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Pemmican is a combination of dried meat, dry berries and tallow used as a healthy survival food because of its long shelf life.

Today, beef is commonly used for the dry meat unlike in ancient days where venison was the source for dry meat. Pemmican is a highly nutritious energy-dense and portable form of meat that makes a good addition to your survival food supply.

Let’s learn how to make pemmican recipe.

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How long will pemmican last?

Your Pemmican shelf life is a matter that’s up for debate and depends on how you make your recipe. Some people believe that a good pemmican recipe with properly prepared beef jerky can last for decades.

However, others believe the lifespan can vary between some weeks to a few years.

The exact lifespan of present-day pemmican isn’t really specific since it depends on how you make pemmican, as well as how you prepare your food.

However, you can get an idea just by reading through the ingredients, which also usually includes a mixture of of dried berries to go with the meat and fat.

Primary pemmican ingredients

The primary ingredient to make pemmican survival food is dry meat prepared from ground dried beef. Prepared properly, dried beef can have a long lifespan. This also depends on your storage methods, though.

With proper cool storage using an airtight container, dried meat can last for long periods of time – up to 20 years in a deep freezer.

Even if an emergency comes up and you are unable to access electricity, you can still keep your pemmican at room temperature using an airtight container for 3 to 5 years.

Animal fat is another primary ingredient in pemmican bars that nearly equals the percentage of dried meat. Animal fat (tallow) usually goes bad faster than dried meat.

However, the meat tallow used in pemmican recipes is usually rendered fat – which has a longer lifespan.

What’s rendering?

Rendering is the process of melting and heating fat at low temperatures until any water evaporates from the fat and proteins solidify. Rendered fat contains fewer impurities and water which is why the meat in your pemmican mixture lasts longer.

The amount of fat in your recipe to make pemmican also plays a huge role in determining its shelf life. Dried berries are the final ingredient in the Native Americans pemmican recipe.

The ingredients to make Pemmican can also last for a long period when you use an airtight container to store it in the freezer. You can also store many of the ingredients in your pemmican recipe without refrigeration for up to a year.

A typical Pemmican recipe usually contains a few dried berries and, because the mixture is thick, it means the berries will hardly be exposed to air. This works well to also help extend the shelf life of pemmican jerky.

The verdict

Now, based on the above explanation how long does pemmican last? By analyzing the food items in your pemmican recipe you can easily guess how long it could last. The key to pemmican’s long lifespan lies in rendering fat properly.

Make sure to store your pemmican mixture properly by keeping it in a cool, dry, dark area at room temperature or in a freezer. With proper storage practices, your pemmican can last for decades.

Can you live off pemmican?

Yes. Pemmican is a high protein food that also contains fats and dried berries. This is enough to help you survive a few days during an emergency before help arrives. Remember, you can survive for a limited time without carbohydrates, but the proteins and fat in Pemmican are critical.

The dry meat protein in your pemmican contains nitrogen which is critical for human reproduction and growth. It’s not the only macronutrient that your body needs.

However, it’s responsible for building muscle mass and can give you the energy you need to go about your daily chores.

What is the difference between pemmican and jerky?

Pemmican is a food that contains dried meat beaten into a paste and combined with rendered fat and berries. It’s then shaped to form small flat patties.

Jerky, on the other hand, is a lean, fresh meat that’s dried and conserved by cutting it into strips and sun-drying.

How to Make Pemmican at Home?

Perhaps the tiring part of making pemmican is waiting a long time for the ingredients in your recipe to cook and dry. When the food items you need are ready ,you only need a few minutes to add and mix everything.

Using a food processor for your recipe can also make the process go much faster.

Remember, you can experiment with different types of fresh meat for drying. You can also add honey to your dried berries to make pemmican sweeter.

Ingredients you’ll need

  • A pound of Beef Jerky. You can get the ready-made option from local stores. If you prefer to dry the meat yourself, there are many recipes available to help you make the best pemmican jerky.
  • Suet. This is a hard fat that’s found near the loins of a cow. While it’s ideal for pemmican nutrition, hard fat from bison or venison would be a better option to make your recipe more original.

You can either get suet to render from a local meat butcher or buy cans of meat tallow from natural or grocery stores. Meat Tallow is rendered suet and it can be costly. However, it will save you time and you could skip steps one and three of this recipe for pemmican.

  • Dried Berries. These are optional.

Remember, there are huge differences between various dry ingredients and the magnitude of their dryness. This explains why accurate amounts aren’t included here. For making pemmican, you’ll generally need a ratio of approximately 1:1 dry ingredients to tallow by weight.

Your dry meat and dried berries mixture may appear to be a lot but weigh quite little. Instead of measuring you can add a little amount of meat tallow to the mixture until it can hold shape once you press it in your hand. You’ll know your mixture is ready when you can easily form pemmican balls.

Tools you’ll need

  • A cheesecloth or mesh strainer
  • Food processor or blender
  • A measuring cup
  • A mixing bowl

Step by step process of making pemmican

Step 1

To make your pemmican recipe, start by adding your suet to a pot over low heat and start the process of fat rendering. The idea here is to melt fat over low heat so that you can strain out any impurities that change your suet into tallow.

Low heat is used to facilitate low rendering of the fat and to prevent burning which can spoil your pemmican food. The rendering process can take some hours. If you’ve got beef tallow then you can skip this step.

Step 2: Mix the remaining ingredients

As your fat is rendering, mix your dried berries, beef jerky, and any other dry food ingredients you wish to add. You can either use a food processor or a blender.

Work in small amounts to avoid overloading your device. Blend the dry food ingredients until you get a sawdust-like consistency before emptying it into a mixing bowl. Even when you choose to add nuts or berries make sure a big percentage of the overall mixture is meat dried into beef jerky.

Step 3: Filter the tallow

After your suet has rendered use cheesecloth or a mesh strainer to separate the beef tallow from impurities. You’ll know that your suet is well-rendered when most of it becomes liquid.

You don’t have to wait for the suet to be fully rendered. All you need is enough meat tallow to add in your beef jerky mixture. You don’t need this step if you’re using tallow.

Step 4: Add your tallow to the dry food mixture

Allow your beef tallow to cool to avoid burning yourself as you mix. Once it’s comfortable to touch add some of it in your dry meat jerky combination and mix with your hands.

Continue adding beef tallow until you can shape the food mixture by pressing it with your hands.

Step 5: Pack your pemmican and allow it to cool

Put your pemmican food mixture in a baking dish or shallow plastic container and place it in the fridge for several hours where it’s cool dark until it becomes firm. You can also opt to make pemmican balls, but these will take lots of space.

Step 6

Once your beef pemmican is cooled, cut it into small pieces. You can now have your first taste of pemmican, or just keep the food in a tightly sealed, dry container.

Store the final product in a cool, dark place. If you want to keep your pemmican for longer you can store it in the freezer.

Pemmican jerky recipe

This pemmican recipe was designed for home cooking but the recipe can also be modified for the wilderness.

Ingredients you’ll need to make 5 pounds of homemade pemmican

For making Pemmican, you’ll need:

  • 4 pounds lean beef brisket
  • 470 ml or 2 cups of Worcestershire sauce
  • 470 ml or 2 cups of soy sauce
  • 470 ml or 2 cups of thick delicious teriyaki sauce
  • 120 ml or ½ a cup of dark corn syrup or blackstrap molasses
  • 240 ml or 1 cup of liquid smoke. You can buy this from any local store
  • 3 tablespoons of onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar

Tools you’ll need to make pemmican

  • A large container with a lid
  • Knife
  • Aluminum foil
  • A plastic or wooden serving spoon


Place your fresh meat in the freezer for around one hour to make the slicing process work well. To get ready to dry the meat, carve it up and keep the grain at less than a quarter inch.

If your knife skills aren’t real great, you can ask your butcher to help you. For better and long-lasting jerky, your meat should be very lean.

Marinating the meat

Mix the rest of your ingredients, adding them into a large container and stirring. Work well to prepare your marinade. Drop-in your meat and make sure it’s well submerged.

Cover your container and leave it in the fridge for around 24 hours. When your meat is well marinated you’ll need to begin the drying process.

Drying the meat

To make pemmican right, this process is key. To dry the meat, start by adding aluminum foil to the bottom part of your oven. This will hold juices and fat from the meat, preventing your oven from getting messy. Start adding your meat along the oven racks, placing one after the other.

Make sure the racks are placed high in your oven for better results with your oven heat. You can also place your meat on a hardware cloth or aluminum foil.

For the right heat, set the oven temperature to 160°F or 180°F. Keep the oven door open by supporting it with a wooden stick. This allows moisture to escape and encourages the circulation of air to dry the meat more efficiently . This way, you can dry your meat without cooking it.

Allow your meat to dry for around 3 hours before turning it. Your jerky should be ready after another three hours time.

Remember, the total time to dry depends on your oven temperature and meat thickness. You’ll know your jerky is well done if you can easily remove a piece and bend before breaking it.

Leave your meat outside in the air and allow it to cool completely. Your meat is now ready to eat.

You can allow your meat to dry in a cool place for up to 24 hours before storing it in well-sealed Ziploc bags. The meat will remain in good condition for between 4 to 6 months in a cool, dark place without refrigeration.

Store your beef jerky in the freezer if you intend to keep it for a longer period of time.

Pemmican bars recipe

To make pemmican bars you’ll need the following food ingredients.

  • 2 pounds of lean ground meat. This can be turkey, beef, or venison
  • 3 cups of finely chopped dried berries
  • Between 1 and 2 cups of rendered fat
  • A quarter cup of finely chopped nuts. This is optional
  • A quarter cup of honey


  • Spread your ground meat on parchment paper either on a baking sheet or the racks of your dehydrator
  • Set your oven at 180°F for approximately 8 hours or even overnight. The idea here is to cook your meat dried until it’s crusty dry for pemmican. It shouldn’t be chewy as is the case with jerky
  • Crush the meat until you get an almost powder like consistency. You can use a mortar and pestle, food processor, or also a blender for the meat.
  • Add it to a small pot and melt your fat over medium-low heat
  • Mix the meat powder, nuts, chopped berries, and honey while adding liquid fat a little at a time to your mixture using clean hands. Continue adding fat until your pemmican ingredients can hold together when you press it
  • Place your pemmican mixture in a tray or dish and pat it to form a half an inch thick layer. Store it in the fridge for enough time to become solid and cut into bars.
  • Wrap your pemmican bars individually in parchment or waxed paper and keep it in the fridge

Vegan pemmican recipe

For this pemmican recipe, you’ll need half a cup of the following food ingredients (or 1 cup to double the pemmican recipe)

  • Raisins
  • Dried dates with seeds removed
  • Whole almonds
  • Dried fig with stems removed
  • Walnut pieces
  • Cashews
  • Pecan pieces
  • Wheat bran
  • Toasted wheat germ
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Nonfat dry milk powder
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Honey, and
  • A cup of ground flaxseed


Dice all your dry fruits or berries and add them with the ground flaxseed and nuts. Mix all your dry food ingredients and add to the nut and fruit mixture gradually as you alternate with honey. Add enough water to moisten your mixture before pressing it in a buttered 8-inch loaf pan (you may add salt to taste). Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes.

Remove your vegan pemmican from the oven and cool on a wire rack or pan. Remove the pemmican from the pan when it’s completely cooled and cut it into bars.

Put your pemmican bars in sealed Ziploc bags in the freezer. These pemmican bars can last for up to three months. Always line your pan with butter-greased aluminum foil for easy removal of your bars.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does pemmican taste like?

It has a pot roast (brown meat that’s cooked with veggies in a closed pot) taste.

Who invented pemmican?

The Native Americans invented this superfood like, energy-rich survival food.

Does pemmican go bad?

If you prepare your pemmican recipe according to this guide, then it’ll last for many years. However, it’s important to understand that this only applies to pemmican made with rendered animal fat and ground dried meat like the native americans did.

If your pemmican contains other ingredients, such as dried berries or nuts, they can reduce its lifespan.

Why does pemmican last long? You may ask. It’s because the meat is completely dried and salted. Further, molten fat is added during the preparation process and this covers every particle.

Bacteria can’t thrive in no, or low moisture conditions and salt prevents the growth of microorganisms that can make you ill. What’s more, the molten hot fat has a sterilizing effect and it also blocks out moisture from your pemmican. This helps keep it dry for a long time.

Some modern-day sources say that pemmican can last for five years. However, some reports from the 18th century show that it can last up to more than fifty years.

Regardless of your survivalist practices chances are that you’ll consume your pemmican before it can go bad.

If you’re a prepper, always prepare extra pemmican and make sure you preserve it well.

You may want to experiment with the conventional method of stitching hide pouches, securing them with more fat, and compressing them to facilitate storage.

What are some of the tricks and tips for making pemmican?

Here are a few things you should know to make pemmican preparation easier – no matter what recipe you use.

  • Make sure your berries, meat, and fat ratios are equal by weight as opposed to volume. This will guarantee you a great tasting product.
  • Pottery containers and glass jars are also a great option to use for keeping rodents away from pemmican food
  • You don’t have to store your pemmican in the fridge. However, this depends on your fat rendering process. You’ll also need to make sure you’re using airtight storage containers. If you make pemmican sausage-shaped, use a vacuum-packed or tight plastic wrap.
  • If you’re a vegetarian, you can make vegan pemmican using commercially produced, non-separated peanut butter instead of rendered fat. Substitute meat jerky with vegetable or fruit leather.

Make some pemmican today!

The instructions in this food guide will help you learn how to make pemmican, the ultimate survival food, and maintain a long shelf life that allows you to store it for years.

If you’re a DIY enthusiast, making homemade pemmican will be easier if you understand what you’re doing. This survival food will be essential in case of an emergency.

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