Make these digestive biscuits, then check out our healthy cookies, banana oat cookies, Anzac biscuits and more biscuit recipes.

This digestive biscuit recipe comes from Regula Ysewijn's British baking book Oats in the North, Wheat from the South: The History of British Baking, Savoury and Sweet (Murdoch Books, £25). Photography by Regula Ysewijn. You can buy the book from Amazon here.

Digestives were developed by two Scottish doctors in the 1830s with the aim of creating a biscuit that could improve digestion, hence the name ‘Digestive’. The most popular Digestives are those made by McVitie’s, which the company began to bake on a large scale in 1892.

Digestives were often called malt cookies and the original patent received was entitled ‘Making Malted Bread’. Cassell’s Universal Cookery Book from 1894 provides a recipe for Malt biscuits. The author suggests that the use of ground caraway seeds is a suitable aromatic for people suffering from atulence, but he also states that any other spices are a possibility.

Today, Digestives are one of the most-loved British biscuits, along with Shortbread and Rich tea biscuits. They are also sometimes made with a layer of chocolate, which is great when you dip the cookie in your coffee and the chocolate melts. I rather like the ground roasted pecans in this biscuit but, if you are a purist, feel free to substitute them with more oat flour.

Digestive biscuits recipe


  • 40g pecan nuts
  • 150g butter, at room temperature
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 150g oat flour
  • 260g wholemeal plain or spelt flour, plus extra for dusting


  • STEP 1

    Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas mark 6 and line two baking trays with baking paper.

  • STEP 2

    Spread the pecans on one of the trays and roast for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then pulse the nuts in a blender until they resemble coarse flour.

  • STEP 3

    Mix the butter and sugar together until creamy (use an electric mixer if you have one), then add the eggs, one by one. Add the baking powder, then add the pecans, salt and flours, a teaspoon at a time. It will take a while for the mixture to come together. It will appear very dry at first, but don’t be tempted to add milk or water. Use the dough immediately or leave it in the fridge for 15 minutes.

  • STEP 4

    Pat the dough flat on a floured work surface or a sheet of baking paper. Dust the dough with flour to prevent the rolling pin from sticking, then roll out the dough until 5mm thick. Use a round cutter to cut out the biscuits. Push the leftover dough back together, roll it out and cut out more biscuits until you have used all the dough.

  • STEP 5

    Place the biscuits on the baking trays and prick all over with a fork. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10-13 minutes, depending on how dark you like them.

**Please note that this recipe has not been tested by the olive magazine cookery team**


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