Survival Crackers Recipe and History

Doomsday crackers, survival rations, survival crackers, whatever you want to call them, these were created during the Cold War era after extensive research by the federal government. These shelf-stable crackers are somewhat like hardtack crackers on steroids.

Making and preserving your own crackers will provide a nutrient-rich and inexpensive food source that can be plucked from the shelf either during a disaster, for camping and hunting trips, or when money is tight on the homestead.

survival cracker
survival cracker

The doomsday crackers do not taste any more appetizing than hardtack crackers – unless you perhaps put some homemade blackberry jam on them. But, they are very shelf-stable, and if eaten four to a meal, contain about 700 calories and the nutrients needed to sustain the body.

If you live on nothing more than these crackers eaten four to a meal three times a day, you will lose weight and suffer from a lack of quality nutrients that stem from fruits, vegetables, and meat – but you will not starve to death.

During the 1950s the government, and most of the populace, were keenly worried about a nuclear attack by Russia. Shelters were being built in backyards all across the country. School children were being taught to duck and cover beneath their desks if they heard the sirens blare.

Initially, the government engaged in its best efforts to turn every American into a survival homesteader. Alright, no politician from that era ever uttered such a label, but that is exactly the end result they were aiming for when launching the “Grandma’s Pantry” initiative and urging everyone to grow a backyard garden and learn how to preserve their own food.

The campaign included large and colorful displays in supermarkets across the country urging everyone to stock up on non-perishable and keep their pantries full – just like grandma always did to feed visiting loved ones.

The quaint cardboard cutouts of grandma and her pantry only did so much good. Much more needed to be done to ensure the masses would be fed if the Cold War suddenly became a real one.

Although the estimates of how long folks would need to remain in shelters after a nuclear attack were woefully too short, the federal government did grasp that survivors would need more than store-bought canned food to stave off hunger.

They also grew to understand that folks running in a panic to the nearest shelter would not be able to pack much of the grandma’s pantry items with them. Even if they could, the fallout shelters would not be large enough for the survivors, their stockpile of canned goods, or a place to cook them.

A new plan was hatched.

It was a very scary time in American history. Scores of scientists and nutritionists worked nearly around the clock to come up with a recipe for the doomsday survival crackers.

Once they finally found the right combination of ingredients, the federal government began working with the nation’s largest cereal manufacturers to secure contracts for their production. It was a mammoth undertaking to be sure.

Once the shelf-stable crackers were flowing through industrial ovens at the cereal plants, the lightweight heavy-duty version of hardtack was packaged and shipped out to all four corners of our republic.

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4.75 from 4 votes

Doomsday Crackers Recipe

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 6 crackers


  • 1 knife
  • 1 Mixing spoon
  • 1 Mixing bowl
  • Baking sheet
  • Clean nail or straw


  • 2 cups cornmeal flour bulgur flour was used in the original recipe
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  • Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).
  • Mix together the flour and salt.
  • Gradually pour in the cup of water.
  • Stir the doomsday cracker mixture to thoroughly combine.
  • Knead the dough gently but completely with your hands. It will be sticky at first but should become smooth out when the kneading is complete. Sprinkle a pinch of flour on your hands if the cracker dough sticks to it during the kneading process.
  • Lay out wax paper on the kitchen counter, or sprinkle a small amount of flour on the counter.
  • Place the dough onto the prepared spot and roll it out so it is about ½ of an inch thick.
  • Cut the dough into six to nine equal squares or rectangles.
  • Poke the clean nail or straw completely through the cracker to make a grid of four round holes on each one.
  • Put the crackers onto an ungreased baking sheet.
  • Bake the doomsday crackers for 30 minutes.
  • Gently turn the crackers over and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
  • Remove the survival crackers from the oven and let them cool thoroughly.


The crackers will be slightly browned on top when they are done. Place the doomsday survival food in either a Mylar or a Ziploc bag and store in a cool dry place.

You could also put the crackers into a Mason jar, and use the canning jar attachment to a vacuum sealing machine to increase their longevity. When prepared and stored properly, the doomsday crackers should remain safe to eat for between 2 to 5 years.

Every once in a while, a case of Doomsday crackers turns up in a shelter or basement. Several folks got their 15 minutes of semi-fame by eating the crackers live in YouTube videos.

It is strongly recommended that any old packets of crackers that are found simply be pitched and not nibbled upon, even if the container is left untampered.

Since there thankfully was no nuclear war, we won’t ever know how long a person could survive eating only the doomsday crackers. The federal government also planned to supply a hard candy type supplement that contained additional nutrients the survival crackers could not provide.

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20 thoughts on “Survival Crackers Recipe and History”

    • They assure venting in order to achieve a complete, uniform baking and dehydration process. Next time you eat a saltine or Graham cracker, take note that they also use these holes for this reason. Thorough dehydration prolongs shelf life.

  1. 4 stars
    Seems to me if 2-5 years is all you can safely expect I might make pemmican instead. It has real meat for much protein and some dried berries to ward off scurvy.

  2. 5 stars
    I remember reading that they ended up using this style cracker after they had a bad outbreak of mold erupting in the tins of the original civil defense crackers. I think I actually have a copy of the recall notice in my collection. A while back they found a forgotten shelter in NYC, how you lose a fallout shelter i don’t know, near or in the Brooklyn Bridge and the crackers were still “edible”.

    • It was not a fall out shelter. It was a room literally in the Brooklyn bridge on the Manhattan side. I am not sure how long it was in this room. But the room may have been a dark place, but NY in the summer is hot and humid with temperatures between 80F and 95F June through September. I doubt they were there the entire time but who knows. The crackers were from the 1950s and were indeed edible. If all moisture is taken out of the item and vacuum sealed as they were they can last much longer then thought. You really only want to eat 60yro crackers in a real emergency, or if you have a youtube channel and want to risk your health. I have seen a youtuber eat soup from 1906. It had beef bullion. He said it tasted good after adding salt. Goes to show you how long things can last when prepared properly.

  3. I’ve been reading and watching about this “dooms day ration” for the past day, and how long it took researchers to find the exact ingredients that would sustain people in a bunker, and it’s fricken corn meal, salt and water and/or flour, salt and water? I’ve verified this with other sources that this is indeed the recipe. It seems to me I would have come up with that in like 15 minutes. This is the exact same thing as hard tack but uses whole wheat or corn instead.
    Anyhow, thanks very much for your research and sharing.

    • Cornmeal. Wow. I don’t see how this could keep a person healthy for more than a week. Alive maybe, but any longer and you’d start to become seriously malnourished.

      • Which is what the author stated in the beginning… that although these WILL “keep you alive”, you will lose weight and start becoming malnourished due to lack of proteins and vitamins missing from fruits and vegetables. These might make for a way to stretch out your survival supplies, I would recommend you also make a sizable stash of pemmican, dehydrated meats and dehydrated fruits/vegetables. Ideally vacuum sealing each and storing in cool, dark, dry place in vermin-proof containers to keep out the mice or rats. My suggestion. You do you, but I hope this helps.

      • They are to keep you from DYING, not from losing weight and getting a little malnourished temporarily. Nothing you can’t easily recover from once the calamity is over. Look at the photos of the rescued concentration camp Jews. Malnourished, thin, but ALIVE. THAT’S what doomsday crackers are for. Period.

      • Adding edible weeds to the diet of crackers would add lots of needed nutrition. Important to be able to identify them. Won’t find them in an underground bunker, of course!

  4. 5 stars
    “ supply a hard candy type supplement that contained additional nutrients” used to buy this candy at a Surplus Store in the 1970’s. It was handy during hunting and fishing trips.

  5. So, am I correct in that “bulgur flour” is not something commercially available – one has to mill it themselves from bulgur wheat?

  6. 5 stars
    Reminds me of hoe cakes that fed the slaves in our past history. Basically they cooked the ground corn on the hoe they used to garden with.


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