The legendary ANZAC biscuit story

The delicious rolled oats and syrup ANZAC biscuit has played a significant role in Australian history for more than a century - although its origin remains unknown.

Photo courtesy of The Australian War Memorial

ANZAC biscuits are traditionally baked and eaten around ANZAC Day, 25 April, to remember the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) soldiers who served in World War I.

Various biscuit recipes date back to 1915 when mothers, wives and women’s groups baked them and sent them to loved-ones serving overseas as a nutritious snack and loving reminder of home.

Back then, the biscuits were made from unperishable ingredients (no eggs) and were later referred to as ‘ANZACs’ or ‘ANZAC Crispies’ in 1919. Family recipes were later published in cookbooks and newspapers during the 1920s.

With so many variations of the recipe now available, there’s debate over whether a traditional ANZAC biscuit should be crispy, chewy or contain controversial additions such as egg or coconut.

Australian War Memorial Curator Dianne Rutherford has baked seven ANZAC biscuit recipes from 1916 to 1929 and said every single recipe was different.

“When you look back on the history of the ANZAC biscuit, you begin to see that there really wasn’t one standard recipe,” Ms Rutherford said.

“The ANZAC biscuit that we know today really developed from the 1920s to 1930s.

“The earliest recipe I have found for the traditional style of ANZAC biscuit was published in The Argus in Melbourne on 15 September, 1920 and called ANZAC biscuit or Crispies.

“Today the ANZAC biscuit symbolises the people who are serving far away from home and is just a way we could give them a taste of home or love on the frontline.”

Returned and Services League (RSL) Queensland State President Tony Ferris said for most Australians, ANZAC biscuits are still closely associated with ANZAC Day.

“Not all of us are bakers, so there’s certainly no shame in buying a tin, particularly if it’s for a good cause,” Mr Ferris said.

“ANZAC biscuits and commemorative tins are sold through supermarkets nationally, with a portion of sales going to the RSL – the program is arranged through our national office.

“RSL Queensland provides practical support and assistance to current and former Defence members and their families in every corner of the state.

“Our broad range of services and programs include helping veterans and their partners find civilian employment, funding resilience initiatives and adjunct therapies, providing scholarships for upskilling or re-training, providing opportunities for social connection and arranging immediate assistance for veterans in crisis situations.”

The Road Ahead has collected a variety of ANZAC biscuit recipes, which are available here.

Images courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.