Your Guide to Paleo Beef Jerky

Your Guide to Paleo Beef Jerky

Are you ready to party (well, eat) like it’s the Paleolithic period?

We’re fans of both history and fine flavors in the Jerky Universe. We also like to keep our fingers on the pulses of popular diets and meal plans. 

With all that in mind, we’d be remiss if we didn’t note the paleo diet, beef jerky and how the two mingle. And we already know beef jerky health benefits are plentiful

Let’s get the big question out of the way. Can you eat beef jerky on paleo? Yes — with caveats.

If you want to follow the diet, you’ll be relieved to know paleo beef jerky isn’t a struggle to find. But if you’re somewhat puzzled about what the paleo diet is altogether, we’ve got your back.

We’ll look at the paleo diet, paleo-approved beef jerky and more. Grab your old-school snacks and stuffed mastodon, and let’s dig in. 

[Related: Beef Jerky Nutrition Guide]

What Is the Paleo Diet?

The concept of eating like early humans for health reasons isn’t particularly new — its roots go back to the 1970s. But when scientist Loren Cordain published “The Paleo Diet” in 2002, the movement gained major momentum. 

Now, the idea of resetting our digestive system to that of Old Stone Age humans is surprisingly appealing. And that’s the core idea: Eat the foods Paleolithic-era people ate as hunter-gatherers, before farming became commonplace.

Seems simple enough, right? 

The answer depends on your health, circumstances and nutritional needs. Everyone’s different, so speak with your doc before you jump into any diet

Let’s check out what the paleo diet does and doesn’t allow. Naturally, paleo-friendly beef jerky is our through line — you’ll see where snags could arise and how to work around them.

[Related: Considering Beef Jerky for Weight Loss? Read This First]

What You Can Eat on the Paleo Diet: A Short List

Here’s a short list of what’s A-OK with the paleo diet:

  • Meats 
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Tubers
  • Nuts 
  • Seeds
  • Fruits (unprocessed)
  • Vegetables (unprocessed)
  • Herbs and spices
  • Sea salt
  • Oils and fats (unprocessed healthy fats, like olive and avocado oils)
  • Unsweetened tea and black coffee

So, meats like beef are fine on the paleo diet. That means beef jerky makes the paleo cut, right? Well, there’s the rub … literally. 

Because jerky usually bathes in rub and marinade before folks dry it, the secret’s in the sauce. A paleo beef jerky marinade would need to include only unprocessed ingredients from the groups above.

Note: You’ll notice similarities between the Whole30 diet and the paleo diet. The main difference is that Whole30 is a short-term overhaul, while paleo is a long-term change with a bit of wiggle room. For example, you can indulge in a little high-cacao dark chocolate and wine on paleo.

[Related: Can Beef Jerky Make You Sick? What To Know]

What You Can’t Eat on the Paleo Diet: A Short List

So, paleo’s pretty reasonable in terms of what you should put in your mouth. Here’s a list of what the paleo diet advises against:

  • Sugars, especially refined sugars 
    • This one’s tricky — the key is eating what early humans could have found. In that vein, white sugar, brown sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are off the table. But natural sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup and molasses are acceptable in small amounts.
  • Artificial sweeteners (like aspartame, saccharin and sucralose)
  • Grains (even quinoa, wild rice and buckwheat)
  • Dairy 
    • Some paleo diet variants allow grass-fed, full-fat butter and cheese. The diet’s been around long enough that adaptive plans have popped up.
  • Legumes (like peanuts, lentils and chickpeas)
  • Select vegetable oils (like corn, sunflower, grapeseed and safflower oils) 
  • Processed foods (a broad category, with additives as the main red flag)

So that paleo beef jerky marinade would have to skip brown sugar and soy sauce — two common jerky ingredients. Instead, opt for alternatives like coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar and a smidge of raw maple syrup. 

Note: Interestingly, archaeologists have discovered grain-grinding tools at Paleolithic-era sites. Plus, geography, climate and food availability contributed to what our ancient ancestors ate. In short, paleo’s primarily a philosophy: Eat close to nature, and forgo factory-made foods.

[Related: Is Beef Jerky Good for Diabetics?]

What Is Paleo Certification?

When you want paleo-approved beef jerky and you want it fast, look for a Paleo Certification mark. 

The Paleo Diet LLC launched a new designation in 2022, and it officially notes a product meets the diet’s requirements. With North America and Europe dominating the demand for paleo foods, creating a bona fide symbol was a logical (and lucrative) move.

So when shopping for paleo beef jerky, Paleo Certification makes finding the right bag much, much simpler. Not needing to take a magnifying glass to the ingredients list is always a perk.

[Related: Can Pregnant Women Eat Beef Jerky?]

Is Beef Jerky Paleo-Friendly?

Let’s rewind. Can you eat beef jerky on paleo? Yes, you can.

Is beef jerky paleo-friendly? Sometimes — it depends on its ingredients and any additives. 

You see the distinction. Your around-the-corner convenience store’s commercial jerky may not be paleo beef jerky. But luckily, you can easily buy or make paleo beef jerky (try pemmican for a nutrient-dense twist). 

In fact, the diet’s widespread enough that big-box grocery stores often carry paleo-approved beef jerky. Otherwise, check your go-to health food store or farmers market.

And we happen to carry positively astounding paleo beef jerky varieties — many are gluten-free, too! Check out these brands and their jaw-dropping flavors:

There you go! Now get your snack on … loincloth optional.

[Related: Is Beef Jerky Keto-Friendly?]

Explore the Jerky Universe

Do you have something fascinating to say about beef jerky, paleo diet guidelines and your own experience? Contribute to the Jerky Universe — we’d love to hear from you. 

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