What Is Pemmican & How to Make Pemmican: A Survival Superfood With A Long Shelf Life

Pemmican: A Superfood for survivalists

Pemmican is a traditional Canadian or Native American food with a concentrated mixture of protein and fat. 

The word Pemmican comes from the 'Cree' word of natives of North America, which is 'pimihkan'. 'Pimi' means grease or fat. This type of cuisine was considered a high-energy food for European traders and Arctic/Antarctic explorers. It was the first protein bar for travelers and adventurers and is considered the first MRE (Meals, Ready to Eat). It is high in protein and contains everything the body needs to sustain itself for an extended period. 

In addition, it is a perfect snack for traveling, hiking, camping, or during crises where cooking meals are challenging. This food doesn't need any refrigeration, and it is lightweight. 

The traditional recipe for Pemmican includes lean meat, dried fruits, and fat to hold it all together. In the past, it was considered essential for sustaining hunters and warriors on the trail to have Pemmican. 

One can eat Pemmican using the hand without any utensils. It can be added to the stews, soups, rice, or anything that needs boosts. To eat Pemmican in the style of Native American or Canadian, you need to pop a little pemmican in your mouth and chew it just as how you chew gum. It is surprisingly filling when you eat it this way. 

Though the food is small in volume, it will give power to your body because it is concentrated and loaded with protein. This article will discuss the history of Pemmican, the ingredients used, and its nutritional value or health benefits. We will also tackle how to make a Pemmican today, especially during outdoor activities or emergencies.

History of Pemmican

During the fur trade in Canada, the traders need more time to look for food on land, especially when traveling. They carry their food supplies when traveling long distances, and resupplying is impossible along the way.

When the trading system reached the Winnipeg area in Canada, Peter Pond introduced a vital food to the trade in 1779. The Chipewyans inspired him in the region of Athabasca, Alberta, Canada.

According to history, Metis (mixed American-Indian and Euro-American ancestry) would travel to the southwest prairie part of Canada, slaughter buffalo, and make it Pemmican. 

Then, they will trade it at the posts of North West Company. The people on the prairie's edge would consider Pemmican an essential good in the trade since it could nourish them for the whole day.

The trade for Pemmican was a significant factor in the birth of the Metis community. Multiple packs of Pemmican would be traded north and stored at the major fur posts, such as Edmonton House, Fort Alexander, Fort Garry, Norway House, and Cumberland House.

The Pemmican was very important that Governor Miles Macdonell started the Pemmican War in 1814 with the Metis. He passed the Pemmican Proclamation, which forbids the export of Pemmican from the Red River Colony. Many adventurers relied on Pemmican. 

Alexander Mackenzie in 1793, Robert Peary, an explorer in the North Pole from 1886 to 1909, and Ernest Shackleton from 1914 to 1916 in the Antarctic. Meanwhile, the British troops relied on Pemmican during the Second Boer War of Great Britain and the South African Republic from 1899 to 1902. It can last many days, and the troops can march for 36 hours (3 days) before someone dies from hunger.

Ingredients and Traditional Preparation of Pemmican

What Is Pemmican and How to Make Pemmican A Survival Superfood With A Long Shelf Life

Traditionally, Pemmican is made from moose, buffalo, deer, bison, elk, or whatever meat is available. The meat is cut into thin slices and dried under the sun's heat or on a low fire until it becomes brittle and hard. In making Pemmican, it will take about 2 kilograms of meat. 

Next, they pound the meat using stones or a big mortar and pestle and turn it into small pieces until it becomes powder-like. The meat is mixed with rendered fat. After that, dried fruits like Saskatoon berries, blueberries, cherries, and cranberries were pounded into the powder and fat. Water is removed from dried fruits. 

Thus, it has a longer shelf life than fresh fruits. The pemmican mixture is packed in bags for storage, lasting around ten years. 

The Native Americans store their Pemmican supplies in bags made of deerskin or buffalo skin. The Europeans adopted these bags, and today it is known as saddlebags or parfleche by the French.

Is Pemmican a Healthy Food?

The two nutrients that are best for our health and are most easily absorbed when combined are fat and animal proteins in this traditional North American Indian Pemmican recipe.

Traditional pemmican is thus a historical cuisine that is now more than ever important for your health.

The classic recipe is perfect for ketogenic diets because it doesn't include any carbohydrates.

It is also keto-friendly, and you can even eat it while adhering to a strict carnivorous diet, which is frequently used to address psychiatric issues caused by food intolerances.

Additionally, handmade pemmican prepared using a traditional recipe is a viable option for outdoor activities like backpacking, hiking, trekking, or camping because it does not deteriorate, crumble, or leak.

Benefits of Pemmican

Adventurers from past centuries have used Pemmican as their food due to its unique nature. Today, it is an excellent option for survivalist enthusiasts because of its various benefits. 

First, it has a long shelf life and can provide an individual with a whole meal. It does not need any refrigeration since the food does not hold moisture. It is a good snack for all outdoor activities such as climbing, biking, backpacking trips, road tripping, kayaking, etc. 

What Is Pemmican and How to Make Pemmican A Survival Superfood With A Long Shelf Life

Second, during adventures or emergencies, Pemmican can minimize waste and maximize your resources. It uses both the fat and lean meat of an animal, and it can create little waste, which is essential during survival. 

Third, it is easy to carry and lightweight. You can store it in tight containers or Ziplock bags and put it in your luggage. The military in the field can just put the Pemmican in their pockets and eat it whenever they are hungry. 

Fourth, it contains fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals that our body needs to function. 22 ounces of Pemmican contains the following nutritional benefits:

  • 293 calories
  • 26 grams of fat (Saturated fat is 13 grams and trans fat is 2 grams)
  • Sodium 285 mg
  • Carbohydrates 1 gram
  • Protein 15 grams

Finally, since Pemmican includes easy food preparation, anyone can eat in survival, emergencies, or wilderness situations, even without special kitchen tools. Even if you don't have gas or electricity, you can still make Pemmican.

Shelf life of Pemmican

There are various opinions regarding the shelf life of the Pemmican. Some say it can last only a month, while others believe it can last for many months, even years. It depends on the humidity and temperature of the environment. 

The ingredients' quality and storage condition will also determine their shelf life. Ingredients must be fresh (like the meat and the fat), plus the fruits must be dried for longer shelf life. In addition, the storage temperatures must be more excellent to protect the food. 

To do this, you can store it in the freezer or a glass jar and put it in a dark, cool place to make it last for longer years. You can use raisins instead of fat in the traditional pemmican recipe for even longer storage.

How to Make a Pemmican

Pemmicans are now available in stores offering MRE (meals ready to eat) or survival items. It is available in bars, cans, or pails. There are also items available in different sizes and flavors. 

However, it is still best to learn how to prepare for an emergency or crisis. You can make your Pemmican inside your home today and prepare it according to your taste. It can save you time, especially if you're too busy to prepare your food and keep you going for hours. Here's how to do it:


  • One kilogram of meat – You can use the meat of buffalo, deer, elk, moose, or beef. Choose lean parts of the meat, like the thigh.
  • 500 grams of fat – Beef Suet or lard
  • Seven hundred grams of dried fruits – Dried fruits like blueberries, cherries, or Saskatoon berries.
  • Extras- Add chopped nuts, raisins, peanut butter, maple syrup, or honey. Some would add sugar and chocolate to their Pemmican.


    Cut the meat

    The first thing to do is cut off the meat's fat. Slice the meat thinly using a sharp knife and place it on a tray or rack. After that, place the tray or rack under the sun's heat or at a low fire. You can use an oven or stove to heat the meat. This will take you all day to make it brittle. Ensure the meat is dry and cracks when you bend it.

    Grind up the Meat

    Next, put the dried meat in a food processor. Grind it until it becomes powdery. If you don't have a food processor, you can use the blender. To do this, mince the meat first, cut it into very small pieces, and put it in the blender. Make sure that you turn it into powder form.

    Render the Fat

    Next, put the dried meat in a food processor. Grind it until it becomes powdery. You can use the blender if you don't have a food processor. To do this, mince the meat first, cut it into tiny pieces, and put it in the blender. Make sure that you turn it into powder form.

    Mix the fruits, meat, and other ingredients

    The next thing to do is to mix all other ingredients in a large bowl. Put the fruits and extras such as nuts, raisins, peanut butter, honey, or sugar. Then, mix one part of the fat into two parts of meat. Do this until you finish mixing all the ingredients. Mix it thoroughly. 

    After mixing the ingredients:

    1. Spread it in a casserole dish into squares, little balls, or bars.
    2. Let it stay for a few minutes until it becomes hard. You can store it in airtight containers to make it last longer.
    3. Keep the Pemmican in a cool, dark, dry place to help protect it.

    Tips for Making a Pemmican

    Making Pemmican is easy as one-two-three! But here are some tips, especially for first-timers, so that you can create the best Pemmican:

    • First, ensure that you get fat for your Pemmican outside the marrow or muscle of the meat. Ask your butcher for this.
    • Choose the leanest part of the muscle meat for your ingredient.
    • Make an equal ratio of the weight of the meat, dried fruits, and fat, and not by the volume. It is usually 1:1:1. With this tip, and you will have better-tasting results.
    • As long as the fat has been rendered correctly, there is no need to refrigerate the Pemmican. You can use an airtight container (glass jars, pottery containers, or Tupperware) to store it. In addition, vacuum-packed or plastic wrappers can also make pemmicans last a long time. These containers are insect and rodent-proof too.
    • You can choose an alternative ingredient for fat. For example, you can replace peanut butter with rendered fat. In addition, a leather fruit or vegetable will be an excellent replacement for vegetarians, although this will give you less fat and calories than the meat-fat version.


    Native Americans used to hang leather bags full of pemmican high above the ground as storage containers. This kept everything inside dry and far from pests.

    We also have to deal with mice getting into our pantry contents because we live in the country. As a result, we usually wrap pemmican in waxed paper. These wrapped items are then placed in paper bags, which are finally sealed within airtight glass containers. Then, until we want to snack on them, we store them in the cold cellar.

    Of course, this is for treats we intend to consume during the next few months. We advise vacuum sealing pieces for long-term preservation and keeping them out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry location.


    In sum, Pemmican is easy to prepare even for any condition and can be stored for many years. 

    However, it is recommended to make some ahead of disaster. Making pemmicans regularly will help you become more comfortable with the recipe and prepare you to cook Pemmican even during undesirable conditions soon. 

    You can experiment with pemmicans today and find a recipe that works best for you. You can add nuts, honey, chocolate, or sugar to make it tastier. Pemmican has been considered a superfood for many years because of its ability to provide nutrition, even in emergencies. 

    Thus, learning how to cook pemmicans now is helpful because this might save your life!

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