For most camping vacations, I’d say the best way to enjoy food is to cook it over the open flame when camping. Fun and delicious as it is, it’s not always a practical solution. And there often are moments when we’d relax rather than showing off the camping culinary skills.
It is for these moments that make ahead camping meals make all the sense. Make a great meal at home, and pack it for use at the campsite. Of course, this implies that the meal is easily transportable and still tastes great when it’s consumed hours after being cooked.
Since we are going through all this effort, it makes sense to have a full meal. In that sense, they’re a different breed than camping foods that need no refrigeration (or coolers). In fact, keep your coolers at the ready for this one! While coolers aren’t necessarily needed for all these suggestions, some foods can benefit from being placed in a quality cooler.
Here are some recipes and ideas for your next camping trip.
Make Ahead Camping Meal Ideas And Recipes
Pancakes? Yes, please! We love pancakes, camping or not is just a minor change in the situation. Of course, getting pancakes on your camping trip requires some careful preparation. We can’t really have pre-made pancakes and take them along. It is possible, but the pancakes lose their taste.
A better way is to make fresh pancakes at the campsite. All you need is a skillet or griddle and pancake batter. Yup, the make-ahead part here is the batter. Making the batter ahead of time means you can move to cooking quickly when needed. Also, it’s way easier to transport the batter than finding ingredients at the campsite.
- 1 ½ cups flour
- 3 ½ tbsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp each of salt and sugar (can change according to taste)
- An egg
- 1 and a quarter cup milk
- 3 tbsp melted butter
Put all the ingredients together and mix them thoroughly. Once the batter turns smooth, that’s the sign that you’re ready for good pancakes. Transfer the batter to a bottle and secure it properly. At home, you can keep it in the refrigerator. While camping, place this bottle in a camping cooler.
At the campsite, when you’re ready to cook, simply put the batter over the heated pan and cook pancakes as you usually would. I’ll suggest taking the batter out of the cooler a few minutes before you cook. That gives it enough time to reach ambient temperature and is better than pouring near-freezing pancake batter on a hot griddle.
Burritos are a delicious and versatile item for your cooking options. They’re remarkably easy to make and carry along to your campsite. Also, they’re burritos, and they’re awesome! There are two ways to get in on some burrito action for your camping trip.
The basics remain the same for each method, what changes is the serving-style. The key is preparing the tortillas and filling. You could buy the tortillas, or better yet, make them at home. It’s a fairly easy recipe and quite rewarding.
For the filling, put your favorite meats and veggies together and cook them so they’re ready for burrito goodness. The choices available for fillings are immense. They can suit pretty much any taste and eating habit preferences. Now that you’ve got the tortillas and filling ready, let’s talk about putting the burrito together.
Serving Style 1: Keep It Ready
In this approach, you prepare the burrito at home. Wrap the filling nicely with the tortilla and cover the burrito in aluminum foil. As an added precaution, I’ll suggest putting the burritos in a ziplock bag before you place them in the camping cooler.
When you’re ready to eat at the campsite, simply toss the (aluminum wrapped) burrito into the fire and wait a few minutes until it’s all crisp and hot. Retrieve it, and enjoy your burrito. Alternatively, put the burrito in a griddle or skillet to heat up before you eat it.
Serving Style 2: Put It Together At Camp
Put the filling and tortillas in a separate container and refrigerate them. The tortillas could very well be wrapped in aluminum foil. When at the campsite, reheat the filling and tortillas using a griddle, and you can enjoy near-fresh burritos at the campsite.
I prefer this style over the first because there’s a lower chance of the tortillas getting soggy. However, skillful cooks can match the tortillas and fillings in such a way that the previous style becomes a delight.
Chili is almost the obvious make ahead camping meal. It’s delicious, versatile, and doesn’t get spoiled easily. Plus, as long as you enjoy chili, there are countless ways and ingredients to make it.
In case you want a specific recipe, give this potato and black bean chili a shot. This is a simple recipe that’s good enough for beginners as well. Also, it’s flavorful enough to be loved by everyone who’s going to enjoy this meal.
Once your chili is ready, let it cool and transfer it to a container. I’m guessing Tupperware would do just fine. Place it in your camping cooler, and away you go for a lovely camping meal. You’ll obviously have to reheat the thing when you’re at the campsite. It helps that chili has a bit of liquid side to it, so heating isn’t much of a problem.
4. Fruit & Yogurt Breakfast Parfaits
These are healthy, delicious, and look very cool. I imagine a setting like this would have a ludicrous price tag and tiny proportions at some big-name restaurant. But that’s just me projecting my opinions on how ridiculous (or weird) things can get once you slap on the label called “fine dining.”
Speaking of fine dining, you put this meal in a mason jar. Which, again, would be a big hit for fine dining and theme establishments because they’ve decided plates are no longer cool. Give me a plate, darn it. Also, while we’re at it, get off my lawn.
The reason you should put these Fruit & Yogurt Breakfast Parfaits in a mason jar is that they’re easier to carry, pack, and look great. Although Tupperware will probably work just as fine and would be a more practical option for a container that’s going to the outdoors.
Let’s face it, even if you secure the cooler and its contents well, some bumps and knocks are unavoidable and glass jars aren’t the best pick for that environment.
The recipe is delicious and an excellent path to starting your day. Its basic idea is simple enough. Get some creamy Greek Yogurt, mix with oats and chia seeds. Layer it with frozen fruit. Voila! A healthy and delicious make ahead breakfast is ready for you.
There’s ample room here to get the recipe to match personal tastes. For example, you could get some nut butter or granola in there. And there’s always the option of using your favored fruit and yogurt flavor.
5. Mac n Cheese
Step one for camping meals: acquire Mac n Cheese. It’s famous, delicious, and very easy to cook and transport. As a bonus, you get to customize the recipe to your own preference. There are two ways to go about this. Get instant Mac n Cheese and just cook it with hot water at your campsite.
Or, if you’re a fan of the home-cooked version, do the work at home and enjoy a quality meal at your campsite. Simply put, it’s your basic Mac n Cheese recipe with a twist for camping. The twist is using aluminum pie tins to store and heat your food.
Once you’re done cooking, place the Mac n Cheese in the pie tins and seal it with aluminum foil. When it’s time for a meal, place these tins on a grill over hot coals and give it time to heat up nice and slow.
Using hot coals rather than a full campfire flame is a good idea in general for most aluminum-wrapped pre-made camping meals. This setup usually allows the food to heat up nice and even. Another advantage is that the coals aren’t too hot, so there’s not enough risk of ending up with a burnt meal.
6. Philly Cheesesteak Dinners
Philly Cheesesteak in a foil is a great way to enjoy a wholesome meal while you’re out camping. Sumptuous and filling, the meal doesn’t require much work at the campsite and is an enjoyable pre-made meal idea for a camping trip.
Follow the recipe and get all the ingredients and the cheesesteak ready. Pack it all in a foil and you’re good for a fun and enjoyable dinner. You can grill or bake these foils for heating, or just put them in campfire hot coals.
As with campfire heating, the timing can vary depending on how hot the coals are. It could take anywhere between 10 minutes to 30 minutes. And it’s not a wise idea to check periodically to see how far along the heating is. Because every time you open the foil, the steam escapes, which adds more time to the cooking/heating process.
It gets easier with experience, but if you’re new, be careful and take a measured approach to get the best meal.
Serving suggestions include a side of crusty bread so campers can enjoy this as a sandwich. Or just go along as you see fit.
7. Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs
You had me at bacon. And at hot dogs. And completely at bacon wrapped hot dogs.
This wonderful recipe is designed to be cooked over a campfire. The idea is to prepare the bacon wrapped hot dogs and then flash freeze them. That way, they can last for months in the freezer. When you’re ready for food fun, get them out of the freezer, let them thaw, and get cooking.
It’s slightly easier when camping because you can move them from the freezer to the cooler. This will give them enough time to thaw before you cook them. The recipe calls for thawing these in a refrigerator for 8-24 hours.
If your camping timeline doesn’t quite match up, let them have some time in the refrigerator at home, then move them to a cooler. That way, you’ve got all things covered and the hot dogs are ready to be cooked over the campfire at your convenience.
8. Cheesy Taters
Potatoes are versatile and delicious. We could probably have an entire list of dishes to make with potatoes here. And if all else fails, just chuck a potato into the campfire and give it time to roast! But how about we get some cheese into the action. This make ahead cheesy taters recipe is the… ahem… tats.
It’s fairly easy too, so even if you’re a cooking novice, this one will work for you. You’ll need potatoes, onion, and yes, cheese. Do the prep work at home and let the grill do the cooking at the campsite. It takes a few minutes and the meal is thoroughly enjoyable.
9. Grilled Mexican Street Corn
What’s great about this dish is its ease of cooking. What’s not so good is that it’s more of a side dish, maybe even an appetizer or snack. But what’s not up for debate is the taste: it’s amazing. The process is simple enough. You put corn over a grill and let it be cooked and charred.
It’s possible to do it with the husk in place, or just remove the husk and let the corn cook directly over the flame. When done, slather it with a topping. Favored toppings include mayonnaise, crema, crumbled Cojita cheese, salt, chili powder, and lime juice. But feel free to let your imagination and taste buds run wild and pick whatever works best for you.
10. Campfire Cones
What’s for dessert? Why, it’s campfire cones, of course. They taste great and are fairly easy to make and take along to the camping trip. It’s a dessert no one expected, and it’s friggin awesome.
There’s chocolate goodness here, sprinkles, and several other nice things. In fact, you could pretty much add a few more things that you like. Pack it up nicely in aluminum, and you’ve got yourself a way to cook this on campfire flames or over a grill.
Enjoy Relaxing Meals With Make Ahead Recipes
There is no need to bother with making food at the camp when you can use make ahead camping recipes. They’re especially useful for small trips and can be huge time-savers in the great outdoors. You can do most of the preparations and home, which leaves just simple activities (mostly heating) for your campsite.