Biltong (Survival version)

When I think about survival food the word Pemmican comes to mind. Pemmican is unseasoned meat (generally buffalo) that’s been ground into a powder, mixed with dried berries and rendered fat. The end result is a high calorie/protein meat bar that has an enormous shelf life.

So I had an idea. What if I took those same principals and applied them to biltong. Would we get a savory version of this survival food that had an awesome flavor with an extended shelf life? The answer is yes!

Making Biltong

The first step in this process simply requires us to make this tasty South African Meat snack. Nothing special about this step. Cut the meat (thinner is better for this version), season and cure the meat, then hang it to dry.

Drying the meat

This is where our new version takes a little twist. We want our “Survival Biltong” to be 100% completely dry. So we are going to be hanging our meat in a warm area for 7-20 days. A biltong box is great for this as your meat will be protected from flies during the drying process.

If you don’t have a biltong box but you have a dehydrator you can place all of your meat inside of your dehydrator also. Dehydrators will dry the meat out faster as there is constant heat and air circulation over the meat. So if you plan on using a dehydrator you will leave the meat in there for 2-4 days depending on how thick it was cut. I would set the temp to 95f for this method.

Is mold going to be a problem?

Mold will eventually want to start growing on your meat. This is normal. What we need to do to keep this from happening is spray our meat every 5 days with a 50/50 water and vinegar solution. This will inhibit the growth of any mold as your meat dries.

How do you know your meat has been dried properly?

For this survival version of biltong we want 100% of the moisture to be removed from our meat. There are a few ways to tell if this has happened. The first (and easiest) is to do a bend test. If your meat has been sliced thin enough when you ben the meat it will immediately break like a cracker.

The other way to tell (if you meat was sliced a little thicker) is when you try to bend your meat you will begin to see white fibers appear at the bend.

If you are in doubt, let it continue drying for another week (in a biltong box) or another 24 hours in a dehydrator.

Enjoy the video and the recipe where I take you through the entire process of making South African Biltong. If you have any questions let me know..

Here are a few things you might find useful when making Biltong

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5 from 2 votes

Biltong (survival version)

South Africa's favorite meat snack
Prep Time2 d
Cook Time14 d
Total Time16 d
How much do you want to make? 4540 grams


  • 4540 g bottom round or top round trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch thick steaks – with the grain
  • 120 ml red wine vinegar
  • 60 ml Worcestershire sauce
  • 102 g salt
  • 34 g pepper corn
  • 68.1 g coriander seed toasted
  • 22.7 g chili flakes optional for heat

Once your biltong is made you will need the following to turn this into a shelf stable version


To make the Biltong

  • Begin by preparing your meat. Trim off any silver skin, gristle, and soft fat. Cut your meat WITH THE GRAIN into 1/4 inch thick steaks. For this "survival version" of biltong thinner is better. It will dry quicker.
  • Toast the coriander and coarsely grind it up. Coarsely grind the pepper corn and chili flakes as well. Combine the coriander, pepper corn, and pepper flakes into a container.
  • Combine the red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in a container and pour half of this mixture In a tray that can fit your meat. Arrange all of your meat on that tray and pour the rest of the red wine vinegar and Worcestershire sauce mix over the top.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 of your salt over the meat and enough of your coriander spice blend to coat the meat. Turn the meat over and sprinkle the rest of the salt over the meat. HERE I LIKE TO SEPARATE A LITTLE CORRIANDER SPICE BLEND SO I CAN ADD IT AT THE END BUT THIS IS OPTIONAL. Add the remaining coriander spice blend to your meat.
  • Place the meat in a vacuum seal bag (or zip lock bag) ensuring that all of the spices and any liquids from your tray are added as well. Try not to leave anything behind.
  • Vacuum seal the bag or if you are using zip lock bags, just remove as much air as possible and place in your refrigerator for 24-36 hours (massage the bag and flip it every 12 hours-this helps the meat cure evenly).
  • After the meat has finished curing remove it from the bag. If you have some reserve coriander spice blend you can add it to your meat pieces now, lightly sprinkle the spice mix on each side.
  • Hang your biltong in a warm, sunny area with a gently breeze. The ideal temperature should be between 70f and 80f (21.2c – 26.6c) and a humidity between 50% and 60%. If flies are a problem you can place your biltong in a biltong box or you can even use a dehydrator. Dry the biltong till 100% of the moisture has been removed. This can take 2-3 weeks depending on how thick you cut the biltong and how warm your room is.
  • After 5 days of drying I would recommend spraying the biltong down with a 50/50 water vinegar solution to prevent any molds from growing on the meat. Repeat every 5 days.
  • If you use a dehydrator to dry the meat, set the unit to 95f (35c) and let the meat dehydrate for 2-4 days. We want it to be completely dry. No moisture remaining. If your meat has been cut thin enough you should be able to just snap it in half easily. If the meat is thick, when you bend it you will start to see lots of white fibers in the meat.

To make the Biltong Powder

  • Once your meat is completely dried (if you are unsure, leave it another week). Remove all of the fat off of the meat (if there is any). Be sure to save that fat and cook with it, it's delicious!
  • Cut the meat into small pieces and place into a blender. I usually only place a cup or two at a time so as to not overwhelm the blender. Blend into a very fine powder. The finer the better. We want it to look like dust at this point.

To make Biltong with an Extended Shelf Life

  • Once you have your Biltong dust you can weigh it out. Whatever the powder weighs out to be add equal portion of rendered beef tallow. I personally like using suet as the fat but technically any rendered beef fat will work.
  • Mix the rendered beef tallow and the biltong powder together till it's well incorportaed and there are no areas of dried dust remaining.
  • Place the meat/fat mix into a mold and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.
  • Cut into desired pieces and store in a vacuumed sealed bag in a cool dark place.

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6 thoughts on “Biltong (Survival version)

  1. jeff

    5 stars
    Hi Eric
    I’m a little confused here
    all recipes i have seen for long term storage remove the fat because it will go rancid, i notice you also remove the fat before making biltong dust, so could you please explain how adding beef tallow (fat) doesn’t go rancid for long term storage.
    regards Jeff

    1. Eric

      Truth is, I don’t know the science. I just know that suet used in this recipe will last a very long time. I just had a piece of a different survival food we made and after 3 years it was perfectly fine. Just store it in a cool dark place..

  2. Debbie

    I am South African and I make my own biltong. Given these times and the stress on our food supply chains, I hunted for a way to give my biltong an extended shelf life. Thank you for this! My beef tallow arrived yesterday and I’m just finishing up drying my last batch of biltong today. Either tonight or tomorrow I will undertake the adventure you have presented for me. I will add more pepper and grind the toasted coriander that fell off the biltong to the blender to, hopefully, remedy the problem you ran into in your video. I will be back to rate your recipe and give you feedback.

  3. Debbie

    Ugh, I really hate how that tastes! What do you think about packing it in a container of salt and storing it in a cool place?

    1. Eric

      LOL. Survival food is always a little less delicious than regular food😂😂. Salt packing would work

    2. Michael

      5 stars
      Hi Debbie

      Fellow Safrican and been making biltong for 30 odd years. I think the reason why you may not like the taste of the biltong Pemmican is you dilute the taste of the biltong powder by 50% when adding the fat.

      I add 30% extra spices in my Pemmican recipe and then I get a droewors taste, which I like. Texture different, but when you hungry it will be delish…

      Oldest biltong I have tasted was 4 years. If it is bone dry and you vacuum pack it will last decades, just not in my house as when discovered it will be eaten.



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