How To Make Hard Tack: The Cracker That Lasts For YEARS!

by | Dec 21, 2019 | Emergency Preparedness, Headline News | 23 comments

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    Hardtack is a type of hard, dry bread that has been eaten by soldiers and sailors throughout history as a means of sustenance. It is popular among campers and survivalists because it can last for years if stored properly.

    Fortunately, it’s also an extremely easy recipe and you can make your own traditional hardtack with just a few ingredients. You can also add a few spices and flavorings for a much better-tasting hardtack than people ate years ago. Tailoring the flavor of the hardtack to meet your personal preference will definitely make this cracker easier to eat if you are ever in a SHTF situation.

    You only need three ingredients to make hardtack:

    2 cups (256 g) of flour
    1 cup (240 mL) of water
    2 tsp (11.38 g) of salt (optional)

    How To Make Hardtack:

    Preheat your oven to 375 °F (191 °C). The prep time for hardtack is fast, so preheat your oven first. By the time the oven is ready, you can carry out all the prep work. Pour the flour into a mixing bowl. (Any type of flour will work for this recipe, but hardtack made from white flour lasts the longest). Different flours like whole wheat or rye produce hardtack that won’t last as long as they are more nutrient-dense and will spoil quicker. Gradually pour the water into the flour a little at a time and knead the dough. Using both hands, work the dough with your hands until it reaches a uniform consistency. Add your salt and other spices if you have decided to flavor your hardtack.

    Sprinkle some flour and use a rolling pin to roll out the hardtack dough. Hardtack is generally cut into large squares.  But do whatever you want here.  Poke holes in each cracker. Again, this is really up to you and the number of holes will depend on the size of the cracker you cut. Place the crackers on an ungreased cookie sheet ensuring they don’t overlap. Bake for 30 minutes on each side until they are a golden brown color. Allow the crackers to cool, then store them with your survival food, or toss some into your vehicle emergency bag. If properly sealed, they will stay good for years. Vacuum sealing will also help the hardtack last longer.

    Try making hardtack if you’d like and see how long you can get it to last! It’s a great option for preppers for who want to beef up their food supply.


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      1. Darn, I hate to show my ignorance but I have often wondered how “hardtack” was made. So much of history mentions hardtack as a staple. Sailors, soldiers, explorers, and scientific expeditionary personnel depended on this food. Thanks Mac for educating me again. Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas in Hawaiian)

      2. I’ve never tasted hard tack, but based on the ingredients listed, it sounds like they would be rather bland.

        Would it ruin the recipe or shorten the shelf life if a little cinnamon was added, to give the end result a more pleasing flavor?

        • This recipe just screams for some type of oil. But that would go rancid and shorten life. I guess you could add later when used. I have to try this. Thanks for posting.

          • Searching the web uncovered a Swedish version of hard tack which appears more edible than the version here. Google and find lots of hits.

        • Cinnamon sounds awesome. Add some cyan pepper to some other batches.

          Best prepper article in years.

          Thanx Mac

      3. Hardtack Crackers?
        I’m catching on to your dog whistle code talk!

      4. I bet a beef bullion cube or two added to the water would give them some good flavor.

      5. Hard Tack = Unleavened bread?

      6. Salt is not optional.. Salt is an essential ingredient. Salt acts as preservative…

        Think long and hard before modifying recipes for HardTack, Pemmican etc.

        To upgrade/modify requires real thought..

        Could or should one add a vitamin and minerals powder to the mix?.. If so .. in what quantity? I don’t know.. How would that affect longevity.. What happens when you heat a sweetener, a filler? The vitamins and minerals themselves?.

        Do recipes containing the desired additional ingredients exist for baking already?.

        As you can see above these are questions are worth asking and knowing the answer to before modifying a proved recipe..and importantly do they significantly degrade themselves or the hardtack over time?

        As you are considering such survival foods keep in mind scurvy is a real potential problem in survival situations.. (actually for no small number of people today if you look around).

        Might we be better off and safer to include bottles of vitamins/minerals in the containers of hard tack instead of trying to bake them in?

        Again, I do not know the answer .. but the questions need to be asked and answered.

        My point is that it is very important we know .. not feel or suspect but we know the answers as we prepare long term storage food.

        We also cannot just . make and forget.. we need programs where written records on the conditions the storage food is held in.. Daily Temp Humidity if only derived from the local news is important. Military checks samples of stored foods at intervals. Seems like a good idea yes?

        How funny that survival itself requires one more often than not to be cautious, thoughtful “Conservative” in their actions.

      7. Prepper Bread:

        4 cups of whole wheat flour
        4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
        1/.2 cup of Honey
        1/2 cup of cornmeal
        1/2 cup of powdered milk

        Add water until dough is stiff and roll out on baking sheet 1/4″ to 3/8″ thick. Pizza roller works best. Cut into squares before baking, pizza cutter works best. Holes can be made with a cracker roller. Bake at 300 degrees, and don’t over cook. They should not be rock hard.

        The Roman Legions primary food source was a flat bread made with wheat, honey and olive oil. These will not last as long as hard tack, but they contain all the carbs and protein you need. They are quick and easy to make and taste good.

        I grab some in the morning when I am pressed for time, and throw some in my pack when rucking.

        Feel free to modify the ingredient amounts to your liking, such as more honey. Honey is a magical food that stores forever.

      8. Unless you are a history buff, there is absolutely no reason to make hardtack with the original Civil War dimensions. I don’t know exactly what the dimensions are for the hardtack shown in the photo is, but I suspect that it, too, will be a problem.

        After being baked, hardtack is supple. As it cools and dries, it becomes almost as hard as concrete. Hardtack made for Civil War soldiers was so hard that attempting to bite into it could cause damage to teeth. Civil War soldiers often referred to it as “jawbreakers.” Probably the last thing anyone wants to be doing after SHTF is to be looking for a dentist.

        Soldiers often broke it up with the base of their bayonets to reduce the risk of eating it. They often took the pieces and softened them with the grease from the bacon they were issued, calling the mixture “cush,” or they let it soak in hot coffee. Cush was tasty, although I will leave it to others to comment on the long-term health issues from eating a steady diet of it.

        I have made hardtack with pieces no thicker than 1/4″ and had good results. The strips I made were no wider than 1 1/2″ and about 4 inches in length. The strips were brittle, so I was able to chew them with no problem. Strips of that size made storing them much easier. Their taste was reminiscent of bagel chips.

        There is nothing much you can store for hard times that is as cheap as hardtack. Buy a 25 lb. bag of flour from a restaurant supply store and get to work!

      9. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just store the flour.
        What am I missing here?

        • Once wheat is ground into flour, the flour begins to deteriorate. Storing it for six months is probably fine. Hardtack, however, can be stored for many years. Thus, the attraction as survival food.

      10. What happened to the woodpile report?


          Still going and informative.

      11. My grandmother was born in 1919 as a dirt poor daughter of sharecroppers in southern Alabama. She taught me when I was a child what it was like to come up in the depression and the importance of not wasting food. She spoke of eating “hard tack” as a child and how it got them through the hard times. I feel very fortunate, now to have heard these stories from her. I purchased a hard tack mold from “ The Regimental Quatermaster”, a Civil War history and reenactor equipment site. My wife said that she will make some hard tack so we can try it out and start storing it up for the future.

      12. Great, easy recipe for something that can last decades if property stored and/or to skip on a lake. I think the trick is to dip these not only in flavor for extra cals, but something that will soften them up when you take a bite.

      13. Wow, really, my last post was flagged. Bye.

      14. “…Whole wheat or rye produce hardtack that won’t last as long as they are more nutrient-dense and will spoil quicker.” So, starve yourself on less-nutritional white flour (the kind of diet that made those War Between the States people look so wan and gaunt, and they were truly sickly from it) so as not to allow the microbes to eat it (they’ve got better sense!)? Now, what’s the purpose of “survival” food?

        Most successful hardtack was that which was baked (slowly) about four times–which made it very, very hard but long-lasting. Keep in mind, it was used–and performed well–when no plastic sealants, refrigeration or other modern dependence was around. Yes, it would need to be kept dry and preferably wrapped tightly in layers of cloth, skins or paper to keep it protected.

        Hardtack and water (preferably boiled, sometimes with the hardtack added to become a “dumpling”, like pasta), along with whatever herbs one knows about and can find–for soldiers in the field– were (and still can be) a soldier’s or (with the hopeful ship’s store of some dried fruits–especially citrus–and nuts, having no source of these at sea, except for potentially very nutritious seaweed) a sailor’s only sustenance much of the time. Hence the need for nutritious hardtack over the white, mostly just starch, bleached, largely useless kind that’s devoid of the nutrients of the bran and wheat germ–if you want healthy and therefore stronger troops (even if just one, yourself) to fight a war, even, or especially, as guerrillas. Or, maybe you just intend to let your enemy “feed” you (to their dogs) when you surrender to their “mercy”.

        The other guys have their “deep underground military based” or sea-based supplies that they’re dependent on (and vulnerable to). You’ve got to have your own rations with which to be independent–especially when usual sources of provision are destroyed or captured by the enemy. It can make all the difference.

      15. Pay attention ipoders so when it goes down you will know what to do.
        You better learn how to be hardcore……
        Enough said ……….

      16. If I’m planning to hide and eat, then my buckets of rice and peas/beans, plus snares and garden seeds will suffice. For eating and running I have coarsely ground corn and pemmican, both of which are rotated yearly, but can easily last a few years if cool/dark/dry.

      17. Wow, interesting. How does one make flour?

        Yes, I have eaten a several year old taco bell burrito I found in the back under a seat. And it was still good, and tasty.

        Can I just stock up on saltines or what exactly is the difference?

        Fortunately, in this specific realm of consideration, advancements in science won’t just go away if the supply chains fail.

        Aquaponics is a real thing. Solar power is a real thing. Greenhouse technology is real, and simple. We have far more tools and resources at our disposal than ‘back then’. People did not understand how to make space saving water recycling hydroponic or tower based gardens back then, how to harvest water from air, but we do know that now.

        If shtf, I’m going to breed bunnies in the garage and feed them cottonwood leaves. That and probably a quick batch of hard tack something or another. I’ll press them in funny shapes from whatever I can find in the christmas and halloween box.

        I’m sort of along the lines of thinking that in the regard of food safety, there may be a dearth if things go south, but eventually food supply will return and we’ll never be back in the depression era, begging for coal cubes on the side of the tracks. The ignorant may need to pass away first but I just can’t imagine a scenario where people actually forget all of the skills and technology we’ve gained over the past 100 years.

        That being said, I certainly do keep a sht ton more food in my basement than anyone else I know of. Costco, saving the day again. They ask me if I’m a prepper when I walk out with anywhere from 400-1,000 worth of food and items routinely. I tell them no, it’s just hella more convenient to shop in my basement. Hedge purchasing is the way to go while times are good.

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