How To Make Hardtack - A Civil War Recipe!

How To Make Hardtack – A Civil War Recipe!

June 2, 2019 Posted by Jack Taylor - 14 Comments

How To Make Hardtack!

Civil War SoldierToday, I’m going to teach you How To Make Hardtack and give you a little historical background as well. There have been many inventions and technologies that we consider to be the pinnacle of human achievement such as going to the Moon or the invention of the internet or smartphone for example. I’m going to introduce you to an invention that is arguably just as important as those mentioned above including the wheel and even the discovery of fire.

I am obviously referring to Hardtack. This simple food ration has fed soldiers at war for thousands of years and made sea exploration possible for explorers like Juan Ponce De Leon, Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus. Those of you not familiar with the name hardtack. Well, it goes by many other names as well. For centuries, seafaring people and pioneers alike called this food cabin bread, pilot bread, sea biscuit, sea bread, ship’s biscuit and as we will discuss today, hardtack.

Hardtack offers a carbohydrate energy source that was simply void of moisture. This dried mixture of water and flower was often baked as many as four times. This would ensure that it could be stored for many, many years without spoiling. With that being said, the hardtacks were not completely bullet proof. There are stories of sailors opening up a barrel of hardtacks only to armies of beetles waiting inside and their food rations for the voyage ruined.

This could have happened for a variety of reasons such as the hardtacks were not not entirely free of moisture or the barrels not being sealed correct. Whatever the case may be, these stories were very uncommon. Hardtacks when made correctly, can last for a very long time. Go ahead and check out the video below. This is the same exact Hardtack Recipe they used during the U.S. Civil War. I found this recipe inside The Lost Ways Book. Enjoy!

The Lost Ways – How To Make HardTacks

I hope you enjoyed the Original Hardtack Recipe presentation as much as I did. As you can see, making hardtack biscuits is very easy to do. However, I’m going to share this same hardtack recipe in the video with you. I’ll go over each and every step of the recipe as well as providing color illustrations from The Lost Ways Book. You are going to want to bookmark this page for future reference. I already gave you a little background on hardtacks but to better understand how powerful this recipe is. We have to go back to the U.S. Civil War.

During the Civil War, the South was literally strangled by a Union naval blockade that kept fresh wheat and other vital supplies out of the hands of the Confederacy. In fact, in the early days of the war, the Confederates were forced to eat hardtacks from the Mexican American War which ended in 1848. This AMAZING fact alone should give you an idea of how powerful the effectiveness of this food really is.

If you are ever in Pensacola, Florida, stop by the Wentworth Museum where you’ll find a still edible hardtack from the U.S. Civil War labeled 1862. The hardtack recipe you are going to learn today will enable you to make food that will outlast your lifetime. In fact, after the U.S. Civil War ended. There was tons of unused hardtacks that the government stored away. Fifty years later during the Spanish American War, American soldiers used Civil War hardtacks for food rations.

1862 Hardtack

It was not uncommon for Civil War soldier’s full meal to consist of one hardtack for breakfast, one hardtack for lunch and one hardtack for dinner. And then, you have to take into consideration that these soldiers had to engage in hand-to-hand combat after grueling hikes for miles on end. To put in perspective, the Civil War soldiers fought with little more than coffee and flour in their stomachs.

Even though the Union Army had vastly more resources, Union soldiers also had to depend on hardtacks for their daily rations as well. Of course the Union Army was not eating hardtacks from previous wars like the Confederates. None the less, their hardtacks were hard as a rock too. Eating a hardtack is like eating a rock so make sure you are using your best teeth or you’ll shatter one, literally.

Civil War Soldiers Eating Hardtack

To temper its hard nature, soldiers would often dip their hardtack into coffee, whiskey or tea. This acted as a softener. Some of the soldiers would smash the hardtack with the butts of their rifles and mix in a little river water to make a mash. If there was a frying pan available, they would cook the mash and make it into a lumpy pancake. If not, they would drop it right on the campfire coals.

Soldier Eating HardtackFor dessert, sometimes soldiers would crumble the hardtack and mix it with a little hot water and brown sugar. If they were lucky enough to have a bottle of whiskey with them, they would add a little of that as well. They called this resulting dish a pudding. As you can see, Civil War soldiers were creative with their hardtacks. They had to be because eating a hardtack alone isn’t very tasty.

You can still find real hardtacks being made at Civil War reenactments. The men and women who participate in these historic battles try reproduce everything including the food for a real Civil War experience. These hardtacks produced by the Civil War enactors are the most authentic you’ll find anywhere unless you make them in your own kitchen which I’m about to show you now.

Hardtacks are also gaining popularity among preppers, outdoorsmen, hunters and survivalists alike. The hardtack biscuit is prized for the exact same reasons Civil War soldiers carried them for their daily rations. Another reason why hardtacks have become so popular is because how inexpensive and easy to make. Every American should have a stash of hardtacks just in case disaster strikes and you need to survive on your own for a few days or weeks.

The “Original” Hardtack Biscuit Recipe

Ohio Soldiers Eating Hardtack


  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Water

Things You’ll Need:

  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Rolling Pin
  • Pizza Cutter (Optional)
  • Fork
  • Big Nail


Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Add your flour to the large mixing bowl and stir it around a bit with your fork.

Add the salt to your large mixing bowl next and make sure that you stir it really well so it gets integrated into the mix properly.

One of the BEST pieces of advice Claude gives in The Lost Ways Book is when you are making dough by hand and if you’re making hardtacks (Make Sure To Leave Your Food Processor in The Cupboard). This is a hands on only operation if you want to make hardtacks correctly.

Once all of your dry ingredients are incorporated into the mix. The next thing yo want to do is to create a whole in the center of the mix.

Using your fork to push the flour mix up and around the edges of the mixing bowl.

The next step is to put your water into the well you made and slowly begin to incorporate the flour mix into the water. Using your fork to slowly knock the sides into the well while allowing the water to begin to thicken.

This technique with the well will allow you to have total control on how much flour you add into your mix.

Mixing The Flour

Creating The Well

Once the mix gets stodgy and doughy, you can turn it onto a floured table. This mass will be pretty sticky and it will take some additional flower and elbow grease to smooth it out.

After The Dough Is Mixed

What you have to do next is begin to work the dough by poking at it with your finger tips and folding it over itself while adding flour until it stops sticking to your hands and table top. The dough will get smoother and softer after a few minutes of work.

Preparing The Hardtack Dough

Once your dough has come together you can begin to round it out. Make sure your dough is smooth so that it won’t stick to your rolling pin or whatever else you may be using to shape your hardtack. The image below shows our dough is ready for the next steps.

Hardtack Dough Ball

There are several ways you can choose to manipulate your hardtacks into various shapes and sizes. Claude utilizes a rolling pin and a pizza cutter.

Rolling The Dough

If you wanted to, you could use a cookie cutter as well. One thing to keep in mind is your cookie cutter may be making little dinosaurs but these tough biscuits will not become a family favorite around the house. Especially, for the little ones in your household.

The traditional way to form hardtacks is to use a rolling pin in order to form a square or rectangle. Should you have trouble forming your square or rectangle. Just simply use your pizza cutter or knife to trim the edges. Make sure that your hardtacks are at least a 1/2 niche thick. You have to remember that these things were actually dinner for the soldiers of the Revolutionary War, The U.S. Civil War and possibly Roman legions as well.

Hardtack Dough The next step is to use a common household nail and start poking holes into the hardtack. This will allow the center of your biscuit to dry out quicker and thoroughly in the oven. For a nice sized square piece of hardtack. Poke at least 16 holes straight through the dough.

Another way of shaping your hardtacks is to break your dough down into smaller pieces. These smaller portions will cook a lot quicker and can be more easily divided among others should an emergency situation arise. You can make it both ways for storage as well. The choice is yours!

I’m going to let you in a little secret that will make baking your hardtacks and anything else for that matter a breeze. Once you use this toll you’ll never bake without ever again. This simple little tool is called “Baking Steel”. What it is is a sheet of thin steel that you place on your oven rack.

The Original Baking Steel came out around four years ago and has greater conductivity and higher volumetric heat capacity than a baking stone. It’ll produce pizzas with crisper crusts and deeper char even in the same temperature range. More importantly, pizza stones tend to crack with use while The Original Baking Steel will last a lifetime, or longer just like your hardtacks.

You can use a baking stone as well and it’s just as effective. So, whatever you decide to use. The next step is to lay your hardtacks out and give them enough space to bake evenly. Go ahead and place your hardtacks in your over for 30 minutes.

Hardtack Biscuits Completed

This 30 minute cook time is just the first of at least two more bakes that these hard biscuits have to go through. This process, although time consuming is critical and will ensure that there is no remaining moisture in your hardtacks. Any moisture remaining inside the hardtack will become the enemy of this process of shelf life. Some of the old hardtack recipes call for three or even four times in the oven. These biscuits are closer to bricks than food.

Okay, once your first 30 minutes of baking is over, pull out your hardtacks and allow them to cool. All of the steam will come out of them and they will get pretty hard. Keep in mind that they not be dry or hard enough to store at this time. After letting your hardtacks cool down for 20 minutes or so, place them back in your oven. This time set your timer for one hour.

This part of the process will allow the hardtacks to bake thoroughly which will dry your biscuits and start to give them a golden brown color. Once the hour is up the baking process is complete. Make sure that you turn your oven off and DO NOT REMOVE YOUR HARDTACKS. You need to leave your hardtack biscuits in your turned off oven. This will allow for the heat to slowly drop in the oven while your hardtacks dry even further.

Hardtack Biscuits Ready To Eat

This is the last time in the process for really zapping out any remaining moisture left inside your biscuits. Congratulations! At this point, you’ve created authentic Civil War hardtacks that have a lifetime of shelf life. I do have to warn you that unlike most foods you make from scratch. I’m not sure that you are going to enjoy this recipe as much. They are as dry as a desert and as hard as a brick.

Those are basically the two features for your palate when it comes to hardtack biscuits. I’m sorry to say that it won’t get much better than that and in all honesty, it shouldn’t. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER flavor them up with butter or herbs during the cooking process because it will drastically shorten the life span of your hardtacks. Use only flour, salt and water and your hardtacks will literally last forever.

You can always spice things up once you’re ready to eat a hardtack. I do have to caution you again about how hard hardtacks really are. They are called hardtacks for a reason! If you want to try one of your hardtack biscuits, you need to take some precautions first. Make sure that you are chewing your hardtack with your best teeth or you could lose a filling or even worse. Shatter a tooth!

All kidding aside, you just learned how to make an ancient food that carried both the Confederate and Union Armies through unimaginable tough times during the U.S. Civil War. If you follow this hardtack recipe I got from The Lost Ways Book exactly. You will have a supply of nutritious food for you and your family that will have a shelf life of well over 100 years. Every American should have a stockpile of hardtacks in their homes. You never know when disaster will strike but you can always be prepared.

Now You Know How To Make Hardtack Biscuits!

The Lost Ways Special Edition BookThe hardtack recipe I shared with you today is just from one of many exciting chapters inside Claude Davis’s The Lost Ways Book. You’ll learn other lost skills our forefathers used such how to make pemmican, how to build a root cellar, how to build a well the pioneer way and so much more. The Lost Ways Book is much more than a survival book. It’s also a book a real American History.

Inside the pages of the best selling book are the blueprints on how to build the GREATEST country the world has ever known. Without this AMAZING book, skills our forefathers used could be lost forever. You will discover lost knowledge your grandparents knew and it’s all beautifully preserved inside The Lost Ways Book. This book is written by Claude Davis who is a Wild West Historian with a passion for sharing our heritage and preserving it for generations to come. The Lost Ways Book is a real National Treasure and should be in every American household.

This fantastic book has something in it for Americans of all ages. It doesn’t matter if you are a prepper, hunter, outdoorsman or a historian. The Lost Ways is one book that is a must have for your collection. This book is a masterpiece and already a collectors item. Grab your copy of The Lost Ways Book today and learn American History like you’ve never learned before. You will be taken back in time and see firsthand what it was like living in early America. This is truly a stunning book that should be required teaching in all American classrooms.

I want to personally thank you for spending part of your day with us today. I hope you enjoyed Claude’s hardtack recipe and ready to give it a try. You probably have all the ingredients you need to get started right now. If you have any questions about How To Make Hardtack Biscuits or The Lost Ways Book. Please leave them below now and I’ll be more than happy to get back to you as soon as I can. If you want more recipes like this, click on the button below and grab your copy of The Lost Ways Book now!

Thanks again for visiting with us today,

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