What Did Pirates Eat and Drink

Are you curious about what pirates ate and drink while at sea for weeks and months on end? They definitely had a limited supply of fresh food so planning ahead was essential for survival. An adequate supply of rations was very important in order to feed pirate crew to keep them healthy while at sea.  The most commonly used food and drink were ones that would store well and keep for a long time. Read below to learn more about what real life pirates ate and drank while at sea.

Eggs, Milk And Biscuits

The beginning of each journey was the time when pirates enjoyed the freshest and most tasty foods of their time at sea. The start of each trip the pirate ship would be well stocked with meat, cheese, vegetables, eggs and more. Many times, live chickens were brought onto the ships and kept on board for their eggs. Even larger animals such as cows or goats were essential in order to provide milk and cheese for the crew. Once the regular food supply dwindled and some of the food began to spoil or go bad,  many times even the cows, goats and chickens were butchered so that their meat could be fed to the pirate crew. In order to help make food taste better in general, pirate ship cooks heavily flavored their meals by using lots of herbs and spices. In addition, they often pickled or salted meat and vegetables to extend their shelf life for as long as possible. For pirate ships on extended voyages, pirate crew often ended up getting by on minimal diet of dry biscuits, dried beans and salted beef.

Grog, Beer and Rum  

During the Golden Age of Piracy, it was very difficult to find fresh and clean drinking water, even on dry land. For pirates on the open sea, it was almost impossible to transport and maintain an adequate supply of fresh drinking water onboard. Because of this, many seamen drank grog, beer or ale as opposed to water. Fresh water on board would often become tainted by green scum and slime, so a small amount of alcohol was often added in order to improve the bad taste of old water.  This water and alcohol combination is better known as grog. In addition, one of the most popular alcoholic spirits that pirates regularly consumed was rum. Distilled from fermented molasses, rum was very popular on pirate ships as it was inexpensive to produce.


The word buccaneer is often used to pirates to pirates, but do you know its origins? The French word boucan refers to smoked meat that was slowly cured on a grate over an open fire. Hunters in the Caribbean cooked and cured meat using this technique and would then sell their smoked meat to pirate ship captain’s when they would dock to replenish their supplies. Over time, these hunters and cooks became known as boucaniers which translated to “barbecuers” because of how they cooked their food. The boucanier or buccaneers quickly realized that the ships they were selling the smoked meat had treasure and resources onboard that was worth way more than the meat they were selling. As a result, they started to attack ships they were selling their wares to and essentially became pirates themselves. Years later, authors who would pen novels about pirate life began to refer to pirates from the Caribbean area as buccaneers, and the rest as they say is history.

We hope you enjoyed this article about what pirates ate and drank at sea.