Homemade Pemmican Recipe (with Organ Meat)

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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 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.

Homemade pemmican recipe. Long-term survival food.

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.

Webster‘s Third New International Dictionary, 1967, defines pemmican as

A concentrated food used by North American Indians consisting essentially of lean buffalo meat or venison cut in thin slices, dried in the sun, pounded fine, mixed with melted fat, and packed in sacks of hide.

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 food stores 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 became 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 one-third 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.

Long term storable survival food collage of three recipes.

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.

We include this book in our recommended reading list.

On the utility and function of pemmican, Stefansson states:

[Pemmican] was a travel food, and journeys were usually made in summer. Its most impressive record as the exclusive diet, or nearly so, of large numbers of men for long periods is from transportation crews of the fur trade working twelve to eighteen hours a day and straight through the noon period with its scorching or steaming heat.
The extreme supporters of pemmican recommend it as the most concentrated food known to man or possible within modern concepts of physiological and chemical science. They say that is is a complete food in the sense that it will keep a hard-working man in top form for any length of time in any climate. They maintain, indeed, that it is the only concentrated food whichever has been tried out by large numbers of men for long periods.

Not by Bread Alone

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 was initiated, he concludes:

Pemmican came as close as any to the ultimate ideal of a concentrated “pill” diet. He never felt any need for additional salt and he never felt any distaste for pemmican. He did note that smaller and smaller amounts satisfied his hunger as the experiment progressed. He lost 24 lb. of body-weight from his original weight of 214 lb. during the 40-day trial.

E. F. BInkerd, O. E. KOlari AND C. TRACY
Armour Food Company

Why add Organ Meat?

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.

Organ meat recipes have been a fundamental part of my family’s diet because there are many health benefits of organ meat, they are very affordable, and we don’t want any part to go to waste.

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:

For personal use, I make pemmican by mixing both the heart and liver 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, producing 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 also there is a note on how to do so.

Easy pemmican recipe in a green molder.

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.

Follow a 1:1 ratio of dry meat to fat by weight. 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.

Would you prefer to purchase pemmican before making it? We affiliate with brands that value quality raised animals and highly recommend their products.

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Grass-Fed Beef Pemmican

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Homemade pemmican in a bowl.

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 as flat and thin as possible.

Six pounds of raw meat makes one pound of dry meat powder.

Once the top is fully dry, flip it over and continue until the entire piece has no moisture. When in doubt, dry longer. Since we grind the meat up anyway, there is no harm in making it 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 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 requires no 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.

A woman and a man hiking in the woods while following a homemade pemmican recipe.

The Best Keto Camping Food

Pemmican is ideal for traveling, camping, hiking, and backpacking. This is a nutritionally complete food that will 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 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 into your bag. Slice an avocado open, crumble the pemmican into the hole where the pit was and mix it up 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 first go for the chocolate peanut butter combo, although Almond Joy is a close second.
  • Copycat Keto Cracker Jacks will surely 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, egg-free keto camping snack. 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.
Huskies pulling a sled through the snowy landscape.

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 chose 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.

Tasty pemmican recipe with hidden liver organ meats.
Easy homemade pemmican recipe squares on the table.

Homemade Pemmican Recipe (Optional Organ Meats)

Jessica Haggard
Homemade Pemmican should always be in your camping, hiking adn travel bag. It is the ideal food for taking on the go because it’s lightweight, nutrient-dense, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated!
4.97 from 33 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Snacks
Cuisine Traditional
Servings 16 pieces
Calories 411 kcal



  • Combine the dry meat, liver, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add optional herbs and spices, mix well.
    300 grams dry, ground, lean meat, 100 grams dry, ground, beef liver, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 tablespoons herbs and spices
  • Melt tallow in a double boiler over medium heat.
    400 grams beef tallow
  • 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.


Use any type of liver (beef, sheep, goat, etc) in combination with any meat (beef, bison, lamb, etc).
To add heart, adjust to 200 g dry, ground meat, 100 g dry, ground heart, and 100 g dry ground liver.
To make pemmican without liver, follow my Traditional Pemmican Recipe instead.
I highly recommend Mesquite Seasoning by Mountain Rose Herbs. It’s my all-time favorite for pemmican.

Nutrition & Macros

Serving: 50gCalories: 411kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 36gFat: 28gSaturated Fat: 16gSodium: 728mgNet Carbohydrates: 2g

To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, please calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients and amounts used, using your preferred nutrition calculator. Under no circumstances shall the this website and the author be responsible for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on the given nutritional information.

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Featured in 12 Pemmican Recipes: Legendary Keto Survival Food

Originally published August 28, 2015. Updated July 15, 2020 with more details and images.

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