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Pemmican: The First Power Bar (+ easy recipe) 1

Traditional Pemmican Recipe

Traditional recipe for making pemmican, humankind's first Power Bar courtesy of the Native Americans who perfected the method many centuries ago.

Author John Moody



  1. Meat is easier to slice thin when slightly frozen. So, if the meat you are using is fresh, toss it in it the freezer for a few hours. If it is frozen, partially thaw it out. Once the meat is partially frozen, use a knife to carefully cut it into long, thin slices.

  2. Trim off any visible fat from the strips.

  3. Place the slices either in a dehydrator or an oven that can be set very low (150 °F/ 66 °C). It takes about 12-18 hours to thoroughly dry the meat strips.

  4. Use a food processor or a mortar and pestle to powderize the dried meat. 

  5. If you are adding berries, nuts or other extras, add them now. Use about half as much as you have meat. For example, if you have 4 cups of dried meat, add 2 cups of extras.

  6. Traditional pemmican did not use any salt, but if you wish to add some, about 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt per cup of meat is a good rule of thumb.

  7. Next, you will add the fat. The proper ratio of meat to fat is 1:1 for traditional pemmican. This means if you end up with 4 cups of dried meat powder, you will need 4 cups of rendered fat. The ratio of fat to meat matters, especially if this will be the only food someone is subsisting on for any length of time. Explorers discovered that other ratios were not as nourishing or healthful.

    You can either buy grassfed rendered tallow or make tallow yourself. Generally, the suet fat located around the internal organs like the kidneys was used and preferred by the Native Americans because it is the most nutrient dense fat.

  8. Warm up the fat on the stove until it liquefies. Mix the fat slowly with the meat, allowing the dry mixture to soak it up before adding more. Work the mixture with your hands much like you would bread dough if you like.

  9. If you have any wet extras such as raw honey, add them after the fat. Some people use almond meal or coconut flour if the mixture becomes too wet or moist.

Recipe Notes

Use no more than 2 cups total of optional ingredients.

Remember, the more extras (nuts, seeds, or berries) you add, the less shelf stable the pemmican becomes. It also becomes less pemmican and more snack bar. Modern types of pemmican with additional ingredients beyond just the meat and fat are best kept in the freezer for this reason. If you wish your pemmican to be shelf stable and last for years, go with meat and fat only.