How To Make Hardtack

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Today I want to show you how to make hardtack. You may wonder what it is, I get it. It’s basically a biscuit of sorts baked until there is zero moisture in it. This is a good food to have on hand because it lasts forever.

It’s a hard cracker that is made from water, salt, and flour. Keep reading to discover how to make this food storage standby.

Where Did Hardtack Originate?

Hardtack goes way back before you or I were born. In 1801, Joseph Bent created the cracker. However, Newburyport (a city) invented Hardtack. This type of cracker was taken on long voyages.

Hardtack has also been known to be called a ship biscuit or sea bread. So, it’s safe to say that Hardtack has been around for a while. You can read more about the history of hardtack here.

Others will tell you that hardtack was created during the Civil War. There is even evidence that hardtack went all the way back to Egyptian times. It’s safe to say that there have been many versions of hardtack floating around since early civilization.

Kitchen Tools You’ll Need

  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Sharp knife
  • Cookie sheet
  • Nail or a dough docker

3 Ingredients-That’s It

  • White flour
  • Salt
  • Water

How To Make Hardtack

Step One

Combine the flour, salt, and water in a bowl.

Step Two

After mixing, scoop the dough onto a floured countertop. The dough will be sticky at first. Knead until mixed thoroughly.

Step Three

Roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thick into a rectangle shape. Use a sharp knife to cut the sections evenly about 3-inches apart. I used a ruler to keep them square.

Step Four

Use a nail or something with a sharp point to poke holes as shown. 

Step Five

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the hardtack pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake one side for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes turn the hardtack over and cook the other side for an additional 30 minutes.

Set the cookie sheet on a cooling rack after baking until cool.

Step Six

After it cools, it’s ready to store in airtight containers.

How Do You Store It

A lot of people would think that hardtack is hard to store, but it’s not. It’s very simple! Because of the way it’s made, hardtack can be stored for a very long time, up to 50 years. Grains typically have a long shelf life and it comes in handy when fresh food isn’t available.

I recommend using mason jars. Here’s the deal, you can make a batch and then store it, then repeat when you have time. You will never have to buy what I call forever crackers because YOU can make them.

What Do You Serve With It

Here is the fun part. You may be wondering HOW to serve hardtack. Back in the day, you would soften it with water or coffee. You can serve it with anything.

Do you remember Grandma eating bread and milk? Mark’s parents would have bread and milk every Sunday night. They would grab a bowl filled with milk and place bits of bread in it.

Mark’s parents would eat it with cheese. You could soak hardtack in milk and eat it just like they did.

Just add some cheese, jam, meat, or anything else your stomach desires. You can eat it by itself. However, it’s recommended that you soak it in something prior to eating.

Does It Stay Hard Forever

The unique thing about hardtack is that it will stay hard forever. It will last forever because it is only made with three ingredients. If you are able to keep it dry, it will last forever.

It will stay good even through extreme temps. If you are looking for something to store, hardtack is something to make in case of an emergency. At least you know you will always have food.

How Long Is The Shelf-Life

Some experts say that it can be stored for up to 50 years. As long as it does not get wet, it can last through anything. Only soak it, if you are ready to eat it. Remember, it’s like a cracker, only way harder.

Hardtack Recipe

5 from 1 vote
How To Make Hardtack
Hardtack Recipe by Food Storage Moms
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins
 
Course: Bread
Cuisine: American
Servings: 9 pieces
Ingredients
  • 3 cups white flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup water
Instructions
  1. Combine the flour, salt, and water in a bowl. After mixing, scoop the dough onto a floured countertop. The dough will be sticky at first. Knead until mixed thoroughly. Roll out about 1/2 inch thick into a rectangle shape. Use a sharp knife to cut the sections evenly about 3-inches apart. I used a ruler to keep them square. Use a nail or something with a sharp point to make the holes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the hardtack pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake one side for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes turn the hardtack over and cook the other side for an additional 30 minutes. After baking place the cookie sheet on a cooling rack.

Final Word

I really believe we need to know how to make hardtack, along with tortillas, bread, biscuits, and pasta. It fills the belly and when the SHTF we will need to make it, I promise. Thanks for being prepared for the unexpected. May God bless this world, Linda

How To Make Bread

How To Make Biscuits

How To Make Pasta

17 thoughts on “How To Make Hardtack

  • October 20, 2019 at 8:39 am
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    I always wondered about that stuff, just not enough to research it. I have a question, though. What if you have gluten issues? I don’t have Celiac’s, but I do get a mild allergic response akin to stuffy nose after eating gluten-containing foods, including rice. Would there be an acceptable alternative to wheat flour?

    Reply
    • October 20, 2019 at 8:54 am
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      Hi Terry, that’s a very good question. My concern would be the shelf life of all other flours. I wish I could answer that but it’s frustrating to me about the gluten-free flour shelf-life. They have about 6 months, that’s not going to work for my food storage stash. Linda

      Reply
      • October 20, 2019 at 3:42 pm
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        Thanks for the info. I keep hoping something better will become available for those of us with allergies. Salt content is also an issue. Salt is such a terrific and inexpensive preserver that many longterm food supplies are heavy on salt. Limited diets will be even more limited in a disaster, so we need to plan especially carefully.

        Reply
  • October 20, 2019 at 10:33 am
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    Hi Linda.
    Love the idea of hard tack. Can I store it in vacuum seal bags? If so, would you use oxygen absorbers?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • October 20, 2019 at 11:05 am
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      Hi Mary Jane, I suppose you could use oxygen absorbers in vacuum-sealed bags. I store mine in mason jars sealed with my FoodSaver without oxygen absorbers. Linda

      Reply
    • October 20, 2019 at 12:24 pm
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      5 stars
      I read somewhere that hard tack can be ground and used as flour in other recipes. This way flour will never go bad. A long term way to store flour.

      Reply
      • October 20, 2019 at 12:27 pm
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        Hi Mary, oh my gosh, this makes total sense. I love hearing this tip!! Thank you so much, Linda

        Reply
  • October 20, 2019 at 2:26 pm
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    My experience with Hardtack – pre-Y2k I made a big batch using essentially the recipe/steps above.
    The first day after baking it was in my mind not hard so I did a 180 degrees for about 4 hours. Then it was hard.

    I put the tack in several quart sized Ziplock freezer bags and put them on the guest bedroom closet shelf.

    at:
    1 week – tried part of 1 no issues.
    2 week – tried part of 1 no issues.
    1 month – tried part of 1 no issues.
    2 month – tried part of 1 no issues.
    3 month – tried part of 1 no issues.
    6 month – tried part of 1 no issues.
    12, 18, 24, 36 month – tried part of 1 no issues.

    A friends step-son was in a Civil War reenactor group. I gave them the rest if my now 4 year old batch – no issues.

    They had me come to a meeting, we cooked a big batch, and they have continued to cook/store/eat it since.

    The friends step-son wound up a machine gunner in Afghanistan. I sent a #10 can of Pilot Bread, 3 large jars of Peanut Butter, 6 large jars of Jam, 6 one quart baggies of Hardtack, a 1 quart plastic container of hardened bacon fat labeled “WolfBrother’s Country Spread”, and 2 Sam’s size containers of beef and chicken bouillon cubes.

    I got back an signed by all picture of his squad and a huge thanks from them saying the hardtack and “country spread” were the best of the bunch. And then several letters from their wives/parents asking for the hardtack recipe.

    Your recipe above, as I noted before, is essentially the one I used. I used the one from Bent’s Bakery in Milton, Massachusetts. From 1801 until 2013 when it sold the family owned business worked as a bakery and was a prime supplier of hardtack during the Civil War, the westward expansion, and Spanish-American war.

    Reply
    • October 20, 2019 at 2:57 pm
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      Hi WolfBrother, Oh how I love your comment! Thank you for sharing this story about your friend’s stepson!! I love hearing how long the hardtack lasted for you AND what you sent over to Afghanistan!! Thank you so much!! Linda

      Reply
  • October 20, 2019 at 4:24 pm
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    Linda ~
    I think this is something I would do right about the time my flour is at its “best by date”!!

    I have also seen recipes that used beef broth to flavor the hardtack. Might not have the same shelf life, however.

    Another thing you can do with hardtack is take some broth from your soup or stew and bring it to a boil, add hardtack and cover to let it soften. Might have a dumpling like consistency then. And it would take on the flavor of the soup or stew.

    Reply
    • October 20, 2019 at 5:10 pm
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      Hi Leanne, I agree the beef broth has fat and they would spoil. BUT, I’m going to go add soup to the post for dipping the hardtack in, great tip! Linda

      Reply
  • October 23, 2019 at 5:38 am
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    Linda I was wondering if you can add sugar, being sugar is shelf stable as well?

    Reply
    • October 23, 2019 at 7:31 am
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      Hi Judith, I think the idea behind the hardtack is that it’s a cracker of sorts. I would think adding sugar would change the “chemistry” of the hardtack. That’s my concern about mold or bacteria growth. I would add whatever you want to the “meal” when you use the hardtack. NOW, if you are making it for short-term storage that’s a different story. You could store them in the freezer or frig if you add sugar, honey, or oil. Then it’s not really hardtack but a cracker. Does that make sense? Eother way it’s a great way to help stretch our grocery budget. Linda

      Reply
  • October 25, 2019 at 7:25 pm
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    Linda, would other flours such as whole wheat, almond, rice etc work as well?

    Reply
    • October 25, 2019 at 7:30 pm
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      Hi Jan, I think any flour would work for short term storage. I would try a small batch and then freeze them. We know white flour lasts indefinitely in this hardtack recipe, it’s hard to say on the other flours. They have such a short shelf-life compared to white flour. Linda

      Reply
    • October 26, 2019 at 7:04 am
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      Jan, let me be clear on what I said earlier, white flour in hardtack lasts indefinitely. White flour only has a shelf life of 9-12 months. Linda

      Reply

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