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What is pemmican ? - How to Make Pemmican - The Ultimate Survival Food

How to make pemmican? W hen you're in a survival situation, having energy can make the difference between going broke and becoming one w...

How to make pemmican?

When you're in a survival situation, having energy can make the difference between going broke and becoming one with the wilderness. You need to give your system as much protein as possible to keep you alive even when your whole being says no. You don't need to fill your survival backpack to the brim with too many snacks, but rather bring something with a long shelf life full of all the protein and fat you need. This food is known as pemmican.

Defended by Native Americans, pemmican is just as essential to keep you alive as a compass to find your way, shelter to stay warm at night and water to stay hydrated. It's the Swiss Army Survival Knife that anyone in a survival situation should carry with them. Better than a granola bar and easier to eat than a can of beans, so here's how to make pemmican - the ultimate survival food.

How to Make Pemmican - The Ultimate Survival Food

What is pemmican?

In the simplest terms, pemmican is a dense mixture of protein and fat from the lean meat of elk, buffalo or moose that they have dried and then ground. Invented by the indigenous parts of North America and still consumed today as a combination of the cry pimîhkân which itself comes from pimî, meaning fat or grease.

The ingredients used to make pemmican flood you with energy and allow you to continue in a variety of intense and demanding situations. In the days of the fur trade and expeditions to extreme climates, pemmican was consumed by Europeans where food was scarce and by explorers such as Ernest Shackleton, Fridtjof Nansen and Robert Falcon Scott.

Some of you may have heard of it from the name Lakota or Sioux wasna which comes from the words anything and ground up and if there is a better way to describe pemmican (or wasna), we would like to hear it.

What are the benefits?

Since pemmican is essentially pure, an unadulterated protein without additives or any of the other nonsense you'll find at the local supermarket, the benefits are enormous. Consider how full and satisfied you feel after swallowing your favourite protein drink mix and multiply that by at least a thousand.

The proteins and fats in pemmican give you a boost of energy and replenish your reserves that you may need for future nutrition. It also helps to repair tissue, so if you've been injured, it can help you recover more quickly. It's not as effective as a trip to the hospital, but when you're trying to survive, it's the best thing you'll find.

If you mix it with berries, as some natives have often done, you get extra portions of fibre in your diet, which is also essential in survival situations.

Why is it the ultimate survival food?

The sustainable nature of pemmican and the fact that it can be found at home, on the road or in the densest jungle is what makes pemmican the ultimate survival food. Once you know how to do it, pemmican is easy to make, and it can provide hours of energy. Some people have already eaten pemmican rations since 1902, in case you need to be more convincing.

How do you make pemmican?

Like most orally transmitted traditional foods such as myths and legends, there are too many pemmican recipes to count and it seems that each native population in North America has its own way of making pemmican. However, for the most part, the basic linear process remains pretty much the same.


Cut off all the fat from the meat and slice it as thinly as possible (or use a meat slicer if you are at home). Then place it on a dryer and leave it in the sun. If you come from the UK or such a dull country, you can put the meat in your oven at the lowest temperature. The meat should be dry enough to break before folding.

If you want to keep it as long as possible, add as much salt as necessary.


Reduce this meat to powder in a food processor or in a pestle and mortar. If you don't have any because you are in a survival situation, cut the meat finely and crush it with whatever you have nearby. Indigenous people used rocks.


Heat the fat in a slow cooker, oven or camp stove. This should take some time as you need to heat it to the lowest temperature while stirring occasionally. Heat until the bubbles stop bubbling and strain through a sieve to remove any leftovers.


Mix the meat with whatever you want to include such as nuts, dried fruit, berries or raisins in a large bowl, leaving room for the fat. This makes mixing a little more exciting, but it also reduces longevity.


Add one part fat to two or more parts of the mixture if you think it's necessary. To ensure that the mixture is not compromised, slowly pour in the liquid fat and stir well for better absorption.

Stir (again)

If you have something more like honey, peanut butter or maple syrup, you can add them to the mixture. However, if you add too much, your mixture will be too wet, so be careful. You can also add more salt for better flavour.

This step is optional and will also reduce the shelf life of your pemmican.

Put it in a dish

Spread the pemmican in a dish. If you are at home, a casserole dish is useful, but if you are already in the wild, anything you have will be appropriate. After spreading it out, cut it into the shape of a bar.


Place in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry and dark place. If you've done a lot of work and are short of space, you can also store your pemmican in a ziplock bag and keep it in the freezer.


Of course, we hope that you will never be in a survival situation, at least not unintentionally, but if you like to put yourself on the dangerous side of life, knowing how to make pemmican can make the difference between surviving and a more grim end. You may even like it so much that you give up your usual diet and live exclusively on pemmican for the rest of your life.



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