Is beef jerky keto friendly? Yes, beef jerky is fine for the keto diet if made with no added sugar and low carb ingredients! Today we're going to cover how to make keto jerky in the oven. If you enjoy meat bars for snacks, you'll love this EPIC bar copycat recipe. It uses ground beef, walnuts, herbs, dried blueberries, and just a touch of bacon.
I first posted this Epic protein bar copycat back in 2019, and it's been a big hit! I thought I'd refresh the post with more information on making keto beef jerky with ground beef. In addition, I also made a recipe video and took some new photos for you.
One of the things I did since posting the original Epic bar copycat recipe was try it with a coarse grind grass-finished beef. The coarser texture of the beef did have quite an impact on my finished beef jerky bars. As you can see, coarsely ground beef resulted in bars with rather ragged edges that were a little more crumbly.
This was solely an aesthetic issue. I would not choose grass-fed versus conventional beef for this recipe based on looks alone.
In terms of taste, the grass-finished beef jerky bar tasted about the same as conventional. Grass finished beef tends to behave differently in recipes (even compared to regular grass-fed beef). In this case, the beef seemed to dry out a little easier in the oven, and the finished results were a bit darker.
To sum things up, I would choose the type of ground beef that you enjoy and that fits your budget for this recipe. No matter how the cows were raised for the beef used, you should be satisfied with the results.
What are the health benefits of beef jerky made at home?
Hey, if we're going to the trouble of making our own jerky, we need some good reasons, right? There are actually many reasons you might want to try this Epic bar copycat recipe. Here are a few:
- Unlike most granola bars, this keto friendly beef jerky contains no added sugar or added oils. It can be tough to find a store-bought snack bar without added fats and sugars. When you make your own keto beef jerky, you can ensure that your snack is compatible with very low carb diets.
- You're getting highly bioavailable nutrients from meat. These homemade Epic bars completely demolish most sugary granola bar options in terms of nutrition. The beef provides high-quality protein, heme iron (a highly bioavailable form of iron found in animal-based foods), and zinc. I've even popped some liver in there for preformed vitamin A!
- This jerky bar is also rich in healthy plant-based foods. Walnuts (used in this copycat beef jerky recipe) are among the best nut options for the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Meanwhile, the blueberries give the bars a little phytonutrient boost and add soluble fiber.
- This homemade beef jerky is a low carb food. Are you cutting carbs for weight loss or for better blood sugar control in diabetes? Beef jerky can be a great snack for the keto diet (when made with beef, nuts, and other ingredients that are low in net carbohydrates).
- Those on low-sodium diets can adjust the sodium as needed. With these DIY Epic bars, you can reduce the amount of sodium as needed. I've provided more details on how to do this in the FAQs.
In addition, beef jerkys, such as the EPIC bar, are a protein-packed portable snack, perfect for school lunches. I love keeping a stash of sugar free beef jerky around for when I travel. They're also a wonderful snack for hiking and bike trips.
Keto Beef Jerky Ingredients
These easy EPIC bar copycats have a relatively short ingredients list. Here's what you should have on hand:
- Extra lean ground beef
- Bacon and chicken liver pate (or your favorite liver pate)
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce
- Dried thyme
- Dried sage
- Black pepper
- Dried blueberries (choose ones with no added sugar and no added oil)
The liver pate recipe I use is the Best Liver Pate Ever from the Weston A. Price website. It's one of the few ways I can tolerate liver, so it is the best liver pate in my book!
In terms of equipment, here is what is needed to make keto beef jerky with ground meat:
- Food processor
- Parchment paper
- Baking tray
- Rolling pin
I used a food dehydrator to dry the blueberries, but you can use store-bought dried berries if you don't have a dehydrator. That's right; no worries if you don't own a food dehydrator. You're not going to need one to make these bars.
This recipe uses ground meat, and most dehydrators cannot heat ground meat to a safe internal temperature. Unfortunately, I've seen many recipes online that are not following food safety recommendations for making jerky.
Because there is a lot of misinformation out there, some food safety tips on handling meat are coming up next. I want to make sure you have the (correct!) information on making jerky safely before we get to the recipe.
Why is food safety important?
Safe food handling practices are extremely important to help prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Why not play it safe when preparing food?
I'm teaming up today with the Water Quality & Health Council to spread the word about their Plate It Safe campaign. Here are some reasons why #IPlateItSafe and why you should consider the food safety recommendations too:
- Heading into the holidays, more than 1 in 3 Americans are concerned about getting sick from food due to someone's poor kitchen hygiene.
- 1 in 4 Americans doesn't wash their hands during or after preparing food.
- 21% of Americans rarely or never sanitize worktops and cutting boards after handling raw fruits or vegetables.
- Only 29% of Americans know that vegetables, fruits, and nuts are linked to the most recalls of food products.
- Most Americans don't know that rinsing a raw turkey in running water does NOT decrease the spread of bacteria.
Some illnesses cannot be prevented, so why not take precautions to avoid the ones that can? I'm going to cover food safety tips for making keto ground beef jerkys in this article. Some of these tips can be used for preparing fruits and veggies, and other foods as well!
Do you have to cook jerky before dehydrating?
Yes, if you are using a food dehydrator to make this ground beef jerky, you should cook it before dehydrating.
The USDA recommends that beef be heated to 160 °F and poultry to 165 °F before the dehydrating process. Actually, all ground beef should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160 °F, and ground poultry even higher. This is true whether making jerky or not.
My food dehydrator has a max temperature of 155 °F, while my oven has a minimum temperature of 170 °F. This means that my dehydrator is not the appropriate appliance to make meat jerky without using an oven first.
Jerky made from strips of steak must also reach a minimum internal temperature of 160 °F. The rules are different if you are cooking whole steaks. Beef steaks must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of only 145 °F, with a three-minute rest time.
After heating jerky to an internal temperature of 160-165F, the USDA claims that it is OK to dry jerky at 130-140F. Instead, I chose to continue drying the jerky in the oven at the higher temperature. It turned out great without the dehydrator and saved a little time.
Note: As an international traveler, I have enjoyed delicacies that fall outside of these food safety rules. For example, I've had some lovely steak tartare when I visited Paris.
The decision of whether to indulge in such foods is a personal one and beyond the scope of this article. It is important to become familiar with food sources, handling, preparation, and potential risks when making these decisions. Those in other countries may do things differently than the USA, and I recommend educating yourself before traveling abroad.
Other food safety tips for making beef jerky
Heating the ground beef to the proper internal temperature is not the only step you can take to prevent foodborne illness. Here are some other tips that you can use with this Epic bar copycat recipe:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Do this both before preparing the Epic bar copycat recipe and after handling the raw meat.
- Wash and sanitize any surfaces that come in contact with raw meat. This includes bowls, utensils, baking trays, etc.
- Do not rinse raw meat in the kitchen sink before preparation. Doing so can be a source of cross-contamination, dripping germs onto surrounding surfaces.
- Sanitize your kitchen surfaces before, during, and after food preparation. One way to sanitize food-contact surfaces is to combine ¾ tsp. of regular, unscented chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water. Clean the surface of food debris first, using soapy water, then rinse with clear water. Finally, apply the diluted bleach solution and let air dry.
Now that I've covered the basics on homemade jerky and food safety, we can get to the Epic bar copycat recipe.
How to Make Keto Beef Jerky with No Sugar
Unfortunately, a lot of store-bought beef jerky is not keto because it contains added sugar. Good thing you control the ingredients when you make this EPIC bar copycat recipe!
Like the EPIC meat bars, these bars are not made of meat alone. I've included some whole plant foods as well, in the form of walnuts and blueberries. Since I could not find dried blueberries in the store that contained no added sugar and no added oil, I dried my own.
To dry the blueberries, I washed fresh blueberries in cool water. Then I laid them out in a single layer in my food dehydrator and set the dryer to its medium setting. A six-ounce package of fresh blueberries resulted in more than enough dried berries for this recipe.
About 1.5 days later, I had some lovely dried blueberries to add to this recipe. If you try this, make sure to dry the berries long enough to get the moisture out. They need to get to the point where they can be ground into a dry powder in a food processor.
The other thing that I do ahead of time is to make some bacon and liver pate. You could also purchase a premade chicken liver pate if you would prefer.
I like to make my own pate and freeze it in large cocktail cube trays. That way, I'll have the pate ready to add to recipes whenever I need it.
Making Keto Beef Jerky
Now that you've prepared the blueberries and pate, you're ready to make these copycats of Epic bars! Make sure that you start this recipe earlier in the day. It takes a long time to dry in the oven, and you don't want to have to tend to it after bedtime.
To begin, preheat your oven to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
Blend the soy sauce, walnuts, thyme, sage, black pepper, and blueberries in a food processor. Put the mixture in a large mixing bowl and mix in the beef and liver pate with clean hands.
Be forewarned- mixing the beef jerky mixture with your hands gets pretty messy! Also, the raw meat mixture has a bit of a cat food-y appearance. Do not let these barriers stop you- homemade ground beef jerky will be yours before long!
Gather the beef mixture into a ball and place it between two sheets of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the mixture into a 10" square.
The mixture will (of course) not roll into a perfect square. You will need to cut and reshape the rolled out beef mixture to get it the right size. Use a ruler to make sure that it is 10-inches by 10-inches.
Cut the square into 10 bars.
Arrange the bars in a single (non-touching) layer on the lined baking sheet. Be sure to wash your hands well after you finish touching the meat.
Bake the bars for 5 hours in the top third of the oven. Then flip and bake for an additional 45 minutes. (Note: if you use a light-colored baking sheet, the bars may need to bake for a total of 1 hour after flipping.)
Let your keto beef jerky bars cool before storing them.
How to Store Homemade Jerky
Store your homemade keto beef jerky in the refrigerator, set at 40°F or below. Storing the bars in individual snack baggies makes it easy to grab them and go.
These meat bars also freeze well (double wrap or vacuum seal them to help prevent freezer burn). After letting them thaw, they can be eaten right out of the freezer.
I like to keep some on hand as a ready-to-eat food during power outages when we're running on a generator. (Without power, we have no water, so I typically avoid trying to cook.)
Dried foods like jerky are often kept at room temperature. However, refrigerating your homemade jerky is one more step you can take to keep food safe.
Leftovers can stay in the fridge for 3-4 days safely. However, the USDA states that home-dried beef jerky can be stored for 1-2 months.
This recipe always gets eaten before the week is up in my house, unless I hide the bars in the freezer. I don't think I'll ever see if it can last an entire month. Regarding concerns over whether food has spoiled, remember the saying, "when in doubt, throw it out!"
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). Though the calories here are at level 2, I'm bumping this recipe to level 3 due to the dried fruit.
If you find this high-protein bar satiating, this may be a snack that supports weight loss for you. If a higher calorie food helps you feel full longer, it may help you create the calorie deficit needed for weight loss.
My favorite use of this recipe is as a lunch or after school snack option for my teenager. The nuts and dried fruit here provide high energy density to help meet his elevated needs. These ingredients are also rich in fiber and a variety of phytonutrients.
Meanwhile, the animal-based foods in these bars have some nutrients that you likely won't find in a bar that is 100% plant-based. This includes vitamin B12, preformed vitamin A, heme iron, and more.
What are some other recipes using ground beef?
Lean ground beef is an extremely versatile ingredient and one of the least expensive ways to enjoy beef! If you're looking to "beef" up your diet a little more (haha), here are some additional ways to enjoy this red meat:
- Keto Zucchini Boats with Chorizo
- Simple Stuffed Pepper Recipe with a Secret Ingredient!
- Cincinnati Chili Recipe – 5-Way, Lower Carb!
- Air Fryer Burgers Stuffed with Cheese
- Best Cabbage Soup Diet Recipe
- Cheeseburger Salad (Favorite Burger Copycat!)
Frequently Asked Questions
What cut is beef jerky typically made from?
There are some differences of opinion regarding which cut of beef is best for jerky! Here are the beef cuts that I see recommended most often:
- Eye of round
- Top round
- Bottom round
- Flank steak
I'm still a bit partial to ground beef jerky, as it requires no fussy cutting. Also, you can easily mix other ingredients into the ground meat, such as nuts, fruits, herbs, and spices.
Where to buy keto beef jerky?
Before buying online, I recommend buying keto beef jerky in stores near you, if possible. You can try different brands without purchasing large packages of beef sticks and are likely to save some money. For those who would prefer to purchase online, here are a few no added sugar keto jerky options:
- EPIC Beef Sea Salt and Pepper Protein Bar, 0 grams net carbs
- The New Primal Grass Fed Meat Sticks, zero net carbs
- Chomps Grass Fed Beef Jerky Meat Snack Sticks, no net carbs
- People's Choice Beef Jerky – Old Fashioned Original, zero carbs
EPIC bar also carries other keto compatible jerky options, such as a venison and beef strip. If you aren’t on a low carb diet, you could try these Tanka bars with buffalo meat and cranberries. And if you feel really adventurous, you can find jerky brands that carry alligator jerky, ostrich jerky, and other unusual meats.
Mythical Meats carries "enchanted flavors" of jerky that include Werewolf (venison teriyaki jerky), Dragon (alligator Cajun with beef), and Griffin (ostrich). How is that for a unique holiday stocking stuffer idea?!?
Is beef jerky unhealthy when eaten in large quantities?
Pretty much any single food is unhealthy when eaten in large quantities (i.e., to the exclusion of other foods). You may increase your risk for nutrient deficiencies if you are overly consuming one food, crowding out other nutrient-rich food options. Though it may be tasty, this meat bar recipe is not meant to fill all (or most) of your dietary needs.
Is it cheaper to make your own beef jerky?
Unfortunately, good-quality jerky can be quite costly, particularly compared to granola bars. However, this may be an unfair comparison since high-quality jerky is a far richer source of nutrients than most (unfortified) granola bars. But how does the price of homemade beef jerky compare to EPIC beef jerky?
Here's the summary (prices from Whole Foods online):
- EPIC beef bacon apple bar, $2.99 each
- Homemade low carb beef jerky, $1.95 each
You could save over $1 per bar when you make your own sugar free jerky! These grocery savings could add up fast if you enjoy jerky often.
Additionally, there are several ways you could spend less than the prices I have listed above. For example, you could save money by purchasing a bulk pack of EPIC bars. Another option is to shop at a less expensive grocery store than Whole Foods.
Here's the price breakdown of my copycat Epic bar ingredients:
- Organic grass fed lean ground beef, $7.99
- Chicken liver pate, $4.94
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce, $0.29 (price for amount used)
- Walnuts, $1.75 (price for amount used)
- Blueberries, $4.49
- Total per bar: $1.95
Please keep in mind that this is just a loose estimate, and prices change. I did not add in the dried herbs since such small amounts are used. Less expensive ground beef than I have listed is not difficult to obtain.
Also, I did not factor in things like the cost of energy and equipment (e.g., using the stove, parchment paper). I also did not include the price of gas to drive to the store, and so on.
In general, you are likely to realize some savings when you make your own jerky.
Though meat-based bars tend to be more nutrient-dense than granola bars, they also tend to be more expensive. As I've shown, you can save money with this recipe to make your own EPIC copycats!
Taking a few extra minutes to prepare your own bars brings the per bar costs down, closer to granola. This recipe for beef jerkys gives you the best of both worlds, nutrition- and price-wise. Whether these savings are worth the time it takes to make the recipe is ultimately up to you.
What are the differences between homemade beef jerky and store-bought beef jerky?
There are a few key differences between DIY and store-bought jerky that you should consider. First of all, you can fully customize homemade beef jerky to fit your tastes and preferences. You can create jerky flavors that you cannot find in the stores when you use different combinations of meats and plant foods.
For example, feel free to substitute the ingredients in this recipe with your favorite nuts and dried fruits. Cherries, cranberries, pecans, and pistachios all sound like great ways to add more flavor to jerky. I have a turkey and apple jerky bar that you may also like (see my Ground Turkey Jerky Recipe).
Second, when you make your own keto friendly beef jerky, you can create something that fits a variety of medically prescribed diets (not just low carb). If you need low sodium jerky or jerky that is gluten free, you can customize this recipe to meet your needs.
Most store-bought beef jerkys are extremely high in sodium, but it's easy to cut back on salt when you DIY. For this recipe, just skip the soy sauce and choose a different liver pate recipe than I did. (The bacon in the pate I used in this Epic bar copycat drives the sodium up.)
By the way, you can make this into Paleo beef jerky by swapping the soy sauce for coconut aminos. Paleo is not a formally prescribed medical nutrition therapy but I thought I’d throw that out there.
Third, as mentioned earlier, you may save money when you make your own. Finally, for the environmentally minded, homemade jerky may use less plastic packaging than jerky bought in the store.
Other Keto Protein Snacks That You May Enjoy
Are you on the hunt for low carb snacks that are packed with protein? If so, you won't want to miss these high protein keto snack recipes:
- Ground Turkey Jerky Recipe – No Dehydrator Needed!
- Keto Blueberry Smoothie Recipe
- Cloud Bread with Greek Yogurt – Keto-Friendly Recipe!
- Easiest Deviled Eggs with Chipotle Lime Mayo
- Keto Parmesan Crisps | High Protein Chips
- Smoked Oyster and Cod Liver Pate Recipe
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
"Keto" recipes on the web may not be appropriate for those using ketogenic diets as part of their medical nutrition therapy. That includes this recipe.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Keto Beef Jerky | EPIC Bar Copycat Recipe
- 1 lb. ground beef, extra lean (96/4)
- ½ cup bacon and chicken liver pate (this recipe, store-bought pate, or your own recipe)
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup dried blueberries (ones with no added sugar, no added oil)
- Note: If you will be making your own liver pate or drying your own blueberries, allow enough time to do that first. Either way, be sure to start this recipe early in the day since it needs to spend 5¾-6 hours in the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 170°F. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. Wash and sanitize any surfaces that will come in contact with food.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Blend the soy sauce, walnuts, thyme, sage, black pepper, and blueberries in a food processor. Put the mixture in a large mixing bowl, and mix in the beef and liver pate with your clean hands.
- Place the mixture between two sheets of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the mixture out into a 10" square. You may need to cut and reshape the beef mixture to get it to the right size.
- Cut the square into 10 bars and arrange the bars in a single (non-touching) layer on the lined baking sheet.
- After you are done touching the raw meat, wash your hands again.
- Bake the bars for 5 hours, then flip them and bake for an additional 45 minutes. (Note: if you use a light-colored baking sheet, the bars may need to bake for a total of 1 hour after flipping.)
- While they bake, wash and sanitize all surfaces that came in contact with raw meat.
- Let the bars cool before placing them in individual snack bags and storing them in the fridge at 40°F or below. You can also double-wrap or vacuum seal them and keep them in the freezer. Enjoy!
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). Though the calories here are at level 2, I'm bumping this recipe to level 3 due to the dried fruit. If you find this high-protein bar satiating, this may be a snack that supports weight loss for you. If a higher calorie food helps you feel full longer, it may help you create the calorie deficit needed for weight loss. My favorite use of this recipe is as a lunch or after school snack option for my teenager. The nuts and dried fruit here provide high energy density to help meet his elevated needs. These ingredients are also rich in fiber and a variety of phytonutrients. Meanwhile, the animal-based foods in these bars have some nutrients that you likely won't find in a bar that is 100% plant-based. This includes vitamin B12, preformed vitamin A, heme iron, and more. Nutrition information is for one serving of the recipe.