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Pemmican Recipe: How to Make Pemmican+ Reasons to Master It!

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Ball of Pemmican. Photo by Jen Arrr

In this post, we will cover pemmican and share some easy traditional pemmican recipes.

Pemmican has been around for a long time and often referred to as the “original beef jerky”. The term came from the Cree word pimîhkân, which was derived from the word pimî, meaning fat or grease. Modern pemmican recipes are based on traditional ones originally made by North American Indians which is later adapted by Arctic explorers.

According to most survival and preparedness experts, pemmican is considered as one of the best “Survival Super Foods” on the planet. The reasons: pemmican, when made the right way, is a nutritious, high-energy food that can be stored to last for years and even decades without spoiling. But first things first, what is PEMMICAN? And how do you make one?

Pemmican is a meat recipe that dates back to over a hundred years. It was a favorite among the Native Americans because it was very easy to make and can be stored for a very long period of time plus, it tastes great.  Any kind of meat with high natural fat content can be used to make pemmican.

So, how do you make pemmican?

There are plenty of ways to make this super food, but families that love this food tend to have a special well-guarded pemmican recipe. It is like an heirloom recipe that has been passed down from generations to generations. But be that as it may, the main core process of making pemmican has always stayed the same for more than a hundred years. I’ve outlined this process below.

How to Make Pemmican: Step-by-step Process

Pemmican, sun-dried meat used by Native Americans (Dakota), hangs in strips on a crossbar supported by two timber stands. (Denver Public Library)

  1. Choose Your Meat

Any meat that has natural fat can be processed into pemmican. Elk, beef, caribou, and venison are just some of the best meat that you can choose from. However, never use rabbit and fish because their meat is too lean and can’t provide the necessary amount of fat that you will need later on.

  1. Dry Your Meat

Remove and save all the fat from your meat then slice your leftover fatless meat into thin strips. Next, dry your strips under the sun or in your oven (use lowest oven temperature) until the meat strips become brittle.

  1. Grind Your Dried Meat Strips

If you have a food processor, use it. But if you do not have one, mince your dried meat strips with a knife and use a blender to grind it. In a survival situation where electricity is not available, you can use a mortar and pestle to grind your dried meat strips. Just make sure that you grind your meat as fine as you can.

  1. Process the Fat You Saved

Put all the fat that you removed in step 2 in a pot over a low heat. Then, strain the fat using a mesh strainer once it has melted and began to boil.

  1. Mix Your Ground Meat with Dry Extras in a Bowl

In a separate bowl, just mix together your ground meat with your dry extras. Make sure to leave enough room for your processed fat.

What are dry extras?

Dry extras are any ingredients that have been dried up that you can add to your pemmican recipe. Examples of dry ingredients that can be dried up and added to your pemmican are:

  • fruits
  • berries
  • bananas
  • kiwis
  • apples
  • pineapples
  • grapes
  • tomatoes
  • chilies
  • nuts
  • paprika
  • chili powder
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • basil
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  1. Add Your Processed Fat to Your Dry Extras and Ground Meat Mixture

Just pour all your dried stuff into the pot of your processed fat and mix them all up.

  1. Mix Your Wet Extras

As it implies, any ingredients that is not dry is considered a wet ingredient. But do not be confused. When we say wet, it does not mean fresh. Wet and fresh are two different things. So be very careful because adding fresh ingredients to your pemmican recipe will shorten its shelf life drastically.

Here are some example of wet ingredients that you can add to you pemmican recipe.

  • caramel
  • syrup
  • honey
  • molasses
  • vanilla extract
  1. Form Your Mixture into Bars

While your pemmican mixture is still soft, pour it into a shallow pan. After the mixture has settled in, smooth it out. After your pemmican has dried, cut it to your desired bar sizes for storage.

With this process, you can experiment and create your own personal pemmican recipes.

The Importance of Mastering the Art of Pemmican Making Historical Importance

Throughout history, pemmican making served a great importance to the people who established the first nations. In fact, pemmican was a very important part of their lives as well as their diet. Many explorers on expeditions survived the harsh winters by eating the pemmican ‘as is’ or by dropping it into boiling water to make delicious soup.

Pemmican was also used as a form of currency during the fur trade.

During the Boer war (December 16, 1880- March 23, 1881) between the United Kingdom and the South African Republic, pemmican was also given as emergency ration. It can only be served and eaten when a commanding officer allowed it. They believed that a man could march for two days if he has pemmican with him.


pemmican bars

In terms of self reliance and survival skills, mastering the art of pemmican making is an important skill to have. Since pemmican can last for a long period of time and is easily transportable, it is the ideal survival food when it comes to emergency and survival situations. Making and storing pemmican makes very good sense because it’s not only an amazing source of calories that gives you abundant energy but it also packs protein, vitamins and minerals. Plus, you can keep it without worrying about spoilage.

Pemmican also serves as a good snack for different outdoor adventures such as:

  • Backpacking trips
  • Hunting Trips
  • Mountain Biking
  • Fishing Trips
  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Road Tripping
  • Outdoor Sailing

Economical benefit

Finally, knowing how to make pemmican can benefit you economically. If you become an expert in making this super food, and develop your own pemmican recipes, then you can make as many as you want, pack and package them, and start selling! They will surely sell like hotcakes especially in outdoors adventure loving and survivalist communities.

Here Are Some Pemmican Recipes You Might Want to Start With Saskatoon Pemmican Recipe

  • 1 c Jerky; beef or venison
  • 1 c Dried Saskatoon berries or dried blueberries
  • 1 c Unroasted sunflower seeds or crushed nuts of any kind
  • 2 ts Honey
  • 1/4 c Peanut butter
  • 1/2 ts Cayenne [optional]


This version uses peanut butter rather than melted suet or lard as the binding agent, which is more palatable for today’s health conscious diets.

Grind [or pound] the dried meat to a mealy powder. Add the dried berries and seeds or nuts. Heat the honey, peanut butter and cayenne until softened. Blend. When cooled, store in a plastic bag or sausage casing in a cool dry place. It will keep for months.

From: Edible Wild Fruits and Nuts of Canada, published by the National Museums of Canada, ISBN 0-660-00128-4

Cree Indian Pemmican Recipe


  • 1 cup dates
  • 2 cups smoked or dried buffalo, turkey or caribou (or 1 ½ tofu jerky for vegans)
  • 1 cup dried raisins— preferably unsweetened
  • 1/4 cup wild raw honey (or as much as you need to bind the mixture together)
  • 1 cup walnuts


  • Put all ingredients in a food processor (a large mortar and pestle would be an ideal alternative). Begin grinding the ingredients together on medium speed setting, adding honey little by little.
  • Once the mixture is fully mashed, the consistency will resemble an energy bar. Scoop the contents onto a large pan, flatten with a spatula or rolling pin, and slice into bars with a knife.
  • Refrigerate for 5 hours. Remove bars from pan and serve. When prepared correctly pemmican will keep for weeks without any further refrigeration.

From: The Sacred Cookbook by Nick Polizzi

Pemmican Recipe by the Dooleys of Boise


  • 4 c Dried meat
  • 3 c Dried fruit
  • 2 c Rendered fat
  • Nuts
  • Honey

4 cups dried meat – depending on how lean it is, it can take 1 – 2lbs. per cup. Use only deer, moose, caribou, or beef (not pork or bear). Get it as lean as possible and double ground from your butcher if you don’t have a meat grinder. Spread it out very thinly in cookie sheets and dry at 1800 overnight or until crispy and sinewy. Regrind or somehow break it into almost a powder.

3 cups dried fruit – to taste mix currents, dates, apricots, dried apples. Grind some and leave some lumpy for texture.

2 cups rendered fat – use only beef fat. Cut into chunks and heat over the stove over medium (or Tallow) heat. Tallow is the liquid and can be poured off and strained.

Unsalted nuts to taste and a shot of honey.


Combine in a bowl and hand mix. Double bag into four portions. The mixture will last for quite a while without refrigeration. I have eaten it four years old. It actually improves with age.

HINT: Vary the fat content to the temperature in which it will be consumed. Less for summer. Lots for winter. Not only is it good energy food for canoeing, but an excellent snack for cross country skiing.

This recipe was originally from a Chippewayan Indian Guide as he learned it from his father. No buffalo chips!

From: Newsletter for Voyageurs, printed in the Winter 1981 (Vol. 4, No. 1) issue. Submitted by the Dooleys of Boise

So what are you waiting for? Try making your very own pemmican bars right now. Who knows, you might end up as the world’s best pemmican chef!

Which of these pemmican recipes would you like to try first? Do you already have a pemmican recipe? Feel free to share it in the comments section.


The post Pemmican Recipe: How to Make Pemmican+ Reasons to Master It! appeared first on Survival, Prepping, Homesteading Skills For Everyday Folk.


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