This Homemade Pemmican Recipe always goes in my bag when we go camping, traveling, and on long hikes. It is the ideal food for taking on the go outdoors because it’s lightweight, nutrient-dense, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Plus, it’s easy to make your own pemmican at home!
These protein bars are a satiating mix of protein and fat, making them a great option for anyone on a keto diet or carnivore diet. Adding hidden organ meats takes the nutritional quality to the next level. There are many easy keto recipes and savory carnivore diet recipes in which you can add hidden beef liver or beef heart.
Originally published August 28, 2015. Updated July 15, 2020 with more details and images.
What is Pemmican Made Of?
Pemmican is the combination of dry, ground lean meat and animal fat. Most people make pemmican with beef and beef tallow. Game meat like elk, moose, or venison and corresponding animal fat can also be used. Sometimes dry berries or honey are added also.
Webster‘s ThirdNew International Dictionary, 1967, defines pemmican as
The technique of combining meat with fat is a Native American food preservation method. Traditional pemmican would typically be made with bison. Tribes would fill 100-pound sacks made of the hide and have ample stores of food for a very long time. Each sack was referred to as a “piece” of pemmican.
History tells us that adding dry berries to the meat and fat become popular during the American fur trade. Pemmican was an important item of trade for European trappers and overall, they seemed to prefer the food with fruit mixed in for more flavor and sweetness.
Honey may be added in also. Our children love this version! Honey is also a preservative so there’s no risk of spoilage. I usually add a few heaping spoonfuls of honey, up to 1/3 of a cup, to the meat and fat mixture. Taste it as you go and stop when it’s sweet enough for you.
I always add salt to my homemade pemmican recipe for flavor and electrolytes.
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Is Pemmican Healthy?
Homemade pemmican is free of preservatives, fillers, artificial flavors, and food dye. It’s a simple combination of whole foods without any extra food-like ingredients.
Often called “the bread of the wilderness”, pemmican is a healthy high energy, high protein, emergency and trail ration that can sustain diverse peoples in any environment.
If you are interested in learning more about this historically important food, the wars fought over it, and how it was traditionally used in daily life, Vilhjalmur Stefansson wrote Not By Bread Alone which contains a fascinating account of the pemmican trade and subsequent pemmican wars occurring at the height of the North American fur trade.
On the utility and function of pemmican, Stefansson states:
On April 28, 1947, Dr. L. L. Savage, of the University of Chicago, started a 40-day trial of an all-pemmican diet. Two months after the study is initiated, he concludes:
Why add Organ Meats?
The great thing about a homemade pemmican recipe is that you can customize it exactly how you want to. Adding organ meats to the meat is something I started doing years ago and continue doing to this day.
After learning about the health benefits of liver and experiencing how good it makes me feel, I add it to many different recipes.
These are just a few recipes with hidden liver to get you started:
- Organ Meat Pie (it’s a family favorite!)
- Mini Meat Pies with Hidden Liver
- Cabbage Noodles with Hidden Liver
- Liver Chips (not hidden, but surprisingly subtle)
For personal use, I make pemmican by mixing both the heart and liver in with the meat.
Liver is much easier to dry and grind into a fine powder. Heart has a great flavor but does not grind up as smoothly which produces a more noticeably crunchy texture in the finished bar.
In the recipe below I only include liver in the ingredient list, but if you want to add heart in also there is a note on how to do so.
How to Make a Homemade Pemmican Recipe
If you prefer to make pemmican without organ meats, follow my traditional pemmican recipe instead.
Pemmican is a very adaptable recipe and easy to make in any amount you want.
Follow a 1:1 ratio of dry meat to fat by weight and you can fill any mold or roll balls by hand.
Measure the meat; measure an equal amount of tallow. Put the meat in a bowl and add salt.
If you want to use herbs and spices, I highly recommend Mesquite Seasoning by Mountain Rose Herbs. It’s my all-time favorite for pemmican.
Combine all ingredients together. Working quickly, before the tallow solidifies, transfer the mixture to an 8×8-inch baking dish or other container and fill evenly. Score into individual pieces once firm.
How to Dry Meat in a Dehydrator or Oven
Use a food dehydrator on the meat setting at 155°F (68°C) or dry in the oven at the lowest setting. Either way, spread the meat out as flat and as thin as possible.
6 pounds of raw meat makes 1 pound of dry meat powder.
Once the top is fully dry, flip it over and continue until the entire piece no longer has any moisture. When in doubt, dry longer. Since we grind the meat up anyway, there is no harm in making brittle, although you don’t want to cook it.
Working with lean ground beef and ground liver is extremely easy. As an alternative, thinly slice a lean cut of meat and liver instead. Spread the material flat on a tray or baking sheet.
It will take a few hours for the meat to dry. Once done, break it apart into smaller pieces and grind into a fine powder in a blender. You can use any ratio of liver to meat you like. I tend to do either 50/50 or 25/75 liver to meat.
How to Store Pemmican
Other than being properly prepared and kept in an airtight container, pemmican does not require any special storage. It may be safely kept at room temperature for many years.
The US Army used pemmican as an MRE from the late 19th century until World War II. Some of the original units still remain. A US Army emergency ration from 1906 is tested on video and found to be a well preserved storable food that lasts the test of time.
I keep pemmican on the shelf in my pantry as part of our keto emergency food stash. Both store-bought pemmican and homemade pemmican are remarkably compact, shelf-stable, and may be eaten with or without further preparation.
It is possible to add pemmican in hot bone broth for something like a soup. You can also fry it in tallow or bacon fat. I often make a quick prep pemmican meal with steamed vegetables, sauerkraut, and avocado. It’s very easy to put together and has minimal clean up after.
The Best Keto Camping Food
Pemmican is ideal for traveling, camping, hiking, and backpacking. This is a nutritionally complete food that will does not melt, spill, or make a mess while out on the go. Pemmican doesn’t spoil or smell. It’s also lightweight!
Treated like a protein bar, this is also a great food to take when you are out with children at an amusement park, nature park, or just on errands. Our children like it mixed with avocado or topped with cream cheese. Both ingredients are portable and easy to bring in your bag. Slice an avocado open, crumble the pemmican into the hole where the pit was and mix it up right there on the spot.
If you can think of a better food than this, leave your suggestion in the comments.
A list of keto-friendly camping foods usually includes canned fish, boiled eggs, salami or dry sausage, aged cheeses, and nuts or seeds.
More Delicious Homemade Keto Camping Recipes
Pack some of these foods next time you head out to the great outdoors and you’ll never miss the carbs!
- Low carb trail mix with cranberries, nuts, and coconut. There are 10 g of protein per serving!
- Homemade keto granola made not one, but four different ways. I would go for the chocolate peanut butter combo first, although, Almond Joy is a close second.
- Copycat Keto Cracker Jacks are sure to be a win for the children too. If you’re a pecan fan, you’ll love this recipe.
- Keto Seed Crackers are a dairy-free, grain-free, and egg-free keto snack option to take camping. These would be great with canned salmon and cucumber slices on top!
- Easy Low Carb Granola Bars, another great grain-free alternative made with nuts, seeds, coconut, and a tasty combination of cinnamon, vanilla, and almond butter for flavor. Bake them in the oven and you’ll be ready to go.
- Keto Avocado Chips are a nut-free option to pack. The cumin and chili powder give a fun kick and recreate a healthy version of nacho cheese flavored chips.
Pemmican Recipe for Dogs
Not only was pemmican eaten by fur traders and Arctic explorers, but their dogs ate it also.
The paper “The Physiology of Sledge Dogs” by R. J. F. Taylor, 1956, tells us dog pemmican has been the basis of sledding rations for dogs since it was first tested by H. G. Watkins in 1930. Made slightly differently than pemmican for man, dog pemmican is 2:1 ratio protein to fat.
Beef was a very expensive food source to use in the Arctic so many expeditions choose to feed the more economical options of whale pemmican. There were no significant differences found between the effects of feed.
Whale pemmican might not be the option for you, nevertheless, pemmican is a viable food source for dogs if you choose.
Pemmican is recommended by CSJ K9 for hard-working dogs, stressed show dogs, and can help build up underweight dogs as well as for gundogs, agility dogs, sled dogs, and rescue dogs.
This is not the first time I’ve wondered if our dogs eat human food or we eat dog food.
Homemade Pemmican Recipe (Optional Organ Meats)
- Combine the dry meat, liver, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add optional herbs and spices, mix well.
- Melt tallow in a double boiler over medium heat.
- Pour over the dry ingredients. Stir well until thoroughly combined. Break apart all clumps. Tallow should fully incorporate into the meat. If still crumbly, add more melted fat.
- Spread the mixture evenly in an 8×8-inch baking dish and leave to harden at room temperature or place in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. Once firm, score into squares. Alternatively, you can roll the “dough” into balls with your hands.
- Store pemmican in an airtight container in the pantry. If made correctly, it is shelf-stable and will never spoil. You may also store it in the refrigerator if that makes you more comfortable.
Nutrition & Macros
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Meet Jessica Haggard
Jessica Haggard is the creator of Primal Edge Health, where she shares simple, nourishing low-carb, keto and carnivore diet recipes. With a focus on from scratch, homemade cooking, animal-based nutrition, and easy DIY beauty and personal care recipes, there’s always something new going on in her kitchen! Jessica will teach you exactly how to thrive with all the best ingredients and enjoy the journey along the way.