Pemmican: How to make the fastest & longest lasting recipe (2024)

Do you know the best food to have when you need to fight for your survival? Pemmican, a portable, long-lasting, and energy-packed travel food will have your back during the worst of times. I once made pemmican when I was stranded in my grandfather's cabin in the middle of nowhere with no electricity and no food (that's a long story for another time).

The Origins of Pemmican

Pemmican is hundreds, if not thousands, of years old—no one knows for sure. This Native American food is a simple mixture of dried meat, fat, and sometimes berries. Traditionally made from bison and stored in rawhide bags, it became a valuable commodity after the arrival of the Europeans, as trappers and explorers sought it out to take with them on their long journeys across the unknown continent.

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A man namedPeter Pondis credited with having first introduced pemmican to White people in 1779. Pemmican soon became ubiquitous among Canadian fur traders, and soon the food spread to explorers of the Arctic and Antarctic, who were unable to make their expeditions without it. In the Arctic, pemmican was used as food for both men and their sled dogs. Pemmican was even adopted by the Royal Navy of England.

Similar cultures have similar foods. The Eskimo of western Alaska have a food called akutaq, made of whipped fat, berries, and fish. The peoples of the extreme northeast of Siberia have a food called tolkusha, made of dried fish, fat, berries, and edible plants. The similarities between the cuisines of these far-flung cultures is unsurprising, considering how great this type of food is fortraveling.

Why Should I Make Pemmican?

Pemmican gives you energy like nothing else. The human body gets energy from fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Pemmican is practically pure protein and fat, so it gives you tons of energy for the volume of food. The high fat content of pemmican is especially nourishing.

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Pemmican is compact, very portable, and very long-lasting as long as you make it and store it right. The convenience of pemmican is truly unmatched among high-energy portable foods. Plus, when you make it yourself, you can be sure of the quality.

Pemmican is great for a wide variety of situations. Camping, hiking, hunting trips, and physical labor all can tire you out quickly, and pemmican is very efficient at restoring that energy. Pemmican's long-lasting nature makes it ideal for emergency rations.

It's also a useful food to know how to make in a survival situation since it's non-perishable, nutritious, and uses ingredients easily found in the wild.

So, What's the Best Recipe for Pemmican?

1 Batch = 3 1/2 pounds

  • 4 cups dried meat - depending on how lean it is, it can take 1 - 2 lbs. 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 180° 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.
  • 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.

There is no "best recipe for pemmican". I always see people online asking, "what's the best recipe for this" and "what's the best recipe for that".

But personally, I don't use recipes for anything. Heck, I don't even measure the ingredients exactly. When I make my biscuits and gravy in the morning, I just throw together flour, salt, baking soda, butter, sugar, and milk in amounts that seem right to me.

I think that once you learn the general principles of creating any given food, just use what you have on hand and experiment to get results that satisfy you.

Pemmican is no exception. Don't let recipes restrain you; add whatever your heart desires.

There is great flexibility when it comes to the ingredients for pemmican. However, the meat needs to be as lean as possible toprevent spoilage. For this reason, avoid mutton and pork unless you're going to eat the pemmican right away. Otherwise, you can use bison, reindeer, moose, elk, or deer. Small game and poultry can also work in a pinch. Some tribes even used dried fish.

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Whatever fat you use must be one that is solid at room temperature. Suet is the traditional option. Alternates to animal fat include peanut butter, shortening, or maybe coconut oil if you're a hippie.

You can add more flavor by adding any variety of chopped dried fruit, including cherries, blueberries, dates, currants, raisins, apricots, and apples. Nuts provide crunch as well as additional fat for energy, and you can use anything from pecans to walnuts to almonds. Sunflower seeds are also a nice addition. Adding honey or maple syrup to your pemmican will add binding power as well as extra energy from carbohydrates. Spices like garlic, chili powder, and black pepper can add a kick.

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The general principles of making pemmican are easy to learn. First, prepare your meat. The traditional thing to do is to air-dry your meat, but you can dry it in your oven or even just use pre-prepared jerky. Indians ground dried meat into a powder with stones, but you can pulverize it by cutting it into small pieces and then putting it through a food processor, or just use a meat grinder before drying in the oven. Here's a video detailing drying beef without a dehydrator, if you can ignore the man's awful jacket.

The fat to meat ratio should be about 1:1, but if you live in a hot climate use 1 part fat to 2 parts meat, or even less fat if you find that your pemmican melts in the heat. Before adding fat, toss up the pulverized meat with any other dry ingredients you're including (nuts, fruit, and spices). After melting your fat, pour it into the powdery meat and mix well. Add honey or maple syrup if you've chosen to include that.

Spread the mixture evenly in a baking pan or baking sheet. Cool overnight, then cut into conveniently-sized strips. If you don't have any rawhide bags laying around, simply store your pemmican somewhere airtight.

Forget about protein bars, trail mix and other mass-produced outdoor foods. Instead, use the simple wisdom passed down through centuries of American Indian culture to make a more wholesome snack that you can make anywhere, take anywhere, and eat anywhere. This is why it could very well be considered the best prepper food.

The Best Way To Learn More About Making Pemmican & Other Lost Skills

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Pemmican: How to make the fastest & longest lasting recipe (11)

Pemmican: How to make the fastest & longest lasting recipe (2024)


How do you make pemmican for long term storage? ›

However, in order for pemmican to be shelf stable it does require a one-to-one ratio of fat to meat by weight; although some recipes call for a two-to-one ratio of fat to meat for extra calories. Interestingly, honey is an acceptable sweetener because it never spoils.

How do you make pemmican step by step? ›

To make your own, choose high-quality ingredients, such as dried fish or meat, dried berries, and fat. Grind the protein and berries until they're powdery and then mix them with warm rendered fat to make a thick paste. You can spread the pemmican flat and cut it into strips or shape it into a log for easy slicing.

What are the best spices for pemmican? ›

This will make the pemmican with the best shelf life. 1–Place raw ground meat in a mixing bowl. Mix in your favorite spices like: black pepper, anise, rosemary, lavender. (This is my favorite all-round combo but it's good to have several varieties.)

What is the best fat for making pemmican? ›

Render beef or bear fat (suet is preferred) – slowly heat trimmed fat until it turns to a clear liquid, strain off liquid. Let the liquid cool. This liquid is the rendered, shelf-stable fat to be used in the pemmican. Mix your dry powders and salt.

What keeps pemmican from spoiling? ›

Suet is the fat around the kidneys of the cow and works best for pemmican because it stays hard at room temperature and will help to preserve your meat. Stay away from lard or any nut oils as they will tend to go rancid faster.

How long will homemade pemmican last? ›

At room temperature, pemmican can generally last from one to five years, but there are anecdotal stories of pemmican stored in cool cellars being safely consumed after a decade or more.

What is the best meat to use for pemmican? ›

Shredded Beef Jerky

Typically a few spices are included for flavor. Machaca is a great protein source for Pemmican recipes because it is already in the physical state which you need, so there is no processing involved.

How to make modern day pemmican? ›

How to Make Your Own Pemmican
  1. Dry the meat like jerky, slicing thin pieces against the muscle grain. ...
  2. Build a drying rack over a fire. ...
  3. Powder the dried meat finely using stones, a mortar and pestle, or a food processor.
  4. Dehydrate the berries. ...
  5. Melt tallow from beef, venison, elk or bison.
Nov 15, 2023

What is the modern version of pemmican? ›

Made properly, pemmican would last indefinitely and could sustain an individual for months. Our modern-day version consists of a blend of bison, beef, berries, and other natural ingredients.

Can you use Crisco to make pemmican? ›

Take 1 pound of finely ground jerky Add 4 tablespoons of finely ground or powdered dried fruit, berries or herbs (such as sage, cherries or blueberries) Add sugar to taste if sweet pemmican is desired Mix in just enough lard (such as Crisco) to hold the dried ingredients together.

Can you use nuts in pemmican? ›

Pemmican ingredients varied widely, but they always included lean venison or buffalo meat mixed with fat. Some pemmican recipes also incorporated dried berries and nuts for added flavor and nutrition.

Can you use bacon grease for pemmican? ›

You'll need a minimum of ½ cup of rendered fat (I used a blend of bacon fat and coconut oil) and you'll want it to be hot so that it doesn't start solidifying on you while mixing. Mix in the hot, rendered fat. A mixer works great here. A blender can easily get overwhelmed by this combination.

How much pemmican per person per day? ›

Pemmican (One Pound of pemmican per day) Go here to learn how to make your own. Pemmican is the best backpacking staple because there is nothing that can compare to nutrient density. Pemmican is power packed with healthy animal fats mixed with dried pulverized meats and berries.

Can I use lard in pemmican? ›

The consistency should be dry and loose with fruit broken up. Add melted lard slowly while mixing. Two tablespoons of fat are used for each 4-5 ounces of meat plus 1/3 cup of fruit. Fat changes the consistency and makes it appear semi-moist instead of dry and improves the flavor and texture.

What is the ultimate survival food? ›

Some of the best options include: Grains like rice and pasta, which are rich in carbohydrates and provide you with the energy you need in survival situations. Legumes, which are a great source of protein and fiber. They are easy to store and can be used in a variety of dishes.

How long does pemmican last in storage? ›

A: In the freezer, years. At room temp, a year easily. No surprise that over time they'll dry out, harden up and lose some flavor, but years after the best-by date they've saved me from hunger meltdown.

How do you make pemmican in the wilderness? ›

Pound the meat into a nearly powder consistency using a blender or other tool. Grind the dried fruit, but leave a little bit lumpy for fun texture. Heat rendered fat on stove at medium until liquid. Add liquid fat to dried meat and dried fruit, and mix in nuts and honey.

How did Native Americans store pemmican? ›

Native American tribes relied heavily on bison, especially during the harsh winters, and pemmican was a creation that was cooled and sewn into bison-hide bags for storage.


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