Hydroquinone bis(diphenyl phosphate) (HDP) has been adopted to prepare acrylonitrile–butadiene–styrene copolymer (ABS)/HDP/novolac phenol (NP) composites. The limiting oxygen index (LOI) of ABS/HDP/NP composites is tested in this paper. The LOI value first grows with increasing ratio of HDP to NP, after reaching its maximum it decrease with further increasing ratio. The synergistic effect of HDP and NP exerted on the microstructure and the flame retardancy of ABS/HDP/NP composites are carefully analyzed by thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), cone calorimeter (CCT), scanning electron microscope (SEM) and energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS). The results of CCT show that the synergistic action of HDP and NP reduces its heat release rate and smoke production rate. The results of TGA and SEM demonstrated that the introduction of NP and HDP is conducive to the improvement of the thermal stability and the formation of the intumescent char with homogeneous cavities and holes. The EDS results indicate that the introduction of NP could help retain phosphorus in the chars. As a result, the synergistic action of HDP and NP is favorable to the enhancement of flame retardancy of ABS/HDP/NP composites. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.