Whether you’re hiking a long-distance trail or camping out for the weekend, what you eat is a massive part of the outdoor experience. Getting your daily dose of energy and nutrients is essential. To vegan campers, it might sound impossible, but it’s surprisingly easy to cook a well-balanced and delicious vegan camping meal on a stove or over the campfire.
Many of the most nutritious foods for hiking are naturally vegan. Even if you don’t want to carry fresh veggies in your pack, there are plenty of vegan freeze-dried backpacking foods that you can buy online.
However, you can’t always rely on the availability of vegan-friendly backpacking meals when you’re out on the trail. That’s why I prefer to make my own. If you need some inspiration for your next outdoor adventure, check out these simple DIY vegan camping food ideas.
Tofu scramble is a super easy alternative to scrambled eggs (and tastier too). All you need is a packet of tofu, your favourite veggies, soy sauce or a few spices. Soften the veggies in a pan over your camping stove, crumble the tofu with a fork and add it to the heat. Mix in a splash of soy sauce, spices, or nutritional yeast (for a cheesier taste), and eat with bread or tortilla wraps.
Whether you’re vegan or not, oatmeal is the king of camping breakfast foods. Oats are high in fibre and protein and release energy slowly, so you feel energised throughout the morning. Plus, it’s light enough to take on a multi-day adventure, and you can prepare oatmeal in multiple ways.
Prep your oats overnight for a quick breakfast that you can eat while breaking camp, or, heat your oats on the stove in the morning. Add a handful of dried fruits, a pinch of cinnamon, and a squirt of syrup for a sweet taste. If you’re camping with a cooler box or camping fridge, you can mix your oats with plant-based milk. Alternatively, you can prepare your oatmeal with water or dehydrated coconut milk.
Vegan Turkish Menemen
Menemen is a spicy Turkish breakfast dish that’s great for sharing. It’s traditionally made with eggs but works fine with just veggies. The key ingredients are green pepper, tomato, black pepper, salt, and chilli flakes, but I also like to add onion and garlic. Optionally, you can add crumbled tofu to replace the egg.
To make, cook the green peppers (and onion and garlic if using) in olive oil until they’ve softened, add chopped tomatoes and spices, and simmer for five to ten minutes. Toast some bread, put the pan in the middle of your camping group, and dig in.
Tortilla wraps are an excellent backpacking option. They’re high in fibre, carbs, keep for multiple days, and don’t take up too much space. For slow-release energy, choose whole-grain tortilla wraps. Otherwise, you can choose a gluten-free alternative, such as chickpea flour tortillas. You can fill your tortilla with whatever you have in your backpack; sliced vegetables, peanut butter, canned beans, or whatever’s leftover from last night’s dinner.
A simple and filling recipe is vegetable barley soup. Just chop and add all ingredients to a pot (pearl barley, tomato, potato, carrots, or green beans), cover with water, add a stock cube or spices and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Cold Potato Salad
This is another easy meal that you can prepare the night before. Just boil a pot of potatoes, or bake them in the campfire. Let the potatoes cool overnight and move them into your lunch box. When you’re ready to eat, just sprinkle with spices, drizzle some olive oil, and (optionally) mix with fresh herbs.
Sweet & Spicy Couscous
This vegan camping meal balances carbohydrates with fibre and doesn’t take much preparation. Just combine the couscous with a handful of raisins, fresh or dehydrated vegetables, and spices (salt, cumin, paprika or chilli flakes work well). For extra protein, you can add soya chunks, mushrooms, or chia seeds. Boil water on your stove, pour it over until the couscous is just covered, cover with a lid, let it sit for five minutes, and tuck in.
If you’re a lightweight backpacker and you don’t want to carry a stove and cooking equipment, couscous is a great alternative to rice or pasta. Couscous is a slow-release carb that you can prepare with how or cold water. If preparing with cold water, allow extra time for the couscous to become soft.
Dahl is a surprisingly easy vegan dish to cook on a campfire stove. All you need is one pot, lentils, onion (optional), powdered garlic, and spices. It goes perfectly with rice or crusty bread.
In a pot cook the onions until translucent, add garlic and ginger (powdered or fresh) and stir for a minute. Add the lentils (canned or dry) and stir in a teaspoon of curry powder, half a teaspoon of cumin, coriander, and turmeric, plus a pinch of salt and black pepper. Add a splash of water if it’s sticking then stir in a can of coconut milk. Simmer until the lentils are soft and the mixture is thick.
When backpacking, you can prepare this dahl with water instead of coconut milk. It will be less creamy but still delicious. You can also leave out the onion if you’re tight on backpack space. Additionally, you can use red lentils instead of green as they cook faster. If you pre-soak the lentils in a spare water bottle, they’ll barely use any camping gas.
Campfire Baked Potato
These are the easiest and one of the most delicious vegan camping dinners to make. Just wrap potatoes in foil and put them in the embers of the fire while you pitch your tent. If you don’t mind getting ash on your hands, you can skip the foil and put the potatoes directly in the embers. Remember to turn it a couple of times so it cooks evenly. The potatoes should be ready in about 30 minutes.
Take them out, split them open, and top with hummus, baked beans, sweet corn, grated vegan cheese, or whatever you have to hand. This also works really well with sweet potatoes.
Who says that BBQ’s aren’t for vegans? Peppers, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini, taste delicious when grilled on an open fire or portable BBQ. You can also prepare some skewers with veggies and tofu or pick up soya burgers on your way to the campsite.
Freeze-dried vegan camping foods
Perhaps you’re not a big fan of cooking on the campfire, or you struggle with the extra weight of fresh ingredients on trekking expeditions. In that case, you have the option of vegan camping foods in dehydrated form. Even if you do prefer to cook your own meals on your backpacking adventures, it’s wise to have one or two freeze-dried meals in your backpack in case you run low on fresh supplies.
Freeze-dried foods may not be readily available at your local outdoors store, but there are plenty of options to buy online. Here are some of the most popular vegan camping meals available right now.
- Breakfast bowls, Wild Zora Paleo Meals to Go
- Irish Shepherd’s Pie, Nomad Nutrition
- Chana Masala, Backpacker’s Pantry
- Cuban Coconut Rice & Black Beans, Backpacker’s Pantry
- Louisiana Beans, Backpacker’s Pantry
Top Tips for Vegan Camping Meals
- Always bring a selection of spices. You can prepare 20g to 50g packets in mini Ziplock bags to take on your trip. Spices make effortless meals taste delightful.
- Don’t get bored; experiment with a mixture of rice, pasta, couscous, bulgur, quinoa, and pearl barley as a source of carbs.
- For multi-day backpacking trips, dehydrated vegetables and soya will add protein, fibre, and variety to your foods.
- Don’t expect to find vegan snacks and freeze-dried meals at regular stores; you might need to get creative sometimes.
- Avoid mess; store your oil in a washed medicine bottle. The safety cap will prevent spills and leaks. Wrap it in a paper towel and secure with an elastic band, just in case.
The key to delicious vegan camping food is preparation. If you’re heading out into the great outdoors on a vegan diet for the first time, then it might feel a bit intimidating. Don’t worry; there are tons of plant-based and backpacking-friendly meals that you can cook on a camping stove. This handy guide should help you on your way.