 12 months to any businesses that misuse the word Anzac. “In order to use the term ‘Anzac’ in an official, commercial or corporate manner, an application to DVA is required,” says a spokesperson from the DVA. “This is in place to protect the integrity of the word Anzac and to ensure that it is used respectfully in the community.” 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.

“Although there are some penalties for misuse of the word Anzac, the Australian public on the whole are very understanding of the need to protect the word and, as such, penalties are rarely required,” says the DVA spokesperson.

A brief history: What is an Anzac biscuit, anyway?

The Anzac biscuit is both a national and cultural treasure, with a rich history dating back to the early 1900s.

“Australia’s love of the Anzac biscuit emerged from the First World War,” says Meghan Adams, historian at the Australian War Memorial, a shrine and war museum in Campbell, a suburb of Canberra, commemorating those who served during peacekeeping operations. “Throughout the conflict, Australians keenly felt the distance between themselves and their loved ones serving at the front and often looked for ways to connect soldiers with home and provide them with small comforts. Sometimes this involved sending gifts of homemade food. However, it had to be long-lasting in order to make the long journey to the front. As such, sticky golden syrup was an excellent substitute for a binding agent—with eggs being scarce—as well as being a good preservative with the high sugar content.”

As an Aussie, growing up in Australia always meant a yearly pilgrimage to a dawn service on Anzac Day. At Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, the 5:30 a.m. service would see school kids, adults, grandparents and politicians pay their respects to veterans in what always seemed like cold, chilly and gloomy weather conditions. As a young girl, I remember attending dawn services with my schoolmates, standing in the mist and watching the laying of wreaths by veterans; listening to the reading of the “Ode of Remembrance,” the fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen;” and taking in the traditions of the “Last Post,” a military bugle call signifying the end of yet another Anzac Day sunrise ceremony.

Nothing beats dunking an Anzac bikkie into a warm drink after attending such a service.

dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance
The sun rises during the dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance last year. George Hitchens/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

“I remember going to the dawn service with my grandmother before sunrise, and we would sit in the park in the cold, and she would give me hot chocolate from a thermos and, of course, Anzac cookies to eat,” says Paul Millist, executive chef of Lollo restaurant at W Melbourne, who bakes Anzac biscuits for his guests during the month of April.

From inedible “tile” to buttery biscuit

While many believe that the Anzac biscuit was created by housewives who wanted to send nonperishable baked goods to their loved ones serving at Gallipoli, this sweet notion of affection is unfortunately a popular myth. According to various sources, the Anzac biscuit was never sent to soldiers serving overseas; instead, soldiers on duty nibbled on a similar biscuit and common ration called Anzac tiles.

“The term ‘Anzac’ really only became popular after the landing in April 1915. As such, it was only after this point that recipes associated with the word ‘Anzac’ began to emerge,” says Adams. “Lots of different recipes were named after the Anzacs as a patriotic gesture and in honor of those fighting at the front. It is possible that men serving on Gallipoli received some biscuits from home containing ingredients like oats and golden syrup. However, they weren’t strictly known as ‘Anzac biscuits.’”

The original “tile” biscuits were so hard that soldiers developed quite creative ways to enjoy them. They soaked them in a mug of hot water to soften the ration and grated them to make porridge. Soldiers even used them as stationery, painting and writing messages to loved ones on the unappetizing biscuits that were meant to sustain them. The Australian War Memorial has Anzac tile “cards” on display.

One of the most endearing and possibly heartbreaking artifacts at the memorial is an unopened tin full of homemade Anzac biscuits. This particular tin sent by the mother of Lance Corporal Terence “Terry” Edward Hendle never made it to the soldier, who died in battle in Vietnam in 1966.

Anzac Day commemorated at Auckland War Memorial Museum
Aucklanders attend the Anzac Day dawn service at Auckland Museum on April 25, 2023. Fiona Goodall/Getty Images for Auckland War Memorial Museum

It is not known how the oaty Anzac biscuits became associated with Anzac and World War I. “The type of Anzac biscuits we eat today did not really become popularly known as such until the 1920s,” says Adams. “In the years after the First World War, many people in communities across the country banded together to fundraise for memorials, as well as returned soldiers and their families. These fundraising efforts sometimes included selling Anzac biscuits, alongside other sweets and baked goods that were favorites at the time.”

She continues, “Anzac biscuits are a really amazing connection to our past and to our wartime history. I can’t think of too many wartime recipes which still hold such significance and popularity today.”

A biscuit for all ages

As is the case for many Australians, the official Anzac biscuit recipe was one of my first bakes. I remember making the biscuit at school with my friends as we each took turns tossing in the essential ingredients of the foolproof recipe.

“This recipe is important, as it shows ingenuity and forethought around preservation with the items you have at hand,” says Chris Dodd, chef at BTWN restaurant at W Sydney. “The tradition of this recipe has to be remembered for what it stands for: the unity of people through food even with the simplest of ingredients.”

Dodd, who prides himself on a hyper-local philosophy in the kitchen, recalls an early childhood memory of baking and then eating the biscuits warm out of the oven with his mom.

The hefty rules surrounding the preparation and sale of Anzac biscuits don’t really worry Aussies who have grown up eating them in their unadulterated form. Many love the simplicity of the biscuit and couldn’t imagine anything worse than finding a nut, chocolate or sprinkle in the otherwise perfect afternoon sweet treat.

The question Aussie bakers always face during Anzac Day is not how to riff off the Anzac recipe (especially when you could be thrown in the slammer for it), but how do customers like their biscuit: soft and chewy or hard and crisp?

“For me, soft and chewy is the best,” says Dodd. “The trick to achieve this is, once baked, to cool them down on a wire rack and add a little bit more butter than the traditional recipe. One more tip is not to overwork the mix, as this can make them crumbly.”

Chef Millist has more to add: “Always remember to bake the dough from cold and underbake them by five minutes if you want a softer biscuit. Otherwise, cook them for an extra three minutes for a crunchier bikkie.”

While the approved Anzac biscuit recipe won’t send you to jail, strong opinions about the two consistencies may just cause a rift in the family during tea time. Thankfully, this sweet treat is worth every quarrel and calorie in memory of those who sacrificed their lives for us.

The Department of Veterans’ Affairs Recipe for Anzac Biscuits

The DVA published this recipe in its 2014 book, We Remember Anzac.


2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons golden syrup

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup desiccated coconut

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup plain flour


  1. Heat oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Melt butter (or margarine) and syrup.
  3. Add dissolved bicarbonate of soda and water.
  4. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the liquid mixture and stir.
  5. Place small balls of the mixture (about 1 teaspoon) onto a greased tray.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly brown.
  7. Lift biscuits onto a cake cooling rack and wait for them to cool.

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