ANZAC biscuit recipe with an Asian twist

Row of Anzac cookies

“But it’s what you do to them!”

ANZAC biscuits are not fancy.  The recipe for ANZAC biscuits is no secret.  It even used to appear on packets of oats.

Yet, somehow, The Godmother’s ANZAC biscuits always taste stupendously good.  Even when I follow the same recipe, mine don’t taste like hers.  It’s what she does to them that makes them special.

Single Anzac biscuitHmmm, “it’s what she does to them”.  Now, there’s an Australian expression worth an explanation.  So here goes.

[Warning: Digression coming up]  The phrase is from The Castle, one of Australia’s best-loved local films.  (It even has its own postage stamp.) 

This 1997 David-vs-Goliath comedy features the Kerrigans, a close-knit working class family.  Their land is being compulsorily acquired for airport expansion.  Patriarch Darryl Kerrigan fights to keep his aircraft noise-ridden home, complete with massive power lines and contaminated backyard.

THE DINNER SCENE.  Doting Darryl never fails to compliment every one of wife Sal’s meals, even if it’s plain chicken with seasoning powder.  In this scene, the family sits down to dinner.  Sal serves up rissoles (a.k.a. meatballs).  Darryl takes one look and gushes with praise.

Darryl (in wonder):  What do you call them?
Sal (blushing):  Rissoles.  Everybody cooks rissoles, darl. 
Darryl (appreciatively):  But it’s what you DO to them!

And this is how the sweetly encouraging “But it’s what you DO to them!” entered the Australian vernacular.  Usually used to compliment a person who made something common or plain, but masterfully.

How to identify the perfect ANZAC biscuitAnzac biscuits - original flavour

Darryl’s line is the perfect phrase to apply to The Godmother’s peerless ANZAC biscuits, because they are:

  • crisp outside,
  • slightly chewy inside (I’m no fan of jawbreaker ANZAC biscuits),
  • the right shade of dark gold, and
  • the right size and thickness.

How old is your oldest friendship?country postboxes B&W

My parents and The Godmother have been friends for over 50 years.  That’s despite being separated by 6,000km for 90% of that time.

Picture this:  An an era when:

  • black-and-white photos were considered common rather than arty, and
  • international travel was mostly by (gasp) ship.

It was during that time that my parents first met, as 20-somethings students from Singapore studying in far-away Melbourne.  The Godparents were my parents’ Australian landlords.  Over the years, they became close family friends.

I love hearing The Godmother’s tales of my parents’ student days, way before I was even a wisp of a thought on the horizon.  Such as when The Godmother came home at Patch’s usual dinner time.

Patch was Papa’s dog.  Unsurprisingly, it had a patch of dark fur over one eye.

pot B&W

When The Godmother got home that day, the house was empty of people but full of meaty smells emanating from a pot of warm, nondescript stew Papa had cooked.  Helpfully, The Godmother fed it to Patch who, like Julius Caesar’s Cassius, was sporting a lean and hungry look.

Guess whose dinner it was meant to be?  I guess my parents had fried eggs that night.

Stew gone B&W Fried eggs B&W

Posting parcels before eBay made it trendy


The Godmother remembers my father’s favourite Australian foods as if she’d seen him only yesterday: lamb chops, meat pies and her ANZAC biscuits.

She has even sent a box of home-made ANZAC biscuits via Australia Post, all the way from Melbourne to my parents in Singapore.  Oh, how those biscuits were treasured and savoured!

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with posting ANZAC biscuits to a place 6,000km away from where they were baked.  You see, that’s the thing with ANZAC biscuits: they were made for sending.  This is why.

Origin of sweet ANZAC biscuits

A bit of background info for readers outside Australia and NZ.

When are ANZAC biscuits eaten?

Most commonly on ANZAC Day.  ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

ANZAC Day falls on 25 April every year.  25 April 1915 is a significant date: it was when the ANZAC soldiers fought their first major military action, in Gallipoli during World War I.  Now, on ANZAC Day, Australians honour those ANZAC soldiers, and also Australian soldiers who have lost their lives in service throughout various military operations.

Legend has it that during World War I, mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends of ANZAC soldiers in service sent them home-made sweet ANZAC biscuits, as a treat from home.  These were much more palatable than the standard-issue hard tack biscuits.

Anzac biscuits - original flavourAnzac biscuits - original flavourAnzac biscuits - original flavourAnzac biscuits - original flavour

Hard tacks…

…were undeniably nutritious, but also aptly named.  They were so dense and hard that some soldiers used their rations to fashion photo frames for their beloved’s picture.

Sweet ANZAC biscuits…

…are redolent of butter and golden syrup, and also contain nutritious oats.  Its ingredients don’t spoil quickly, which is what makes the biscuit ideal for transporting.

Yes, it’s sacriligious of me to temper with the recipe of this hallowed biscuit.  But I couldn’t help wondering how it’d taste if I added toasted sesame seeds to it.

Anzac biscuits with sesame seeds

Toasted sesame seeds…

…have been a favourite Secret Kitchen Weapon of mine, ever since I discovered where to buy them pre-toasted.

Paradoxically, I have the patience to spend 3 hours making 3-minute noodles, but haven’t the patience to properly toast sesame seeds.  The end-stage clumping defeats me every time.

My love affair with toasted sesame seeds deepened when I returned from Japan with this nifty grinder from a 100-yen shop (the equivalent of our $2 shops).  Here’s a 10-second video on using it:

In ramenya (noodle shops in Japan), you can find this grinder beside the pepper shaker.  Customers add their own freshly ground toasted sesame seeds to their steaming bowls of slurpiness.

Black Tiger ramen Menya ramen My negi miso ramen

The best thing about sesame seeds?  They have both savoury and sweet applications.  I’ve enjoyed them in a whole range of dishes, such as:

Sesame ANZAC biscuits: The verdict

The toasted sesame seeds worked surprisingly well.  Their nutty fragrance was almost as if I’d added peanut butter to the mixture.  A perfect complement to the buttery, golden syrupy flavours without overwhelming them.

As an added bonus, sesame seeds are an abundant source of protein and calcium.

Anzac biscuits with sesame seeds Anzac biscuits with sesame seeds Anzac biscuits with sesame seeds

Degree of difficulty:

  • LOW.  Just melt and mix. 
  • No need to haul out the cake mixer.  No big piles of washing up.

Will do again?

  • Yes, with bells on.
  • It’s easy!
  • It’s yummy!  When the biscuits are fresh out of the oven and the buttery aroma envelopes you, you are NOT HUMAN if you can resist sampling one or two (or six).


  1. ANZAC biscuits are great for lunchboxes.  They’re nut-free – suitable for schools with nut allergy concerns.
  2. Get the kids involved.  An easy way to introduce children to the joys of the kitchen.  They can safely lick the bowl too, since no raw eggs are used.
  3. Make heaps.  Extra biscuits can last in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring them to room temperature before eating, to soften a little.

Anzac pairAnzac pairAnzac pairAnzac pairAnzac pairAnzac pair

Sesame ANZAC biscuit recipe

Makes about 36 ANZAC biscuits – fewer if you also make a couple of triple-sized killer biscuits just for kicks.

  • 125g butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp boiling water (add more if you prefer a chewy biscuit)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
  • ¾ cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • ¾ cup brown sugar, loosely packed


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (or 150 degrees, fan-forced).
  2. Melt butter and golden syrup in a saucepan.  Add in baking soda mixed with boiling water.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients, then add in wet miixture.  Mix to a moist, firm consistency.
  4. Drop teaspoonsful of mixture onto a greased or lined baking tray, and flatten slightly.  (See Baking Tip below.)  Leave an inch of space between biscuits, as they spread while baking.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool before eating.  The biscuits will crisp up as they cool.

BAKING TIP.  At Step 4, resist the urge to excessively press and shape the biscuit mixture, or you will end up with a hard and compressed biscuit.  This isn’t a recipe for hard tack.

Seeing as I don’t have The Godmother’s magic touch, these are my alternative ways of garnering some but-it’s-what-you-do-to-them type of praise.

Anzac pair birthday ggbm birthday castle birthday anzac

What’s healthier than ANZAC biscuits?

This ANZAC biscuit recipe uses all natural ingredients, so that’s one up on Big Supermarkets’ biscuits.

But I can’t pretend all that butter and sugar qualify as healthy.  For healthier eating ideas, see:

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