Hardtack- The Best Thing Before Sliced Bread

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The beginnings of hardtack go all the way back to the 1100’s. It was and is still is known by a variety of names, such as- pilot bread, sea bread, ship biscuit or cabin bread. Sailors used the bread because it would stay good during long sea voyages. Civil war soldiers carried hardtack with them as part of their food ration. Today, it is a standard staple for those who live in Alaska. In the mainland, it is rare to find it in grocery stores. You can order it online here.

Aside from the very long shelf life, hardtack can be used in a variety of ways. Coffee was often used in the past to soak the hardtack in. It can also be crumbled into bacon or sausage grease and fried. Learn more about hardtack and the benefits of adding them to your pantry. Watch this informative video! Below is the basic recipe for hardtack, along with some alternatives to hardtack.

Hard tack

The basic recipe is-

  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 3 cups of white flour (do not use self-rising)

What you will need-

  • 1 Cookie sheet
  • Mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife
  • A skewer or clean nail

Preheat oven to 375°. Mix flour and salt in a bowl together. Slowly mix in the water until you can form the dough into a ball that doesn’t stick on your hands. You may or may not use all of the water. Roll out the dough into the shape of a square, no more than ½ inch thick. Cut the square of dough into 9 pieces. With a skewer or nail, make a grid of 4×4 holes in each square. Bake for 30 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flip the squares over and bake for another 30 minutes. Each square is approximately 167 calories. The hardtack squares should be a bit brown on each side when they are finished. Ovens vary, so keep a close eye on them until you know how they bake in your oven. It may be necessary for you to adjust the baking time. When the hardtack has cooled off, they will be hard.

The hardtack will last for many years. It is recommended that it be stored in a Ziploc type bag to protect it from moisture. Hardtack contains enough carbohydrates to provide energy and can provide food in an emergency. Hardtack can be dipped in a warm drink or soaked in a bowl of soup. It can also be crushed into small pieces and mixed with other foods you may prepare.

If you’re planning on storing it for months, or longer, I recommend using a food vacuum storing system, and the one I use is a Food Saver, like this one. I’ve found that it’s versatile enough to vacuum seal canning jars and different size plastic bags. (If you haven’t heard of vacuum sealing canning jars, this video demonstrates the simple technique.)

Soft Tack

If you prefer your hardtack not so hard, you can try the recipe below. Just remember, that this recipe will not provide the same shelf life of regular hardtack.

Soft Hardtack

  • 2 cup of water
  • 4 teaspoons of salt
  • 4 cups of white flour (do not use self-rising)
  • 2 tablespoons of shortening, cold butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 375°. Mix flour and salt in a bowl together. Crumble shortening (or other fat) into bowl, add water. Slowly mix until you can form the dough into a ball that doesn’t stick on your hands. Press or roll out the dough into the shape of a square, no more than ½ inch thick. Cut 3×3 inch squares. With a skewer or nail, make a grid of 4×4 holes in each square. Bake for 30 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Remove and allow time for cooling. This can be stored in a Ziploc bag, preferably in the fridge.

Fried Tack

Chose one of the above recipes for your ingredients.

  • Mix water, salt and melted fat into a bowl.
  • Add flour slowly until you are able to form dough, without it sticking to your hands.

Take the desired amount of dough, roll and flatten in your hand. Fry the flattened dough at a low temperature in olive oil, preferably. You may need to increase the temperature, depending on your stove. Flip until golden brown and place on a paper towel lined plate. You can sprinkle it with powdered sugar or drizzle with honey if desired. Store in a Ziploc bag or airtight container.

TIPS: You can soak hardtack overnight in water and use for waffles the next morning. Fry them in a pan with a little bit of butter.

Sugar and/or cinnamon can be added to hardtack dough to give it a tasty sweetness. This will decrease it’s longevity.

To give broth a more soup consistency, hardtack can be shaved or crushed and added to broth. If you know how to make soup from scratch and without a recipe as described in this article, then you’re well on your way to having the skills to make well-rounded meals under duress.

If you have tooth problems, fragile teeth, crowns or braces, don’t eat hardtack.

Spend some time this summer and experiment with some hardtack recipes. The recipe is easy enough to include kids in the making process. Poking dough is usually what they enjoy the most! Have fun with it. Involve your family and find different ways to incorporate hardtack in your storage and also in some of your meals.







17 thoughts on “Hardtack- The Best Thing Before Sliced Bread”

  1. You could also make damper.

    Damper Recipe**
    Basic Damper is what we had when travelling with out refrigeration. Ingredients: (Captain Kalgan HOT tip, to make Basic Damper a lot richer check out the secret indgredient button above.)

    2 cups of Self-Raising flour
    ½ Teaspoon of Salt
    2 Teaspoons of Sugar
    ¾ Cup of Water
    Recipe for Australian Billy Tea Add all the dry ingredients together and mix then whisk in the water and kneed by hand. Up to a 100 Kneads. = Knead mixing by hand [Squeezing] If the mixture is sticky add a little more flour, the dough should hold together well without breaking up. Cook in a preheated oven at 160d for 35 to 45 minutes or until Golden Brown. Serve hot with butter. See Campfire Damper for other cooking methods.
    Or you can wrap around a twig and cook over a open fire.
    This very yummy. With golden syrup.

    1. Damper secret ingredient? No link. Also: Australian Billy Tea? no recipe, either. 160 degrees? is this F or C? F, please?
      Thank you deborah.

  2. I don’t understand the long term storage discussion.

    For long term storage why not simple store the unground whole wheat to better preserve the nutrients?

  3. Articles for simple recipes like this are great. There’s too many people who store staple food items but haven’t ever taken the time to look at how to use them. They’re in for a pretty steep learning curve in the event of a collapse!

    I pinned this over on Pinterest but I figured I’d stop by and leave a comment too. Keep up the good work!

  4. “With a skewer or nail, make a grid of 4×4 holds in each square.”

    What does this mean?? What are holds and what are they used for?

    1. It means to poke at least four equally spaced holes in the dough before baking. This will allow it to bake flat and dry. You could also use the tines of a fork or point of a knife, rather than a skewer or nail.

      Hope that helps.

    2. Like saltine crackers I presume. Makes it dry out during cooking so you have a nice dry biscuit and the holes also allow easier breaking up or biting while on the go. A lot of “dry” baked goods are made this way. Short bread is basically the same thing but with more mutter and sugar.
      The holes make sense that way. Hope this helps:)

  5. Pingback: Survival Foods: How to Make Hardtack | TheGearHunt

  6. Thanks. …I am interested in recipe’s that don’t include store bought items.Like a smart prepper they realize there might not be a grocery store open.

  7. If hard tack is such a great survival food; why isn’t someone selling it on line?
    If they served it in a jail; they’d have riots within hours.

  8. Hard tack made using this recipe has not been ate in over200 years. Why would anyone want to eat it now? few people now a days know what it is. Let alone how to make it edible. New forms of survival breads are available. So why make Hardtack?

    1. The Survival Mom

      It’s just a way of making a simple food that stores well. Most people who stock up will have these ingredients.

    2. People still eat it today. They take it on every guided long trek I have been on, just in case! But it is super handy to have around in a variety of situations. Not only for what if’s but cool nostalgia home cooking. My kids love playing little house on the prairie when they were kids! I taught them all kinds of survival things!!

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