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Ground Beef Jerky (Sweet & Spicy)

Save money and make your own homemade beef jerky with this easy Ground Beef Jerky! This recipe uses just a few ingredients, has a nice sweet and spicy flavor, and is a favorite for high-protein snacking on the go. This recipe is made in the oven and does not need any a dehydrator or any special jerky-making equipment.

Glass jar of ground beef jerky
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If you do a lot of hiking, or a lot of snack-packing for day trips, you're going to LOVE this easy homemade beef jerky. It's so much cheaper than store-bought jerky. It's softer, healthier (no chemical preservatives!), and it is delicious. The combination of sweet and spicy flavors is so good, it's a favorite of mine! But of course, if you want to reduce the sugar or skip it, or reduce the spice, you can do so.

Beef jerky is a great high-protein snack. Perfect for lunch boxes, work lunches, and after-school snacking.

Hand holding piece of ground beef jerky

More high-protein snacks: Cottage Cheese Queso

Why use ground beef for beef jerky?

Ground beef makes an AMAZING softer jerky that is very easy to chew. Don't worry, it still has a nice bite and chewiness, but it's not tough and won't break your teeth or stab you in the roof of your mouth as you try to eat it. The other reason I love ground beef jerky is that you can REALLY rub the flavor into the beef and there's no need to marinate the jerky before dehydrating it.

A lot of people think they need to get whole muscle jerky to get all the protein benefits, but ground jerky is made by simply taking whole muscle (and all its nutrients and proteins) and grinding it.

Another benefit to making ground meat jerky is that you need fewer liquid ingredients because you're not marinating the jerky. Less food waste and cheaper recipe = double win!

In short, making beef jerky using ground beef is REALLY easy and makes a jerky that everyone can enjoy, including kids and elderly who might have trouble chewing through tough jerky pieces. I hope you enjoy this jerky recipe!

Bending a piece of ground beef jerky to show how soft it is
Look how soft and chewy ground beef jerky is!

More high-protein snacks to try: Pumpkin Whipped Cottage Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef—93% or leaner. I recommend making your own ground beef or getting your ground beef by asking a butcher to grind a cut of beef, such as top round or bottom round or any moderately lean cut of meat. This way you can be sure that the meat is freshly ground and you don't have excess fat in your jerky.
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar (that's 6 tablespoons. Light or dark brown sugar is fine. Substitute with a sugar-free brown sugar for a low-carb jerky.)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos if you want a gluten-free beef jerky)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (if you don't want a spicy beef jerky, substitute with sweet smoked paprika)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • optional: few drops of liquid smoke
Ingredients to make jerky with ground beef

These are just the ingredients I use to get a simple sweet and spicy jerky. You can definitely work on getting a more complex flavor by adding other seasonings and sauces. For example, a bit of Worcestershire sauce, teriyaki sauce, mustard, sea salt, fish sauce, onion powder, fennel seeds, balsamic vinegar, BBQ sauce, fresh minced garlic, honey, hot sauce, hot honey, or red pepper flakes. Not all at the same time, of course, but play around with different combinations. The possibilities are endless!

If you want to play around with different seasonings, mix them all together in a bowl separate from the meat and give them a taste. The mixture should be pretty salty and a little too seasoned, because it will be diluted in flavor when mixed with the ground beef.

I prefer not to use curing salt, sodium nitrite, or sodium nitrate in my ground beef mixture.

More easy high-protein snacks: Mini Quiches

Equipment

This recipe doesn't require any special equipment such as a dehydrator, jerky cannon, jerky gun, dehydrator trays or sheets. Just simple stuff that most kitchens already have:

  • Large bowl
  • Large baking sheet, at least 11x17 inches, or two 9x13-inch pans. You'll need to spread the jerky out in a thin even layer for it to dry quickly and evenly.
  • Parchment paper (2 sheets, each big enough for your baking sheet)
  • Optional but helpful: small rolling pin to roll out the jerky
  • Pizza cutter or knife to cut the jerky

More homemade packable snack recipes: Cheese Crisps

Instructions for oven beef jerky

Preheat the oven to 175F.

Combine all the jerky ingredients in a bowl and use your hands to really work the seasoning into the jerky. 

Ground beef mixed with seasonings in a bowl

Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and place the meat mixture on top. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top, then use your hands or a small rolling pin to press the jerky into an even layer on the baking pan, no more than ¼-inch thick. If the pan doesn't fit the jerky in a thin layer, prepare another baking pan with a piece of parchment paper. I use an 11x17-inch pan for 1 lb of ground beef to make a really thin layer. It shouldn't be any thicker than that.

2 pictures showing how to press ground beef mixture into a baking sheet line with parchment paper

Remove the top piece of parchment paper and discard it. Use a knife to cut through the jerky or score the jerky into snack-sized jerky strips, about 1 inch thick and 3-4 inches long unless you like longer. This is helpful for breaking the jerky apart for eating after it is dehydrated.

Ground beef mixture pressed into a baking sheet and cut into rectangles to make it easy to tear into jerky after dehydrating

Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven for 4-5 hours, or until the beef jerky is completely dry. After a couple of hours, you can remove the baking sheet from the oven, use a paper towel to dab off any excess moisture that beads up, and then put the sheet back in the oven. This helps the jerky dehydrate faster, and you can repeat this every hour until the jerky is done. During the last half hour or hour of dehydrating, flip the sheet of beef jerky over so the underside can dehydrate fully.

Dehydrated ground beef jerky in a baking sheet

Allow to cool, break into jerky sticks, and enjoy!

Hand grabbing a piece of sweet and spicy ground jerky

Quick and easy protein snack idea: 3 Ingredient Chicken Salad

How to store homemade ground beef jerky

Since this jerky does not have any chemical preservatives, it does not last as long as store-bought jerky. Store your jerky at room temperature in a sealed airtight container for up to 7 days. You can store it in the fridge for longer, but it gets a little chewier because of the moisture from condensation.

Is homemade ground jerky safe?

In this recipe, you dehydrate the jerky at 175F, which is higher than the minimum "safe" temperature for cooking beef. As long as you fully dehydrate the jerky and don't leave moisture or grease in the jerky, and as long as you don't store the jerky for weeks in a humid or warm environment, the jerky will be safe to eat. Another important tip is to get high quality ground beef (for example from a butcher who is grinding a fresh, quality cut of meat for you).

If you enjoyed this recipe, let me know with a comment and a star rating below. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!

Ground beef jerky in a glass jar
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5 from 1 vote

Ground Beef Jerky (Sweet & Spicy)

You don't nee any special jerky-making equipment to make this Ground Beef Jerky! It's dehydrated in the oven and uses just a few ingredients. My version here makes a sweet and spicy jerky, but you can certainly reduce or omit the sugar or spice to your liking.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time9 hours 30 minutes
Course: Snack
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free
Servings: 4
Author: Kate

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef - 93% or leaner. Ask a butcher to grind a top round or bottom round or any moderately lean cut of meat
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar - light or brown sugar is fine
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce - (use gluten-free soy sauce or coconut aminos if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper - (if you don't want a spicy beef jerky, substitute with sweet smoked paprika)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • optional: few drops of liquid smoke

Special equipment

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 175F.
  • Combine all the jerky ingredients in a bowl and use your hands to really work the seasoning into the jerky.
  • Line your baking sheet with parchment paper and place the meat mixture on top. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top, then use your hands or a small rolling pin to press the jerky into an even layer on the baking pan, no more than ¼-inch thick. If the pan doesn't fit the jerky in a thin layer, prepare another baking pan with a piece of parchment paper. I use an 11x17-inch pan for 1 lb of ground beef to make a really thin layer. It shouldn't be any thicker than that.
    2 pictures showing how to press ground beef mixture into a baking sheet line with parchment paper
  • Remove the top piece of parchment paper and discard it. Use a knife to cut through the jerky or score the jerky into snack-sized strips, about 1 inch thick and 3-4 inches. This is helpful for breaking the jerky apart for eating after it is dehydrated.
    Ground beef mixture pressed into a baking sheet and cut into rectangles to make it easy to tear into jerky after dehydrating
  • Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven for 4-5 hours, or until the beef jerky is completely dry. After a couple of hours, you can use a paper towel to dab off any excess moisture that beads up, and then put the sheet back in the oven. This helps the jerky dehydrate faster.
    Dehydrated ground beef jerky in a baking sheet
  • During the last half hour or hour of dehydrating, flip the sheet of beef jerky over so the underside can dehydrate fully.
  • Allow to cool, break into jerky sticks, and enjoy!
    Store in a sealed container at cool room temperature away from humidity for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

Try these other flavorful add-ins: teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, sea salt, fish sauce, onion powder, fennel seeds, balsamic vinegar, BBQ sauce, fresh minced garlic, honey, hot sauce, hot honey, or red pepper flakes. Not all at the same time, of course, but play around with different combinations. The possibilities are endless!

Nutrition

Calories: 223kcal (11%) | Carbohydrates: 20g (7%) | Protein: 24g (48%) | Fat: 5g (8%) | Saturated Fat: 2g (10%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.04g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 59mg (20%) | Sodium: 1388mg (58%) | Potassium: 335mg (10%) | Fiber: 0.4g (2%) | Sugar: 18g (20%) | Vitamin A: 109IU (2%) | Vitamin C: 3mg (4%) | Calcium: 24mg (2%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)

The nutritional information displayed is an estimate and not to be used as dietary or nutritional advice. Consult a nutritionist or dietician for nutritional info based on the exact ingredients you use.

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