Eat & Drink

Hard Tack

“If the war doesn’t kill us, the hardtack certainly will” – Civil War Soldier

Hardtack (or hard tack) is a simple type of biscuit or cracker, made from flour, water, and sometimes salt. Hardtack is inexpensive and long-lasting. It is used for sustenance in the absence of perishable foods, commonly during long sea voyages, land migrations, and military campaigns

The name is derived from “tack”, the British sailor slang for food. It is known by other names including Brewis, cabin bread, pilot bread, sea biscuit, soda crackers, sea bread (as rations for sailors), ship’s biscuit, or pejoratively as dog biscuits, molar breakers, sheet iron, tooth dullers, and worm castles.

The recipe below makes roughly fifteen 3×3 hardtacks. They will last quite a long time (20 years or so) if you keep them in a dry, sealed area where they can’t be reached by insects.


2 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon salt (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 cup water


Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Combine flour with salt in a mixing bowl.
Add water and mix with hands until the dough comes together.
Roll out on a table to about 1/3 inch thickness.
Use a knife to cut 3×3 squares from the dough.
Place on baking sheet, and use a dowel (see note above) to make 16 evenly-spaced holes in each square.
Bake for at least four hours, turning over once half-way through baking.
Cool on a rack in a dry room.

*Recipe courtesy of

How to eat Hard Tack historically

Hardtack is meant to be a survival food when nothing better is available.

  1. soak Hard Tack in water until soft but not dissolved (several hours)
  2. soak Hard tack in hot coffee until soft but not dissolved (several hours)
  3. fry Hard tack in bacon grease for until soft (several minutes on each side)
  4. Add Hard Tack to any soup or stew recipe (as the soup/stew cooks it will soften)

* Whether your reason for making them is historical or survival, please, watch your teeth!