You’re in an SHTF situation: the power grid is attacked, the homeland is invaded, or you’re forced to flee your home from riots.
You have to bring food with you when you leave, but what can you really pack in a bug out bag and bring along with you?
That’s where survival bread comes in. Survival bread is the number one survivalist food.
Depending on where you are geographically located and what supplies you have at your disposal (or what you can grow), survival bread can be relatively easy to make and consistently last for months or years on the shelf.
But what is survival bread?
Let’s break it down right now.
What is Survival Bread?
Survival bread comes in many recipes and different names, but it all has the same basis: hard, dry, difficult-to-eat bread. It doesn’t sound that good, but it originates from a place of necessity.
Once upon a time, we didn’t have refrigerators for freezers to help us keep our food from going bad. Instead, we had to preserve it through other means. Salting, drying racks, you know the deal.
But bread was a staple for just about everyone. Sailors would bring flour on a ship for their voyage, but by the time they ended up looking into the flour to actually make something, it was riddled with bugs or rot.
It was the moisture. Moisture is the enemy of food no matter how you look at it, so sailors would make hardtack: a hard, mostly flavorless bread that would accommodate their voyages without spoiling for years.
They could grind this up into a flour or crumb, and use it to make better-tasting, fresher food on the ship, but without worrying about bugs and rats.
Hardtack isn’t the only type of bread, though. There are others that you can also count as survival bread, so let’s take a look at some of them.
Types of Survival Bread?
There are actually ten different types of survival bread, giving you plenty of options to pick from. These include:
This is sailor’s bread: a hard biscuit-like bread that is commonly baked and stored for years at a time, which can later be broken down to remake fresh, non-stale bread like a never-spoil flour.
This is the ultimate survival bread because of how long it lasts, compared to the other breads we’ll discuss in a minute.
- 2 cups all purpose flour (do not use self-rising flour)
- ¾ cup water
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
- Mix the flour, water, and salt in a bowl
- If your mix is still too sticky, add more flour in small increments until the dough is dry enough
- Use a roller to spread out the dough until it reaches a thickness of roughly 1/3 to 1/2 inches
- Cut the dough into squares
- Poke narrow holes in the hardtack biscuits with a chopstick or fork
- Place the hardtack biscuits on a baking sheet
- Put the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30 minutes
- Flip the hardtack over and bake for another 30 minutes
- Place the hardtack biscuits on a cooling rack in order to cool down
- Link to recipe: https://breaddad.com/hardtack-recipe/
This was a Roman-inspired Scottish type of bread, and it’s great because you don’t have to use a specific type of grain for it.
You can use oats, potato flour, heck even coconut flour if you have it handy. Bannocks aren’t as shelf-stable, but they’re surprisingly delicious and filling for survival bread.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- ¼ cup melted butter
- 1 ½ cups water
- Mix flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl
- Pour melted butter and water over mixture and stir with a fork to make a ball
- Gently knead dough on floured surface for about 10 minutes
- Form dough into a flat circle, about ¾ to 1 inch thick
- Cook in a greased frying pan over medium heat for 15 minutes on each side
- OR bake on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes
- Link to recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/6919/bannock/
Quite simple enough, this is bread dough that’s cooked over an open flame.
This sucks all the moisture out, helping to preserve it for longer. While it’s best eaten hot, you can make this ahead of time and store it if you want to. (Tip: it benefits gravy.)
- 1 kg white bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 10 g instant dry yeast
- 60 g cubed butter
- 600 ml lukewarm water
- Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast together
- Add butter to the mixture, rubbing it with your fingers, until it looks like crumbs
- Add water to the mixture to form dough
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 6 to 10 minutes until smooth
- Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover with cling wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size
- Knead the dough and shape into 12 balls
- Place balls onto a greased pan and allow them to stand for 10 more minutes
- Flatten the balls a little bit and flour them
- Cook over low fire for 10 minutes on each side
- Tap the bread with your fingers; if it makes a hollow sound, then it is ready
- Link to recipe: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/food/recipes/roosterkoek/
This bread is similar to tortillas, but actually has an Indian background. It’s commonly referred to as roti, and basically cooks in a pan like a pancake.
If you cook it long enough and dry it out, it should last for a few years in storage. If you’re making the dough for it and it feels like Playdough, then you’re on the right track.
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¾ cup hot water (or as needed)
- Mix whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, and salt in a bowl
- Use a wooden spoon to stir in olive oil and water; use enough water so that the dough is smooth and not sticky
- Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth
- Divide into 10 balls and let rest for a few minutes
- Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot, and grease the skillet
- Use a floured rolling pin to roll out the balls of dough until they reach a tortilla-like width
- When the pan starts smoking, place a piece of rolled out dough on it
- Cook for about 30 seconds, and then flip
- Repeat with remaining dough portions
- Link to recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/85469/indian-chapati-bread/
This bread used to be cooked in hollowed-out anthills. Appetizing, right?
The damper is basically fluffy biscuit-like dough that you can dry out and store like that, or you can vacuum seal the dough and cook it when you’re ready (fairly long shelf life). If you have a dutch oven and a campfire, you’re about to eat like a king.
- 4 cups self-rising flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon softened butter
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup water
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a baking sheet
- Mix flour and salt in a large bowl
- Make a well it the center of the mixture, and pour in milk and water
- Stir until the dough comes together
- Turn out dough onto a floured surface and form a loaf that is about 8 inches in diameter
- Place dough on the baking sheet and cut a cross in the top with a knife
- Bake for 25 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
- Continue to bake for 5 to 10 minutes
- The loaf is done when it is golden brown and when the bottom sounds hollow when tapped
- Link to recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/16726/australian-damper/
This is essentially a three-piece cornbread that’s commonly made with beer to help increase flavor, and because let’s be honest: I’m bringing beer with me if I have the option.
For proper pot bread, it’s usually made in a dutch oven over burning coals, or in a dutch oven.
Pot Bread Recipe
- 3 ¼ cups all purpose flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoons instant or active dry yeast
- 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
- 1-2 teaspoons granulated sugar (optional)
- 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Mix the flour, yeast, salt, and optional sugar in a bowl
- Add water and olive oil; mix again
- Oil the inside of an Instant Pot; choose the lowest setting (often yogurt, or 88 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Place the dough in the pot, cover with a towel, and place the lid or a plate over top
- Set the timer for 3 ½ hours
- When the time is up, place the dough on a floured surface and put more flour on top; wipe the inside of the pot
- Shape the dough into a smooth ball, handling it as little as possible
- Transfer the dough to a floured sheet of parchment paper; use the corners to lift the dough and place it back in the pot
- Choose the same heat setting and set a timer for 30 more minutes
- Replace the towel and lid or plate
- Halfway through the 30 minutes, place a Dutch oven or casserole dish in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
- Take out the Dutch oven, carefully place the parchment-wrapped dough into it, cover the pot, and return it to the oven
- Bake the bread for 30 minutes, covered; remove lid and continue to cook until golden brown
- Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove to a rack to cool
- Link to recipe: https://www.thespruceeats.com/instant-pot-bread-4801706
How to Make Survival Bread?
We’re going to focus on hardtack, because it’s the most resilient type of survival bread.
We don’t know how long an SHTF situation would last for, so instead of trying to get crafty and make half-a-dozen different breads, we’re going to make different variations of hardtack to help make it palatable, while maintaining that long-term shelf life.
It’s important to know that the basic ingredients of hardtack are flour, water, and salt.
This doesn’t mean you can’t add more to hardtack, but you can’t add more components that are going to hold onto moisture. Salt kills bacteria, and the water cooks right out of the bread in no time, so there’s no space for bacterial growth inside of the bread.
We’re going to make these custom hardtack recipes with a twist, but while still ensuring that they’re dry and able to be stored for years to come. There will be a universal way to make hardtack after these five brief recipes.
This is where it all started—the ship’s biscuit, soldier’s snack, whatever you want to call it.
This is a super basic recipe that you can use the universal instructions for, and it’s likely something you can make right now with what you have at home. No additional purchases needed. To make this, just avoid the seasoning step in the instructions below.
Tomato Basil Hardtack
I know what you’re thinking, and yes, tomatoes have a ton of moisture in them. But if you buy tomato powder, you don’t run into that problem.
This is a specialty spice and not one you’re likely to find on the normal shelves, which is why you’d do best to order some online if you want to make your own hardtack. It generally comes in 8oz to 16oz containers, which is plenty to make huge batches of this stuff.
Cinnamon is a spice that grounds up well and stays good for ages, but it can lose its flavor as time goes on. After about four or five years, cinnamon is around half as flavorful as when it’s ground up.
Ten years in, and you won’t be able to taste much of it, so it’s good to go through your hardtack storage once every couple of years, eat some of this, and replace it with a fresher batch.
Sesame and Pumpkin Hardtack
Dried sesame seeds and roasted pumpkin seeds add great texture to hardtack, but also add some of those flavors into whatever you dunk it in.
Most commonly, hardtack is dunked in coffee or cooked up in a skillet with some sort of a dish (generally breakfast). These flavors are excellent and last for the duration.
Onion and Garlic Hardtack
Who doesn’t love the taste of onion and garlic?
Well, this isn’t exactly garden fresh, but in an SHTF situation it’s better than bland hardtack every day.
You’re going to use dried onion bits and garlic powder instead of fresh ingredients. They’re already dried, and if you cook your hardtack thoroughly, then it’ll dry out any of those onion bits that might absorb liquid from mixing.
Universal Hardtack Recipe
1. Mix It Together
Simple enough: mix together the ingredients. You can scale as you see fit, but you start with four cups of flour, two cups of water, and three teaspoons of salt.
Your flour might fluctuate depending on the consistency you get (flour changes as it’s beaten and kneaded), so just know that it’s not uncommon to gradually add a little more flour as you go.
2. Roll Out Your Dough
Your dough is going to be very stiff and difficult to control at first.
That’s completely okay. Roll it out so it’s about a quarter inch thick. Hardtack is naturally somewhat thick compared to your standard cracker.
3. Air Holes
Because this bread is dense and it lacks yeast, we need some way for the heat to escape since it won’t be rising on its own.
Use a fork to poke some air holes in it so it resembles a saltine. This will help release that heat.
4. Cook Until Golden Brown
Last but not least, cook them in the oven until they’re a golden brown on top, like a nice tan/bronze color. Take them out, and leave them out for days. Two to three days at room temperature should be enough to really get out any residual moisture.
The Ultimate Survival Food
These military-esque rations are the best survival food for long-term shelf storage, and being able to make them with some camping cookware in a pan over a fire, if you have the ingredients nearby, is absolutely invaluable in a worst-case scenario.
Now you know how to make hardtack survival bread, and how to do it effectively without making it taste like garbage. It’s not going to be the most pleasant thing available, but given what limited resources we have in these situations, it does the trick.