How to Make Hardtack (The Best Recipe & Tips)

In this article, I will teach you exactly how to make hardtack.

I have gotten the question, “how do you make hardtack,” hundreds of times from others. So, here is how to make hardtack.

Hardtack is a simple, low-calorie cracker, survival rations, made from flour, salt, and water. The most significant part about it is that if you hardtack properly, it can last for over 100 years.

There is hardtack from the mid-1800s in museums today. Hardtack also has no trouble withstanding heat as well.

Hardtack was once used on sea voyages because of how inexpensive it was. It was named pilot bread, cabin bread, ship biscuit, and sea bread.

It was also carried by soldiers during long military missions and was referred to as tooth dullers, even though it is reasonably nutritious.

I know that does not sound good, but trust me, it’s better than nothing. This cracker also goes very well with coffee, soup, or fried with other foods.

If you want the cracker softer and tasting better, you could add sugar, milk, or butter, but that could cut down half the cracker’s shelf life.

In a single serving of hardtack(9-10 pieces), you can expect about 100 calories, a small amount of fat, a fair amount of sodium, some potassium, and a healthy mix of essential vitamins. 

Let’s dive right in.

What you need to make hardtack

  1. A knife that is at least 3 inches long.
  2. A cookie sheet
  3. 1.5 cups of water
  4. A mixing bowl
  5. 3 cups of white flour
  6. 2 teaspoons of salt(optional)
  7. A common nail
  8. 9 teaspoons of Natural Yeast(optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit

You have to do this to save time later, so I recommend you preheat your oven to 375° Fahrenheit. This will optimize your time more efficiently.

2. Insert 3 cups of white flour with 1.5 cups of water(2 teaspoons of salt and 9 teaspoons of Natural Yeast) into the mixing bowl

Now, all you have to do is add your 3 cups of white flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, and maybe 9 teaspoons of Natural Yeast.

 Be sure to mix in those ingredients thoroughly. After that, mix in 1.5 cups of water into the ingredients. If you did add the salt, then 2 cups of water, and if you added the Yeast, about 3 cups of water.

how to make hardtack step 1

Courtesy of IslanderHero

3. Steadily add water and mix the ingredients with your hand until dough forms

Next, with clean hands, mix the ingredients by pressing and balling them repeatedly. This could take a couple of minutes.

how to make hardtack step 2

Courtesy of IslanderHero

4. Roll out the dough until it is 1/3 an inch thick

Now, use your rolling pin to roll your dough out by rolling back and forth to get a nice flat piece of dough.

I would go as far as to say that you should roll it 1/4 of an inch thick. However, if you roll it out to 1/2 inch, that should be fine.

how to make hardtack step 3

Courtesy of IslanderHero

5. Cut the dough into even edges(knife works too)

6. Cut the dough once more, into 6-9 different separate slices

Ideally, the pieces should go two to three inches long and wide.

how to make hardtack step 5

Courtesy of IslanderHero

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7. Using the nails, poke 9-25 holes

This step is to ensure that the pieces stay even while in the oven. You don’t want to poke all the way through, but it is okay if you do. 

Ideally, you would want to make a dent that pierces at least halfway through.

how to make hardtack step 7

Courtesy of IslanderHero

8. Bake the hardtack for 30 minutes

Since you already pre-heated your oven and saved all that time, you can now bake it for around 30-45 minutes. Once the crackers are a tan brown, it is ready.

how to make hardtack step 8

Courtesy of IslanderHero

9. Turn the squares and bake them for another 30 minutes

10. Let it cool, and you have hardtack!

So, now we get to how actually to store these hardtack crackers. I personally use a ziplock bag; any small bag that can seal air inside tight will be just fine. 

I recommend you save some in your bugout, or hiking bag, and car.

So, now, how do you actually eat the cracker? You probably realized that it is stiff and dry, which is precisely what makes it last so long. 

I personally dip mine in my morning coffee, but there are other ways to eat this. 

You can fry it in animal fat, crumble it into a stew or soup, or cover it in gravy, or if you’re like my kids, you’ll cover it in applesauce or syrup. All those options are just fine.

Don’t remember to keep them in a dark, dry environment, without any oxygen. A great option is to put it in an airtight container, but ziplock or Tupperware will do in a pinch.

History of Hardtack

Now that we have covered how to make hardtack let’s dive into the deep history of hardtack.

Hardtack goes back thousands of years when processed cereals were introduced and became a more reliable food source.

Sailors from Egypt ate an older version of hardtack and called it Dhourra cake, and the Romans also had an older version of hardtack, and they called it Bucellatum.

Throughout history, people like King Richard I of England ate an older version of hardtack (mixed grain, bean flour, rye.)

Eating hardtack was considered good for one’s health because food like hardtack helps with digestion.

Soon enough, people started to notice that hardtack would soften under humidity and unwanted weather, so they made it as hard as possible to ensure that it won’t soften as much in those conditions.

Hartack soon became one of the main foods for long voyages and was kept by all sorts of travelers.

Hardtack was eventually made so hard that the only way to consume them was to dunk them into the brine, coffee, or soups.

In the 1700s, New England used Hardtack as a thickener for their seafood chowders because they ground and pounded the hardtack into a fine powder.

In the 1800s, hardtack started gaining popularity in the US and became the main food source of gold prospectors.

Soon enough, this was a major food source in the American Civil War. Soldiers joked about their food’s poor quality and even made songs such as Hard Tack Come Again No More.

As insect infestation became more common in the war, soldiers broke their hardtack up into small pieces and dropped it into their coffee. Usually, after they dropped the pieces into their coffee, the insects would float right up and could be picked off.

Hardtack also became a dessert for the soldiers because they had a recipe that added brown sugar, hot water, and whiskey.

Closing in on the late 1800s, the British Royal Navy also included hardtack into their rations.

Now, hardtack is used by preppers, travelers(sailors, backpackers), and many more as one of the best survival rations.

Final Thoughts

I hope you learned how to make hardtack! I hope you enjoy this traditional hardtack recipe and the extra tips and information I provided!

Check out how to make pemmican, an extremely nutritious prepper food that can last over 50 years. Here is also a complete survival food list, with all the best prepper foods.

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Now, I’d like to hear your thoughts:

Did anything in the recipe surprise you?

Do you have another Hardtack recipe you’d like to share?

Or maybe something else you eat your hardtack with!

Either way, let me know it the comments below right now.

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