About a month ago I mentioned hardtack in the article Foods That Last Forever and some people have asked for more details on what it is and how to make it. I’m happy to oblige! Basically, hardtack is a very hard cracker made from flour, salt and water. It’s a great way to store your flour because, if make properly, it can last indefinitely.

HardtackBecause it’s inexpensive to make and lasts so long, it was once taken on long sea voyages and was called things like pilot bread, ship biscuit, sea biscuit, dog biscuit or sea bread. It was also carried by soldiers on long military campaigns and was referred to as tooth dullers, molar breakers, or sheet iron. I know that sounds bad, but it’s easier to eat if soaked in coffee, crumbled into soup, or fried with other foods.

Some hardtack recipes include sugar, milk or butter, but that will significantly shorten the shelf life, so I recommend making it the traditional way. Here’s what you need:

  • 4 cups of white flour
  • 4 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • Cookie sheet
  • A knife
  • A common nail

How to make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°.
  2. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.
  3. Gradually mix in the water until you form a dough that doesn’t stick to your hands.
  4. Flatten the dough into a square until it’s no more than a half inch thick.
  5. Cut the dough into 3-inch square pieces.
  6. Using the nail, make a 4×4 grid of holes in each piece (like in the picture).
  7. Flip each piece over and repeat.
  8. Put the pieces on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Turn the squares over and bake for another 30 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Ideally, the hardtack should be just a little brown on each side. Adjust the baking time if necessary. Once it’s cool, it should be hard as rock.

Like I said, the great thing about hardtack is it lasts indefinitely without any special storage techniques. I would put it in Ziploc bags and add it to your food cache, bug out bags and vehicle survival kits. It makes a great source of quick energy in an emergency situation.

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  • mae243

    I know it defeats the purpose a little bit but I made some and added onion powder to half and garlic powder to the other half and they came out delicious. No need to stay alive by eating bland food when you can have something with a little flavor!

  • Anonymous

    Oils in Whole Wheat flour will cause hardtack to go rancid in time! For longer storage, use refined white flour only!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the tip!

  • guest

    can you make gluten free hardtack?

  • alanz11

    good question. I’ve never done it, but you can buy gluten-free flour online and try it out.

  • treva

    Would adding a bit of baking soda shorten the shelf life?
    What about a drop of flavoring like vanilla extract or almond extract which are mostly alcohol – would that affect shelf life?
    I am definitely making this for my emergency bag. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Trixxxster

    K, so these things are made to keep forever, but have no/very little flavor. What if you were to add honey, which itself keeps indefinitely, would that impact the shelf life any?

  • alanz11

    I can’t imagine why it would affect the shelf life unless there’s some reaction between the honey and flour but I really doubt it. 

  • Deb

    I tried to make this and followed instructions and the dough is way too sticky.