Hardtack Recipe (Survival Bread)

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Hardtack is an old and enduring recipe made with simple ingredients. True to its name, it’s essentially a loaf composed of a cookie-like substance that, while very plain and lacking in taste, has sustained pioneers, settlers, sailors, and soldiers on long voyages for centuries. Its lightweight and long-lasting characteristics make hardtack an excellent trail food, capable of providing energy and staving off hunger during periods of scarcity.

Initially, authentic hardtack was a staple food aboard sailing vessels and military campaigns in the 19th century. It was essentially unleavened bread that was easy to make, kept for long periods, and could be eaten without further preparation. And because it is very simple to make and only requires types of flour, water, and salt, hardtack was an inexpensive option. In fact, if fresh ingredients needed to be added to keep it fresh or improve the taste, they were added, such as pork lard, vegetable oil, butter, caraway seeds, and sugar. It is said American soldiers often would eat hardtack for an entire day when the daily ration they were given only had enough food for a few hours.

Traditional Hardtack Recipe

If you want to re-create this recipe and re-live a part of history, you’ll need to follow a few simple steps. Understanding and appreciating your pioneer ancestors will certainly be an eye-opening experience that could bring you closer to them than before. It will also serve you in your solo backpacking and bugging out endeavors, greatly reducing the amount of weight you carry.

How to Make Hardtack - 5 Important Steps

Enlisted are five steps you’ll want to consider for making this concoction. Although in practice, is it simple, you want to make sure you do it right to prevent spoilage.

1. Mix White Flour, Water & Salt

The first obvious step is to first gather your dry ingredients. To make hardtack, you will need refined all-purpose white flour (or wheat flour) with no additives or enrichments, water, and salt. The refined flour or bread flour will bring a better texture to your hardtack. Before you begin, you will also need to determine the amount you will cook. This should be based on the amount you will be consuming.

The next step is to mix the ingredients. Begin by mixing the cups flour, salt, water, and any additional ingredients. Two cups of flour with 3/4 cup of water and 11/2 teaspoons salt is what is usually used in a batch of hardtack. It’s important to mix the ingredients thoroughly so that all the flour is worked into the dough.

2. Knead and Rest Dough

The next step is to knead the dough that you have just made. This is a good way to make sure the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together before being used to make your hardtack. You will need to knead the dough with a firm hand for 5-10 minutes. Once kneaded, roll it out flat and cut into 3 inch squares approximately 3 inches x 3 inches x 3 inches size. These pieces will then need to be placed on a baking sheet. To prevent any sticking, you can even use a bit of flour along the side and bottom of the container. This should not only help with sticking but also help remove excess moisture from the dough.

3. Poke the Holes

The holes in the dough help initiate the process called ‘docking,’ which helps ensure the cracker bakes evenly and prevents it from rising like bread. This was traditionally accomplished with bulky, menacing hand tools, until Civil War times, in which more efficient mechanical tools took over the process. Poking holes in the dough assist in evaporating excess moisture that can otherwise ruin the dough. This will give you softer bread once it’s been baked, making it more appetizing. 9 to 12 holes should be made across and 3 inches apart. A toothpick works great for this.

4. Bake to Perfection

To bake the rough-cut hardtack, you will need to:

  1. Heat the oven to 350⁰
  2. Place hardtack in the oven on a cookie sheet, uncovered for 2 1/2-3 hours
  3. Remove from oven once the loaf has dried and the sides have tightened
  4. Once the loaf has cooled, you can store it in an airtight container for future use

The smaller pieces may be cooked for an additional 25-30 minutes. This makes them crispy and tough, which is how hardtack is intended to be. You may want to experiment with this step because you can tailor your hardtack to any texture you want. Either way, once this is complete, the hardtack is done and ready to eat.

5. Let It Cool and Enjoy

The hardtack is ready to eat as is, but make sure it’s well soaked in soup, milk, stew, or even water for approximately 5 to 10 minutes for the best taste and experience.

When hardtack is made properly and stored properly, it can be stored for 1 to 2 years without spoiling. It’s important to know how to keep your food fresh and prevent spoilage.

Hardtack will make a good trail food if you add additional ingredients to it. In fact, it can be mixed and baked prior to you embarking on your adventure. Then, once you’re on the trail and when you need your stomach to be filled, simply add a bit of honey or nut butter to give it some nutritional muscle and flavor to get your stomach to growl. Your hardtack can be packed flat, giving you a nice amount of room to pack all your survival gear.


After you have tasted and even prepared the hardtack biscuits, you’ll have a new appreciation for your ancestors. Some of the items they depended on each day were far more satisfying to eat than we might realize now. So, if you want to taste a piece of history, keep this recipe. Although hardtack isn’t a delicacy, it can keep you alive. Just remember to consume some other foods along with it, like chicken or cold cuts in the soup. Remember, having a balanced diet is essential to a long and healthy life, and I hope this guide has helped you.


Yes, in fact, they’re easy to find. In fact, there are even people that make hardtack to sell at local farmers’ markets. However, if you want to develop a true taste for it and know exactly what a hardtack tastes like without having to make it yourself, you may want to give it a try.

This is a great choice for survival food. Since it lasts for years, it’s definitely an item you can afford to carry in your emergency backpack. If you decide to include hardtack, you will have to make sure you have other foods available. If hardtack has been included in your survival food storage, but the disaster intervenes, you will need to store it properly to make sure it doesn’t spoil. The best practice would be to add moisture-reducing packets until you need them.

Hardtack can be consumed and lived off of for more than 3 months at a time. It was consumed by sailors on sea voyages, soldiers at war, and migrations of people from one country to another.

After you make Hardtack, don’t try to bite into it. Dip your Hardtack in some liquid and allow it to soften before you eat it. Or you can even do what our ancestors did. You can break it up into small size pieces with a hammer or other heavy instrument, mix it with water, and cook it to make a porridge. You can even mix in a bit of brown sugar for a sweet treat! Or combine with pork fat or another meat source for a more hardy meal.

When it comes to storing Hardtack, the secret is to keep them dry and away from bugs.