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What is a Digestive Biscuit?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A digestive biscuit is a type of cookie, or biscuit, as they're called in British English, made with coarse wheat flour, ground wholemeal, a light amount of sugar, and a rising agent such as baking soda, along with oil, salt, and sometimes milk as well. The result is a slightly savory cookie with a crumbly texture and a simple flavor which some people find quite appealing. Digestives are closely linked with British culture, and they continue to popular in the United Kingdom well over 100 years after they were first developed.

Credit for the invention of the digestive biscuit is typically given to Alexander Grant, an employee of McVitie & Price's, a company in Scotland. Grant developed the digestive biscuit in the 1800s, and the cookie was at first marketed as a health food, due to the antacid properties of baking soda. Later testing of digestive biscuits has laid this claim to rest, although digestives may be a healthier choice than some other cookies, thanks to the whole grains involved in their manufacture.

A classic digestive biscuit closely resembles a graham cracker. It has a rich, nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness from the included sugar. Digestives are also extremely crumbly. Digestives can also come in chocolate coated varieties, and McVitie's has also branched out considerably with flavorings and additives.

Some people enjoy dunking digestive biscuits in tea or coffee to soften them slightly before consuming them, and digestives are commonly on offer with beverages in Britain. They can also be crushed to make cracker crusts for things like cheesecakes, or they can be enjoyed on their own. Some animals also enjoy digestive biscuits, but it's important to check with a veterinarian before giving digestive biscuits to any animal.

McVitie's continues to be a major producer of British digestive biscuits, although several other companies make them as well. They are often available in markets which stock British foods, and they can also be ordered through specialty importers or directly from the parent company. When purchasing a package of digestive biscuits, make sure to shake it gently; if the package rattles, it is a sign that there are broken biscuits inside.

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.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon302670 — On Nov 11, 2012

Yeah I think so, BambooForest, but I'm asking how many different types of digestive biscuits are there?

By BambooForest — On May 16, 2011

@elizabeth23 -- That's a common misconception! In fact, digestive biscuits are one of many simple or savoury cookies that British people especially, but many people, enjoy with tea. Some other common ones are shortbread biscuits, jaffa cakes, and wafer cookies. People do of course have things like scones, or sponge cake, or muffins with tea at times, but these are the common kinds of easy, store bought treats.

By elizabeth23 — On May 13, 2011

When I first heard about digestive biscuits, I thought they sounded awful. However, I really like them, especially the chocolate varieties. McVities Digestive biscuits, as well as being some of the first, are some of the tastiest as well, I think.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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