Jan 28

Hardtack: step by step instructions

Hardtack:  The survival food cleverly disguised as a brick, wheel chock, or overly thick bathroom tile.  Whenever I think of hardtack images come to mind of a sailor gnawing away on a piece 500 years ago in the middle of the ocean, or more recently a Civil War era Infantryman chewing on a piece while on a 100 mile foot march.  Either way hardtack is just as relevant today as it was back then, maybe not as a daily meal but certainly as a survival food.  Thankfully hardtack is very easy to make and equally easy to prepare (if you are into that type of thing).  What follows are some simple steps I followed to make a batch of hardtack, followed by my preparation technique.  I should note here that I did cut a few corners, instead of grinding up my own wheat I bought a bag of whole wheat flour.

Recipe:  I got my simple recipe from Kenanderson.net.

– 4 cups of whole wheat flour
– 4 teaspoons of salt
– 2 cups of water

Hardtack Ingredients

Mix the flour and salt together, add enough water so that the mixture will stick together but not your hands or the pan.  I added the water slowly until this consistency was achieved.

Hardtack Dough

Roll the dough out onto your counter using a rolling pan or simply with your hands (as I did).  The dough should be about 1/2 inch thick once this is complete.  Cut into squares and poke holes into each piece of dough making sure not to poke all the way through.  Flip the pieces and poke holes on the other side, once complete they should resemble fat saltine crackers.

Hardtack Dough 2

Place your hardtack onto a non-greased cookie sheet and stick it into the oven at 375 degrees, after 30 minutes flip your hardtack and bake for an additional 30 minutes.  What comes out will be very brick like in nature.  You could probably kill a small animal by hitting it in the head with one of these things.

Hardtack Cooked

If you were on the move an absolutely had to consume your hardtack in this state I guess you could, but you would need a full canteen of water to accompany each piece.  I decided to soak my hardtack in a saucer of water (you can use milk) for a few minutes on each side and then toss it into a pan to fry.  You can grease the pan with butter, oil, bacon fat or some other sort of artery clogging agent.  I fried my hardtack for about 3 minutes on each side.

Hardtack Frying

I have to be completely honest when I tell you that the finished product actually wasn’t that bad at all.  One small piece would most definitely be enough to fill me up for a few hours and the flavorful crispy exterior combined with the soft(ish) center took my mind off of the fact that I had to chew and chew and chew to get this stuff to go down.  Hey, it’s a survival food I guess I shouldn’t complain right?  I suggest whipping up your own batch just to see what it’s all about, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by your results.


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  1. Someoldguy

    Love KA flour, use it to make my bread for the week. Gonna have to try this hardtack recipe, thanks.

  2. PJ

    No problem, let me know how it turns out.

  3. ohio sky knife

    Reminds me of what the elf-bread must have been like that Frodo ate in lord of the rings —- for the ENTIRE series….

    Cool way of testing stuff out – how long will the hardtack keep without spoiling?

    1. PJ

      I think shelf life would depend on what exactly you use in the recipe and how you stored it (sealed in the basement versus in a paper bag out in the shed). I would think it should be good for at least a year, maybe more.

      1. MC

        Kinda curious as to what the shelf life would be? Sounds lightweight and easy to pack.

        1. PJ

          Sealed in an air tight device I’d have to believe hard tack should be good for a year or two. I searched a bit online can find no definitive answer however…

      2. Dave Strzok

        While reading a Scandinavian children picture book for children, I saw circular disks hanging from a string near the top of the ceiling. With a little research, I learned that this is how they hung their supply of hardtack. High and dry and convenient.

        I think the aspiring survivalist would learn a great deal figuring out how our ancestors made and stored everyday food. There HAS TO BE a frugal component in the self-reliance effort. And there has to be a learn-from-our- ancestors component in our awareness.

        1. PJ


          Agreed on that comment. Thanks for your post.

  4. ohio sky knife

    I can’t wait to try this! Hands-on survival fun (though I know it probably won’t be the most appetizing thing I’ve ever made!).

    1. PJ

      It actually wasn’t that bad (taste), and like you said it’s hands on fun that you can do from the comfort of your climate controlled kitchen!


  5. Kate

    A tasty similar long-keeping bread product is Norwegian flatbrød. It was usually made up to one year in advance but can last for years, even in a damp climate. You can buy it so you know what is should taste like and look like. See http://mylittlenorway.com/2012/11/norwegian-flatbread/ for a recipe with pictures.

    1. PJ

      Very cool Kate, thanks for the tip and the link.


  6. Yum Yucky

    Hmm…. I wonder how the shelf life would fare if I added a bit of protein powder to the mix. Just found your site today via your article on BeforeItsNews. thanks! 😉

    1. PJ

      Give it a shot and let us know how it worked out. No harm in adding protein powder or anything else you might come up with, the recipe is yours to modify as you see fit!



  7. Laurie

    i read somewhere that cinnamon can be added to it….hmmm…i wonder how garlic or onion powder would work/taste??

    1. PJ


      I would imagine adding garlic or onion powder would only serve to enhance the flavor. Give it a shot and let us know how it turns out.


  8. Louise

    I can remember my sister had a boyfriend in the army around 40 years ago. He bought large tins home of biscuits (which after reading your instructions I now know was Hardtack.) We had it for years in the garage and used it for dog treats. I can remember gnawing on the biscuits and vowing never to join the army if that is what they got fed.

    Thank you for an interesting blog and a trip down memory lane.

    1. PJ


      Thanks for sharing your story about hardtack, glad to see in a worst case scenario they can be used as dog treats. 🙂


  9. JM

    Well crap, I guess I’m going to make some hardtack. You all have spurred my interest.

  10. junipers

    Great info! Am going to try adding cranraisens in my batch and see how that works out. I always cut up the cranraisens into small pcs because they will get rather large when mixed with water. I liked all of the comments on how others are going to add ingredients to your receipe and I hope they will let us know how they turned out. Have a can of “sea biscuits” in my BOB. Haven’t tried one yet…but I’m guessing since it’s used by the Navy, they are pretty much the same as hard tack. (don’t bite into these with your front teeth!) Thank you for sharing your info with all of this. Way cool!

    1. PJ


      You make a great point which I should have added, no NOT bite into these with your front teeth! I sliced mine into small pieces with a knife and ate it that way, no way you can bite into a piece of hardtack as if it were an apple.

  11. sgslammer

    You could always put garlic powder, tumeric, onion powder, basil (etc) for a bit of flavor and some nutrition. These herbs are powerful immune boosters and are also tasty. They should not affect the storage life but might make an otherwise bland survival food a bit more palatable.

    1. PJ


      It seems like the recipe modifications are endless, thanks for adding (no pun intended) your suggestions.

  12. Sigurd

    Question: Any idea what the shelf-life is – maybe vacuum-sealed vs. Not?

    1. PJ

      I would think just placed in a standard zip lock baggie they should be good for at least 6 months, maybe more. The consistency is such that I don’t see how they could be compromised if the elements were not a factor.

  13. Thomas Bolman

    Hardtack is used in the original clam chowder recipe. You can use it in any chowders as the thickening agent. That is an old SEA MEN’S trick.

  14. Lyndy

    Hardtack can lay 50 to 100 years.

  15. 2012Viking

    Hardtack, without any added ingredients, will last longer than any of us. The Minnesota Historical Society has a piece of hardtack in their museum that was made during the civil war and still looks edible, see the video on you tube https://youtu.be/SGudU3VK9OA

    1. PJ

      Awesome. Hardtack doesn’t taste like steak but it will do the job.

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