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Gluten Free Afghans

Updated: May 19, 2021

Makes 10 . Takes 1 hour.

Afghan biscuits are an New Zealand invention. So why are they called Afghans? It seems like no one really can say for certain - this is perhaps the most debated biscuit name in the history of New Zealand. But we love a biscuit with a mysterious history, so let's dive in.

The origin of the name.

There are several theories on where this biscuit developed its' name. But because the biscuit itself is so old (predating World War II) there is no single proven theory of why they are called as such, or even who invented it and when it was invented. The only thing we can say for certain is that showed up in the 1940's version of the Edmonds Cookbook. Some of the nicer theories suggest that the biscuit was named as such because of the craggy, rough Afghanistan mountain ranges which look like the biscuit. Another theory says that these biscuits were invented by a women who sent these biscuits to a soldier in Afghanistan, but the timings don't seem to match up for when Kiwi soldiers were sent to Afghanistan. However, being the type of biscuit that doesn't easily spoil, they were most likely sent abroad to Kiwi Soldiers in the 40s during WWII. Even more far fetched, one theory I read from 'Decolonising the Chocolate Biscuit' suggests that there was a Afghan gentleman that visited New Zealand on 'baking day' (which insinuates that there is a nation-wide annual baking day in New Zealand - which might be even more bizarre than all these theories combined) and made such an impression that the New Zealand people made a biscuit in his honour. It's safe to say that I don't believe this one. Of course, there is a more plausible theory that they are named as such because of the darker complexion of an Afghan person, which isn't good and also not very accurate. Annoyingly, because there is no way to prove this theory, no one is willing to change the name. I'd personally support a name change - it's just a biscuit. But let me know your thoughts and theories of how this biscuit came to be!

Developmental issues

Afghans are a dense chocolate cornflake biscuit, with chocolate icing and a walnut on top. They are surprisingly simple, and require not very many ingredients. But for some reason, I found them incredibly hard to make gluten free. Instead of holding their shape, they melted, or flattened, or spread way too much. I eventually realised that this biscuit doesn't need any baking powder or bicarbonate of soda, it needs not change shape much at all (as it's a very dense biscuit in the first place). Getting the butter amount right was a case of trail and (many) errors as well. But I found success when I thoroughly creamed the butter and sugar together. The trick to this biscuit was clearly to keep it simple, and not try add anything else to the core ingredients. So without further ado, here is my gluten free afghan recipe!

Making them Vegan? Easy.

You can very easily make these Afghans dairy free/vegan. I have done so myself! All you need to do is swap the butter for a dairy free spread/block 1:1. Luckily this recipe has very little ingredients, so the swap doesn't make the taste of texture any different!


For the Biscuit

  • 150 grams butter/150 grams dairy free spread

  • 1/2 cups sugar

  • 1 1/4 cup gluten free flour

  • 1/4 cup cocoa

  • 1 cup gluten free cornflakes

For the Icing

  • 1 cup icing sugar

  • 1.5 tbsp cocoa

  • 1 tbsp hot water

  • 10 grams softened butter/10 grams dairy free spread

  • 10 Walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius/bake.

  2. Thoroughly creme together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa and mix with a spoon or spatula until combined.

  4. Add in the cornflakes and mix again.

  5. Roll spoonfuls of the mixture into large balls and place on a lined baking tray, and flatten slightly. The afghans shouldn't spread too much, so however much you flatten them, will be roughly the same shape that they come out as.

  6. Bake for 15 minutes and then let them cool on the tray until they are firm enough to move to a cooling rack.

  7. When they have cooled, coming the icing sugar, cocoa, hot water, and softened butter in a large bowl and mix/beat until you have a smooth and thick icing.

  8. Dollop the icing on top of each Afghan biscuit, followed by a walnut.

  9. Let the icing cool, and enjoy! The biscuits last for ages, a classic war cookie, so just pop them in a contain and eat as you like.


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