Hardtack Recipe (Survival Bread)

Hardtack Recipe

This hardtack recipe is very easy to make. As you probably know, hardtack is a survival bread & historic settler food with an extremely long shelf life. If properly stored, hardtack can last for years. Hardtack has been used for centuries and was a historic mainstay for pioneers, settlers, sailors & soldiers when traveling on long journeys.

Hardtack is very simple to make and only requires flour, water and salt. It is a cheap way to create long-term survival or camping supplies. It costs only pennies to make hardtack versus paying a fortune for MREs, freeze dried camping food, etc. Making hardtack is also a fun way to show your kids what pioneers & ancient soldiers/sailors had to eat as they traveled across the country or globe.

However, please remember that hardtack is NOT a soft cracker, tender biscuit or fluffy sandwich bread. It is hard semi-bland survival food that was historically used for long hard journeys (not gourmet meals!). When eating hardtack, it should be soaked first in water, milk, soup, stew, etc. for at least 5-10 minutes in order to soften the hardtack before eating… because “hard”tack is kind of HARD. Historically, according to Wikipedia, “To soften, hardtack was often dunked in brine, coffee, or some other liquid, or cooked into a skillet meal”.

Cut Dough Into Squares

Survival Bread Recipe

Ingredients – Hardtack Recipe (Survival Bread)

  • 2 Cups – Flour (all purpose flour)
  • 3/4 Cup – Water
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons – Salt

Servings – 10-12 biscuits/crackers. For 20-25 hardtack biscuits/crackers, you just need to double each ingredient in this hardtack recipe.

  • Equipment required for this recipe – Measuring cup & spoons, mixing bowl, long wooden spoon, rolling pin, large cutting board, spatula, silicon spatula, baking sheets, oven mitts, cooling rack and an oven.

Use Chopsticks To Poke Holes In Dough

Hardtack Recipe

Instructions – Hardtack Recipe (Survival Bread)

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Mix the flour, water and salt in a bowl.
  • After mixing completely, the dough should be a little dry (and not stick to your fingers).
  • If your mix is still too sticky, you can add more flour in small increments until the dough is dry enough.
  • Use a roller to spread out the dough on a counter, large cutting board, etc. until it reaches a thickness of roughly 1/2 inch.
  • To prevent sticking to the counter or cutting board, you should spread a little flour on the surface before rolling the dough. Also spread a little flour on top of the dough to prevent the roller from sticking to the dough.
  • Cut the dough into squares (i.e. 3 inch squares). You can create square hardtack “biscuits” by cutting the dough horizontally & vertically on a large cutting board.
  • Poke narrow holes in the hardtack biscuits with a chopstick or fork. The holes should go all the way through to the other side of the hardtack. This prevents the hardtack from puffing up.
  • Place the hardtack biscuits on a baking sheet/tray.
  • Put the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Wear oven mitts.
  • Flip the hardtack over with a spatula and bake for another 30 minutes. Wear oven mitts.
  • Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Wear oven mitts. Then use a spatula to remove the hardtack from the baking sheet. Place the hardtack biscuits on a cooling rack in order to cool down.
  • When completely cooled, place the hardtack in an airtight container.

Remember To Soak Hardtack Before Eating!!!

Soften Hardtack in Soup, Stew, etc.

If you liked this recipe, please leave a comment below & give us a 5 star rating. The recipe comment section is located at the bottom of this page. Your comments help us to improve & clarify our recipe instructions. Moreover, it is ALWAYS great to hear from someone who has enjoyed our recipes!

Tips & Interesting Facts – Hardtack Recipe (Survival Bread)

  • Let me reemphasize that hardtack is NOT a soft delicious cracker!!! It was created to be a long-term survival food that was less likely to spoil on long journeys. It was not designed to be a tasty & salty snack.
  • Some hardtack recipes include ingredients such as butter or vegetable oil. While this might make the hardtack softer and more tasty, it will significantly cut down on the shelf life of the hardtack. Historic hardtack was made from just flour, water and salt (or just water & flour if salt was not available).
  • Optional – Not very historic but… you can reduce the salt by a 1/2 teaspoon and add a 1/2 teaspoon of dried herbs/spices (i.e. ground pepper, dried rosemary or Italian seasoning) to this hardtack recipe in order to make the hardtack more palatable & flavorful.
  • Optional – You can make hardtack without salt. However, it will be VERY bland. Moreover, beyond improving the taste of hardtack, salt acts as a natural preservative and helps hardtack last longer in storage.
  • Remember when eating hardtack, hardtack should be soaked first in water, milk, soup, stew, etc. for at least 5-10 minutes in order to soften the hardtack before eating. Some experts think that very dry hardtack should be soaked for at least 10-15 minutes. However, you should just continue to soak the hardtack if it is still hard when you try to eat it. After soaking the hardtack, you can eat it like a biscuit or experiment with frying it like Roman and Civil War soldiers!
  • Hardtack has been used by a wide range of armed forces over the centuries including Roman soldiers, Crusaders, British navy sailors, Civil War soldiers, etc.
  • According to Wikipedia, “Some men also turned hardtack into a mush by breaking it up with blows from their rifle butts, then adding water. If the men had a frying pan, they could cook the mush into a lumpy pancake; otherwise they dropped the mush directly on the coals of their campfire. They also mixed hardtack with brown sugar, hot water, and sometimes whiskey to create what they called a pudding, to serve as dessert”.
  • Always wear oven mitts/gloves when dealing with a hot oven and baking sheets/trays.
  • Hardtack must be completely cooled before you try to store it because the cool down helps to complete the drying process. Some people like to leave the hardtack on the cooling rack for a least a day in order to finish the drying process (in a non-humid environment).
  • Hardtack is an unleavened bread. It does not use yeast, baking soda, baking powder, etc.

 

  • To keep hardtack from going bad, it must be stored in an airtight container (in order to prevent moisture from reaching the hardtack). Proper food storage is especially important if you are using hardtack as part of your long-term survival food supplies.
  • Some people also like to use vacuum sealing for the long-term storage of dry food products (i.e. hardtack). For more information, you might like to read the Wikipedia articles on vacuum packing and food preservation.
  • Other long-term survival foods include canned food, MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), dried goods (i.e. dried beans, grain & rice), pasta, freeze dried food, etc.
  • Hardtack is also known as survival bread, survival biscuits, etc. Moreover, according to Wikipedia, it has also been called “cabin bread, pilot bread, sea biscuit, soda crackers, sea bread (as rations for sailors), ship’s biscuit, or pejoratively as dog biscuits, molar breakers, sheet iron, tooth dullers, armor plates (Germany) and worm castles”.
  • According to Wikipedia, “Interbake Foods of Richmond, Virginia, produces most, if not all, of the commercially available hardtack in the United States, under the “Sailor Boy” label. As of January 2015, 98 percent of its production goes to Alaska. Alaskans are among the last to still eat hardtack as a significant part of their normal diet. Originally imported as a food product that could endure the rigors of transportation throughout Alaska, hardtack has remained a favored food even as other, less robust foods have become more readily available”.
  • Interesting fact – According to CNBC, in 2015, a hardtack cracker from a Titanic lifeboat “sold at auction for £15,000 ($22,990)”. This hardtack cracker was “part of a survival kit that would have been found in the Titanic’s lifeboats… It was kept as a souvenir by the Fenwicks, newlyweds that were onboard the SS Carpathia that came to the rescue of Titanic survivors”.
  • If you are researching survival bread, you should also learn how to make basic homemade breads such as bread machine white bread, bread machine oatmeal breadwhite bread (oven-baked) and oatmeal bread (oven-baked). Fresh homemade bread can make a crisis (i.e. if you are trapped inside during a pandemic) more bearable for families. Our recipes are an easy way for you to make comfort foods such as homemade bread, pizza, cornbread, banana bread, etc.
  • Always wear oven mitts/gloves when dealing with bread machines & hot ovens.

If you liked this recipe, please leave a comment below & give us a 5 star rating. The recipe comment section is located at the bottom of this page. Your comments help us to improve & clarify our recipe instructions. Moreover, it is ALWAYS great to hear from someone who has enjoyed our recipes!

Reference Sources

Hardtack Recipe Questions

What does hardtack taste like?

Hardtack actually tastes pretty good because it soaks up the flavor of the liquid, stew or soup that you use in order to soften the hardtack. By itself, hardtack is a basically a VERY HARD semi-salty thick bland cracker. However, it is much better tasting (and softer) when combined with a flavorful semi-liquid meal (i.e. soup).

How can I improve the taste of hardtack?

Some people like to add butter or vegetable oil to their hardtack recipes. However, these ingredients can cause the hardtack to spoil much more quickly and shortens the hardtack shelf life significantly. I prefer to add some dried herbs such as black pepper, rosemary or Italian seasoning in order to enhance the flavor. Dried herbs can improve the taste of hardtack without having a huge impact on its long-term storage potential.

Can I buy hardtack?

You can buy hardtack from retailers such as Amazon. The most popular brand of hardtack is Sailor Boy Pilot Bread. However, it is much easier and cheaper to make your own with the hardtack recipe on this page!

Does hardtack go bad?

If hardtack is made properly (i.e. without butter) and stored correctly (i.e. in an airtight container), hardtack can last for years. However, if hardtack is stored improperly (i.e. open to moisture and insects) and made with less stable ingredients (i.e. butter or vegetable oil) added for softness and/or flavor, hardtack can spoil much more quickly.

Why is it called hardtack?

Tack was slang used by British sailors for the word “food”. Therefore, hardtack means “hard food”.

How do you eat hardtack?

There are many different ways to eat hardtack. For example, you can soften hardtack in stew or a soup and eat it like a large cracker. Or a person can crumble the hardtack into soup in order to act as a “thickener”. Another way is to soak hardtack in milk for 15 minutes and then fry it. Or you can break up the hardtack and add milk & sugar in order to make breakfast porridge. Historically, some people even make hardtack into a dessert by crumbling it and combining the hardtack with butter, brown sugar and whiskey.

Can I make hardtack without salt?

Yes. Pioneers often made hardtack without salt (because salt on the frontier was too hard to find or too expensive). However, salt has been used in hardtack for centuries. Salt acts as a natural preservative and helps hardtack to last longer in storage. In addition, salt improves the taste of hardtack (as “no salt” hardtack is extremely bland).

What is hardtack made out of?

Hardtack is made out of water, flour and salt. However, many pioneers made hardtack out of only flour and water. Salt was too hard to find or was too expensive for many pioneers. However, today when salt is cheap, it is better to add salt to a hardtack recipe because salt adds flavor and acts as a natural preservative.

Related Recipes

Hardtack Recipe
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4.95 from 38 votes

Hardtack Recipe (Survival Bread)

This hardtack recipe is very easy to make. As you probably know, hardtack is a survival bread & historic settler food with an extremely long shelf life. If properly stored, hardtack can last for years. Hardtack has been used for centuries and was a historic mainstay for pioneers, settlers, sailors & soldiers when traveling on long journeys. Visit BreadDad.com for more great homemade bread recipes.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American, European
Keyword: hardtack, hardtack recipe, survival biscuit, survival bread, survival bread recipe, survival cracker
Servings: 12 Biscuits
Calories: 76kcal
Author: Bread Dad

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Flour (all purpose flour)
  • 3/4 Cup Water
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Mix the flour, water and salt in a bowl.
  • After mixing completely, the dough should be a little dry (and not stick to your fingers).
  • If your mix is still too sticky, you can add more flour in small increments until the dough is dry enough.
  • Use a roller to spread out the dough on a counter, large cutting board, etc. until it reaches a thickness of roughly 1/2 inch.
  • To prevent sticking to the counter or cutting board, you should spread a little flour on the surface before rolling the dough. Also spread a little flour on top of the dough to prevent the roller from sticking to the dough.
  • Cut the dough into squares (i.e. 3 inch squares). You can create square hardtack “biscuits” by cutting the dough horizontally & vertically on a large cutting board.
  • Poke narrow holes in the hardtack biscuits with a chopstick or fork. The holes should go all the way through to the other side of the hardtack. This prevents the hardtack from puffing up.
  • Place the hardtack biscuits on a baking sheet/tray.
  • Put the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Wear oven mitts.
  • Flip the hardtack over with a spatula and bake for another 30 minutes. Wear oven mitts.
  • Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Wear oven mitts. Then use a spatula to remove the hardtack from the baking sheet. Place the hardtack biscuits on a cooling rack in order to cool down. 
  • When completely cooled, place the hardtack in an airtight container.

Notes

This is a Bread Dad recipe and may not be copied or reproduced. This recipe is copyright protected under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Legal Disclaimer
 
The nutritional information is provided using recipe tools such as WP Recipe Maker. These figures should only be considered as an estimate. They should not be construed as a guarantee of accuracy given visitors may use different serving sizes, ingredients, etc. See our legal disclaimer for additional nutrition disclosures.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Biscuit | Calories: 76kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 292mg | Potassium: 22mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 1mg

If you liked this recipe, please leave a comment below & give us a 5 star rating. Your comments really help us to improve & clarify our recipe instructions. Beginning bakers also learn a lot from your baking suggestions, ideas & recipe variations. Moreover, it is ALWAYS great to hear from someone who has enjoyed our recipes!!!

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