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Figuring out what to cook while camping can mean the difference between heading out the door or staying home. And choosing a delicious meal that everyone wants to eat can be the difference between becoming lifelong campers and never going again. Don’t worry, I’ve got a list of camping food ideas to keep folks coming back.
While preparing camp meals can take all afternoon if you want them to – think cast iron over coals – they can also come together pretty quickly with not many ingredients. If you plan ahead, you can do most of the preparation at home for an even quicker assembly.
This list is a compilation of my own camping food ideas from years of camping every available spring, summer, and fall weekend, plus those I’ve picked up from others as well as some recommendations from the Outdoor Life team. As with all recipes, but especially camping ones, consider these a guide and adapt to your own tastes and supplies.
Camping Food Ideas for Breakfast
Whether or not you agree it’s the most important meal of the day, we really do need to eat something in the morning if we plan to spend a long day outside. You can make it easy for quick mornings when you need to roll out and get in a boat, sit in a blind, or hit the trail early. You can also make it more complicated for those mornings when the bulk of the day’s activities involve soaking in the camp life.
Hearty Oatmeal: Sure, you heat up water with your coffee and dump a little bit in a bowl with your Quaker oatmeal packet. But if you want something that sticks around a bit more, consider bringing your own quick oats and tossing in a handful of trail mix or scoop of peanut butter. The chocolate in the trail mix tends to melt, making it an even more popular breakfast for kids.
Bagels and Cream Cheese: If you want easy, this is easy. But before you take those cold bagels out of your car and smear on some cream cheese, open them up and lay them on a hot griddle on your stove. Toasting them a bit is worth it. Trust me.
Breakfast Cooked Over Gas
Biscuits and Gravy: It might sound ambitious to make gravy over the flames of a Coleman stove in the woods, but it’s actually pretty easy. Fry up your favorite breakfast sausage, drain it if you want, and then stir in a quarter cup or so of flour with your favorite seasonings like mesquite, garlic powder, or chili powder. When the flour and seasonings are thoroughly mixed, add milk and stir over heat until it becomes your preferred gravy consistency. Meanwhile, either reheat the biscuits you made at home and brought along, or open one of those tubes of Grands biscuits you picked up at the grocery store and cook them over low heat in a skillet with a lid. Top with eggs made to order and don’t forget the hot sauce.
Breakfast Burritos: Fry up sausage or cook it at home before you leave. Drain and set aside. Then dice potatoes or drain a can of diced potatoes and fry them in oil until they’re crispy like French fries. Add the meat back in with some diced peppers and onions. Then crack eggs and stir everything together until the eggs are cooked. Spoon the mixture into a tortilla with cheese, salsa, lime juice, avocado, or cilantro. Wrap and enjoy.
Breakfast Over Coals
Chicken and Waffles: Have someone in camp you want to impress? Want a breakfast that really turns into brunch that’s filling and delicious? Try this next time you have a campfire going, and you’re happy staying in camp for a while. If you have kids in camp, consider buying a heart-shaped cast-iron waffle maker to please even the pickiest eaters.
This sourdough waffle recipe comes from “Simply Sourdough: The Alaska Way” by Kathy Doogan.
- 2 cups sourdough starter
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup butter or shortening, melted
- 1 pound chicken breasts cut in thin strips
- 2 cups buttermilk
- ½ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons mesquite seasoning (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Oil or butter for frying
- Maple syrup
- Cholula or your favorite hot sauce
- Before you leave home, cut the chicken in strips and place in buttermilk in a Tupperware with a tight seal.
- In camp, place butter for waffles in a pot and heat over the fire until barely melted. Remove from heat and stir in all other waffle ingredients.
- Place cast-iron waffle maker on a grate above coals to heat. Meanwhile, heat oil or butter in a separate cast iron pan until sizzling.
- Dredge chicken strips in a bag with flour and spices. Once the oil in your pan is hot, place strips in the pan and fry until done all the way through.
- While frying the chicken strips, prepare waffles as you would at home, paying attention to cooking time over the coals depending on your heat.
- Top each waffle with chicken strips and cover with maple syrup, hot sauce or both.
Camping Food Ideas Lunch
When most people think about lunch while camping, they imagine something portable that they can throw in backpacks or bags on a trail or as a picnic. If that’s you, I have some ideas. But if you’re someone who likes spending the day hanging around camp making delicious meals, I also have you covered.
Bean dip: Your Midwestern grandma really was onto something with all the 7-layer bean dips she brought to potlucks and backyard get-togethers. Channel that energy but put it in a Tupperware at home with a lid that seals and throw it in your bag for wherever the day takes you, along with your favorite tortilla chips.
Make it however you want, but to get you started, heat a can or two of refried beans with some lime juice and your favorite salsa. Smooth it into the bottom of a to-go container. Next make guacamole and layer it on top of the beans. Mix sour cream with taco seasoning and put it on top of the guacamole, then top with shredded cheddar cheese and diced tomatoes if you’re feeling fancy.
Meat and Crackers: Pick up your favorite summer sausage, or branch out a little, and bring some smoked salmon or fish you smoked and prepared at home and your favorite cheese. Toss in some fruit to round out the meal and a pocket knife so you can handle everything while you’re out there with a box of good crackers. Smoked salmon and Gouda might sound decadent, but it’s easy to find and a treat to look forward to on the trail.
Bacon Cheddar Cheeseball: When you’re at home, stir together some cream cheese, grated cheddar cheese, barbecue sauce, chopped bacon, roasted pecans and some Worcestershire sauce. Pack it in the bottom of a to-go container with a secure lid and leave it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to leave
Read Next: The Best Camping Meals
Lunch Cooked Over Gas
If you’re back from a morning hunt or hike, and have a little time to spend in camp, consider cooking yourself a hot lunch.
Grilled Cheese: Bring along a good loaf of bread, cheese, and some deli meat if you want. Assemble in camp and fry in a pan on a stove. It’s less complicated than it seems. If you have a lot of mouths to feed, or temperatures are dropping, bring along some soup to heat up and eat with sandwiches.
Lunch Over Coals
Could this one work as dinner? Sure, but it also makes a great lunch, especially if you plan to spend the day around a campfire. Bring along some bread for dipping.
White Chicken Chili: If it’s a cold night and you need something warm and satisfying, try this chili. Substitute and change to your tastes.
- 2 pounds pork shoulder, chopped roughly in squares
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic (diced)
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 2 cans (8 ounce) of green chilies
- 1 can (14 ounce) Rotel tomatoes
- 3 cans (14 ounce) white navy beans
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 block cream cheese
- 1 cup sour cream
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Heat oil in a large, cast-iron pot then brown the pork with garlic and onion.
- Add chicken broth and heat until simmering.
- Add beans and spices and simmer with the lid on until the meat is cooked through and tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Once the beans and meat are tender, add the cream cheese and sour cream and stir until thoroughly melted and mixed.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve with diced green onions if desired.
Camping Food Ideas Dinner
This is one meal we often have a little more time to settle into, but also where camping food ideas can become scarce. Remember, plenty of food we eat at home can be recreated in camp with a little creativity. And the old adage is true, everything does taste better outside.
Beans and Weenies with a Twist: My family eats baked beans and bratwursts more than we should. It’s quick, simple, high in protein and packed with salty flavor. But I’ve also started dressing it up a little more. Chop up your favorite bratwursts and fry them in a pan until hot and brown. Add a couple apples diced up small and a can of green chili. Sauté until everything is warm and well mixed. Add a can or two of your favorite baked beans and stir until hot. Mix in shredded cheese until it melts and eat with your favorite hot sauce or mustard.
Ramen Hot Pot: This camp meal is simple and particularly soothing on a cold evening. Heat up water and mix in cooked and seasoned hamburger, any veggies you prefer including carrots, corn or Bok choy. Add the noodles and stir in some eggs for extra flavor and protein. Use the seasoning packets if you want, or add your favorite Thai curry paste and lime juice. Consider the ramen a warm base to eat with your preferred meat and veggies.
Read Next: The Best Backpacking Food
Dinner Cooked Over Gas
Tex-Mex Pizza: The great part about pizza, at home or in camp, is it really can be whatever you want. My daughter exclusively eats pepperoni and cheese pizza, so that’s what she gets in camp. I prefer something a bit heartier. Most of it can be made up ahead of time at home and assembled in a fry pan over gas if you’re in a hurry. Fry up hamburger with taco seasoning or grill and shred chicken or pheasant breasts. Heat up some black beans mixed with salsa. Make your crusts at home or buy pre-made crusts. I’ve also made crusts in camp with a simple pizza dough recipe. Use salsa as your sauce and layer meat, beans, cheese, avocados, and cilantro, depending on your tastes.
Dinner Cooked Over Coals
Pigs in a Blanket: Let’s be honest, I love this dinner as much as my 7-year-old does, but you can just say you’re doing it for the kids. Cook bratwursts on a stick over a fire, then wrap them in crescent rolls with some cheese if you like. Cook slowly over the fire until the crescent roll is golden brown.
Reuben Foil Packets
It doesn’t get easier than throwing food in a tin foil packet and placing it on the grill.
- 1 package of Andouille sausage, sliced
- 2 potatoes, thinly sliced
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 2 cup sauerkraut
- Thousand Island dressing to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Swiss cheese, grated
- Divide all ingredients except the Swiss cheese evenly into four tin foil packets. Double wrap to ensure no juices leak into the fire pit.
- Place the packets on coals in the campfire. Don’t place it directly in the flames.
- Cook for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft, turning occasionally with a leather glove.
- When finished, open each packet and cover with Swiss cheese. Serve hot with additional Thousand Island dressing if desired.
Read Next: The Best Camp Kitchens
Don’t overlook the importance of snacks for you or anyone else you’re with outside. These are a good place to start.
- Jerky (how to make jerky)
- Sliced vegetables and hummus
- Trail mix
- Dried fruit
Camping Food Ideas Desserts
Desserts while camping bring a particular joy, and s’mores aren’t the only option.
Freeze-dried Ice Cream Sandwiches: If you haven’t tried these, you really should, they are delicious. And it doesn’t get easier than opening up a package. They’re also novel and interesting for the young ones in your group.
Dessert Cooked Over Coals
Chances are reasonably high you have a campfire, and in that case, I have some ideas for you.
S’mores with a Twist: While it’s hard to beat a classic s’more, next time consider using Ghirardelli chocolates, cinnamon graham crackers or add a slice of fried maple bacon.
Pineapple upside down cake (serves 4)
This sweet, sticky goodness is hard to top around a campfire.
- Half a pineapple, diced
- 4 slices pound cake, broken into pieces
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- Place pineapple in the bottom of a tinfoil packet and top with pound cake, brown sugar and butter.
- Seal packet and double wrap. Place packet in coals, rotating occasionally for about 20 minutes or until pineapple is soft.
Read Next: The Best Camping Utensils
Quick Dehydrated Meals
If you want to camp but really don’t have the time or energy to come up with a dinner, bring along some dehydrated backpacking meals. Many are actually pretty good, and the Outdoor Life gear team ran a thorough test of the best tasting as well as most filling. You can also consider making your own dehydrated meals to have ready anytime you need to pack and go.
The best piece of advice is to not overthink it. Come up with meals you and your family enjoy, consider how much time you have to cook while camping, and prepare ahead at home. If you live and camp somewhere hot, consider investing in one of the best camping coolers.
No. Under any circumstances, do not sleep with food in your tent. If you’re car camping, store food in your car. If you’re backpacking, hang your food in a tree or use a bear box or canister. Even if you’re not camping in bear country, food in your tent can attract critters like mice to raccoons.
If you don’t have access to a decent cooler, think about dehydrated meals or even consider making your backpacking meals. Then you won’t have to worry about food spoiling no matter the conditions.
Final Thoughts on Camping Food Ideas
Camping should be fun, and your camping food ideas should be fun, too. Some people have a tendency to feel overwhelmed when they think about cooking outdoors. But most meals aren’t all that complicated, and can even be a real joy to prepare. Before you head out, just think about how much time you want to spend cooking in camp. Do you want to make cooking an activity or just a way to consume calories before heading into the woods? Then plan accordingly.