Pemmican – The Ultimate Survival Food

Pemmican. The ultimate survival food. I’ve been researching old world ways of food preservation and the topic of pemmican would come up every time.

Pemmican is a meat product that has a heavy concentration of protein and fat. A staple in Native American cuisine, pemmican was generally made with Bison. This preserved meat came in especially useful during the winter months with North American colonist and Canadian hunters as food was scarce.

The Old World way of preserving meat is slowly fading since the advent of refrigeration. I think the importance of this preserved meat lies in keeping this tradition alive. We are living in crazy times and sometimes going back and learning from our past will help us moving forward

Pemmican is known for providing energy and protein in a very small serving. This calorie dense super survival food is light weight, has a long shelf life, and is very easy to make. Today we are going to be making pemmican and what I can tell you is that there isn’t one definitive recipe. We can all agree that lean mean and melted fat are 2 quintessential ingredients but the additives are left up to the creativity of the pemmican maker.

We will be slicing our lean beef 1/4 inch thin and 3/4 inch wide. Just like you would for beef jerky. Unlike beef jerky Pemmican is not seasoned prior to drying. We will be using our Smokin It smoker along with Bella’s Cold Smoke Generator to dry the meat and achieve a nice smoky flavor. Our cold smoker does a great job at smoking gently for long periods and this is exactly what I’m looking for. A little Pecan and Apple wood over a 10 hour period should resemble the flavor of Pemmican being dried over a gentle camp fire.

My starting temp will be around 200F for about an hour. I’ll then reduce the heat to 165F for about 12 hours or until the meat is cracker dry. I don’t want any moisture at all in this beef.

Once my meat has completely dried out I’ll be using my blender (Vitamix 750) to completely pulverize the meat and turn it into a powder. The traditional method of doing this was to use a mortar & pestle. After I have my meat powder I can set that to the side to prepare my fruit powder.

Using fruit in Pemmican is completely optional. It does give it a nice flavor but it also shortens the shelf life a little bit (by how much I don’t know). Today I’ll be dehydrating blueberries, apricots, bananas, and cranberries to add to my pemmican. You can add any fruit you want as long as it’s completely dried. The same principal that we used to make the beef powder is applied to the fruit as we do not want any moisture left in the fruit. Water is the enemy of food preservation. I am using an Excalibur Dehydrator to dry my fruit and once it’s finished I’ll finish the process by placing them in my blender for a few seconds till I have a lovely fruit powder.

The last and arguably the most important element to this recipe is the fat. Don’t use lard. It’s too soft and gives the pemmican an unsatisfying texture. You need a hard fat that has a high melting point and solidifies quickly at room temperature. Bison fat works great but isn’t readily available. Beef tallow is a great option as we can generally get it from our local butcher, the supermarket, or Amazon!!

If you can get already rendered tallow that is great. I couldn’t, so I had to render my own. No big deal as I ran the beef fat through my meat grinder, placed it in my crock pot, then strained it through some cheese cloth. VOILA!!

The last step is assembly. I took equal weight meat powder to fruit powder and added 1.5% kosher salt to it. Mixed well. Then I added the same weight in liquid tallow. I mixed it well, placed it in a mold, and refrigerated for a few hours. Once finished I took it out and cut it into squares. Pemmican complete!! Store in a vac bag in a cool dark place.

Enjoy the video where I take you through the entire process. If you have any questions let me know..

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5 from 1 vote

How to Make Pemmican

The Ultimate survival food
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time15 hrs
Total Time16 hrs

If you are making sausage adjust the servings to reflect the total weight of your meat and fat

Servings: 13 Servings


  • 454 grams rendered beef tallow
  • 454 grams dried fruit powder any fruit will work
  • 454 grams lean beef powder
  • 13.62 grams kosher salt this is 1.5% of the combined weight from the fruit and beef.


For Beef Powder

  • Use a lean cut of beef for the beef powder. I like top round or bottom round. Be sure to remove all fat and silver skin. Slice 1/4 inch thick by 3/4 inch wide.
  • Dehydrate for 12-13 hours till the beef is completely dry and brittle. I like to smoke mine during that time for extra flavor.
  • Once dried completely, place the dried beef in your blender till it is completely turned into a powder. You might have to work in batches depending on your blender. Set to the side.

For Fruit Powder

  • Using a dehydrator, dry whatever fruit you plan on using. Blueberries, bananas, cranberries, papaya, mango, all work great. You can use a combination of fruits or just one. It doesn't matter.
  • Once the fruit is completely dried, place in the blender and pulse till it is a powder as well. You might have to work in batches depending on your blender.


  • Mix the beef powder and the fruit powder in a bowl. Add the salt. Mix well.
  • Melt the tallow in a double boiler and add to the powder mix. If you want your Pemmican a little dryer start by adding 3/4 of the fat and slowly add more till you are satisfied with the texture.
  • Stir well till all the fat has been absorbed into the powders. Form into a mold and refrigerate for a few hours till it firms up.
  • Store in a vac sealed bag, in a dark cool area.

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