Camping food can be both delicious and easy! Plan ahead to make healthy, flavourful, and memorable outdoor meals.
Half the pleasure of camping lies in cooking outside under an open sky, then reaping the rewards of a flavourful and healthy meal without a pile of dishes. Pulling this off requires a mix of culinary savvy and organization that starts well before you light the first fire.
Eating outdoors is really about menu planning and making smart ingredient choices, plus as much “prep ahead” as possible. Pack it up smartly and you’ve nailed it. Keep the cooking simple; make the base of the meal easy, and then add complexity through finishing sauces and other flourishes.
- Grilled Salmon with Chimichurri Sauce
- Sun-dried Tomato and Kale Pesto Penne
- Tri-coloured Quinoa Chowder
- Pina Colada Pancakes
- Fruit Jumbled Crumble
Pack up the “fantastic five”
These fantastic five are flavour bombs that transform any meal, travel easily (minimal refrigeration needed), and pack healthy benefits too.
Parmesan adds salty richness to any dish, and a little goes a long way. Individually pack several small pieces (vacuum pack if possible) if your trip is longer than five days, so they stay fresh. Grate over pasta, soups, and stews, egg dishes, and pretty much anything. Because this is an aged cheese, it may be easier to digest than younger, softer ones, since most of the protein has already been broken down.
Soy-rich miso paste is a camping staple. Use as an instant base for soup or stews or add to stir-fries, salad dressings, or even eggs before scrambling. Complex and rich, the umami taste bumps up the overall flavour of the dish and packs an added protein punch for energy.
Extra-virgin olive oil
For ease, pack heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil in a Mason jar or squeeze bottle with a tight cap. Use oil for grilling or frying over low temperatures, toss with cooked veggies and pasta, or drizzle over anything grilled.
Ditto for vinegar. Choose a robust red wine or balsamic vinegar. Either adds a low-calorie, high-flavour punch. Drizzle over grilled fish or meat or stir into sauces such as chimichurri and pesto to reawaken herbaceous flavour.
And lastly, bring a knob of fresh ginger. So versatile: grate, slice, or chop it and simmer into anything from tea to soup or in any campfire dessert from s’mores to fruit crumble. There’s something about the fiery sweetness of fresh ginger that the dried powder just doesn’t have. Plus, it’s light and travels well. A simple luxury that goes a long way.
To keep food from spoiling, travel with two coolers and divide food into perishable and not-so-perishable. The perishable cooler is the one you rarely open and is used for the coldest storage. Keep the other one for food you often access—drinks, snacks, and food items that won’t easily perish when temperature fluctuates. Always keep the temperature inside the cooler at or below 40 F (4 C).
How to keep your cool
- Buy a quality hard-sided cooler with good insulation. Be sure it comes with a lid and a drain plug. Choose ones with inserts that elevate food so it doesn’t sit in water once icepacks melt.
- Choose non-metal coolers when possible; metal absorbs more heat from the sun.
- Drain or mop up any liquids that pool in the bottom of your cooler; this is a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Prevent cross-contamination and pack all food items in separate resealable containers. Always separate cooked from raw.
- Keep cooler out of the sun in a shady cool spot (not in the tent). Don’t leave food outside of the cooler when away from the campsite.
- Freeze as much food ahead as possible. Freeze sauces, meats, rice dishes, soups, and more. These make natural ice packs.
- When packing, place food in first, then cover with ice.