These tasty and nutritious backpacking meal recipes are healthier, have more calories and cost less than commercial, freeze dried backpacking meals. Keep it simple — there are enough nutritious backpacking meal recipes here to provide sufficient daily variety to keep meals fun and interesting. But there aren’t so many recipes that I spend too much time buying ingredients and assembling a large inventory of gourmet meals. I’d rather spend my time hiking than fussing with food.

Note: This is a companion piece to my top rated post, Best Backpacking Food – simple and nutritious – veggie and omnivore friendly which has more detailed info on nutrition and backpacking food choices.

Photo: Author eating dinner in the Alaska Range – credit: Andrew Skurka

Meal Rotation Planner — Nutritious Backpacking Meal Recipes

Keep it simple — I rotate 2 to 3 meal options for each trip. This provides enough food variety on the trail. By limiting meals to 2 to 3 nutritious backpacking meal recipes, I simplify food purchasing and meal prep.

Backpacking Meal Planner – example of a 3-day rotation
DayBreakfastLunchDinner
1None: eat large one off-trail#1 Wrap+cheese & mustard (fruit #1)#1 Rice+beans w chips+cheese
2#1 Muesli#2 Bison+sesame stix (dried fruit #2)#2 Couscous curry
3#2 Hot oatmeal/cream-o-wheat#3 Crackers+almond butter (fruit #3)#3 Chili mac
4#3 Grape-Nuts + strawberries#1 Wrap+cheese & mustard (fruit #1)#1 Rice+beans w chips+cheese
#1 Muesli#2 Bison+sesame stix (dried fruit #2)#2 Couscous curry
6#4 Quick breakfast meal bar#3 Crackers+almond butter (fruit #3)None: eat large one off-trail

If you don’t already have one get an inexpensive kitchen scale that weighs up to 11 pounds (5 Kg). Almost all the ingredients are measured by weight for these recipes.

Nutritious Backpacking Meal Recipes

If you don’t already have one get an inexpensive kitchen scale that weighs up to 11 pounds (5 Kg). Almost all the ingredients are measured by weight for these recipes.

Breakfast Recipes

The following are nutritious and filling breakfasts that should keep a spring in your step until lunch! They have healthy fats and a good amount of protein. Note that the table below is in scrollable window. Please scroll down to see all the recipes Or you can see ALL THE RECIPES full page here, as a Google Sheet

Dinner mid-way up Mt. Olympus, Olympic Peninsula Washington State.

Dinner mid-way up Mt. Olympus, Olympic Peninsula, Washington State.

Dinner Recipes

The following are nutritious backpacking dinner recipes. These are filling meals at around 700-800 calories per serving! They have healthy fats and a good amount of protein. Note that the table below is in scrollable window. Please scroll down to see all the recipes Or you can see ALL THE DINNER RECIPES on a full page here, as a Google Sheet

Nutritious Backpacking Meal Recipes

Rehydrating in a Ziplock bag makes cleanup much easier. Especially nice in “dry” camps. You usually use less fuel as you kill your stove as soon as the water boils. Downside is that the meal does not rehydrate as well as when it’s cooked in the pot, and rehydration can take longer. A long handled spoon pictured here helps reach into deep baggies without getting your fingers covered in food.

Dessert and Hot Drink Recipes

The following are just few ideas for desserts and after dinner drinks. Note that the table below is in scrollable window. Please scroll down to see all the recipes Or you can see ALL THE DINNER RECIPES full page here, as a Google Sheet

Nutritious Backpacking Meal Recipes

Cooking a meal in the pot does a better job of rehydrating a meal. Especially if you let it simmer for a few minutes after a boil. Downside is that the pot is harder to clean, especially with cheese. And food can burn to the pot bottom if you aren’t careful. (photo: Andrew Skurka)

Rice And Beans With Cheese And Tortilla Chips

Use these healthy freeze dried Black Beans & Rice (available at REI) or at Amazon. Open the meal bag and add 2 oz of Just Hot Veggies or any of Just Tomatoes FD veggies.

Then separately package in ziplock snack baggies:

  • 3-4 oz cheddar cheese (cubed or shredded)
  • 2 oz of lightly salted tortilla chips of your choice (lightly crushed)

Place both the cheese and chip baggies back in the meal bag and reseal it.

Meal Prep Directions

  • pour 17 to 18 oz hot water into the meal packet and set aside to re-hydrate
  • after about 5 minutes, stir in cheese
  • when full hydrated (about 10 min), crumble tortilla chips over the top and enjoy!

Note: eat in packet with long spoons unless you want to be scraping cheese out of your pot and/or bowls for some time.

Nutritious Backpacking Meal Recipes

Dinner in a remote canyon in the Escalante Grand Staircase.

38 replies
« Older Comments
  1. Randy
    Randy says:

    Hi Alan,
    Wanted to get your opinion of backpacking without a stove? I have thought about giving it a whirl but being older and a bit old school having a hot meal and coffee after a long walk is so nice. Even walking alone seems it hits the spot. Plus feel it is safer to have the ability to heat water.
    Thank you
    Randy

    Reply
  2. Paul
    Paul says:

    I can not get the second page of the dinner recipes to print out from google sheet. I can only print to cheddar cheese in the rice and beans recipe. Maybe a page break at this spot would resolve the issue. Great recipes. Thank-you.

    Reply
  3. Anthony
    Anthony says:

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for the great recipes. I plan on trying a few out on the CT over Labor Day weekend. I have a question about the grapenuts and museli breakfasts. Do you normally add cold water to them or do you boil it first?

    Thanks!
    Anthony

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Anthony, good Q. Can be either hot or cold. Although, Alison and I have it cold about 97% of the time. Sometimes it’s a special treat on a very cold morning. Wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan & alison

      Reply
  4. Cam B
    Cam B says:

    Two things:

    1.I would buy whey protein isolate for the protein powder.

    2. The Honeyville Farms textured vegetable protein (chicken flavor) has some nasty ingredients. As an alternate, you could just dehydrate some lean ground chicken/beef mixed with bread crumbs. A pound of this would probably yield a cup of protein.

    Really like your site. I am using some of your ideas on my next hike. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Robert
    Robert says:

    It’s quite hard to get your hands on those pint-sized Ziploc bags in Europe (at least in Germany where I’m from) – an alternative is the IKEA variety named ISTAD. The bags come in different sizes, the smallest being 400ml. Just a tip …

    Grrreat site, by the way! Keep it up, Alan.

    Reply
  6. Simon
    Simon says:

    Hi, Simon again – I just had a look at the table again, measurements are in ounces. Feel free to poke fun at my previous silly question :-)

    Reply
  7. Simon
    Simon says:

    Hi Alan,
    Firstly thanks for sharing all this info and Hello from Australia!

    I don’t really understand your tables above. For example in the brakfast recipies, Muesli recipe, you have almonds listed. For the 1/2 serve it says 0.5 for almonds. What is the unit here – 0.5 what?

    Thanks,

    Simon

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Simon. Good question about units. Sorry for the confusion. And you are right, I don’t clearly say what the units are. This is the US so, unless otherwise noted, all weight measurements are in US ounces = 28g. So it would be 14g of almonds.

      Occasionally, there are volume measurements and those are in US cups, or US tablespoons, or teaspoons. Bon Appetit. Warmest, -alan

      Reply
  8. Julie
    Julie says:

    LOVE your site! Just stumbled upon this for some ways to save money and eat better on tramps (hikes). Hello from New Zealand and thanks for taking the time to share your tips.

    Reply
  9. Mike
    Mike says:

    On your recipe page I see your detailed Breakfast and Diner pages lists the menu item, weight of each item, and serving sizes, I see 1/2 serving, 1, 2, and so on. It is your experience and/or recommendation that I, as a fit, 160 lbs hiker, consume 1 serving or eat 2 per meal? Do you feel that “1 Serving” is indeed enough for 1 hiker?

    Thank you for helping with this question.

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Mike, good Q. And a short a as I am currently trekking out of the country. I suggest you do some more reading on my site. In particularly how much food do I need. That will help you get a starting figure for how many calories of food you need a day. From there you can plan a list of all your food for the day that add up to those calories. But as to a serving size for dinner: there is no definitive A. Some people snack all day and eat a light dinner, and some eat lightly during the day and have a large dinner. Same total calories per day but difference to strategy. Personally my 1 serving is likely on the light side for a hungry male that want’s a large dinner. That’s because I do more of my eating during the day. If you like more food at dinner then I would go with 1.5x or 2x on the dinner and eat less during the day. Hope this helps. Warmest -alan

      Reply
  10. Mark
    Mark says:

    Alan, what is that veggie soup looking meal shown re-hydrating in the pic just below the recipes? Looks like it would’ve been great after hiking in the cold rain all day recently. Is that the Just Hot Veggies in the Amazon link?

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Mark, it’s the “Couscous Dinner – Hot Curry,” one of our favorite meals. Goes on almost every trip. And yes, great on a cold night. You can even add hot pepper flakes or Dave’s Insanity Sauce to make it hotter and warm you up more! Bon appetit. Warmest, -a

      Reply
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