How to Make Pemmican (Easy Instructions + 5 Recipes)

Last Updated: December 3, 2021

Pemmican is often called the “ultimate survival food” and rightly deserves its title as a “superfood.”

Pemmican is basically a mixture of dried meat, fat, and sometimes dried berries.

It is very easy to make yourself without any special ingredients or tools necessary, just follow the simple instructions below.

How to Make Pemmican

Making pemmican is very easy, and you can adjust the recipe however you’d like, such as by adding spices, herbs, and honey.

So long as everything you add is DRY, then the pemmican won’t go bad. (More on how to store pemmican and shelf life below).

Here are the basic instructions and pemmican recipes.

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Pemmican Recipe

  • Author: Diane Vukovic
  • Total Time: 17 hours
  • Yield: 2930


Pemmican is the ultimate survival food: very easy to make, calorie dense and can last for decades.


  • Red meat: Traditionally game meat is used, but now beef is most common. 5lbs of meat will make 1lb of dried meat
  • Fat (suet): You will need to render the fat into tallow. Instructions below. Use about a 1:6 ratio of fat and dried meat, but you can experiment.  The ratio doesn’t have to be exact!
  • Salt: 1tsp salt per pound of meat
  • Optional: dried berries, herbs, spices, honey


  1. Cut fat off of the meat: You should only dry the meat, not any fat on it!
  2. Salt the meat: This will help inhibit bacteria growth and make the pemmican taste better.
  3. Dry the meat: Instructions follow.
  4. Turn the dry meat into a powder: A meat grinder is best, but you can also use a blender or food processor. It needs to be almost a powder with no big chunks in it.
  5. Turn the berries into a powder: Same as with the meat.
  6. Mix the powdered meat and powdered berries together.
  7. Heat the fat so it liquefies.
  8. Pour the fat over the powdered meat/berry mixture. The ratio of fat to dried mixture is about 1:6, but you can experiment.
  9. Let cool and form into balls or bars.
  10. Wrap in wax paper or plastic bags and store!


Follow instructions as above to make these alternative recipes:

Nutty Recipe

2 cups jerky
1 cup dried fruit
1 cup tallow
½ cup almond flour

Chicken-Coconut Recipe

2 cups chicken jerky
4-5 tbps coconut oil, melted
Herbs or spices like thyme or curry

Peanut Butter Recipe

2 cups jerky
1 cup dried blueberries
1 cup sunflower seeds or nuts, crushed
2 tsp honey
¼ cup peanut butter, melted

  • Prep Time: 2 Hours
  • Cook Time: 15 Hours (including drying meat)
  • Category: snack
  • Method: baked
  • Cuisine: American


  • Calories: 2930

Keywords: pemmican

How to Dry the Meat

The easiest way to do this is to use a food dehydrator.

You just cut the meat into thin strips and put them on your dehydrator rack. Follow the dehydrator instructions for drying time and temperature.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can dry meat for the pemmican in your oven.

  1. Turn on the oven to 170F.
  2. Cut the meat into really thin strips and put them on a baking sheet. You can also put the strips directly onto the oven rack, but some drippings might get inside your oven.

The meat will need to dry in the oven for about 15 hours – occasionally open the oven door to release the moisture which builds up.

The meat is done when it is VERY CRISPY. It is very important that the meat is dry or else the pemmican will not last as long.

You can dry berries in the same way as the meat.

How to Render Fat into Tallow  

Fat will eventually go rancid. But, if you render it first, then it can last virtually forever.

Rendering fat into tallow sounds complicated, but it is actually really simple and has a lot of health benefits.

It is best to use beef fat for pemmican, but you can also use lamb fat. You can get these at your local butcher, and they might even give it to you for free. The fat is also known as suet.

  1. Remove any remaining meat which may be on the fat.
  2. Cut the fat into chunks. You might also want to put it into your food processor to get it even smaller.
  3. Put the fat into a big pot.
  4. Cook on the lowest setting. For each pound of fat you render, you will need to cook it for about 1 hour. Yes, this will take a while! You don’t have to monitor the fat the entire time, but do occasionally check in so it doesn’t burn.
  5. The fat will melt, but you will see bits floating on the top.
  6. Once the bits on top are golden brown and the fat stops bubbling, then the rendering is done.
  7. Strain the fat through a sieve or cheese cloth into a jar. You just want the liquid parts and not those crispy bits. When the fat (now tallow) cools, it will be a pretty golden color.

*You can also use a slow cooker to render fat into tallow. Just put the fat into the slow cooker, put it on the Low temperature setting, and let it render for a few hours. You’ll know it is done when the fat is liquid with crispy chunks floating on top.

**Don’t want to bother making your own tallow? You can buy it on Amazon.

History of Pemmican

Pemmican was likely first invented by the Inuit tribes living in Arctic areas and Alaskan tundras, but it was also eaten by many Native American tribes throughout the continents.

Related Post: How To Make Hardtack

These tribes were nomadic, and would often go out on long hunts. They would need a lot of energy to sustain these hunts, but wouldn’t be able to carry a lot of food with them nor search for food along the way.

Their solution was to make pemmican to carry with them.

Traditionally, pemmican is made by cutting pieces of game (elk, bison, moose, and deer were common) into thin strips and drying it into a jerky over a fire.

The jerky was pounded with stones until it became a powder. Then liquid fat was added to the powdered jerky in a 1:1 ratio. Sometimes dried berries were also added.

When explorers came to the Americas, they realized the value of pemmican. It was particularly popular with Canadian fur traders.

Many voyagers relied on pemmican during their expeditions. Notably, Robert Peary used pemmican on all of his North Pole expeditions and says that the journey would not have been possible without pemmican.

The Ultimate Survival Food?

pemmican ball

Pemmican is made from just 2 ingredients: meat and fat, though berries or other ingredients are often added.

The fat provides the energy needed for a strenuous journey. The meat provides the protein and strength for the journey.   When berries are added, they provide additional energy (glucose) and also antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber.

You can literally survive for weeks or months on nothing but pemmican and water.

Since it is so nutritionally dense (lots of energy without a lot of weight), it is the perfect food to put in your survival backpack or Bug Out Bag.

Note that pemmican doesn’t taste very good – and this is another reason it is such a good survival food.

Why would you want to pack something which isn’t tasty?

Consider that the Canadian Arctic Rescue team recommends putting a can of dog food in your car as survival food.

The idea is that dog food tastes bad, and you won’t be tempted to eat through it so quickly (as you might with yummy granola bars).  The dog food idea is interesting, but I’d rather pack pemmican for my survival food!

For more on survival foods, read our survival food list and post about food stockpiling mistakes.


How long will pemmican last?

If everything is dry and the meat is prepared properly this stuff can last for decades when stored correctly.

However, because there is a lot of fat in pemmican, the fat can go rancid from oxidation. There is also a lot of moisture in the air which can re-enter the pemmican. Once moist, the pemmican can start going bad.

The key to maximizing the shelf life of pemmican is to store the pemmican away from oxygen and moisture.

Obviously, I haven’t had pemmican sitting around for a decade on my shelf to tell you whether it will last this long. 🙂 But I have eaten pemmican which is over a year old. To play it safe, I would make sure to cycle/rotate through your pemmican stockpile every year or so.

How do you store pemmican?

The key to maximizing the shelf life of pemmican is to keep it in a cool, dark, and dry place. When stored in these conditions (such as in an airtight container in your pantry), the pemmican should last at least 6-12 months.

If your region is particularly humid and hot (think Florida), then you are probably better off storing pemmican in the refrigerator. Better safe than sorry!

If you want to store pemmican for long periods of time (such as for an emergency food), then you will need to package it in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers – but it will need to be incredibly dry. You can read how to do this here.

Can you use pork fat in pemmican?

We would caution against using any cut of pork or pork fat in pemmican as it can contain harmful bacteria.

Can you use lard to make pemmican?

Lard is rendered pig fat, we would advise against using any pork products in pemmican due to the risks of trichinosis.

Can I use ground beef to make pemmican?

Ground beef should work well but make sure it doesn’t burn in the preparation phase.

Can I use coconut oil instead of tallow in pemmican?

If dried and prepared correctly. Coconut and other oils should work well in place of tallow. However, the shelf life of the pemmican might be shorter than if you don’t use tallow.

Pemmican from Utopia Festival – Long Table Dinner by Jen Castro, found at Flickr CC License BY NC ND 2.0By Jen Arrr (Pemmican BallUploaded by oaktree_b) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Leave a comment

  1. I note that you caution against using pork. What about cured pork such as pork jowls or coppa (lean cuts) and made into a powder as a part of the meat? I have nothing against beef but am thinking about flavor.

    • Using even cured pork can be risky unless you can verify how it was cured? See this post: “”

        • Domestic pork and its fat is perfectly safe: Freezing cuts of pork less than 6 inches thick for 20 days at 5 °F (−15 °C) or three days at −4 °F (−20 °C) kills Trichinosis Spiralis larval worms.

          You only need to avoid WILD pig/boar meat or bear. Those are not affected by freezing the meat.

  2. I love Pemmican! However, I carry two different versions…One is loaded with berries and a hint of honey, the other has a hint of cayenne pepper. My bag is packed with a half pound of each!

    • Not sure what you are asking here. You will need beef fat to render tallow, don’t think there will be enough fat in the ground beef itself.

    • Tallow is made by rendering suet which is the fat around the kidneys. It is a more waxy fat than the subcutaneous fat we see in out steaks and ground beef.

  3. I understand I can make Chicken Pemmican with coconut oil…. should it be fresh-pressed and unrefined or refined organic…….

    • Lard is rendered pig fat so we would caution against it (see above). Peanut powder should work very well as it has very little moisture content.

      • All peanut products contain aflatoxin. Just a thought. I personally avoid peanuts and peanut butter/ oils. Even organic is tainted.

  4. Can I dry out beef jerky? I find that it is too wet to make the pemmican. I tried shedding it but didn’t work very well.

    • Hi Lynne – not sure what you are asking here, beef jerky is already dried out and is an excellent survival food in its own right. Please could you clarify.

    • It should work just fine. While beef jerky is dried, it is not as dry as you need this meat to be, so drying it further should work.

    • Vegetable oils should be fine. Not sure on chicken fat, I think it shouldn’t cause any problems but if anyone else knows for sure please comment here.

  5. I’ve tried making it with coconut oil. It’s fine if you’re eating it right out of the fridge but it would liquify in your backpack on a summer canoe trip. I’ve just ordered grass-fed beef fat and am making some with tallow next week. I can’t wait to add this to my Keto lifestyle for backwoods canoe tripping and hiking. Should make a perfect light energy source.

    • Hey Mark – thanks for sharing your experience regarding the coconut oil, as mentioned above it really needs to be kept in a cool and dark place for the reasons you specify. Let us know how you get on with the beef fat.

  6. Have been making 88 lbs of this stuff get sirloin steak on sale 5 bucks a lb if ya can 10 lbs meat about 2:5 lbs powder meat 100 lbs meat getting me about 44 lbs pemmican play around with tallow meat ratio 1 to 1 ratio a little to oily for this guy add stuff play around with it nuts flax seed meal whatever this ain’t something ya want to order in a restaurant but we are taking 50 day canoe trip in Canada I’m planning on 44 lbs per person but then that depends on fishin good luck

  7. Just watched Steve1989MREInfo on youtube eat Pemmican from a 1906 WWI emergency ration can, he didn’t die, so I think it would be good for a lifetime as long as it is vacuum packed.

    • Yes, vacuum sealing would be fine and help extend shelf life even more. Just note that vacuum sealer bags aren’t actually 100% air tight. If it’s humid where you store it, moisture will still get into the pemmican. You might want to add a desiccant to the bags to help with the moisture.

  8. I store mine in mason jars with a thin layer of suet fat on top to seal in the pemmican. I have some that I’ve stored it this way for over 10 years and have eaten from it with no ill effects

  9. Can I beef jerky from the store and use it instead of drying my own? I’m just starting out and learning as I go. Thank you

    • I haven’t tried that but I’m sure it would work. You’d just have to make sure to choose a brand of jerky which is very dry (in other words, has a very long shelf life).

  10. I’m new to pemmican but not to food safety. Trichinosis and bacteria are not a problem if pork is cooked before drying and pork fat is rendered.
    It should also be mentioned that a sterile environment and procedures should be used during preparation, as with any preserved or stored food.
    Can’t wait to make my first batch.

    • I don’t see why it wouldn’t work 🙂 You might just have to play with the amounts a bit since (from what I remember) different animals have different percentages of certain fats, so it might make one fat harder or softer than another.

      • I dry my meat bone dry and never had a problem with the rendered fat holding it together. As far as crunchy goes, just let it sit in your mouth a min and it softens up. I just ate some tonight that has been in my fridge for 4 years and it’s still fine.

    • Carnation Instant breakfasts are basically milk powder + sugar. Milk powder will eventually go bad (the fats go rancid). However, it shouldn’t shorten the shelf life too much. Sorry I can’t give you an exact time. 🙁

  11. I add dried powdered onion, garlic, sage, and a hint of cayenne to mine for flavor before drying. Deerskin bags of pemmican, have been found in the northeast and are still edible after 200 years.

  12. Trichinella spiralis is transmitted by eating spores encysted in muscle of an infected animal. Other than the encysted spore, any other stage of the parasite easily is killed by cooking. Even the spores will die if raised to 165 degrees F. The larvae are known to encyst in the striated muscle of the definitive host. Unless the animal is grossly infected, the probability of finding a cyst in rendered fat is, essentially, zero.

  13. Hi PS,
    I just started searching this after finding a video on Youtube. I’m wondering if you could use pemmican as a food while you are riding (cycling) like a protein bar ? Reading somewhere else, it is more of a base to make a meal rather than as a food in itself but here it seems to be different. Or is it the way it is made that dictates this ?

    • Yes, I have friends who cycle and they often snack on pemmican. It’s not ideal for multi-week trips though because the heat can cause the pemmican to go bad. It’s kind of impossible to keep it cool in your saddlebag for days on end.

  14. It’s my first time making it. At first I didn’t put enough fat so it was super dry and crunchy and braking apart so I put it back into pan with more fat. I’ve added salt, garlic powder and onion powder. It still broke some when cutting. I used a pizza cutter. So I choked on my first batch but hopefully second will be safer to swallow. Either way it tastes awful to me. Luckily it was only 2 pounds of venison which were soaked in salt before drying. I didn’t have dried blueberries yet. Will that improve the taste a lot? How much would I add?

    • Fat and sweetness will always improve taste. 🙂 You’ve got to experiment with the flavors and amounts though to find something which works for you. I personally might cut back on the garlic powder as it can be overpowering.

  15. i have many pemmican ingredient ideas, lemme know your thoughts:

    diatomaceous earth
    powdered maple sugar
    applewood smoked salt
    granulated blackstrap molasses
    alternative salt
    bee pollen
    white pepper
    essential oils
    gooseberry (golden berry)
    dried A1 sauce
    dried sriracha sauce
    mustard seed
    caraway seed
    poppy seed
    ginger powder
    sassafras root
    emmentaler aged for over 2yrs

  16. Haven’t made this but I wanted to comment. An elderly family friend I went to check on after hurricane Katrina on the very humid gulf coast had been eating his old MRE’s he had stored in an outside storage shed. He had eaten hot dogs among other things. They were 20 years old from time he was in Reserves. I was shocked! It’s been over 15 years now and he’s still in good health & didn’t get sick. MRE boxes give much shorter shelf life but I’m now comfortable keeping mine from Katrina a bit longer as we lost power for wks after Ida this year. MRE’s are vacuum sealed I believe and a 3 meal/day has around 5000 calories from what I was told from Reservists helping after storms.


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