Sugar-free jerky

Jerky is a great low-carb snack / travel food. However, it’s almost impossible to find commercial jerky that doesn’t contain sugar. But – good news! You can make your own, and you don’t even need a dehydrator. I’ve made jerky many times in my oven, both for gifts and to take on trips, with great results.

This recipe gets saltiness from the soy/tamari, a touch of sweetness from the onion powder, and a complex, layered heat from the red pepper flakes and the freshly ground black pepper. 

Note: Because of the long drying time needed, plan ahead. I usually put it in the oven early in the morning, or last thing at night. You don’t want to be getting up at 3:00 a.m. to check your jerky!


A few simple ingredients


Marinate status is GO!


All patted dry with paper towels and ready to go in the oven


You want to prop the oven door open just a *little* bit — the  interior light should not come on

Sugar-free jerky

  • Difficulty: moderate
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Portable, meaty, and delicious!


The meat:

  • 2 lb baron of beef or other fairly lean cut, thinly sliced. Ask your butcher to slice it for you, or if doing it yourself, put in the freezer for about 45 minutes to make it easier to slice thinly.

The marinade:

  • Large ziploc-type bag(s)
  • 3/4 cup sugar-free soy sauce  (e.g., Kikkoman brand) or tamari
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder. Note: Onion powder, not onion salt – if it’s lumpy, sift it.


  1. Slice the meat thinly.
  2. Put it in a large ziploc plastic bag (or a couple of smaller bags) and marinate it in the fridge for 2 – 4 hours, turning once or twice. The longer you leave it, the stronger and saltier the taste.
  3. Take it out of the bag, drain it, and pat it dry with lots of paper towels. If you like, you could try saving the marinade to use as a gravy (add heavy cream or coconut milk).
  4. Spread the meat on racks over cookie sheets, taking care to spread each piece of meat fully open – any folds will cause that piece to dry more slowly.
  5. Place in the oven on the lowest setting (my oven’s lowest setting is 170 degrees F / 75 C).
  6. Dry in the oven for 8 -12 hours with the oven door propped partly open. I use an oven mitt or folded tea towel jammed in the door. You want air to circulate, but you don’t want the oven door to be open so much that the interior oven light comes on, because this means the oven will try to heat further and the jerky may bake rather than dehydrating. The timing is variable because it depends on the moisture content of your meat and of the air, the temperature of the air, your oven heat, and the thickness of the slices of meat.
  7.  The jerky is done when it cracks, rather than bends; it may have beads of fat on it.
  8. Cool the jerky on racks, then store in freezer bags or food storage containers. It will keep at room temperature for 2- 3 months, or longer in the freezer.

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