Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples’ Day with Bison Bannock Pockets

Background is a wooden plank with red berries and greenery sprinkled around, a Bison Bannock Pocket is cut in half so you can see the bison meat inside and rests again a row of unopened pockets. A red dip is off to the side. Text reads "Wanuskewin's Bison Bannock Pockets Makes 8 Pockets". Image is by Derrick Kendel for the cookbook Only in Saskatchewan by Naomi Hansen.

Today is National Indigenous Peoples’ Day here in Canada and we have a delicious recipe for Bison Bannock Pockets from Wanuskewin Heritage Park‘s restaurant, which can also be found in Naomi Hansen’s cookbook Only in Saskatchewan.

Wanuskewin’s on-site restaurant and catering services focus on combining traditional Indigenous cuisines with contemporary dishes, and bison and bannock are both key features of the menu. Hearty favourites include Métis Boulettes (bison meatballs with vegetables), their Tatanka Bison Burger, and baked bannock. They source local ingredients whenever possible too, using buns from the Night Oven Bakery in Saskatoon and wild fruit from Boreal Heartland, an Indigenous-owned company in Air Ronge.

This recipe was created by Julie Bear, of Shoal Lake Cree Nation, and Darci McAdam, of Pelican Lake First Nation, both of whom work at Wanuskewin’s restaurant. Bison bannock pockets are on Wanuskewin’s Mitten Menu, which features warm, handheld items meant to be eaten while hiking the park’s trails. The pockets are a cozy, comforting meal, oven-baked and stuffed with a pulled bison filling, and the cranberry marinara is the perfect accompaniment, with a rich jam-like flavour. If needed, you can substitute beef or pork for the bison, or switch out the maple BBQ sauce for your favourite BBQ sauce.


Cranberry Marinara
1 Tbsp olive oil
⅓ cup small-diced carrot
¼ cup small-diced yellow onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2½ cups fresh or frozen cranberries
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried basil
2 Tbsp water
Bison Filling
1 (2 lb) bison roast*
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup water
1½ cups maple BBQ sauce (below)** 


Maple BBQ Sauce
2 cups ketchup
1 (5½ oz/156 mL) can of tomato paste
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup molasses
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp paprika (any type is fine)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry mustard powder
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1½ Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp sea salt
1½ cups warm water
¼ cup canola oil
Melted butter or olive oil, for brushing (optional) 




RECIPE for the Cranberry Marinara

1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add the carrot, onion, and garlic to the saucepan, and sauté until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Let the mixture simmer on medium heat for 3 minutes.
4. Add the cranberries, sugar, oregano, basil, and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat to medium and allow it to simmer, uncovered, and stirring regularly, until the cranberries are cooked through and beginning to split open, 15 minutes.
5. Remove the sauce from the heat and blend it on high speed until it is fairly smooth. You can use an immersion blender, stand blender, or food processor for this.
6. Let the cranberry marinara cool at room temperature and then refrigerate, covered, until you are ready to serve the bison bannock pockets. Leftover cranberry marinara can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

RECIPE for the Bison Filling

1. Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).
2. Cut the bison roast into quarters and place them in a medium bowl. Sprinkle the salt and pepper overtop and turn to season all sides.
3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the bison pieces to the pan and lightly sear all sides until just browned, about 5 minutes in total.
4. Pour 1 cup of water into a roasting pan, add the bison, and cover with either a lid or aluminum foil. Cook the bison until it is tender and reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C), 45–50 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the maple BBQ sauce (below) and then the bannock dough (below).
6. Remove the bison from the oven and let it cool slightly.
7. Using two forks, pull apart the meat to shred it, and place the shredded meat in a medium bowl.
8. Add 1½ cups of the BBQ sauce to the pulled bison, and mix together until well combined.

RECIPE for the Maple BBQ Sauce

1. Place all of the sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stir together to combine and then bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is boiling, turn the heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer, uncovered, and stirring occasionally, until it has the consistency of BBQ sauce, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
2. Store any leftover maple BBQ Sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

RECIPE for the Bannock

1. Mix together both flours, the baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until well combined.
2. Add the water and oil, and knead with your hands until a solid dough forms. It should hold together and not stick to your hands when you touch it. If it is too sticky, add a little bit more flour as needed until it reaches a dough-like consistency.
3. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 20 minutes in a warm area.


1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Lightly flour a clean surface. Form the bannock dough into a flat disk. Cut the dough into 8 portions, one for each pocket. Keep the dough you are not using covered.
3. Take one dough portion and, using a rolling pin, roll it out into a thin circle, about 7 inches in diameter. Place a heaping ⅓ cup of the bison filling on one half of the bannock circle, leaving ½-inch space from the edge. Using a silicone barbeque brush, brush a little bit of water along the edges of the dough, and then fold the dough over the pulled bison and press down firmly on the edges with a fork to seal it.
4. Using a large spatula, transfer the completed pocket to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process until all the dough and filling are used up. To keep the dough from sticking, dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour as you go.
5. Lightly poke a few holes on the top of each pocket with a fork. Using a silicone barbeque brush, lightly brush each pocket with a little bit of melted butter (if using).
6. Bake the pockets on the centre rack of the oven until golden brown and cooked through, 10–15 minutes.
7. Remove the pockets from the oven, let them cool on the pan enough to touch, and then serve immediately with the cranberry marinara on the side for dipping.

*Use a bison round roast, chuck roast, or rib eye roast, which all have a decent ratio of meat to fat. A leaner cut will work but will be difficult to shred. Alternatively, you can substitute a beef or pork roast of equal weight for the bison, if desired.
**The maple BBQ sauce can be substituted with 1½ cups of your favourite BBQ sauce.

Excerpted from Only in Saskatchewan by Naomi Hansen. Recipe copyright © 2022 by Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Text copyright © 2022 by Naomi Hansen. Photo copyright 2022 © by Garrett Kendal.

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