Maybe you’ll take off in your RV or rig up the raft for a multiday trip. Perhaps you’ll pitch your tent in your favorite primitive camp spot, one yet to be discovered by tourists. No matter how you enjoy the outdoors, planning delicious camp meals is essential.
Whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, camp food always tastes better when enjoyed in the fresh air, surrounded by nature and good people. These camping tips and easy camping recipes – suitable for a large group or a small family – will help you enjoy the beauty of the outdoors without spending too much time over the stove.
Some of these make-ahead, easy recipes are no-cook camp meals, while others require a camp stove. Be aware of fire bans in place at your camping spot. Here a few tips to help you prepare your food and food storage for your camping trip.
Make camp meals ahead of time
Soups, chili, stews, meat, pasta and rice can be made ahead of time. Depending on how long it will be between preparation and eating, you can choose to refrigerate or freeze the meals. Store them in a thick, heat-safe ziplock bag. You can reheat your meal by boiling a large pot of water and dropping the bag inside (seal the bag well). If you’re using this method, be sure non-potable water does not come in contact with your food.
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If you freeze your meal ahead of time, make sure to lay the bag flat in your freezer so it will fit nicely in the bottom of your cooler and become an extra ice pack.
Items you plan to cook on your camp stove can also be prepped ahead of time. Scramble eggs at home and keep them in a Nalgene bottle or other reusable bottle (a clean coffee creamer bottle works well). Scrambled eggs will last a few days in a cold cooler. Also, precook sausage or bacon to add to your meal during the last few minutes of cooking.
You can chop veggies at home and store them in an airtight container or bag.
Instead of boiling your meals in the bag, you can reheat them in a skillet (cast iron) on a camp stove. For rice, reheat by steaming it in a saucepan with a lid, add a little drinking water and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally.
Make your own ice blocks for your cooler
If you plan ahead, you don’t need to buy a block or crushed ice for your cooler, which can make a watery mess in your cooler.
Four to five days before your camping trip, freeze drinking water in clean milk, juice or 2-litter soda jugs. Then use them to keep your cooler cold, and they double as drinking water at the end of your trip. These large “blocks” of ice will last longer and not get your food soggy.
Are you taking juice boxes for the kids? Freeze those that come in pouches a few days ahead of time and place them in the air gaps in your cooler to keep food cold.
Cut down on packing space
To make more room in your cooler, remove foods from their original packaging and place the food in reusable tubs or bags. After the tub or bag is empty, it can double as storage for leftovers. This method also helps cut down on the trash you’ll pack out after camping.
More cooler and camp food tips
Place raw meat at the bottom of the cooler. If it leaks, it won’t contaminate the rest of your food.
Keep your cooler out of direct sunlight. You might need to move it into the shade throughout the day. If you cover your cooler with a wet towel, you’ll be amazed at how long your ice lasts.
Be careful with glass at the campsite (or just don’t bring it). No one enjoys a campsite littered with broken glass.
If you have a favorite drink that only comes in a glass bottle, wrap the bottle in a layer of duct tape to help protect it and keep it from shattering into numerous shards. Or even better, put it into something plastic before you leave home.
To preserve space, carry cooking spices in small, Tic Tac mint containers.
Make coffee pouches ahead of time by using a coffee filter, a few scoops of your favorite coffee and dental floss to tie it into a pouch. Then drop into boiling water.
Don’t forget the cookies. Make them ahead of time.
This flavorful meal can be made ahead of time and reheated, or made on a camp stove in about 15-20 minutes. Make the two mixes ahead of time. Serves 4
1 pound ground hamburger
1 bunch of green onions (or sub ½ minced red onion)
1 cup of rice (measured before cooking)
Premix together in a medium-size leak-rpoof container before your trip:
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
Premix together in a small leak-proof container before your trip:
2 Tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch ginger, grated
4 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp (sesame or peanut oil)
Cook the ground beef in a large skillet on your camp stove. If you’re using a raw red onion, add it to the meat before it’s completely done cooking.
Start cooking or heating the rice in another pot.
While meat and rice are cooking, chop cucumber into nickel-size pieces and add it to the container with the honey, vinegar and red pepper flakes. Put the lid on the jar and rotate to coat the cucumber with the mixture. Set aside.
Once the beef is cooked, drain the grease and add the mixture of soy sauce and ginger. Combine and let simmer for about 2 minutes before mixing in the chopped green onions.
Serve in a bowl over rice. Top with cucumber mixture.
This is an excellent meal for the last night of a long trip because none of the ingredients (if you choose to use canned food) need refrigerating. It’s a great camp meal for large groups, and you can save leftovers in a Ziplock bag or plastic container. It all goes into one pot in a few minutes and takes about 10-15 minutes to heat up on your camp stove. Makes 10-12 servings.
If you are making this for a smaller group, you can drain some of the items, like the corn, instead of using the juices. For more food, add more cans of the ingredients. You can sub out canned items for fresh items if you please. You can make this camp dish vegetarian by using vegetable broth and leaving out the chicken.
1 large can of shredded chicken, drained
1 can of black beans, rinse if possible, but not a must
1 can of RO-TEL diced tomatoes and green chilies; use juices
1 can of chicken broth
1 can of white corn (any corn will work, but white or sweet corn adds better flavor), use juices
1 bunch chopped cilantro, or sub 2-3 tbsp. of dried cilantro
1 can of cheddar or nacho cheese sauce (optional ingredient but makes the meal superb. You can also sub for a can of cream of chicken)
Drain the can of chicken.
Mix the chicken, black beans, tomatoes/green chili, chicken broth, corn, cheese sauce, and cilantro in a large pot.
Heat until bubbling. Serve with crushed tortilla chips.
Green curry and rice
An easy plan-ahead camp meal with a premade sauce pouch takes about 10 minutes to reheat. Serves 4.
1 cup of rice (make ahead and reheat, or fine an instant rice that prepares quickly on the camp stove)
2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped into chunks
Package of green curry sauce pouch (Campbell’s makes a Thai Curry Chicken skillet sauce)
0.5 oz fresh basil (or 2 Tbsp dried basil)
Vegetables (optional). This can be sliced red onions, peppers, snap peas or broccoli. Or leave it out.
Start to cook or heat your rice.
While the rice is heating, you can sauté your veggies (if you’re using them) over med-high heat until they are soft.
Add chopped, cook chicken.
Add curry pouch to chicken and vegetable, and cook according to package.
During the last minute of cooking, add chopped fresh basil.
Serve over rice.
This idea is great for a small family or a large group. Prep the toppings ahead of time. It would help if you had a lid or tinfoil for your skillet to get the cheese nice and melted before the bottom of your tortilla gets too crispy. Makes 8-12 tortilla pizzas. Most people are satisfied with one pizza, but cut into slices and let everyone enjoy one pizza while you make up another. If you do this, try using different topping combinations.
Package of tortillas (the number of tortillas in the package determines how many pizzas you can make)
1 jar of marinara or pizza sauce
2 packages of mozzarella cheese or other pizza cheese
Precooked/prepped toppings include cooked ground sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, chopped cook bacon, peppers, onion, olives, mushrooms, pineapple (canned), spinach, cherry tomato, or whatever you love on your pie.
Get all your toppings at the ready.
Heat skillet on medium-low heat and spray with cooking spray (or a dab of olive oil).
Spread one spoonful of sauce onto one side of the tortilla and place it in the skillet.
Sprinkle the tortilla with a bit of cheese.
Top with cheese.
Cover, so the cheese melts.
TIP: the first tortilla will take a while, and as the skillet gets hot, the bottom will cook faster, so keep the heat low once you’re finished with the first one. You’ll know the pizza is ready when you can lift it out of the skillet using a spatula, and the whole tortilla remains stiff. If you lift it out of the pan and the sides flop down, cook it a bit longer.
This one produces a bit more trash if you use individual chip bags, but it does make cleanup a breeze. You can also choose to get larger chip bags and use camp bowls. The number of individual bags will determine how many you can feed, but this recipe is for about 10.
Fritos or Doritos (individual, or bowls and a large bag)
Cook the ground beef, drain the fat and add taco seasoning. Fill the empty seasoning envelope with water and mix it into the meat.
Add beans and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the water is absorbed.
Before you open the small chip bag, crush up the chips.
Cut the top, or carefully open the top of the small chip bag.
Add in ingredients and enjoy with very little mess.
The secrete to this one is precooked bacon. You can either cook your bacon or buy precooked bacon from the store. Pull the bacon out of the cooler to let it warm in the sun as you prep the lettuce and tomatoes. Try adding hummus or cream cheese instead for those who don’t like mayo.
Cooked bacon – do this yourself ahead of time, layering the cooked strips between wax paper or paper towels and sealing in a bag, or buy precooked bacon
Mayo – or use hummus or cream cheese
Lettuce – I prep big leaves ahead of time by washing and wrapping them in a moist paper towel and sealing them in a bag.
Tomatoes – you can slice them ahead of time and place them in an airtight container.
Pull out your bacon and let it warm in the sun while getting the rest of the food ready.
Put mayo on your bread, add lettuce, tomatoes and bacon.
Chicken salad wraps
Another meal where you toss everything in the bag and eat. It requires only a can-opener and spoon or fork — no camp dish cleanup. Prep everything before you go and just add the mayo. Makes 4 wraps.
½ stalk celery, chopped.
1 cup cooked chicken pieces – you can do this yourself or use a large can of cooked chicken, drained
1/8 cup of chopped walnuts
¼ tsp celery salt (regular salt works fine)
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp onion powder
¼ cup dried cranberries (or grapes, but they can get soggy after a few days in the bag)
¼ cup mayo
Before you leave for your trip, mix together the drained chicken, feta cheese, chopped nuts, berries and seasonings. This can be stored in your cooler.
When you’re ready to eat, add in the mayo and mix well.
Served wrapped in tortillas, with added spinach if you like.
This is an easy meal, but it is included here because it’s often a forgotten camp meal. Serves 2
1 small can of tuna in water
3 tbsp of mayo
BBQ chips (optional)
Drain tuna and empty the can into a bowl.
Serve on bread with pickets and crushed BBQ chips (optional, but both add a nice crunch to your sandwich).
Breakfast ideas for camping
Smoked salmon and cream cheese on bagels
A favorite morning meal, especially when you have activities planned for the day and don’t want to spend too much time cooking and cleaning up. Serves 8.
Package of smoked salmon
1-2 packages of bagels (figure one bagel per person)
1-2 containers of cream cheese
Set it out with a few knives and let everyone enjoy a cream cheese bagel with smoked salmon on top.
Make ahead of time and wrap in a foil pack. You can heat these on your skillet in the morning or try the bag-in-boiling-water trick to reheating. Another option is to put water in the bottom of your big pot with a steamer (so your breakfast burritos stay out of the water), put a lid on and let them steam to perfection. This makes about 6-8 burritos
1 pound ground sausage
5 eggs, scrambled
½ cup shredded cheese
½ cup green chili salsa
Cook sausage and add in scrambled eggs.
Turn off the heat and add in shredded cheese and green chili (or your favorite salsa, just not too runny)
Wrap into tortillas and wrap in tinfoil. Place in a sealable bag.
Blueberry pancakes are tremendous, but dried cranberry pancakes are just as good, and it doesn’t take up room in your cooler.
Pancake mix – premeasured and in a bag or container; write on the container how much water you’ll need to add.
Measure out the pancake mix you will need based on the number of people. Pick a mix that doesn’t require eggs or milk but only water. Put it in a Ziplock bag or a jug with a lid.
When you’re ready to cook, add the correct amount of water. If you don’t have a measuring cup, use a Nalgene bottle or figure a typical 8-ounce coffee mug equals one cup.
Mix or shake well.
Pour from a bottle or cut the tip off the bottom of the bag to squeeze the mix onto a hot griddle or skillet.
Immediately drop a few cranberries on top of your raw pancake batter.
Flip, serve and enjoy.
Other camp snacks and treats
Pumpkin bread or muffins (nuts and cranberries)
This makes a great loaf of bread that you can wrap in foil and put in a Ziplock bag or make individual muffins that allow for an easy grab-and-go snack or camp breakfast. Makes one loaf or about 16 muffins.
1/3 cup soft butter (not melted!)
¼ cup honey
½ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup pumpkin puree
1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
¼ cup water
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
¼ cup dried cranberries (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease 9×5 inch pan with butter or set up cupcake tray.
In a medium-size bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon and salt.
Combine butter, honey, and sugar, and beat in a large bowl for 2 minutes. Then add eggs and mix until combined. Finally, add in pumpkin and vanilla.
Once wet ingredients are mixed, gradually mix in the flour mixture.
Dissolved baking soda in ¼ cup of warm (not boiling) water and add it to the mixture.
Fold in nuts and berries.
Put in pan and bake for 55-65 minutes or about 20-25 minutes for muffins.
Allow cooling for 30 minutes.
Camp stove popcorn
Popcorn is a simple (and less sticky) alternative to smores. Use the big pot you used to make everything else, and this snack takes about 10 minutes. If you can enjoy time around a campfire, this is a great treat that won’t leave your fingers and face sticky like the other well-known campfire treat. It’s best cooked on a camp stove and not over the fire.
White popcorn seeds
Large paper bag
Pour enough oil into your pot to just cover the bottom and heat oil for a few minutes.
Add in popcorn seeds to cover the bottom of the pot (one layer or you’re left with many unpopped seeds).
Put a lid on the pot, shaking the pot across the burners often. Once you hear the first kernels pop, continue shaking the pot back and forth but don’t remove it too far from the heat. The pot should become full within a few minutes, maybe even making the lid come off. Immediately dump the popcorn into the paper bag.
Cut 1 tsp of butter and melt it in your hot pot (you probably don’t need the burner anymore.)
Pour the butter into the bag as you gently shake the bag. Do the same thing with about 2-3 pinches of salt.
TIP: if you fold the top of the bag back, it makes it easy to pour the popcorn into it and shake in the butter and salt.
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