What Is Pemmican?

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Keeping food fresh and edible as long as humanly possible has meant the difference between surviving another winter and vanishing from the annals of history. This small miracle has been accomplished in a wide variety of ways and some have been more impressive than others.

But one of the most impressive feats of culinary engineering was invented eons ago somewhere in the continent of North America. Since times immemorial, the original concept of pemmican has changed little as it supported the ever-changing lifestyles of human populations to this very day.

You can learn a simple recipe for pemmican in The Lost Super Foods.

What is Pemmican?

Pemmican is the Native American solution for highly nutritious, convenient, and virtually non-perishable foodstuff. The recipe and design of this food are so cutting-edge, that modern health enthusiasts and physical fitness champions swear by it. This high-calorie, protein-rich food is ideal for providing high-performance fuel for a wide variety of human endeavors.

Pemmican was first used by the native peoples of North America and combined sophisticated food preservation concepts to ensure long-lasting food supplies. This allowed them to take full advantage of their hunting efforts by producing highly nutritious food that could be stored and moved as needed to stave off starvation in times of scarcity.

Since that time pemmican formed an important commodity across the “New World” and was critical to the age of exploration. Admiral Peary, the American Arctic explorer, preferred his pemmican prepared with raisins. Today many of the top-performance athletes rely on the time-tested calorie- and protein-rich combination of pemmican to deliver an energy boost for heavy-weight lifting and other high-intensity performance.

You can learn a simple recipe for pemmican in The Lost Super Foods.

How is Pemmican Prepared?

Different people from the various regions of North America would make different forms of pemmican from the food endemic to their location. Buffalo is the first meat that comes to mind when thinking of pemmican, any other lean meat could be used depending on how the last hunt turned out. So, there are deer, elk, caribou, moose, and even fish varieties of pemmican. Generally, fatty meats like bear were avoided as this would reduce the longevity of the pemmican.

Making pemmican is the easiest thing. It all begins with dehydrating the meat that will be used. As moisture is removed from the meat, the chances of the meat going bad are greatly reduced. The meat was dried by cutting it into long strips and laying it out in the sun, in a smoker pit, or on racks over a low fire to dry thoroughly.

Once the moisture is gone from the meat, the meat that remains is tough and brittle. This was the ground to a rough or fine powder between grinding stones. The tallow, suet, or fat, from the animal, was then melted and mixed into the ground meat powder in equal quantities.

To this fairly standard ingredient list, different pemmican would have different additional ingredients according to availability. The mixture was poured into a large buffalo hide sack that weighed about 40 kilos. These sacks could be stacked, packed, and traded with other travelers.


Just like your favorite chocolate chip cookies, there is no single recipe and the variations of pemmican have been extensive indeed. One thing that remains constant throughout all the recipes is the ratio of fats to proteins, which is typically 1:1. Of course there are exceptions, some pemmican have a 2:1 ratio of fats to proteins, and this higher fat content is well-suited to the carnivore’s diet that favors endurance and higher-energy.

As mentioned, the various native peoples scattered across North America would make pemmican from the ingredients they found available to them. Here are some of the most important types of pemmican to know about:

Winter Pemmican — the flavor of desolate expanses of blinding whiteness and the food that founded Antarctic exploration. Winter pemmican may be nothing but an oily mass of beef jerky, but when you are dashing across the snow with your sled dogs, you will need sustenance. Traditionally, this type of pemmican was made with seal meat, which is especially oily.

Summer Pemmican — there are many more varieties of summer pemmican and what happens to be in season in the local area. In the northwest, pemmican was made with the Salmon which was returning to their feeding grounds. Spices and dried fruits were often added to summer pemmican to offer a more exciting flavor array. This type of pemmican was often dried in a smoker and this adds further complexity to a fairly plain taste.

Fish Pemmican — most often, fish used to make pemmican, like salmon, is especially oily. For this reason, fish pemmican is more often a thick paste rather than a cohesive loaf.

Fine Pemmican— fine pemmican combines high protein shredded buffalo meat with rich fat is taken from bone marrow. This type of pemmican is called “fine” because it is sifted before it is added to the mixture to ensure that all pieces of bone are removed.

Ceremonial Pemmican — finally, there was ceremonial pemmican, which could be considered the birthday cake of pemmican and featured plenty of spices, dried fruits, and other pleasant ingredients that added to the momentous occasions for which they were made. When sliced open, this type of pemmican typically looked like a fruit cake.

You can learn a simple recipe for pemmican in The Lost Super Foods.


When made from healthy meats, fats, and all the rest of your favorite pemmican ingredients, pemmican is a delicious and nutritious treat that can support you in your work, exercise, and play. When made without any additional fruits, this is also a no-carb food that still provides plenty of energy.

This is approximately what you can expect to find in a 2 oz serving of pemmican

Calories: 360 Protein: 17 grams
Fat: 34 grams Carbs: 1 gram

This essential nutritional profile makes it the perfect support for keto, paleo, and many other low-carb diet plans. And best of all, unless you are frozen in the tundra many miles from a market, you can have some fun with your pemmican and accompany it with an assortment of additional foods.

Assuming that you are making your pemican from the highest quality ingredients, here are some of the top nutrients you will enjoy.

Omega-3 fatty Acids

Pemmican made from healthy meats and tallow provides you with a healthy amount of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential nutrients are important for maintaining eye health, and heart health and protecting your body from auto-immune diseases.

Vitamin E and B

Pemmican is also very high in Vitamin E which is an important antioxidant that keeps your body safe from cell damage. Pemmican’s high Vitamin B content ensures the health of your red blood cells.

Healthy Minerals

Pemmican made from all-natural ingredients has healthy minerals like zinc, potassium, selenium, magnesium, and phosphorus. These essential minerals help the body to perform important functions, like nerve signaling, cell growth, and more.

How Long Will Pemmican Last?

There has been much debate about how long a pemmican will last in storage and the truth can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors. The most important point will be protecting the pemmican from moisture. In time past, this was done with the help of a sturdy leather sack. Today there are a variety of moisture-sealing containers that can be used to accomplish this task. Other factors that can cause the oils in the pemmican to go rancid are sunlight, air, and heat.

The most important elements to protect your pemmican from are moisture and oxygen. If you have protected your pemmican well, you can expect it to last for many years. How many years is still in the debate? Pemmican enthusiasts have been quoted as saying 50 years, but no 50-year-old pemmican has been properly identified at this time.

Furthermore, you will want to carefully examine your stock before eating. Be as careful not to eat spoiled pemmican in the first year as you are in the thirty-first year of storage, and you will be fine.

The Final Say

One final thought on this timeless food choice. Pemmican is not an especially tasty food, it is a healthy source of nutrition consumed for function, not flavor. But this doesn’t mean you have to forgo flavor when eating pemmican.

Pemmican can if you have the extra time to invest in food preparation and would like to make your pemmican feasts a little more appetizing here are some things to include in your pemmican feast:

-Olives — black or green are both delicious.

-An aged cheese like brie or gouda. Fresh goat or sheep cheese is also a highly popular option.

-Fresh cilantro, chilies, lemon, and ground cumin.

  • Guacamole

In the end, pemmican is the ultimate gift for hikers, campers, and anyone looking for a high-quality nutritious meal on the go. Because of its very simplistic recipe, most people find they can make their version of pemmican and adapt it according to their tastes. There are also recipes available online that can help point you in the right direction. Be sure to store your pemmican properly, and always check your stock to ensure freshness, especially when storing pemmican for long periods.

You can learn a simple recipe for pemmican in The Lost Super Foods.