Hemagglutinin (HA), the major influenza virus envelope glycoprotein, is the principal target of neutralizing antibodies. Wide diversity and variation of HA entails annual vaccination, as current vaccines typically fail to elicit/boost cross-reactive, broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs). Although several bnAbs bind at the conserved stem of HA making it an attractive universal vaccine candidate, the metastable conformation of this domain imposes challenges in designing a stable, independently folding HA stem immunogen. We rationally designed a stem-fragment immunogen, mimicking the native HA stem that binds conformation-specific bnAbs with high affinity. The immunogen elicited bnAbs and conferred robust protection against lethal, heterologous virus challenge in vivo. Additionally, soluble bacterial expression of such a thermotolerant, disulfide-free immunogen allows for rapid scale-up during pandemic outbreak.