Try this: Pemmican


Try this: Pemmican

Long before urban survivalism, humans had to develop ways to survive the day in harsh landscapes before technological advances made life a bit more manageable. One such strategy was concocting hardy foods using the resources available from the local ecosystem. Pemmican, a recipe attributed to the Cree people who hail from Canada, is one result of these recipes. A hardy mixture of protein and fat, pemmican is a dense edible high in energy. It resembles a sort of dried meatball, and it’s a great survival food source because it’s easy to make and preserve for long periods of time.

HQ, who runs homesteading and survival blog HQCreations, recently shared her experiences with pemmican.

Photo courtesy of HQCreations.

Photo courtesy of HQCreations.

Pemmican is “the original energy bar: a concentration of fats and proteins supposedly invented by the natives of North America,” she says. “Arctic and Antarctic explorers lived on this stuff! Under the right conditions, pemmican can keep for a longtime. If it goes rancid, heh, you’ll know.”

Traditionally, pemmican is made from meats like bison, elk, or deer, as well as berries, nuts and fat.

“I’m not following any particular recipe, just assembling it based on general Internet discussions,” says HQ. “My ingredients: pistachios, dried blueberries, homemade beef jerky, and a mix of lard/bacon fat (that I’ve been saving for soap). The nuts and jerky got roughly powderized. The fruit is roughly chopped. [I] threw in some extra cumin and chili pepper for fanciness. Mixed well, then decided to form into balls instead of slabs.”

Because of the density, pemmican in large amounts can be hard to swallow, so to speak. This is what HQ reported:

“The verdict? I dig the savory-sweet combo, but I’m done after one bite. Meaning, it was just too heavy and my body wasn’t ready for it,” she says. “I feel like I need to shovel snow or climb a frozen mountain first. I’m sure the creative outdoor cook will use it in stews or something. If I’m ever in a coldpocalyptic world and expanding great amounts of calories to stay alive, I can see how a human body world crave these fats. It was a good experiment.”

How To Make Pemmican

We recommend trying HQ’s recipe as stated above, but if you’re looking for more precise instructions, we found this pemmican recipe by the University of MinnesotaThis recipe makes 3.5 lbs.


  • 4 cups dried meat (only deer, moose, caribou, or beef)Photo courtesy of HQCreations.Photo courtesy of HQCreations.
  • 3 cups dried fruit (currents, dates, apricots, or apples)
  • 2 cups rendered fat (only beef fat)
  • 1 cup unsalted nuts (optional)
  • 1 tbsp of honey (optional)


  • Cookie sheet
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Kitchen knife


  • First, dry the meat by spreading it thinly on a cookie sheet. Dry at 180° overnight, or until crispy and sinewy.
  • With the mortar and pestle, grind the dried meat into a powder.
  • Add the dried fruit and grind accordingly, leaving some larger fruit chunks to help bind the mixture.
  • Cut the beef fat into chunks.
  • Heat the stove to medium, and cook the beef until it turns to tallow (rendered fat).
  • Stir the fat into the powdered meat and fruit mixture.
  • Add nuts and honey to improve taste (optional)
  • Shape pemmican into balls or bars for easy and quick consumption. We recommend wrapping individual servings in wax paper or storing in plastic bags.
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Ashley is an editor of A former environmental journalist, she has a passion for innovations in gear, design and technology.

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