Toss those sad, dehydrated meals aside, tend to that campfire, and give some of these hearty meals a taste. These are inventive campground meals that will rival any restaurant.
Whether you’re hiking, cycling, or just singing your heart out around the campfire (hey, that counts), it’s important to stay nourished when you’re on a camping trip. And just because you’re spending some quality time in the Great Outdoors doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice a good meal.
While traveling in an RV or car allows us to carry the best supplies for cooking over an open flame (namely a trusty cast iron skillet), many of these recipes are also suitable for lightweight backpackers if you plan to hit the trail. So toss those sad, dehydrated meals aside, tend to that campfire, and give some of these hearty meals a taste.
The best things in life are discovered through a combination of luck and desperation, and cocognocchi is no exception. This fatty, carbo-loaded treat came about when out of food and in need of serious sustenance, and has remained a staple ever since.
- 1 sweet potato, cubed, wrapped in foil
- 1 can coconut milk (these also come in lighter septic containers)
- 1 package gnocchi
- Seasoning to taste (salt, curry, paprika)
Toss sweet potato in fire (keep in foil) to cook while preparing gnocchi. Pour coconut water in pot and add about 1 cup of water as needed for gnocchi to be covered, plus salt; place over fire. Once water and coconut milk come to a boil, add gnocchi and spices and cook until gnocchi floats to top. Remove sweet potato from fire and check tenderness. If it’s still hard, throw back in the fire, if it’s soft, add sweet potato cubes to gnocchi and stir. Drain remaining fluid and serve.
2. Thai Curry Rice
Rice is great at absorbing all kinds of flavors, and this recipe gives you an Indian-influenced dish with very little effort—and it stands out from most of the other thing you’ve probably been eating on the trip.
- Instant rice
- 1 ½ tablespoons powdered coconut milk
- 2 teaspoon curry powder, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Dehydrated vegetables
At camp: Soak vegetables 10 minutes. Boil water with salt. Add rice and cook per package instructions or until barely soft. Add vegetables and let sit for five minutes. Add powdered milk and curry powder and stir until well mixed, adding additional water as needed. For more flavor, add some jerky.
3. Classic Grits
There are different kinds of grits, but when you’re camping and hungry, quick grits are the way to go—they cook in just five minutes. The key is to constantly stir the grits as they cook so they remain creamy. Parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, and radish sprouts all travel well and add a savory flair to combat the sweetness that tends to overtake camp food with s’mores, trail mix, and other classic snacks.
- 1 cup quick grits
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 cups water
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese
- Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- Radish sprouts
Pour water into saucepan and add salt. Bring to boil, slowly add grits while stirring, then lower flame to simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. If you are cooking over an open flame, just move the pot a bit farther from the fire. Besides the grits, water, and salt, everything else is fairly optional. Once grits seem uniform in texture, add in optional cheese for additional creaminess and salt. Pour grits into four bowls and top with cherry tomatoes and sprouts.
4. Leftover-Stuffed Portabellas
A challenge some people have with camp food is having too much and not knowing how to reuse recipes. Another challenge is having dirty dishes without much spare water for washing. These stuffed portabella mushroom caps put a fresh spin on yesterday’s dinner, using minimal new ingredients and a lot of flare.
- Portobello mushroom caps (at least one per person)
- Balsamic vinegar
- Leftover Classic Grits (see above)
- Any other leftovers you want to get rid of
Place mushroom caps on foil with the meaty bottom facing down. Splash with balsamic vinegar, wrap foil closed, and place mushrooms on rack over an open fire to marinate and slow cook. After about 10 minutes, open mushrooms, fill with grits and other toppings, re-close foil, and cook for another 10 minutes until warm. Remove from fire and serve, but beware, they will be hot and the mushroom juice may want to pour out the sides of the foil.
5. Ultimate Diner Breakfast
It can be tempting to head into town to check out that diner you passed on your way to camp. But with just a little bit of preparation, your morning can be spent lounging at your campsite rather than rushing to tear it down. Plus, these recipes offer healthier alternatives to help keep you fueled all day, no matter what your itinerary has planned.
These easy pancakes can be prepared right in the plastic Ziploc bag. Prepare at home and store in heavy-duty Ziploc bag:
- 2 cups all-purpose whole wheat flour
- 2 scoops plain or vanilla protein powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- At the campsite:
- 3 cups water
- 3 tablespoons (or more) vegetable oil
Shake mix, then slowly add water, mixing by squeezing bag. Add vegetable oil but leave a tablespoon aside for frying. Shake bag to mix. Once the batter is “just mixed,” let sit for about five minutes while pan heats up. Add oil to pan, then pour pancake batter appropriate to pan size, flipping the pancake once the top gets bubble and edges look dry. Cook for another couple minutes and serve as you please.
Scrambled Eggs or Tofu
Eggs, of course, are the necessary second part of a diner breakfast trifecta. But camping with eggs can seem daunting, since they crack so easily. Many camping stores now carry egg cases, but if you don’t eat eggs or don’t want to buy more gadgets, tofu scramble is a tasty alternative that travels well.
For eggs: Crack two eggs into a sandwich bag (this can also be a way to transport the eggs so they don’t break and ooze on your other food, or you can rinse out the pancake bag and reuse it) and mash with hands to scramble. Pour into frying pan and cook as you would scrambled eggs at home, using your trusty spork as a spatula.
For tofu: Simply place a block of tofu in a sandwich bag and coat generously with curry, paprika, and pepper. Mash up with hands on outside of plastic bag when ready to cook. Cook in frying pan as you would scrambled eggs. Tofu also comes in “silken” form, in septic containers that don’t require any refrigeration, and are great for week-long trips when the ice might start to melt.
Add some bacon or tempeh and you have the perfect diner breakfast trifecta.
6. Campfire Nachos
Nothing says party like nachos, and there’s no reason for the party to stop in the great outdoors (until 10 p.m. when it’s quiet hours, but don’t worry, we don’t mind the crunching of chips).
- 1 bag of your favorite tortilla chips
- 1 cup pico de gallo or chopped tomatoes
- ½ can black beans
- 1 cup shredded cheese (if you don’t have a cooler, canned nacho cheese works well)
- 1 jalapeño, sliced
- Hot sauce to taste
Place a layer of chips in cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, then layer of beans and pico de gallo or tomato, then cheese, then another layer of each. Place cast iron on the campfire rack and cover—if you are using a cast-iron skillet and not a Dutch oven and therefore don’t have a lid, that’s just fine, a decent fire will be hot enough to melt the cheese anyway. Once cheese melts, remove the cast iron from heat and place on wooden picnic table or ground; it will be too hot for a plastic table. Add jalapeño slices and top with as much hot sauce as you’re into and eat up!
7. Black Bean Burgers
This is a gourmet take on a camping classic. These black bean burgers take a bit of time to prepare (and require a hand-washing station), but they are sure to impress friends who are tired of the same ole fare.
- 1 can black beans
- 1 package frozen chopped vegetables (thawed)
- Salt and spices (about 1 tsp each)
- ¼ cup flour as binding agent
In a large bowl, mix black beans, vegetables, and spices, being sure to mash up beans as you mix to create a paste. Stir in about 1 tablespoon of flour. Form into patties and dust each side with remaining flour. Cook as you would a regular beef burger and serve with your favorite fixings.
Written by Carolyne Whelan for RootsRated Media in partnership with Kampgrounds of America.