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How to Make Good Tasting Hardtack

March 3, 2015

Hardtack is one of the survival foods of the American frontier. Movies and television often portray hardtack as being a bad-tasting, tooth breaking assault on the taste buds, but this is not at all true. This being said, traditional hardtack is nothing to write home about taste-wise. It is basically made of flour, salt, and water; mixed into a dough, rolled out, and baked. Simple to make, full of carbs, but not very tasty. The recipe that I am giving you here adds just four simple ingredients that make a world of difference in the taste of the final product. It’s so good, that if I lived in Beverly Hills, I’d call these handmade artisan-bread crackers; but, I live in the backwoods of East Texas so I guess I’ll just call it hardtack. Here’s the recipe:


1 ½ cups of all-purpose or whole wheat flour
1 cup quick oats oatmeal (not instant)
1 teaspoon of salt
¾ teaspoon of baking soda
¼ cup of sugar
1/3 cup of vegetable shortening, lard, or oil
¾ cup of warm water



In a mixing bowl combine the flour, oats, salt baking soda, and sugar and mix thoroughly


Add the shortening and cut it into the dry ingredients


Add the warm water and stir the mixture until you have a uniform dough.


The dough will probably be pretty sticky at this point. Sprinkle it with small amounts of flour as you kneed the dough. Keep adding flour until the dough no longer sticks to your fingers.


Divide the dough into two balls and set it aside.

Sprinkle your cutting board with flour and rub flour on your rolling pin.


Place one ball of dough on the cutting board, sprinkle flour on top of it, and roll the dough out thin; about an eighth of and inch thick.


Use the bumpy side of a meat tenderizing mallet to press indentions into the dough. If you dip the head of the mallet into flour after every third of fourth use, it will keep the head of the mallet from sticking to the dough. If you don’t have a mallet, use a fork to poke indentions into the dough. These aren’t just for looks. They help the cracker cook evenly inside and out.



Now take a pizza cutter, or just a regular knife, and cut out your crackers. I make mine about two inches square.



Place the squares of dough on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees F. until the crackers are golden brown. On my old stove this is 18 minutes, but I’d start checking at 15 minutes if I were you. Meanwhile you can roll out and prepare the other ball of dough for baking.



Take the hardtack out of the oven and let it cool.



You’re now ready to bag it up and hit the trail, or if you’re in Beverly Hills, you’re ready to grate some sweet onion and break out the Beluga caviar. So happy trails or bon appetite, whichever is appropriate.


  1. jjwalters permalink

    Great recipe . . .

    Question: I am looking for something to add insects (crickets/wax worms/meal worms) into as a protein base for long term survival . . . do you think adding natural honey and cricket flour to the mix would destroy it? . . . or kill its shelf life? . . . PS I AM serious about this . . . 🙂

    • The honey would not have any effect on shelf-life but I’m not sure about the cricket flour. Adding anything with fat in it means that it can turn rancid over time. This recipe is not really good for long-term storage, something I should have included in the post. Traditional hardtack was made with white flour and no added fat for this reason. Whole wheat flour goes rancid much quicker because of the natural oils in it. Don’t know how much fat is on a cricket but my mentor taught me to eat grub worms as a source of fat in a survival situation. They aren’t bad at all.

      • jjwalters permalink

        a hundred years ago in jungle school we ate grubs and stuff. I know that Americans have an icc factor when it comes to that, but I am thinking survival and protein . . . I know MANY Cambodians survived on insects for years so . . . thanks for the info. I’m working also on things like kimchi . . . pemmican etc. . . . hardtack might work with the idea of short shelf life (we need fat ) . . . ? Thanks for the good article. I’ll be reading you more as time goes on . . .

      • Neil Fountaine permalink

        This will be my 2nd shot at this as my 1st was flour, salt and water. I like the idea of the “Tenderizer” for the top look texture. Next batch I will try the honey and oats & flour, salt and water. But still I’m concerned with shelf life and health safety. I will be vacuum packing with moisture packs

  2. jonperrin permalink

    How long does this last without going bad? Do the added ingredients shorten the shelf life?

    • Jon,
      Not sure how long this hardtack lasts. It goes pretty fast around my house. I have used it for a couple of weeks without refrigeration. As to the second question. Yes, the added fat will shorten shelf-life. See the comment and reply below. Thanks for reading. Hank

  3. Gotta make some now, Hank. Thought about you today and wanted to see what you been up to. A lot I’d say. Looks like you’re still doing great stuff!

  4. Kevin permalink

    This is a great recipe thank you. Makes the modern hardtack tastier.

  5. Will LeBlanc permalink

    Thanks for the recipe.

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