How To Make Pemmican – Ultimate Survival Food

How To Make Pemmican - Ultimate Survival Food

If you haven’t heard of pemmican, you’ll love it because it’s one of the most important foods to stockpile for emergencies.

Pemmican is essentially lean meat that’s been dried over a fire and then powdered, before being added to berries and fat. 

Why’s it such a great survival food?

Pemmican can last indefinitely as long as it’s stored correctly, while it’s also easy to make. You don’t need to cook it before eating it, which is great if you don’t have electricity during an electrical emergency.

Interested in making your own pemmican?

Here’s our step-by-step guide.

Where Does Pemmican Come From?

Group Of Canadian Native People

The word “pemmican” comes from the word “pimikan” in Cree language, which was used by indigenous people in central Canada.

This word translates into “manufactured grease,” as Britannica reports. Since pemmican is made with animal fat and can be a bit greasy, this term is a fantastic way to describe it. 

Pemmican originates from indigenous tribes in North America.

They loved to eat pemmican because of how it was packed with nutrients and had a long lifespan so they could take it with them when hunting animals.

This not only made their pemmican valuable to eat when hunting but became part of the traditional food of many indigenous North American communities.

It’s thanks to a Canadian fur trader and explorer named Peter Pond for why pemmican was introduced to the fur trade during the early 19th century.

Interestingly, pemmican soon became a valuable commodity in the U.S. and north-western Canada.

It was so popular, in fact, that a Pemmican Proclamation was set up in order to ban pemmican exportation to some areas!

Pemmican’s history has been quite colorful, which is partly as a result of how people have found creative ways to make it.

American pioneers would make pemmican with different types of nuts and berries, which are still used today.

There’s also a woman in Iowa called Gramma Clemmie Noeller, a fabled pioneer-matriarch, who put popcorn, sweet corn, peanuts, molasses, bacon grease and bacon bits, pork rinds, berries, raisins, and fried pork in her pemmican recipe, as the Piscataquis Observer reports.

Today, pemmican is regarded as an essential emergency food by survivalists, but it’s also renowned for being an excellent snack to have in your bug out bag or when partaking in outdoor activities, such as hiking. Some people also consider it as the best gift for preppers.

How Pemmican Is Made

Pemmican is made by taking lean meat and crushing it into a powder before mixing it with hot fat, which is usually beef tallow.

Sometimes dried berries are also added to the pemmican to make it even tastier, but you can draw inspiration from Gramma Noeller and get creative with your recipe.

Another thing that makes pemmican such an essential survival food is that you can make it at home in your oven or over a fire, such as if you’re in the outdoors, so it’s really easy to make wherever you are and keep in Bug out Bag! This food preservation process is much simpler than dry canning.

Just always make sure you’ve stockpiled the ingredients you need.

Here’s How To Make Pemmican

Step One: Gather Your Ingredients 

To get started with making your own pemmican, you’ll need the following items:

  • 1 ½ pounds of lean meat
  • Beef tallow, which you can buy from your local grocery store
  • Dried blueberries (optional)
  • Any other ingredients you want to add to the pemmican
  • Salt and pepper

Step Two: Prepare Your Meat 

To choose the most nutritious meat to make pemmican, you should focus on grass-fed instead of grain-fed meat.

This is because grass-fed cows consume more nutrients that are then passed into the meat, such as Vitamins B and E.

Once you have purchased the meat, you should put it in the freezer. You want the meat to become nice and firm. Once it’s reached that point, you’re ready to use it.

Step Three: Cook The Meat

Cooking Meat For Pemmican

Start by cutting the meat into thin slices. Apply liberal amounts of salt and pepper to the meat, then cook it in the oven. For extra taste, you can add some spices of your choice.

You want your oven to be on a low temperature – approximately 150 degrees Celsius. Make sure you cook the slices of meat on a rack.

While the meat cooks, keep the oven door ajar to prevent moisture from accumulating on it. You want your pemmican to be as dry as possible. 

Step Four: Cook The Blueberries

Now, this step is optional if you want to add berries to your pemmican.

Put about a handful of dried blueberries (or any berries you like) on a pan so that they can dry out next to the pemmican that’s also in the oven.

Step Five: Blend The Meat And Berries

Once the meat has dried out for about 14 hours, you should make sure that it’s crispy. Then, you want to put the meat into a food processor to turn it into a powder.

You should do the same thing with the berries so that they will also become a powder.

Now, what if you aren’t at home and you want to make pemmican in the outdoors?

You won’t have a food processor handy, but no worries. You can grind up the meat in various ways, such as by using stones or a mortar and pestle.

This will take more time, but it’s definitely doable if you’re making pemmican on the move.

Step Six: Cook The Fat

Cooking Fat For Pemmican

Dice the fat and cook it in a cast-iron pan on low heat. You should remove it from the heat when it no longer bubbles.

If you want to make your own fat, you need to ensure that you use a good quality meat fat, such as grass-fed beef.

To render the fat, you’ll take one cup of fat and shred it so that it becomes crumbly. Then you’ll heat it on low heat for three hours so that any impurities rise to the surface.

You want to melt the fat so that it reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit, but avoid letting it reach 150 or more degrees as this will zap the fat of its nutrients that you want to preserve in the pemmican.

Step Seven: Strain The Fat

Whether or not you’ve rendered your own fat, you should use a strainer to ensure that you get all the liquid fat and not the bits that are crispy. A strainer will remove all impurities from the fat.  

Step Eight: Mix All Three Ingredients Together

Now that you have your liquid fat, you want to mix together the berry powder and meat powder, while slowly dripping the hot liquid fat into it.

Make sure it’s mixed well. If you find that your pemmican isn’t becoming hard during this process, you should try stirring in more fat.

Step Nine: Cut It Into Bars

Once you’ve mixed together the fat and powders, you will see the consistency of the pemmican firm up nicely. You can cut it into bars or roll it into little cakes, and you’re done!

Now you have food that will last you forever so it can safely be consumed during an emergency.

Important Notes When Making Homemade Pemmican

Woman Collecting Dry Meat
  • The key to making pemmican that won’t become rancid is to ensure that the ingredients are not holding onto water. Always make sure that both the berries and meat are properly dried out as this will prevent the pemmican from going stale or becoming moldy over time. This is especially important if you’re making pemmican to stockpile for emergencies.
  • If you want to stock up on pemmican for emergency situations, it’s also a good idea to start out by making a small batch of pemmican to try it out. This will help you practice making it so that you don’t waste ingredients or end up with a stockpile of pemmican that you don’t like. You should also experiment with different ingredients so that you make great-tasting pemmican you’ll actually enjoy eating.

Types Of Pemmican To Know About

If you’re interested in making your own pemmican at home, an internet search will show you various recipes that make use of different types of meat.

You could use elk or venison instead of beef, for example. You can also choose to add more sweetness to the pemmican if you want to enhance the taste of the berries, such as by using honey.

Honey’s another excellent survival food that’s antibacterial and can be stored indefinitely.

Here are other tips and tricks to make delicious pemmican:

  • One of the really creative ways to approach making pemmican is to use dried fish, which is a great alternative if you’re not a big fan of other types of meat.
  • If you don’t wish to add honey or berries to your pemmican bars, you can add mushrooms instead.
  • There are also recipes available that aim to bolster the nutritional content of homemade pemmican, such as by adding coconut oil to it, which is said to make it sweeter. Coconut oil is an excellent source of fat while also giving your body HDL, which is usually referred to as the good type of cholesterol. The thing to know about using wet ingredients such as coconut oil in a pemmican recipe is that oils do spoil. It can be used as an alternative to the tallow, but this will shorten the pemmican’s lifespan. If you’re making pemmican bars that you’ll be stockpiling for emergency situations, it’s important to check on them regularly to ensure that the coconut oil hasn’t started to go bad.

Pemmican FAQ

Pemmican In Hand

Now that we’ve looked at how to make pemmican as well as its interesting history, let’s answer some common questions related to this survival food.

What does pemmican taste like?

If you’ve never eaten pemmican, you might be wondering what pemmican tastes like.

Of course, if you’re in an emergency situation you won’t really care what it tastes like as long as you have food to eat, but it’s worth knowing that pemmican tastes like greasy, plain beef jerky.

By adding some spices to it when making your own pemmican, as we mentioned in the step-by-step guide above, you can enhance its flavour.

And, of course, the addition of berries in the pemmican recipe can give it an extra dash of flavor. Remember that the type of berry you use will affect its taste.

Cranberries, for instance, will give the pemmican a sour taste, while cherries will be sweeter.

Is pemmican and jerky the same thing?

If pemmican tastes a lot like jerky, does that mean pemmican and jerky are pretty much the same snack?

Well, not really. The main differences between the two is that pemmican is made from meat that has been dried, powdered, and then mixed into a paste with rendered fat, and sometimes berries are also added to it.

It’s then cut into slices, rolled into balls, or even shaped into patties. By comparison, jerk is lean meat that gets cured and then preserved.

It’s cut into thin strips and then air-dried in the sun. So, the main difference is that beef jerky and pemmican are made in different ways.

How long will pemmican really last?

Old Pemmican

We’ve already mentioned that pemmican can last indefinitely, which is what makes it such a great survival food to have handy.

But you might be wondering just how long “indefinitely” really is. Pemmican is quite an amazing food because it can last at room temperature for between one and five years.

However, if it’s stored in a cool place, such as a cellar, it can be consumed after decades. In addition, vacuum-sealing it can also make it last for a very long time – centuries, in fact!

Can you use pork in pemmican?

While there are fantastic pemmican recipes online that incorporate lots of different ingredients, you should avoid using pork ingredients in your homemade pemmican.

This is because pork and pork fat can contain harmful bacteria. Even though Grammie Noeller used bacon in her pemmican, it’s not recommended!  

How should you store pemmican?

Now that you have your supplies of pemmican that you want to store for an emergency situation, you might be wondering what’s the best way to do so.

You should keep pemmican at room temperature, in a dry area that’s dark and doesn’t have high levels of heat.

Long-term pemmican storage should also include wrapping the pemmican bars in aluminum foil and keeping them in an airtight, sealable plastic bag.

Can you use mylar bags to store pemmican?

Mylar bags are popular storage options for dried foods, but pemmican is not always a suitable food to store in these bags. This way you could really sabotage prepping.

If it contains any moisture, this can cause the food to go rancid very quickly, sometimes in as little as three months!

That’s really not ideal when storing pemmican for emergency situations that could crop up in the future.

Even if your pemmican strips are very dry, they contain fat and this could also cause them to lose their freshness.

Can you live on pemmican?

Holding Pemmican

While it’s recommended as a long-lasting food during survival, you might be wondering if you can safely live on nothing but pemmican.

Living on any type of food and nothing else can be dangerous to your body over long periods of time because you will be denying it the nutrients it needs to gain from a variety of different foods.

That said, pemmican is a good survival food because just 100 grams of pemmican will give you 575 calories, 26 grams of protein, and 52 grams of fat.

These numbers can increase if you add extra ingredients to the pemmican, such as berries and nuts. In addition, these ingredients will also give your pemmican additional nutrients.

But, even if you keep your pemmican plain, it will give you a decent amount of calories and protein your body needs for various functions to stay healthy.


Pemmican is a satisfying, high-calorie snack made from meat and sometimes supplemented with berries.

It’s usually renowned for being a fantastic survival food during emergency situations, and hopefully, by now you see why. It has countless survival uses. It can even be used to make a rabbit trap.

In this article, we’ve featured how to make pemmican as well as answered some common questions about pemmican and its history.

If you’re a prepper, you’ll want to stock up on this survival food, and the bonus is that it’s really easy to make at home with minimal ingredients and no worries over it becoming stale.

It’s such a good survival food you’ll surely want to make an extra batch for when you’re enjoying an outdoor activity!

Greg - Prepping Insider

Hey, I'm a prepping enthusiast. Prepping for me is simply something of a passion. I have personally lived in many different rural properties that have given me a wealth of knoweldge and experience in practically living out survival and preparation situations. It’s not about getting the latest survival gadgets or buckets of food as its more of a lifestyle.

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