Hardtack and Pemmican: Perfect Survival Foods You Can Make Now and Store for Later

hardtack, a homemade survival food, on a cutting board

Learning how to make your own survival food can be a lifesaver during an emergency. Two of the most historic and popular survival foods are hardtack and pemmican. Here’s what you need to know about each food, and how to make them. 


Hardtack is a simple homemade survival food that only requires three basic ingredients. For centuries, hardtack has been a staple survival food for pioneer homesteaders, soldiers, explorers, sailors, and many others. Hardtack earned most of its fame in the American Civil War. However, historical records date the biscuit all the way back to ancient times, made by the Egyptians and Romans.

Hardtack gets its name honestly. Before eating hardtack, soak it for at least 10 minutes or risk breaking a tooth. You can soak this prepper bread in coffee, tea, milk, broth, or other liquid. 

Easy Hardtack Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cop water
  • 2 teaspoons salt 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Do not use self-rising flour—the leavening agent will decrease the shelf life. The salt is important, too—it acts as a natural preservative, and without it, this bread is very bland. 

Add water a little at a time and knead together until the dough comes together. The dough should be slightly tacky but not stick to your fingers. If you need to add a little more flour, that’s okay. 

Note: You can add dried herbs and spices, such as rosemary, basil, or black pepper, to improve the flavor, but know that it will reduce the shelf life. 

Roll the dough into a rectangle about ½ to ⅓ inch thick using a rolling pin. Cut into 3×3 inch squares, then poke 3 rows of 4 large holes into each square all the way through. You will have approximately one dozen biscuits.

Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet and place in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then flip the biscuits and bake for another 30 minutes.

Cool on a rack in a dry area. Leave for 1 to 2 days to dry completely. Store in an airtight container. 

How Long Does Hardtack Last?

Correctly stored, hardtack can last approximately 30 years or more — a perfectly made hardtack can last up to 100 years! 

What Is the Nutritional Value of Hardtack?

Because hardtack is only made with flour, water, and salt, look at the flour and salt’s nutrition facts to determine the nutritional value. The average piece of hardtack made with all-purpose flour will have about 100 calories and 16 grams of carbs. It gives you what you need but will usually leave you feeling hungry.


Historical records show that we have the Native American people to thank for this ultimate survival food. Pemmican is high-energy, long-lasting, and very portable.

Easy Pemmican Recipe

Note: Bacteria will turn your pemmican bad in no time, so wash your hands thoroughly before you begin and throughout the process.

If you are starting with raw meat, you must separate the meat and fat first. Cut off all the fat and save it to use later. Cut the fat-less meat into strips. You can ask your local butcher for help with this. Heat the meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, then use a dehydrator, oven, or the sun to dry out the meat until it’s brittle and cracks when bent. (For the oven method, bake at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for about 8 hours).

Render the fat by heating it in a pan on the stovetop over low heat until all proteins solidify and any liquid evaporates. Then, strain out any leftover solids. If you are starting with solidified tallow, soften it in a pan on the stovetop over low heat, just soft enough to work with your hands. 

Grind dried meat in a food processor until it’s a fine powder. Pulse dried fruit in the food processor to desired consistency (larger pieces of fruit add variety to the texture). Mix the dried fruit and powdered meat in a bowl.

Add the soft tallow evenly to the dry ingredients and mix them all together. 

Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and dump the fruit, meat, and fat mixture onto it. Work the mixture into a square and let it harden. Once the mixture has fully hardened, cut it up into squares for storage.

Make a few batches and mix things up with different ingredients! This pemmican recipe uses freeze-dried pineapples. You can also try it with dried berries, unsalted nuts, and even honey powder to sweeten it up. 

How Long Does Pemmican Last?

Store correctly in an airtight container, and your pemmican will continue to cure and harden, lasting up to 20 years. The best option is vacuum sealing your pemmican.

What Is the Nutritional Value of Pemmican?

The average piece of pemmican (about 2.2 oz) has about 290 calories. It’s packed with protein — about 15 grams — and has about 26 grams of fat and 1 gram of carbs. The nutritional value will vary depending on the type of meat and additional ingredients you use. 

While pemmican and hardtack are great survival foods to make, you can’t beat the ease and flavor of no-prep 4Patriots Emergency Food Bars. And you don’t need to rely on only one-and-done food bars during an emergency. 4Patriots makes emergency preparedness easy with our survival food kits. These kits are packed with flavor and nutrition, and they’re easy to make.