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How To Make Hardtack: Traditional, Modern and Gluten-Free Recipe

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How To Make Hardtack: Traditional, Modern and Gluten-Free Recipe

Hardtack: A Survivalist's Best Friend

Have you ever wondered how you could sustain yourself for long periods of time without traditional food?

Have you ever wanted an easy to make, filling, and cheap alternative to the heavily marketed survival foods you see everywhere? I have. 

That desire led to me finding hardtack. It's cheap, anyone can make it, and it stays good for an incredibly long time.

On top of that, you don't have to eat it the same way all of the time. It's a pretty versatile food. 

What I like most about it is its ability to keep people alive when resources are scarce.

You can make up a batch of tack, and you can throw it in your pack without worrying about it.

Whenever the need for food arises, you can simply take it out and add it to anything you can scrape up.

This can not only make lean meals stretch more, but it adds a bit of extra calories to help drag you through until you can find a heartier food option. 

What is Hardtack? 

While the recipe for this biscuit-like substance has been tweaked over the years, the general recipe is largely the same.

It's simply a flour and water bread that you can dip in coffee, soups, or cook its crumbles along with your morning bacon.

Most importantly, it takes a very basic ingredient with a short shelf life, and it makes it into a food item that never spoils.

While sacked flour can only be kept for about a year, hardtack can be kept for longer than you'll ever live. 

Its long shelf-life and affordability make it the perfect food for modern survivalists.

All you need to make your own batch is some flour and some water. Of course, you'll also need a heat source to bake it in.

If you're the type of person to think ahead, you can conveniently use your oven to effortlessly make several large batches very quickly.

In a pinch, you can easily make some on a campfire with a cast iron skillet or dutch oven. 

On top of being easy to make, ​it's fairly nutritious.

It won't provide everything that your body needs for really long periods of time, but it can definitely sustain you until you can find a proper food source.

In a single serving, you can expect to get nearly 100 calories, a small amount of fat, a lot of sodium, some potassium, and a good mix of essential vitamins.

On top of this, that's just a single serving.

Most recipes will make enough for more than a dozen servings, and it won't add much bulk to your pack. 

History of Hardtack

A piece of old hardtack at display at the T. T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum

The oldest existing piece of hardtack was made in 1862.

The exact date of recipe's inception was lost to time, but we know that people have been eating it for hundreds of years.

More accurately, we've been able to date examples as far back as the beginning of the 1600's.

As far as we know, it was originally created for sailors as a way to keep lightweight, preserved, and cheap food on board their ships at all times.

The most well known use of hardtack was as a military ration during the Civil War, though.

We still have black and white images of soldiers enjoying it. 

Modern Uses of Hardtack

In modern times, soldiers and sailors have much more advanced options for their rations.

Therefore, you won't see a modern marine chewing on a piece of coffee-soaked hardtack. However, that doesn't make it obsolete.

You might not be able to afford a big box of high-quality MRE packages.

I know I can't afford it all of the time.

That has led to it growing in popularity among preppers and survivalists.

Having it around in relatively large quantities can really bulk up your food reserves without making you look for a second mortgage.

Also, it'll outlast pretty much everything else you have besides honey. 

It's not uncommon for preppers to store a decent amount of hardtack among their stockpiles of other non-perishables.

While it can help you survive on its own, it's best to pair it up with other survival foods or foods that you forage.

When it's used to stretch a meal, it can make something like a very lean stew pack a couple of hundred extra calories.

That might not seem like much, but it'll give you a lot of extra energy during times when you're barely eating anything, and preppers have come to appreciate this. 

Going Beyond the Traditional Hardtack Recipe

As time has passed, society has also learned about different ailments such as gluten intolerance. 

With the traditional hardtack recipe, you wouldn't be able to eat it if you had an allergy such as gluten intolerance. 

Luckily, some savvy survivalists have found different ways to avoid using gluten-rich ingredients. 

The recipe hasn't just been made to accommodate people with allergies to gluten.

Adding Flavours to your hardtack recipe

I've found recipes that are just as long lasting, but include some different ingredients for flavor and nutrition. 

One of those is honey. 

With the addition of honey, you can have cracker that is a little tastier, and experience a higher calorie count and extra nutrients. 

However, honey is rising in price. 

So, your survival food won't be as cheap as it would be with a traditional recipe. 

The traditional hardtack recipe was so simple that it left a lot of room for improvement and new adaptations. 

With its long history as a survival ration, you can bet that future preppers will come up with new and improved versions for years to come.

Benefits of Hardtack

The benefits of hardtack have been discussed partially throughout this article, but they're so important that we have to dedicate a section to them. 

For starters, it's cheap.

A full batch of homemade tack can be made from a bag of flour, tap water, and some basic table salt.

I don't know what it's like where you're from, but all of that can be bought for less than five dollars in my area.

In comparison, an month supply of MRE packages usually costs hundreds of dollars for the good stuff.

If you don't believe me, you can check out the prices on The Ready Store.

The specific product linked costs over five hundred dollars for one month of food.

You can eat our suggestion for years at that price. 

Secondly, it won't go bad.

MRE packages and other survival foods will typically last for about three years.

If cooked properly, hardtack can last indefinitely.

However, it's probably best to throw it out after decades. It will most likely be perfectly fine, but you should always stick with a cautious approach.

Furthermore, you should keep your supply in an airtight container.

You certainly don't want rodents or other pests trying to get to your stockpile. 

Finally, its nutritional value and its low impact on the weight of your pack makes it great for a survival food.

Especially when you combine that with the previously stated benefits.

You can't expect it to replace some good game animals and fresh vegetables, but it can sustain you.

In an emergency situation, that's all that matters. 

What You'll Need To Make Hardtack

If you're ready to try your hand at making some of the world's oldest survival food, you'll need a few things.

Luckily, they are all household items and fairly cheap to acquire.

Flour is the most important ingredient. You'll need about two cups for most recipes. So, a simple one pound bag is plenty to get you started on stockpiling a good amount.


You'll need water to make the dough. You don't have to worry about buying fancy spring water or anything. Your tap will work just fine.


Salt. This is an optional ingredient, but salt will help preserve your stockpile, and it'll add some flavor to an otherwise tasteless dish. Again, this is optional. So, you can have as much or as little as you want.


Rolling Pin. You'll want something to flatten your dough with. A rolling pin is preferred, but you can get by with anything that is capable of flattening your dough into a quarter inch sheet.


Oven. Obviously, you need to be able to cook your raw dough to harden it. There's no point in going out and making a campfire if you're preparing ahead. Just use your oven.


Campfire (alternative) If you're in the field, you'll need to start a fire. This is a basic survival skill. So, I suggest that you learn to make one before even considering hardtack.


Cookie sheet. If you're using an oven, you can simply put your dough on any cookie sheet you have sitting around.


Dutch oven or skillet. For campfire cooking, you'll want a dutch oven or a cast iron skillet. One of these should be in your pack anyways, but it's worth noting.

Hardtack Recipes

Traditional Hardtack Recipe

  • 4.5 cups White Flour
  • 3 Tbsp Salt (Optional)
  • 1.5 cups of water

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F
  2. Add dry ingredients to your bowl.
  3. The amount of water you need can vary a bit. I add a ½ cup at a time and work it in.
  4. Knead dough, The end consistency you are going for is just pliable enough to be smooth and worked with a rolling pin.
  5. Roll out till approx 1 inch thick
  6. Cut into square biscuit shapes
  7. Dock or poke holes in the dough.
  8. Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 mins
  9. Allow to cool completely

Modern Hardtack Recipe

  • 3 cups White Flour
  • 1.5 cups Sweet Sorghum Flour
  • 9 Rounded Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • ½ Cup Refined Coconut Oil
  • 3 Tbsp Iodized Salt
  • 1.5 cups of water

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F
  2. Add dry ingredients to your bowl.
  3. The amount of water you need can vary a bit. I add a ½ cup at a time and work it in.
  4. Knead dough, The end consistency you are going for is just pliable enough to be smooth and worked with a rolling pin.
  5. Roll out till approx 1 inch thick
  6. Cut into square biscuit shapes
  7. Dock or poke holes in the dough.
  8. Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 mins
  9. Allow to cool completely

Gluten-Free Hardtack Recipe

People who suffer from gluten intolerance have difficulties consuming wheat based product.


So when preparing for when SHTF you need to take that into account.


In this recipe we'll be replacing the wheat product flour, by almond flour, which is a nut based product. 


This recipe uses much less water then other hardtack recipes because almond flour has a higher amount of fat in it.

  • 2 cups of almond flour
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup of water
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of salt (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F
  2. Add dry ingredients to your bowl.
  3. The amount of water you need can vary a bit. I add a ½ cup at a time and work it in.
  4. Knead dough, The end consistency you are going for is just pliable enough to be smooth and worked with a rolling pin.
  5. Roll out till approx 1 inch thick
  6. Cut into square biscuit shapes
  7. Dock or poke holes in the dough.
  8. Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 mins
  9. Allow to cool completely

How To Make Hardtack

Whether you're making the traditional, modern or gluten-free recipe, the steps to make hardtack remain the same.

The process isn't very difficult, and it's not time consuming.

However, I've included a comprehensive list of instructions to get you through your first attempt. 

If you prefer to watch how to make hardtack instead of read through the process, then take a look at the video below by IslanderHero.

Step 1: Preheat

To save you time later, you should preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 

This will allow you to get your finished dough in the oven as fast as possible. 

Step 2: Dry Ingredients

how to make hardtack

Courtesy of IslanderHero

Next, you'll want to put your dry ingredients in a bowl. 

If you're using salt, you'll need to mix it with your flour thoroughly. 

Step 3: Add Water

how to make hardtack

Courtesy of IslanderHero

The amount of water that you need will vary. 

So, you'll have to do some guessing work during this step. 

Start pouring water into your flour and salt mixture. 

Don't make it too watery or too dry.

Step 4: Knead Dough

how to make hardtack

Courtesy of IslanderHero

To knead your dough, you can simply move it throughout your hands and press it into a ball repeatedly. 

It might take a few minutes, but you want to continue kneading until it's smooth enough to roll out with a rolling pin. 

If you're new to kneading dough, AllRecipes has made this helpful video.

Step 5: Roll

how to make hardtack

Courtesy of IslanderHero

Next, you need to roll your dough out. 

It's best to keep your dough at about an inch thick. 

After all, this is survival food. 

You'll want the end result to be hearty. 

If you've never used a rolling pin, Epicurious has made this video for reference. 

Step 6: Cut

how to make hardtack

Courtesy of IslanderHero

The next step is simple. 

All you have to do is cut the dough. 

If you want it to be sized optimally, you'll want to cut it into squares that are three inches long and three inches wide.  

Step 7: Poke

how to make hardtack

Courtesy of IslanderHero

In order to ensure that the dough bakes thoroughly, you'll need to poke holes in it. 

All you have to do is take a slender and pointy object, and poke holes that are evenly spaced throughout the dole. 

You're not trying to poke all the way through. 

Just poke enough to make a good dent in the dough. 

Step 8: Bake

how to make hardtack

Courtesy of IslanderHero

Finally, you're ready to bake your dough. 

You should already have the oven preheated at this point. 

So, all you have to do is slide the dough in and wait around thirty minutes. 

It may take up to forty minutes. 

If the surface is a light tan color, your dough is finished cooking.  

Whirlpool Appliance Repair Self Help Videos ​has created this guide on using your oven to bake. 

Step 9: Cool

how to make hardtack

Courtesy of IslanderHero

Now, all you have to do is let your finished product cool.

You need to let it cool down to room temperature when you handle it.

This process will ensure that it fully hardens and doesn't break or bend.

To do this, you can simply leave your freshly baked hardtack on the counter overnight 

This video video from Daron Viglioti is for bread, but it demonstrates the exact steps that you need to take, and it translates to our recipe perfectly. 

How to Eat Hardtack

Now that you've made your hardtack, you've probably realized that it's hard as a rock.

That's what makes it so durable during travel, and the lack of moisture is why it lasts so long. 

However, you still have to eat it for it to mean anything.

There are several ways that you can eat it. I prefer to dip mine in my morning coffee and allow it to soften.

However, you can also fry it in animal fat, crumble it into a stew or soup, or cover it in a really wet gravy. 

You'll want to soften it somehow.

If you eat it by itself, you risk cracking a tooth. It really is that hard.

The point is to have food during an emergency situation, and you definitely don't want severe dental problems. 

You should also double check for any sign that pests have invaded your storage container.

If you use an airtight container, you should be fine. It's still worth checking, though. 

Storing Your Rock Hard Biscuits 

In order to keep your new survival food around, you need to store it properly.

The best way to do this is a two step method.

You'll want to begin by storing individual servings in vacuum sealed bags.

This will prevent moisture from reaching it and destroying it.

Then, you want to load all of those individual packages in a sealed container that is either metal or heavy duty plastic.

Rodents can be a big threat to your stockpile, and the added security ensure that they stay out. 

You need to watch out for moisture and pests.

If you stored it properly, those threats shouldn't be a problem under normal conditions.

However, you need to check your stockpile regularly to make sure nothing got through your defenses. 

If you want to make your survival food last longer, you should keep it in a dark, dry place.

This can be anything from a cabinet to your basement.

If you're a prepper, you probably already have a designated food storage location that fits the bill. 

Conclusion

Did you find this article to be of any help? I hope you did. 

Using my hardtack recipe can keep your food stockpile nice and full for when an emergency strikes.

It's become a permanent part of my prepping food supply.

You simply can't go wrong by storing a decent amount of it in your food storage.

It will help you stretch your meals, it's cheap to make, and the nutritional value that it provides can save your life. 

Please, feel free to talk about this guide in the comments.

What do you think about hardtack? Is it something that you'll integrate into your survival gear?

Also, feel free to share this information to your friends. It might just save their life!


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