How To Make Hardtack: My Favorite Survival Biscuit Recipe

By Jason K. | Updated: 07/18/2023

Skilled Survival’s Step-by-Step Guide On How To A Make Hardtack


Maybe you’re trying to figure out what hardtack is.

Or maybe you’re looking for the best step-by-step hardtack recipe?

A hard bread recipe that will last many decades!

Either way, you’re in the right place.

Today, I will share everything I know about this amazing survival bread called hardtack. 


What Is Hardtack – Brief History

5 Reasons Why Hardtack Is Amazing

Best Hardtack Recipe (ingredient list)

How To Make Hardtack At Home

Pemmican – Hardtack’s Meat Alternative

Bonus – ANZAC Biscuits Recipe

How To Make ANZAC Biscuits

Do YOU Live In A 'Danger Zone' County? Find out NOW with my Danger Zone County Special Report - It's 100% FREE... Click here now for Access!

Hardtack biscuits drying on a cookie sheet

What Is Hardtack? A Brief History

I’ve got to hand it to the ancient crews on old sailing ships.

They prove “necessity is the mother of invention.”

↓ Hardtack – The Staple Of Armies On The Move ↓

For thousands of years, when currents and wind were a ship’s only means of propulsion, it took months to cross the high seas.

And yet, nearly every corner of the world was explored and mapped by the end of the “Golden Age of Sailing.”

These sailors endured long voyages that took months without a harbor.

Sometimes it was years before returning to their homeport.

These trips required food stores that could last.


This is before refrigeration, canned food or canned bread!

So one of the staples was a simple, dense, hard survival bread called Hardtack.

A survival biscuit made with three simple ingredients: flour, water, and salt.

Hardtack is a solid survival bread that holds up well to rough transport and “keeps” nearly indefinitely.

And it’s acquired many “interesting” nicknames over the years, such as:

Ship’s biscuit, sea biscuit, cabin bread, sea bread, dog biscuits, molar breakers, and even worm castles.

Worm Castles


Civil war soldiers discovered worms and weevil infestation was a regular problem…yuck!

But since it was both inexpensive and nearly indestructible, this hard biscuit often made up most of a sailor’s rations.

In fact, in 1588, the British Royal Navy provided each sailor 1 lb. of hardtack biscuits and a gallon of beer PER DAY!

Obviously, this biscuit was a shipboard staple.

Entire industries sprang up to support the resupply of ships with this stuff.

Now, if flour, water, and salt sounds bland, you’re in good company.

When a ship’s cook wasn’t within earshot, sailors often called it “molar breakers,” or “sheet iron.”

Traditional hardtack is HARD.

Why? Because you bake it, then leave it out to dry, and store it with moisture-absorbing desiccants to prevent spoilage.

Each step removes ALL moisture, making it difficult to bite and chew.

Often you must soften it to make safe chewing possible.

However, there were many methods to soften the hard biscuits, including:

  • soaking them in coffee
  • drowning them in beer
  • frying them with oil to make a hardtack pancake
  • pounding them into crumbs with a rifle butt and stirring them into soup – (which both thickened the soup and softened the crumbs)

Hardtack Broken Into PeicesSoaking them in coffee is still popular.

Many people choose to eat them like toast by adding syrup or jam, providing a sweet snack.

Of course, you can easily learn how to make hardtack at home .

Many of the commercial recipes use additional ingredients (such as brown sugar).

This is an attempt to improve the texture and taste.

But these additions reduced the shelf life.

There are many recipe variations for homemade hardtack biscuits, bread, or crackers.

But these homemade recipes are optimized for rapid consumption instead of prolonged storage.

Common commercial additions are sugar, honey, spices, powdered milk or eggs, and even oil and butter.

However, these hard tack recipes are best kept refrigerated since the additional ingredients compromise the shelf life.

Especially oil and butter, which go rancid quickly if left unrefrigerated.

So if your goal is to make hardtack that last for years to come, stick to the three basic ingredients.

5 Reasons Why Hardtack Is Amazing

1. Ridiculously Long Shelf Life

Hardtack is a true survivor.

It’s like the superhero of survival foods.

You won’t find many other foods that can withstand the test of time like hardtack.

So when the going gets tough, you’ll have a trusty, nutrient-rich companion by your side for years to come.

2. Portability at Its Finest

When you’re on the move carrying a ton of heavy food is out of the question.

That’s where hardtack shines!

These bad boys are compact, lightweight, and won’t weigh you down.

Toss ’em in your bug-out bag, hiking backpack, or stash ’em in your vehicle – you’ll have a go-to energy source wherever you roam.

3. Simple Ingredients, No Fancy Prep

Survival situations are no time for gourmet cooking.

Hardtack is made from basic ingredients! Mix it, bake it, and you’re done.

Anyone, and I mean anyone, can whip up a batch of hardtack.

4. Endless Versatility

Hardtack is like a blank canvas for your taste buds.

You can eat it as is, dunk it in your favorite beverage, or get creative and turn it into a hearty stew.

When you’re limited on cooking equipment, hardtack is your versatile sidekick, ready to complement any meal.

5. Energy-Packed and Nutrient-Dense

When survival becomes your top priority, you need fuel to keep you going.

Hardtack is a powerhouse of sustenance – packed with energy from carbohydrates, and with a touch of salt for essential minerals.

In dire times, it’s crucial to have food that fuels your body and keeps you going.

Best Hardtack Recipe (ingredient list)

You can make hardtack with any flour you choose.

  • Whole wheat flour? Absolutely.
  • Gluten-free? Yes, you can.
  • Rye flour? A great alternative for those with wheat allergies.

With an afternoon of work (mostly baking), you can have ample hardtack in your pantry.

↓ How to Make Hardtack (Forever Lasting Bread) ↓

Hardtack Ingredients on a tableStart by gathering the ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups flour (+ a little extra)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

You’ll also need a few utensils:

  • large mixing bowl
  • rolling pin (or improvise!)
  • cookie sheet

You’ll notice there’s no yeast in the recipe – so hard tack is an unleavened bread.

How To Make Hardtack Biscuits From Scratch

Note: If you prefer to watch a video instead, skip to the end of this section.

Mixing The Ingredients

Mixing Ingredients for hardtackStart by mixing the flour and salt in a large bowl.

Pro Tip:

This is a great time to remove any rings on your fingers.

Hardtack dough is very sticky, and you’ll have difficulty getting your rings clean later – trust me, I know!

After mixing your dry ingredients well, add the water in small amounts.

You can mix and knead the dough by hand or with the bread hook attachment on a stand mixer.

Again, it’ll be extremely sticky at first but it quickly become a uniform dough.

If it’s still sticky after several minutes of kneading, add a small amount of additional flour.

Hardtack Dough Mixed In BowlOnce your dough forms a solid ball, dust a work surface with flour and place the dough on the floured surface.

Note: Preheat oven to 375 degrees at this point.

Rolling The Dough

Using a rolling pin, heavy pint glass, wine bottle, or even your hands, roll the dough out to roughly 1/4″-1/2” thick.

Cut the dough into serving-size portions.

Hardtack Dough Rolling PinThis will be easier if you form the dough into a rough square (rather than a pizza crust circle).

If you’re not very experienced in using a rolling pin, you can use pencils as guides!

Just lay a pencil on either side of the dough and press down until the rolling pin rests on the pencils.

Now, rolling back and forth will give you a nice flat piece of dough.

Cutting The Dough

Cutting The Hardtack DoughPlace it on a cookie sheet when you’re happy with your dough shape.

Now using a knife cut it into manageable “cracker” size pieces.

Ideally, you want them roughly the size of a saltine cracker.

This cracker size is best for long-term storage and makes a good serving size for later.

I recommend a size that still fits in a mug if you plan to soak it with soup or coffee!

Poking The Crackers

Now, with your “sheet of crackers” cut to size, poke holes evenly across each piece.

Hardtack Poking Holes In The DoughThese holes help the biscuit bake consistently.

Ideally, you want both the edges and the middle of the hardtack biscuit to have a consistent bake.

The holes allow more moisture to escape and keep the dough from rising in the oven.

Also, the holes make it easier to break the tough biscuits into smaller chunks later for eating.

Baking The Crackers

Hardtack Into The OvenNow, bake the dough for 25-35 minutes in a 375 degree oven until it just begins to brown.

You’re looking for a light tan, more than a brown.

It’s very easy to scorch the flour, so pay attention.

When you have a light tan color, take the survival biscuits out of the oven and allow them to cool COMPLETELY.

You want it to be 100% cool before putting it into any package.

Hardtack Out Of The OvenAny trace of excess moisture will cause your hardtack biscuits to spoil prematurely.

So if you live in a relatively dry climate, leave it out for several days to dry some more before storing.

Storing Your Hardtack Crackers

If it remains dry, you can store dry hardtack for months or even years.

Vacuum seal with Mylar bags and desiccants.

This will help remove moisture during storage, and a solid (metal) container keeps rodents out.

Keep the individual packages small, so you only open what you need while keeping the rest safe and dry.

Here’s an excellent video showing just how easy it is to make survival biscuits at home.

↓ How to Make Hardtack (The Bread that Lasts Forever) ↓

As you can see, making hardtack is easy.

You can even make a fun day out of it by including your kids (or grandkids) in the baking process.

And when you’re done, you’ll get the amazing feeling knowing you have nutritious bread to feed your family no matter the future.

Food Planning Guide eBook Cover - with dried foods and grains spilling out onto a wooden table

Want a free family-first food planning guide?

Click here to instantly download this Complete Checklist PDF. No purchase necessary.

Pemmican Ball On A Plate

Pemmican – The Hardtack Meat Alternative

You cannot survive on bread alone (long term).

Your body needs other nutrients such as protein and vitamins.

But when it comes to long-term food storage, not just any old protein will do.

Protein spoils rapidly without refrigeration.

That’s why you should learn how to make and store pemmican.

Pemmican is like hardtack in protein form! 

It’s a protein you can store a long time without refrigeration.

Now, I’m not going to dive deep into the history and all the details of Pemmican here.

Why? Because we’ve already written a detailed Pemmican article.

But if you’re interested in seeing how pemmican is made, check out the following short video:

↓ How To Make Pemmican: Step By Step Guide ↓

Pemmican is another survival superfood that pairs up very well with hardtack for long-term storage and survival.

Bonus: Anzac Biscuits Recipe

While in survival mode, a coffee-soaked hardtack meal will fill an empty stomach.

But no meal is complete without some dessert!

ANZAC is another “survival biscuit” with a long shelf-life.

It was developed by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) families during World War II.

The families back home wanted to send food and treat to the troops.

But it had to survive months of travel from the South Pacific to Italy.

This led to the creation of the “ANZAC Biscuit.”

Since then, it’s become a national staple in both countries.

Sure, ANZAC biscuits don’t have as long a shelf-life as hardtack (they contain sugar and butter).

However, they’re a wise short-term addition to any survival cache.

↓ ANZAC Biscuits Recipe ↓

How To Make Anzac Biscuits

ANZAC Biscuit Ingredients:

  • 1 cup each of rolled oats, sugar, and coconut
  • 1 tablespoon golden corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water)

ANZAC Biscuit Instructions

  1. Melt butter.
  2. Add corn syrup to dissolved soda and water. Combine with melted butter.
  3. Mix dry ingredients and stir in the liquid.
  4. Place small balls on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 300deg for 20min or until golden brown.

Final Thoughts

So there you go.

Now you know how to make and store a life-saving survival bread.

Pair your hardtack with some pemmican, ANZAC biscuits, and bulk rice storage; you’ve got yourself a legitimate survival food stockpile.

You can have a ton of long-term calories on a prepper-friendly budget.

Now it’s just a matter of taking the knowledge and applying it.

Because taking action now, long before you need it, is the real secret to survival.

Jason K.

  • Born & Raised In The Remote Woods Of Michigan
  • Engineering Degree From A Major University
  • Long Standing Member Of Mountain Search & Rescue
  • Offical Gear Tester For Several Outdoor Companies
  • Avid Outdoorsman: Backpacking, Camping, Fishing
  • Years Researching & Writing About Surival & Gear
  • P.s. Do You Live In A 'Danger Zone' County?

    Find out now using my Danger Zone County List & Special Report it’s absolutely FREE. In minutes you’ll know EXACTLY where you stand and if you should be worried or not..

    Cooking over a rocket stove
    Get My 10 Steps To Basic Preparedness Video For FREE.
    Plus daily survival tips (unsubscribe anytime).