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What are Digestives?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Digestives, which are also called digestive biscuits, are a type of sweet biscuit or cookie that were first manufactured in Scotland in the late 18th century. Sources credit McVitie’s, a company in Scotland with the creation of digestives, and they were initially marketed as good for the digestion because they contained bicarbonate of soda. This claim is actually true; a digestive biscuit or two after a meal may very well aid digestion slightly.

These round cookies are significantly praised in the UK and Ireland, and they remain popular. Though not as popular in the US, many stores that import foods carry them and brands like Carr’s crackers have an assortment of crackers that include digestives. Their simple ingredients produces a sweet biscuit, though it is nowhere near as sweet as most American manufactured cookies.

Most digestives are a combination of shortening, whole grain flour called wholemeal, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, a small amount of sweetening, baking power or baking soda and salt. Though digestives have a slight snap if you break them, the type of flour used means that they soften quickly if dipped. In fact, there are websites devoted to the subject of just how long you can dip a digestive before it will fall apart in your tea or coffee. These websites reflect popularity of digestive biscuits, which are regularly eaten for morning snacks, with an afternoon cup of tea, or as a quick dessert or on the go food.

Digestive biscuits can be best compared in the US to graham crackers. Taste and texture is somewhat similar. Yet graham crackers are most often thought of as a snack for kids while both kids and adults enjoy digestives. Sales are astounding with billions of simply chocolate digestive biscuits sold each year.

Not all digestives become instant snack food. Recipes for crusts we might make with graham crackers in the US often use digestive biscuits instead. They can be crumbled up to make more adult friendly fare like brandy or bourbon balls too.

Variety in these biscuits is also plentiful. You can choose from milk or dark chocolate, chocolate covered, orange flavored or a variety of others. A number of companies now make them, though many still prefer McVitie’s brand. Other companies that create digestives include Lu, Walkers and Lyons. You’ll find numerous types online if you want to order them, and a few varieties in specialty and import grocery stores.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By Perdido — On Jul 12, 2011

I am an orange fanatic, so I take orange digestive biscuits and top them with orange marmalade. The result is pure bliss!

I also like to dunk orange biscuits in orange juice. If I'm looking for an extra flavor to add into the mix, I will dip them in V8 Fusion Tropical Orange drink, because it has a range of flavors derived from both fruits and vegetables.

I realize that this saturation of orange flavor is not for everyone, but if you love orange, you might want to give it a try. The intensity of the combination fills you up faster than eating a biscuit by itself.

By shell4life — On Jul 12, 2011

I have never been outside of the United States, but my friend from England who lived here for awhile sent me a gift basket for Christmas from her hometown. It included various types of tea and a variety of digestive cookies.

The only kind of tea I had ever drank was sweet and iced, so I was a bit anxious about trying hot tea with milk. However, I loved it! What made it even better was dipping the digestive cookies in it. It reminded me of dipping Oreos in milk, but it felt so much healthier!

Though I love eating the chocolate covered ones by themselves, the orange ones are best when dipped in hot tea. It has become my morning tradition now!

By seag47 — On Jul 11, 2011

I like to cover my digestive cookie with strawberry or raspberry preserves. The strawberry preserves give it ample sweetness, but raspberry is more tart with a deeper flavor. Really, it just depends on my mood and what I have eaten beforehand.

I like to slide a little bit of almond butter across the top of a cookie before adding raspberry preserves to make it extra scrumptious. A touch of whipped topping over the strawberry preserves adds some decadence.

By wavy58 — On Jul 10, 2011

I love to place a Hershey's Kiss on top of a digestive cookie and microwave it until it becomes soft and shrinks down. I remove it from the microwave and spread it about with a spoon until the whole cookie is covered.

If I'm actually hungry and not just looking for a bite to finish off a meal, I will coat a digestive cookie in peanut butter and drizzle it with melted chocolate. I love the not-so-sweet gentle flavor of the cookie mixed with the powerfully sweet chocolate and savory peanut butter. It makes the perfect late-night snack or second course to the meal if you make three of them!

By wander — On Jul 10, 2011

If you really want a treat I suggest hunting for some digestives that are dipped in a chocolate coating. Digestives done with a coating are absolutely delicious.

If you have plain digestives at home you can also get the same experience by either dipping your cookies in chocolate sauce or tossing them in the microwave with a few chocolate chips sprinkled on top. The result is pretty much the same in either case and it makes something that is already awesome even better.

Does anyone have anything they like to add on to their regular digestives? I am always looking to try out new things.

By Sara007 — On Jul 10, 2011

I always thought digestives were for babies. My mother actually always referred to them as 'baby cookies' and used to tease me about liking them so much. I fondly recall swiping them from her stash.

If you are a fan of digestives or are just curious about trying them out, they are fantastic if you have any stomach issues. I have found that when I am feeling nauseated or outright sick they tend to stay down when nothing else will. I must admit, that being sick is an excellent excuse to live off a bag of tasty cookies for a few days.

By SteamLouis — On Jul 09, 2011

@burcinc-- You can make digestive biscuits at home (they are called "biscuit" in the UK right?) It's actually very easy; you don't need special baking skills to do it!

You just need whole grain flour, grounded oats, butter, sugar and milk. There are recipes with the exact measurements online. But believe me, it is easy to prepare the dough and bakes very quickly.

I'm sure after a few tries, you will get such good results that you'll forget about the digestives you had back home!

By burcinc — On Jul 09, 2011

Not being able to find McVitie's digestives in the U.S. was one of the biggest shocks I experienced after moving here. I grew up eating them in the UK and I sincerely thought that digestives could be found everywhere. Countries I visited in Europe, Middle East and even India have digestive cookies.

It was quite upsetting not to be able to find any. American style cookies are far too sweet for my taste, not to mention fattening. I have bought McVitie's several times from online shops offering British products. But with the shipping costs, it comes out to be expensive.

Oh how I miss having a few digestives with my mid-morning tea. I'd even try baking them myself if I had any cooking abilities.

By fify — On Jul 08, 2011

I thought that digestive cookies were good for digestion because they contain wholemeal and oatmeal. Those two have a lot of fiber in it, so it does help speed up digestion that way. I didn't know about the bicarbonate at all. I guess it is even more beneficial than I thought.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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