gluten & dairy-free afghan cookie recipe

Cookies are my ideal treat, and one of the fastest ways I know to knock a sweet craving on the head. With kids hanging off my legs 99% of the day, making elaborate desserts like I used to is just not a realistic goal anymore! Cookies however, can be mixed up in minutes and the kids can pitch in with the mixing and rolling of the dough. Bonus.

On Friday, Ada and I had a few hours without her little brother around, moments Ada treasures let me tell you! I have had a hankering for something sweet lately...okay, so most days I do, but it has been a week or so right? We settled on the good ol' New Zealand family favourite, chocolate afghans. Here I've made them not only gluten-free, but dairy-free and vegan also, keeping everyone happy 🙂

To my delight, my darling lemon thyme got a lovely little mention in the latest issue of little treasures magazine, as part of an article on coping with gluten and dairy allergies. So with that in mind I wanted to post a cookie recipe that is nice and simple to make, uses readily available ingredients and one that the kids (and parents) will absolutely adore!

If you are not familiar with this moreish kiwi favourite, Afghans are a rich chocolate cookie, spiked with crunchy cornflakes then topped with generous dollops of silky chocolate icing. Traditionally they are garnished with a walnut half, but feel free to ad-lib; pecans, sliced almonds or even slices of fresh strawberry as we have done here make for a nice change. Ada had the genius idea to top them with strawberries, and while they did go down a treat, if you are wanting them to keep for any longer than 10 minutes, stick to using nuts 🙂

This recipe was adapted from the quintessential guide to traditional New Zealand cuisine, the Edmonds cookery book.

gluten-free afghan cookie recipe
These are gluten and dairy-free but if you eat wheat and dairy simply use 200g butter, 1 1/4 cups plain flour and omit the guar gum. Too easy. I use unrefined raw sugar, but caster or brown sugar is fine too. Find glutinous rice flour at Asian supermarkets, or replace with corn starch (known as corn flour in NZ). If you are strictly gluten-free make sure you source gluten-free cornflakes (most supermarkets stock them). Regular cornflakes (breakfast cereal) contain barley malt, which has gluten. Icing sugar is also known as powdered sugar in the U.S, check that it is gluten-free also. Makes 30 mini cookies.

  • 200g dairy-free margarine
  • 1/2 cup (100g) raw unrefined cane sugar
  • 3/4 cup (90g) brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup (25g) tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup (25g) glutinous rice flour (sweet rice flour)
  • 1/2 tsp guar gum
  • 1/4 cup (25g) cocoa powder
  • 2 cups gluten-free cornflakes

  • 1 1/2 cup (185g) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp dairy-free margarine, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tbsp boiling water
  • walnuts or pecans to decorate

Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F. Grease 2 oven trays and line with baking paper.

Cream margarine and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy, using either a wooden spoon or electric mixer. Sift over brown rice flour, tapioca flour, glutinous rice flour, guar gum and cocoa powder. Mix using a wooden spoon until fully combined. Add cornflakes and continue to mix to incorporate (I usually use my hands at this stage, so much easier!). The mixture will be really wet and sticky, that's perfect.

Using your hands, gently roll tablespoons of mixture into small balls. This will be really sticky work, so just do your best. Place onto oven trays about 2cm apart. Slightly flatten each using a fork or your fingers. Bake for 10-12 minutes until set. They will firm more on cooling. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray. Ice once completely cold, by dolloping a generous spoonful of chocolate icing on each cookie, and top with walnuts or pecans.

To make the icing, sift icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Add the melted margarine, vanilla and just enough boiling water to form a thick icing.

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  • Reply
    December 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Those cookies look really delicious. Especially in the first and last picture, where you can see the indentation (?) of your teeth: I can feel the cocoa icing on my teeth 🙂

    I follow your blog since this summer and Iam really grateful for your recipes and for your wonderful pictures. I rediscovered Quinoa and it is marvellous!

    Love from Germany,

  • Reply
    December 5, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Those cookies look so adorable, pretty & tasty too!

    But to use 200 gr of margarine is a lot though! Could you use less?

  • Reply
    December 6, 2010 at 6:38 am

    Hi Annabel, Thank you for your lovely comment! It's such a thrill for me to think of you reading my blog all the way from Germany! 🙂

    Sophie, Yep it does seem a lot, but I assure you it's worth it! I have never tried reducing that amount, but if you were going to try it, I'd go no more than 50g less. If you eat butter, use that in place of the margarine. I usually do most of my baking with butter, but thought I'd keep these one's dairy-free/vegan. Let me know how you go, if you do try reducing that amount 🙂

  • Reply
    Claire Tucker
    December 22, 2011 at 2:49 am

    Thank you so much for this recipe! I just tried adapting my Mum's recipe (it is really the Edmonds recipe except she only had 1TBSp cocoa in it?! I think it was a typo!) but it didn't quite work. I used 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1/4 tapioca, 1/4 potato flour (with some added xantham gum). I figured a little extra flour was needed and then I came across your recipe with that little bit extra rice flour. I'll have another go! Many thanks. I love your blog. It is full of inspiration and covers so much of what I do or have done in the past. It is giving me a boost to keep my recently rekindled blog going! Thanks again. Claire (fellow away from home Kiwi in Montreal, Canada)

  • Reply
    Claire Tucker
    January 5, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    I tried out this afghan recipe the morning after I had attempted my own adaptation of the Edmonds original. I had dropped my girl at pre-school, rushed home and baked them so that I could return with them for the Christmas morning tea (it was the last day of school) along with the anzac biscuits I had managed to adapt with no problems. I was so glad I did. They came out perfectly! When I bit into an afghan biscuit I felt I had been transported back in time to my Mum's kitchen. They were fabulous! Since then I have made a double batch – one batch for a New Years eve party and one batch for home. My waistline has suffered but my heart has been filled with the memories of home. Thank you Emma!

  • Reply
    Heather Stewart
    July 13, 2012 at 3:53 am

    A friend of mine adapted the Edmonds recipe but she put in coconut flakes in place of gluten free corn flakes and they worked really well!
    Love your blog. Thanks for your lovely ideas:)

  • Reply
    Emma G
    April 30, 2014 at 12:56 am

    Our four year old has just been diagnosed with Celiacs so baking is a whole new adventure for us. She requested that we make afghans (a fave in our house) so I googled GF afghans and arrived here. They are delicious. Will be printing off this recipe to store in the back of your book – I know it will be used lots! Many thanks 🙂

  • Reply
    February 14, 2015 at 1:52 am

    Emma – perfect treat to make for buddies and family I love, without being cheesy, for Valentines Day! It made 30 for me too and since I'm not giving to any dairy free folk I iced with melted choc before topping with a walnut half. Off to deliver them now! X

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