How to Make Hardtack (Hard Tack Recipe Variations)

Many newbie trekkers and campers make the mistake of packing everyday snacks with them instead of nutritious and healthy foods. 

They are unaware of their choices and often complain about not having enough nutritious, healthy, and caloric-dense options. 

I have a solution for them that is free of preservatives and easy to make – hardtack. 

In this article, I am sharing how to make hardtack, the best recipe, and tips. 

Let’s dig in!

Hardtack is a simple, low-calorie cracker, survival ration, made from flour, salt, and water. If you make hardtack properly, hard tack can have a shelf life of 100+ years!

It is so hardy that museums today have hardtack from the mid-1800s. Amazing, isn’t it?

Hardtack is inexpensive to make, easy to store, and long-lasting, making it a popular food source during long trips.

In the past, soldiers carried it during long military missions, and it was named pilot bread, cabin bread, ship biscuit, and sea bread.

If you want softer crackers, you could add sugar, milk, or butter; however, it will significantly decrease 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. 

What you need to make hardtack?

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of water
  • 3 cups of white flour
  • 2 teaspoons of salt (as per taste)

Other utensils and tools

  • A mixing bowl
  • A cookie sheet
  • A fork or any pointy object
  • A knife that is at least 3 inches long

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 375° Fahrenheit

Set your oven to preheat to 375° Fahrenheit to optimize your time and process. This way, your oven will preheat as you prepare the mixture. 

2. Mix dry ingredients

Add your dry ingredients into a mixing bowl: 3 cups of white flour and 2 teaspoons of salt.

Be sure to mix those ingredients thoroughly. 

how to make hardtack step 1

Courtesy of IslanderHero

3. Steadily add water to dry mix until dough forms

Next, add 1.5 cups of water to the ingredients and mix it well. With clean hands, mix the ingredients by pressing and balling them repeatedly until a dough forms.

how to make hardtack step 2

Courtesy of IslanderHero

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

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

Roll it around ¼ of an inch thick. 

how to make hardtack step 3

Courtesy of IslanderHero

5. Cut the dough into squares using a knife

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

how to make hardtack step 5

Courtesy of IslanderHero

6. Poke 9-25 holes in the dough

Using a fork or other pointy object, poke 9-25 holes in the dough. This step ensures that the pieces stay even in the oven. 

You don’t want to poke all the way through.

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

how to make hardtack step 7

Courtesy of IslanderHero

7. Bake the hardtack for 30 minutes

Bake the hardtack in your preheated oven for around 30-45 minutes. Once the hardtack crackers are a tan brown, flip them to cook them on the other side.

how to make hardtack step 8

Courtesy of IslanderHero

8. Let it cool, and then enjoy!

Once your hardtack is cooked and cooled, you can enjoy them with tea or coffee. I dip mine in my morning coffee, but there are other ways to eat this. 

For example, you can fry it in animal fat, crumble it into a stew or soup, or cover it in gravy. 

And, if you are feeling adventurous, you can eat them by dipping them in applesauce or syrup. All those options are perfect.

Hardtack crackers can be stored for an extended period if stored properly. Any container or bag with a seal is a good option: I like to use a ziplock bag.

I recommend you store some in your hiking bag and car for eating later.

Can You Add Sugar to Hardtack - Sweet Hard Reicipe

Yes, you can add sugar to hardtack – this is to make Swedish Hardtack.

Adding sugar will flavor your hardtacks but will decrease the shelf life of the hardtacks.

Adding honey is an alternative that will not substantially decrease hardtacks’ shelf life.

You can add a few teaspoons of honey to add a sweet touch.

How to Make Soft Hardtack

To make soft hardtack, you’ll need some different ingredients. The ones I use include:

  • Oat flour
  • Applesauce
  • (optional) Honey

The following steps are similar to the method of making the regular hardtack. 

Instead of an oven, it’s typically best to use a dehydrator. But, if you don’t have that available, set your oven to the lowest possible setting.

Does Hardtack Taste Good?

Without any additional flavoring, hardtack is quite bland. But, anything tastes good when you’re hungry, so it makes good emergency food.

History of Hardtack

While we are on the subject of making hardtack, I want to share with you some interesting facts and the history of the cracker. 

The history of hardtack goes back thousands of years, way before the time of processed cereals. 

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

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

Hardtack crackers were a popular food choice because it’s full of fibers and helps with digestion.

Soon enough, people noticed that hardtack would soften under humidity. So to avoid that, they made it as dry as possible to ensure it won’t soften in humid conditions.

Hardtack soon became one of the main foods for long voyages and was kept as an essential food item by many travelers.

With time, hardtack became so hard and dry that the only way to consume it was to dunk it 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 primary 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.

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 and will give this recipe a try.

Enjoy this 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. Also, here is a complete survival food list, with all the best prepper foods.

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2 thoughts on “How to Make Hardtack (Hard Tack Recipe Variations)”

  1. Hardtack doesnt sound very nutritious. Is it? I’d like to hear more! I had no idea that white flower could be nutritious, please explain

    Reply

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