Hardtack – A Simple Recipe for One of the Best Survival Foods



Hardtack – A Simple Survival Food

Hardtack (also known as hard tack, hard-tack, ship’s biscuit, and sea bread) is a simple, inexpensive, cracker or biscuit that’s primarily made from flour, water, and salt. It was originally used during long sea voyages, overland travel, and military campaigns where perishable foods would spoil. Hardtack is still a staple food in some parts of Canada where it’s produced commercially. In America, hardtack is most famous for its extensive by both sides in the Civil War.

Hardtack has had a whole host of horrible names in the past but this simple survival food opened the door for worldwide exploration and massive military campaigns.

In this article, we’re primarily going to focus on how to make . If you like history, you should take a couple minutes to read more about hardtack as it’s really interesting.

Interested in other easy to make survival foods? Check out our article on How to Make Pemmican!

How to Make Hardtack

How to Make Hardtack

In order to make hardtack that can last for years, follow these simple instructions.

You can add more ingredients to make your hardtack taste better, but just keep in mind that they will reduce the shelf life. Sugar, fats, and spices have all been added as a way to make hardtack taste better.

Our first recipe for hardtack will have the longest shelf life and is the best for long-term storage. The other recipes will taste better but will have shortened storage lives. They’re best made for shorter outings.

Keep your hardtack dry in order to preserve its shelf life.

Traditional Hardtack Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Steps to Traditional Make Hardtack

The steps to make hardtack are very simple.

  1. Mix all ingredients until you have a stiff dough.
  2. Start with 1/2 cup of water and only add more if needed to complete your dough.
  3. Spread out on a baking sheet to roughly 1/4 inch.
  4. Poke holes in your rolled out dough and cut into roughly 3″ squares.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees.
  6. Cook for 1-hour checking to make sure they do not burn.
  7. Remove them from the oven, flip over and cook for another 30 minutes.

The hardtack is complete when it is brown (not burned) on both sides and rock hard. If your hardtack isn’t hard enough you can place it back in the oven until it is appropriately hard.

Store the completed hardtack in an airtight container for best results.


Alternate “Pioneer” Hardtack Recipe

This version of hardtack was used primarily by American settlers moving from the East into the Western plains. It requires more ingredients but is just as simple to make.

“Pioneer” Hardtack Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour (any type of flour can work)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 cups buttermilk, cream, or yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

How to Make “Pioneer” Hardtack

  1. Mix all ingredients until you have a stiff dough.
  2. Roll the dough into a ball and sprinkle with flour.
  3. Roll out the dough as thin as you can. Once it is rolled out you can sprinkle it with salt to add flavor.
  4. Poke holes in your rolled out dough and cut into roughly 3″ squares.
  5. Place the dough onto a greased cookie sheet and cook until the edges are brown.
  6. Flip over and put the hardtack back into the oven until it is dry and lightly browned across the top.

Coll your fully cooked hardtack on a cooling rack and store in an airtight container.

Packaged Hardtack

Confederate Soldier Style Hardtack

This Confederate Soldier Hardtack recipe is rumored to have been made by Southern soldiers during the Civil War.

Confederate Soldier Style Hardtack Ingredients

  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • butter for taste

How to Make Confederate Soldier Style Hardtack

  1. Mix all ingredients until you have a stiff dough.
  2. Roll the dough into 8 evenly sized balls and flatten to roughly 1/4 inch.
  3. Bake the dough at 350 degrees on a greased cookie sheet until they turn golden brown.

For a longer shelf life, flip the hardtack and bake until the top is evenly browned. This style of hardtack is going to have the shortest shelf life but it also tastes the best.

Hardtack Serving Suggestions

Hardtack was often ground up and added to soups and stews as a thickener. This makes the hardtack more palatable for some people.

Almost any kind of spread that you would normally put on bread goes well on hardtack. Peanut butter,  jellies and jams, honey, and applesauce are all commonly spread on hardtack.

If you’ve made an especially hard batch (typically good for very long-term storage) then softening the hardtack in water or coffee is recommended so it’s easier to chew and not as hard on the teeth.


Hardtack gets it’s long shelf life by not containing ingredients that spoil and containing as little water as possible. As you add ingredients or make softer hardtack, you’re going to drastically decrease this shelf life.

These are by no means the only hardtack recipes out there. Experiment with what you have and see what you can come up with. In fact, you can make hardtack by simply mixing water and flour together! It may not taste good but it has calories and stores for a long time.

Do you have experience making hardtack that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

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