Pemmican Recipe: How To Make It Like The Pioneers Did | The Survival Journal (2024)

Updated by Stephanie Thomas

Pemmican Recipe: How To Make It Like The Pioneers Did | The Survival Journal (1)

Are you interested in seeing how to make pemmican?

Are you looking for a recipe that serves as the ultimate survival food and is easy to make with readily available ingredients? Perhaps you want something tasty that also stores well?

Welcome to the ultimate guide to the infamous pemmican recipe. You’ll see the step by step instructions, the ingredients, and everything else you need on how to make it below.

Another survival recipe from The Survival Blackbook, In this guide, you’re going to learn how the Native Americans made Pemmican, also known as the Ultimate Survival Food.

Then look no further, for pemmican is the perfect solution for you. But what exactly is pemmican? Read on to find out more about it and how to make it.

Pemmican Recipe: How To Make It Like The Pioneers Did | The Survival Journal (2)

Table of Contents


It’s only natural to give you a brief history of the food since it has so much of it. But first, let’s clarify the question those unfamiliar with this food have on their minds.

What is Pemmican?

Also commonly described as “The Ultimate Survival Food“, Pemmican is a Native American food that was later adapted by Arctic explorers. The word pemmican is derived from the Cree word for fat. It is a paste of dried lean meat, mixed along with some berries and melted fat.

Pemmican has been used as an emergency MRE for survival in times of crisis dating back more years than I can count.

The pioneers and Native American Indians made pemmican. It’s reputation proceeds it. It has become one of the most widely known and effective survival food recipes.

It was traditionally stored in leather bags and was kept for months, if not years.

Since it is a nutrient-dense food, voyagers and traders on expeditions used to rely on pemmican as a major food source. And it was through these people that pemmican was popularized in European nations.


Traditional pemmican recipes call for lean meat of a large game like deer, moose, elk, caribou or bison. And the commonly used berries were chokecherries, Saskatoon berries or even currants. Melted suet was used as the binding.

For a recipe more suited for the modern kitchens, the following ingredients are needed:

  • Dried lean meat like buffalo, game or beef.
  • Dried berries like cranberries/blueberries/chokeberries/juneberries. Take the same amount as the dried meat.
  • Molten lard- 1/8th cup for 1 pound of dried meat.
  • Sugar to taste.


For equipment that’s needed for this survival recipe, the Native Americans used stones to grind the meat. If you’re feeling extra primitive and want a challenge, grab a couple of stones. If not, we will skip that and opt for age-appropriate appliances if that’s okay with you.

1. A good quality food processor.
2. A mixing bowl.
3. A mixing spoon.
4. Paper bags for storage.
5. An oven, if you have to dry your meat or berries.

8 Steps On How To Cook Pemmican

The steps on this recipe don’t take long and you’ll find it to be easy. Let’s get started.

Step 1: Cut Into Strips

If the meat needs to be dried then cut it into thin strips and lay it on a baking rack in an oven preheated to 170 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. It should take about 4 hours and will be rock hard dry when ready.

Step 2. Berry Dry Time

Similarly, for the berries, you can dry them in the oven. Put them on a baking paper-lined sheet pan in an oven heated to 225 degrees Fahrenheit for about 3 to 3.5 hours.

Step 3. Grind

Use a meat grinder to grind the meat into shreds. This is optional, you don’t have to grind it. Small chunks of the dry meat work just as good, it’s preference.

Step 4. Add Berries

Then add an equal amount of dried berries and grind again.

Step 5. Perfect Meat Texture

Take the mixture out into a mixing bowl. The meat should have the consistency of course powder and the berries should be chunky.

Step 6. Pour Molten Lard

Now pour in the molten lard and mix with a spoon. The fat will hold the mixture together. Add sugar to taste.

Step 7. Nik-Nak Patty Whack

You can form the mixture into small patties with your hand and store them paper bags. It can be refrigerated for longer storage.

Step 8. Survive and Thrive

Enjoy your pemmican as is, boiled or in stews.


So there you have it. A recipe that has been passed down through generations and is considered to be one of the best survival foods around.

One of the best things about this recipe is that it calls for simple ingredients that can be customized according to one’s taste. Do give this recipe for pemmican a try.

I hope this article on how to make pemmican like the pioneers did helped you understand the recipe better. You might also like our recipe post on how to make mud apples and also how to make Mormon johnnycake.

Do you know any other ways other than the traditional Native American way of cooking pemmican?

Pemmican Recipe: How To Make It Like The Pioneers Did | The Survival Journal (3)
Pemmican Recipe: How To Make It Like The Pioneers Did | The Survival Journal (2024)


How do you make pemmican the ultimate survival food? ›

These strips of meat were cut thin, dried in the sun, then smoked, and finally ground into a fine powder before adding fat and dried berries. The mixture would be stored in sewn bags of animal hide for easy transport or trade. Some bison-hide bags would be filled with 90 pounds of pemmican.

How did pioneers make pemmican? ›

During the fur trade, pemmican was most often made by killing the buffalo, jerking the meat, making hair-out bags from its hide, and rendering tallow from the animal's marrow, suet, or fat. The dried meat was then broken up by pounding.

How did Native Americans make pemmican? ›

To make pemmican, Native Americans ground dried meat into powder and mixed it with rendered animal fat and bone marrow. Occasionally, dried berries like Saskatoon berries and cranberries were added. The natives packed the pemmican tightly into bags made of bison hide for use when hunting or traveling.

What is the modern version of pemmican? ›

Made properly, pemmican would last indefinitely and could sustain an individual for months. Our modern-day version consists of a blend of bison, beef, berries, and other natural ingredients.

Can you survive off of pemmican? ›

You don't want to survive on pemmican alone. Strenuous backpacking will lead to daily glycogen depletion, best re- plenished with carbohydrates. For low to moderate exertion of long duration, diets high in fat work relatively well, but require a prior period of adaptation.

What spices are best for pemmican? ›

Today I pulled all the pemmican out of the freezer, thawed it, heated it to a soft, melty mixture, and added a bunch of spices, all dried, of course: garlic salt, oregano, onion, black pepper, cayenne, six pepper mix, beef bullion, chives, and what ever else I could find! The resulting mix was darn tasty!

Should you add salt to pemmican? ›

Add salt at a rate of 1.5-1.9% of the total weight of your powders used. For the original recipe, your mix will only be meat/salt. For a dried fruit mix, start with 30% dried fruit and 70% meat powder. Increase sweetness to taste by increasing the fruit powder or by adding honey.

How long will pemmican last? ›

At room temperature, pemmican can generally last from one to five years, but there are anecdotal stories of pemmican stored in cool cellars being safely consumed after a decade or more.

How healthy is pemmican? ›

Is pemmican good for you? When made with grass-fed meat, tallow, and other fresh ingredients, yes! Because pemmican has high concentrations of lean meat and fat, it is considered a high-calorie, high-protein, and high-fat snack. When it isn't combined with fruit, pemmican is essentially no-carb.

How much pemmican do you need to survive? ›

40 day winter: 12800 pemmican. 50 day winter: 16000 pemmican. These are near-minimums, though, and you should shoot for higher. (I say near because a colonist can survive for five days without food.)

Who first made pemmican? ›

Pemmican Originates from Northern Tribes

The Ojibway, Cree and the Algonquian-speaking tribes call it Pimikan, meaning “manufactured grease.” The Lakota (Sioux) called it wasna ('wa' meaning “anything” and 'sna' meaning “ground up”). Pemmican could be made of virtually any lean, dried protein, including fish.

What food is similar to pemmican? ›

Jerky, pemmican, hardtack, and parched corn are ways to put game, livestock, wild berries, and garden produce by in times of plenty. Easily made, transported, and stored, they became frontier staples for travelers, hunters, and warriors. They are still excellent trail foods and emergency rations.

Can pemmican taste good? ›

Pemmican has a unique taste that's often described as savory, slightly sweet, and rich. It combines the flavors of dried meat, usually beef or bison, with rendered fat and sometimes dried berries or other ingredients.

Can you use ground meat for pemmican? ›

You can use either ground meat or solid meat that you slice. When using solid meat, get the cheaper cuts but also one's which are less fatty. Although we definitely like the fat, the fat is best added after the lean meat is dried and pulverized. This will make the pemmican with the best shelf life.

How long can you live on pemmican? ›

So long as you have a plastic bag or even just a clean, cool place to store this food, you can eat it for as long as you might need to survive. Pemmican is filling. The Indigenous people of North America could survive on pemmican alone for an entire winter because the food is so filling in such small quantities.

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