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How to Make Hardtack (Step by Step with Pics)

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How to Make Hardtack (Step by Step with Pics)Hardtack is a survival food that can sit on the shelves for years. It was first made popular during the Civil War when soldiers were given rations to take into the field. With no refrigeration or luxuries like sugar available, they were forced to survive on the very basic, bland, and incredibly hard crackers that were fondly dubbed hardtack.

It isn’t something you would probably want to make and serve to guests today, but you need to know how to make it, just in case. You can make hardtack now and seal it up tight to help fatten your food storage. In an actual survival situation, you could make the hardtack over a fire or in a Dutch oven. It is very easy to make, even if it isn’t exactly the best-tasting food.

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Check out the 5 easy steps to making hardtack.

What you will need:

  • 5 to 6 cups flour
  • 1 cup water
  • Rolling pin
  • Pizza cutter or knife
  • Cookie sheet
  • Skewer (a fork could work in a pinch)

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the cup of water into a bowl. Slowly mix in the flour until it makes a hard dough you can’t stir. When it gets to this thick stage, it is easiest to knead the dough with your hands to form a ball of dough.

Hardtack Pic 1

Step 2: Lightly flour your surface and place your dough in the middle. Use the rolling pin to roll out the dough into a rectangle about half an inch thick.

Hardtack Pic 2

Step 3: Use the pizza cutter to cut your dough into squares. The size of a saltine is a good size to aim for.

Hardtack Pic 3

Step 4: Transfer the squares onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Use the skewer or a fork to poke holes through the entire thickness of each square. You can make rows of four or cover the area with holes as you please. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but the goal of the holes is to allow the dough to cook thoroughly.

Hardtack Pic 4

Step 5: Place the hardtack into the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and use a spatula to flip the hardtack to the other side. Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Hardtack Pic 5

If you are storing your hardtack, it needs to be completely cool before you seal it up. The dough needs to be cooked thoroughly and dried out. Even a little moisture can spoil the hardtack. For long-term storage, it is best to cook the hardtack for an additional 30 minutes at a temperature of 250 degrees. Yes, it is going to be rock-hard, which is why it earned the name.

You can add a little salt to the dough for flavor. Topping the hardtack with raw honey or fruit preserves adds a little more flavor, making it more palatable. Hardtack can be dipped in stews or soups to help thicken them up and turn them into a more filling meal.

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20 Comments

  1. Nikki on September 25, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Is it ok to add bran or different types of grain flours?

    • Heidi on September 26, 2017 at 6:45 am

      I don’t see why not.

    • BillH on July 13, 2019 at 5:22 pm

      No. Not and know that you are going to maintain the extremely long shelf life.

  2. Kathy on October 2, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    how long will it store?

    • Heidi on October 3, 2017 at 6:04 am

      Without any special storage methods it ought to last a year or more, but if you seal it up in a Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber, decades.

    • BillH on July 13, 2019 at 5:28 pm

      Decades, if kept completely dry. At the beginning of the civil war, the US Army used hardtack left over from the Mexican-American war.

  3. Patsy on October 3, 2018 at 10:41 am

    Can you add seeds or flavorings?

    • Heidi on October 3, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      You can but it could reduce the shelf life.

  4. Susan on December 12, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    Could you add dried herbs and keep the long-term storage life?

    • Heidi on December 13, 2018 at 4:42 am

      Yes. The hardtack itself should still last a long time, but the herbs in them will go bad in a few years. They might be safe to eat, but the taste and nutritional value will be gone. However, you could try vacuum sealing them and that could significantly extend the shelf life.

  5. Russ on January 25, 2019 at 11:28 am

    I’m little confused but I Remember having hardtack in a bowl of milk as a kid . We were very poor but we had cows . Back in the early 40’s

  6. T on June 16, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    The bran in whole wheat flour will go rancid. Hard Tack will last a long long time IF one uses white flour and water. Sugar, seeds, nuts, herbs will all cause spoilage and or draw moisture from the air. This is one recipe that needs to be followed as given.

    I used to make a lot of hard tack, with peak production pre-Y2K. I was able to sock away many 5 gallon buckets and boxes of vacuum sealed hard tack. We loved to stir our cups of coffee with a piece and let it soak and soften, bite by bite and nibble away in the mornings. I would also soak hard tack over night in water ( covered) and in the morning fry it in bacon grease or coconut oil and top it with maple syrup.

  7. Lisa on September 22, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    Can you use self rising flour ?

    • Heidi on September 23, 2019 at 10:11 am

      I don’t see why not.

    • PathfinderMark on May 20, 2020 at 8:57 pm

      not if you wish shelf life. This stuff isn’t supposed to “rise.”

  8. Kitty Corbett on December 17, 2019 at 10:16 am

    How thin should the dough be rolled out? How many saltine cracker sized hardtack pieces should be envisioned, or what would be the approximate diameter or any other measurement of the rolled out dough before cutting?

  9. Elbert Jones on January 7, 2020 at 4:03 pm

    How many people actually eat hardtack weekly now a days? If it is so good; WHY CAN’T YOU FIND IT ON SALE ANYWHERE NOW A DAYS?

    • Matt F on June 6, 2020 at 9:58 am

      I would only think its because it’s so easy to make that anyone interested in it could just make it. Ridding the market of hardtack. I’m going to make some.

  10. Elbert Jones on July 25, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    If you make some; Challenge your “REAL MAN” friends to eat one piece without soaking it in anything. WARNING: if it was baked properly; they might break some of their teeth.

  11. Elbert Jones on August 27, 2020 at 7:36 am

    Back during the U.S. civil war; hardtack sometimes had weevils in it. The soldiers did not mind them. They added PROTEIN to their meal.

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