How to Make Hardtack: Simple 3 Ingredient Survival Bread Recipe

Imagine if your food supply was cut off indefinitely. Would you have the knowledge and/or resources to keep you and your closest fed for as long as necessary? In this post, we’ll go through a super simple survival bread recipe called hardtack that will last a very long time without spoiling. Ok, so hardtack isn’t exactly a 5 course meal with all the trimmings but it can definitely keep the tummy full and morale up. So let’s dive in to the method of creating this extremely inexpensive foolproof food item thats also great to add onto your bug out bag list! Prepping 101 right here…

What Is Hardtack?

old war ship where rations were issued including hardtack

Hardtack is a hard bread or some would even call it a biscuit or cracker due to its texture. It’s 3 ingredient nature makes it very cheap and simple to make, bake and store. So simple that its history dates back to the times where soldiers, sailors and establishing colonies would spend a lot of their lives out at sea or in the field. Whilst serving or sailing, they needed rations for the crews that could be made in bulk and that could also last for long periods of time without spoiling.

In fact, in 1588, the British Royal Navy provided each sailor 1 lb. of hardtack biscuits and a gallon of beer PER DAY! Ahh take me back! Check out their rations here. What a time to be alive!

Hardtack was purposefully created almost rock hard so it would survive long voyages without becoming inedible. It was baked 4 times and often prepared 6 months in advance to make sure it would last. The crews would dunk the crackers in coffee, beer or any other kind of liquid to soften them up. It was also used as a thickener onboard when crumbled into a fine powder. Many variants of the biscuit can still be purchased in local supermarkets today. But we’re going one step better and making our own so let’s begin.

How to Make Hardtack

As mentioned, this hardtack recipe is super simple to make and consists of minimal ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups flour (+ a little extra for backup)

(it’s up to you which type you use, I’ve had great results with whole wheat, rye and gluten free)

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Equipment:

  • A large mixing bowl
  • A Rolling pin (or anything you can find to flatten the mixture)
  • Cookie sheet/baking paper

Method:

1. Mixing the Hardtack Ingredients

Step 1: Mix flour and salt in large mixing bowl

Step 2: Slowly add water in small amounts

Step 3: Knead dough by hand or use bread hook attachment on mixer (It will be quite sticky in the beginning).

Step 4: Sprinkle a little extra flour to help form dough into a solid-ish ball

Step 5: Dust a work surface with a little flour so you have somewhere to begin rolling out the dough

2. Rolling the Dough

rolling dough for hardtack

Step 6: Use rolling pin or whatever you can find to flatten out the dough. You want it to be about 1/4”-1/2” thick.

If you struggle to get the thickness right, put a pencil on each side of your dough (they must be the same diameter). Roll the dough by pushing down on the pencils using the pencils as height guides. This should give an even thickness.

3. Cutting the Dough

Step 7: Assuming your dough is in a circular shape, cut it into an even square.

Step 8: Place dough on cookie sheet/baking paper

Step 9: Use blunt knife or dough cutter (extremely sharp knives may damage sheet under) Cut the dough into squares (2.5” x 2.5” is a perfect manageable size for storage as well as dunking into a cup)

I am lazy and use a cookie cutter. I usually just re-roll any remaining dough once cut and keep going with more crackers.

4. Poking the Hardtack Dough

poking holes into hardtack once dough is rolled

Step 10: Use a skewer or something with a blunt point to poke evenly spaced holes in each cracker.

The serve a few purposes so make sure they are poked! The holes will allow the crackers to bake evenly. They allow for moisture to move freely from the inside which stops the dough rising. Not only that but they allow the hardtack to be able to be broken down into smaller bits for when it comes time to eat them.

5. Baking the Hardtack

Step 11: Set your oven to 375 degrees. When it reaches the temperature, put the tray in and bake for around 25-35 mins.

Step 12: Remove them from the oven when they have a light brown tinge to them.

Let them totally cool down before storing.

6. Storing the Hardtack Crackers

There are a few different ways that these crackers can be stored. You can use sealable bags or containers for short term (a few months) For anywhere up around the 5-6 year mark, its advised that a vacuum sealer, mylar bags and desiccants are used. Once packed into these, it’s a good idea to store the sealed mylar bags in solid containers to keep any pests away.

Note:

spices in jars for flavouring hardtack

Extra ingredients can be added for flavor if desired. (Sweet or savory work best)

I’ve tried honey and coconut oil as sweeteners, they don’t allow the hardtack to last as long due to their moistness though. I’ve also tried cinnamon, cardamom and sugar also as dry ingredients and they last a little longer than the moist ingredients. I used about ¼ cup coconut oil per batch of hardtack. With the honey, I used 1 tablespoon per batch. The dry spices were a lot less, a teaspoon of each was enough.

I’ve also tried various dry seasonings such as rosemary, oregano, cayenne pepper and some different salts. You only really need about 1 teaspoon per hardtack batch. They all tasted pretty good and actually lasted a good while.

Final Thoughts

There are of course some pretty impressive long lasting foods that you can prepare in case of an emergency. In this case, hardtack does the job just fine. It’s more of a supplementary food instead of a meal. It is lightweight and doesn’t take up much space. The fact that a basic batch only requires 3 ingredients is a bonus. It’s definitely worth experimenting with flavours as it could end up being your go-to camping/outdoors type cracker. If you’ve made some of these yourself, let us know in the comments. If you’ve maybe tried any other spices or found a better way of making them then let us know what you did so we can update our content with fresher ideas! If you liked this simple survival food recipe, you may also like another one of our recipes which is a simple survival energy bar.

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