There are many perfectly fine prepackaged meal options on the market for backpackers nowadays, but it’s nice to go one step beyond on occasion and add something special to the meal. The best part is that it can be so easy to do.
Customizing a meal can keep things fresh for the seasoned backpacker or help introduce comfort in the backcountry to someone new. I started Dirty Gourmet, a gourmet outdoor cooking blog, 3 years ago when I realized that many people would appreciate a database of easy camping recipes.
That's me backpacking in the mountains of Southern California.
Here are 3 simple steps to get you started, plus a recipe that demonstrates the tasty results.
Step 1: Start with a backpacking friendly food
Food items such as instant ramen noodles, minute rice, soup packets and instant oatmeal are common to take on backpacking trips, because they are lightweight and usually include all the seasoning needed for a complete meal. It is easy, though, to build on them with a variety of different flavors and ingredients to make the meal your own.
Step 2: Change up the seasoning
There are sauces and spice mixes galore to try and, if you have a favorite one that you use at home, you can likely bring that into the backcountry with you. Remove the seasoning packets that come with your noodles or rice and switch them out for something new. Curry paste, teriyaki sauce or even peanut butter can be added in place of the original offering.
Step 3: Dehydrate your own vegetables
Dehydrating vegetables is easy and will allow you to take any vegetables you like on your trip. Turn your oven to its lowest temperature, spread vegetables out into one layer on a sheet pan, and leave in the oven for 2-6 hours, until crisp and dried. Or, you can purchase a food dehydrator, which can go lower in temperature than the oven for more delicate items.
Here is a recipe that starts with instant ramen noodles and builds on them in a way no one on your trip will have seen before. Impress your friends and nourish your growling stomach without having to put too much extra effort into it!
Recipe: Stir-fried Ramen Noodles with Black Bean Garlic Sauce
2 packages instant ramen noodles, any flavor (Remove the seasoning packet, and save it for another meal. It can be added in place of chicken broth to a future recipe.) 2 tablespoons black bean garlic sauce (found in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
1/2 cup dehydrated diced carrots, peas or broccoli
2 cups water
1 packet soy sauce
1 packet hot sauce, optional
1 can precooked chicken (it also comes in a pouch that is lighter weight and easier to open)
Pot (18 oz. or larger)
Spork, fork or chopsticks
Bring water to a boil.
Add noodles and dehydrated vegetables to the boiling water, and cook until tender, covered, approximately 5 minutes.
Strain water, saving about 1/2 cup in a second pot or cup.
Add black bean garlic sauce and chicken; stir to coat noodles and veggies.
Add a few tablespoons of the reserved water if needed to loosen the sauce up. Discard the rest.