Quick and Easy Vegan Camping Meals
What to eat when you spend a night in the great outdoors
Guest article by Alisha McDarris
COVID-19 Travel advisory
This article about vegan camping meals was written before the coronavirus pandemic. While camping in the outdoors, away from people, might seem like a safe activity, some authorities are advising not to engage in activities like hiking or camping at this time.
One reason for this is that you could unknowingly spread the virus to rural areas with limited health-care facilities. And if you were to injure yourself and require rescue, you would put a further strain on already limited resources.
Travel restrictions vary from place to place and will continue to change over the coming weeks and months. Please check the latest news from your local government and health authorities before setting out on any camping adventure.
Spring is upon us! For many of us, that means camping! And while I admit that I spent a fair amount of time sleeping under the stars all winter long (it was a mild one down here in Texas), it’s always nice to finally be able to leave the puffer jacket at home.
See, as an outdoor writer and co-founder of sustainable (and vegan) travel and adventure blog terradrift.com, I simply can’t spend enough time outdoors.
But here’s the thing about time outdoors: it also means time away from the kitchen. And I love to eat. My friends and family know that.
So the question I most often hear from them is, what do I eat when I go camping?
It’s a perfectly valid question. After all, you won’t find an oven at a campsite. There’s only occasionally electricity available, and you certainly won’t be bringing a microwave. That is, unless your idea of camping is kicking it in a 30-foot RV.
So if all the ways we usually prepare food are out, what do we eat in the great outdoors? Good news: there’s plenty of simple vegan camping food, depending on what tools you have available to you. In fact, I even wrote a backcountry cookbook of vegan camping recipes that you can download for free.
So dig in to this delicious vegan food for camping, and don’t go hungry the next time you want to spend a night or two telling ghost stories around the campfire.
Vegan Camping Meals: Cooking Methods
First things first: Before you start planning an overnight trip and a whole convoluted menu, do some research to find out what cooking methods will be available to you at your campsite.
Will there be a fire ring? A charcoal grill? Will you have to bring your own table-top camp stove? Once you know what’ll be on hand, you’ll be able to better plan your meals.
When you know how you’ll cook, keep in mind that not all cooking methods are created equal. The open flame from a campfire is nice and hot, but doesn’t cook very evenly and can be a little slow, especially if you’re trying to boil water.
Similarly, charcoal can take a while to start. Once it does, though, it’s a lot easier to work with in terms of even heat distribution. But a charcoal grill is best used for items that need to be grilled, not sautéed or boiled.
If you have access to one, my favorite method is a simple camp stove. They usually require some sort of fuel canister and come in one- or two-burner varieties, but a camp stove is more or less identical to cooking with a gas stove in your kitchen.
That means you can grill, boil, simmer, sauté, or sous vide to your heart’s content. As long as you bring the proper cooking supplies, of course.
This Coleman Gas Camping Stove is an Editor's Choice on Amazon.
Lastly, a backpacking stove will also do nicely. This is definitely your best option if you are on an overnight trek where you are carrying all your stuff, as opposed to a car camping trip.
Backpacking stoves are small, light, and powered by fuel canisters. So, you know you’ll always have a nice controllable flame. The downside is, they are often so light and small that cooking with anything other than a 6” pot, pan, or kettle doesn’t work so well. That said, we use one for both backpacking and camping quite frequently.
This SOTO WindMaster w/Micro Regulator and 4Flex also gets great reviews.
Don’t have any of these methods at your disposal? Well, you can certainly enjoy meals that don’t require cooking while you’re camping. Pack a few sandwiches, granola bars, some nut butter and salad mix, and don’t let your lack of a stove dissuade you from getting outside!
Vegan Camping Meals: Cooking Supplies
My best advice? Before you leave home, go over each meal in your head, considering how you’ll accomplish each step of the process.
Take pancakes for example. You’ll need not only the dry pancake mix but also wet ingredients like maple syrup and almond milk or other non-dairy milk. And you’ll need a pan to cook them in, possibly some sort of non-stick spray or oil, and a flipper to turn them over.
Likewise, if you’re going to make stir-fried veggies with noodles, first make sure you have all the ingredients, of course. But then also remember you’ll need oil for cooking, a pot and lid for steaming and sautéing, seasoning, a spoon or spatula, and a strainer to drain off the liquid. Forgetting one piece of hardware could put a serious damper on your dinner plans.
But if you did leave something behind, don’t let it ruin your weekend. Get creative! We once forgot a pan to make pancakes and improvised with a tiny non-stick backpacking pot we had in our trunk. It took forever, but we still had pancakes!
On another occasion, a friend we were camping with brought black bean chili but no pot. So we emptied some foil trays, dumped in the chili, and carefully heated the contents over the campfire.
Vegan Camping Breakfast Ideas
They say the first meal of the day is the most important, right? Well, get yourself in gear with a hearty meal if you’ll be spending some time hiking or paddling around the lake.
This is my go-to camping breakfast. It’s easy, endlessly customizable, and filling. Try a savory version with vegan bacon bits, a handful of nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper. Or go the traditional sweet route with fresh or freeze-dried fruit, chia seeds, pepitas, and agave syrup.
Even if you don’t have any cooking equipment, you can prepare overnight oats the night before. Just mix ½ cup of oats with ½ cup of plant-based milk and add in any extra you want, like berries or chia seeds.
I also like to add a mashed up banana for extra texture and sweetness. The oats will soak up the milk overnight, and you’ll have breakfast waiting for you in the morning!
These are easy if you start with a vegan pancake mix from the grocery store. Then simply add non-dairy milk (choose powdered coconut milk if you won’t be able to keep a carton cold), a splash of vanilla extract and a tablespoon or two of raw sugar.
You can toast them over the stove or a fire, then smear them with your favorite toppings! I like vegan cream cheese and jam, but peanut butter and fruit is always a winner!
Vegan Camping Lunch Ideas
Make lunch easy so you can make the most of the afternoon, whether that’s hiking, kayaking, swimming or lounging in a hammock. Here are some quick and easy vegan camp food ideas for your mid-day meal.
Sandwiches and Wraps
Veggies and either hummus or vegan cream cheese make a great combo. Or if you prefer the taste of vegan cold-cuts from brands like Tofurky, pair that with some vegan cheese, lettuce and tomato and you’ve got yourself a sandwich.
If you don’t mind a little more prep, make a fishless tuna sandwich with vegan tuna from a brand like Good Catch, your favorite vegan cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickles. Don’t forget a side of tortilla chips!
Good Catch fishless tuna is available in either water or oil and herbs:
Start with your favorite grain – whether that’s rice noodles, quinoa, pasta or farro – a mix of veggies like sweet potatoes or broccoli, maybe even seeds or nuts, and a tasty sauce. I love cold Asian-style noodles with leftover sautéed veggies.
Or a quinoa salad with fresh spinach, grape tomatoes, basil and ready-to-eat vegan chickun with a creamy tahini dressing. Prep ahead of time and keep it in the cooler until lunchtime.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
It doesn’t get much simpler than this! Make it more grown up with sliced apples, strawberries, or bananas. Smear it all between a few slices of bread, a tortilla, or a bagel.
Vegan Camping Dinner Ideas
For dinner, feel free to take a little more time and relax around the fire while you cook. Some of my favorite vegan camping meals are ones that are at least fairly hands-off.
Not feeling up to cooking from scratch? Whip up a batch of Frito pie with canned vegan chili heated over the stove, a few bags of Fritos, and toppings like vegan shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, and shredded lettuce.
Veggie Burgers and Hot Dogs
Slap ‘em on the grill, flip ‘em once, and dinner’s ready. Just don’t forget the condiments and buns! Or for something that takes a little more effort but is still a one-pot meal, try these red lentil sloppy joes. You can use canned lentils to cut down on cooking time.
Grilled Fruit and Veggie Kebabs
Do you know what goes well with veggie burgers and dogs? Grilled pineapple and veggie kebabs. Put them on skewers and grill until those nice black char marks appear! Marinate some tofu cubes ahead of time and slide those on, too, for extra protein.
Almost every soup recipe transitions well to the outdoors. But you can make it easier by prepping the ingredients ahead of time. That way, you can drop everything into a pot, let it simmer, and enjoy.
My favorite soups to make when I go camping are a nice hearty chili (try adding chunks of sweet potato and a little cocoa powder) and creamy broccoli-potato soup with vegan cheese and dried potato flakes.
Vegan Dehydrated Camping Food Packs
And lastly, if you want to make it super easy on yourself, the Backpacker’s Pantry brand has some convenient vegan camping ready meals. Granted, these packs might be a bit more expensive than putting a meal together yourself.
But this freeze-dried and dehydrated food is both nutritious and lightweight, so it’s a great choice for backpackers without a car.
Or if you’re on a car camping trip but will be out in the wilderness for several days, this is a good non perishable vegan camping food option.
Here are a few of the vegan camping food packs by Backpacker’s Pantry that are both 100% plant based and gluten free. They actually have a total of 15 vegan products!
Vegan Camping Food Ideas: Snacks
When I go hiking or camping, I love me some snacks to fill out the spaces between mealtimes. Especially if I’m planning on being active. I recommend you bring something to assuage any craving: crunchy, chewy, salty or sweet.
Deprive yourself of life’s pleasures when you’re camping, and you’ll start to develop some resentment issues with the pastime. And we don’t want that.
S’mores supplies with Dandies vegan marshmallows
Items like chickpea puffs, popcorn or seaweed snacks
Sweets like cookies or Sour Patch Kids
Fruits and vegetables
Chips, salsa and guacamole
The Bottom Line
The message here is that you can certainly eat well while cooking up some easy camping recipes that are 100% vegan. So don’t let the question of what’s going to fill your belly deter you from getting outside to play and enjoy nature!
About the Author
Alisha McDarris has written about travel, the outdoors, and veganism for PopSci.com, Backpacker, NerdWallet, and more. Together with her husband, she co-founded terradrift.com, a sustainable travel and adventure blog and YouTube channel. They live in a tiny house in Austin with too many books and hiking boots.
Thanks for this great post!
My pleasure Jim, I’m glad you liked it.